text post 2/28/2013

let’s change the world

Let’s face it, the internet is a massive deal. Like this is news to anyone, right? But it’s crazy to think that the internet was not even a small deal about 20 years ago. The internet was born, raised, and became the most important part of almost everything and everyone’s life in the time it would take a human to go from birth to legal drinking age. That’s just insane.

In this process, those who tinker and build on the internet went from hobbyists to active professionals with signficiant jobs. Some of made an absurd amount of money in the process, and a difference in many peoples’ lives. And I’m proud today to say I’m a member of that band of people who build things for the web, to share on the largest stage anyone has ever had to share anything on. The power is addicting. All I need to make a living is a laptop and a power outlet. Heroes used to suit up with swords and armor, and get on their horses to go change the world. All I need is a tee shirt, a bag with a laptop, and a metro card, and I feel just like a hero walking out of my apartment, with the power to make anything happen.

But there’s one little thorn in the back of my mind, always. As soon as programming switched over from a hobby to a purpose for me, I started seeking purpose within it. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I’m not just tinkering around with computers and website to make something that a couple people think is cool and tweet out once. I’m not trying to make an app where people can rate wines they’ve tasted. I’m trying to fucking change the world. I know a lot of people like to think they are changing the world if they make a web framework, or a social network, are these things really doing any good for anyone? Like, really.

Recently, I was listening to Kendrick Lamar, because I really like his music. So do a lot of people, he’s done really well. But for me, the reason he’s so incredible is because Kendrick has a story to tell. A story that you remember… a story that, if you listen, will really mean something to you. You’ll think about it, and think about it again. He isn’t just making music for himself, he’s making music to speak for all the people that he grew up with, in the most impoverished of hoods, suffering, trapped, and in constant danger of death. Kendrick Lamar is leaving his mark on the world. He’s speading a strong message, and a good message. One that will make the world a better place. That means something. That is changing the world.

Now think about the startup you’re working on again. Be honest with yourself. Are you really changing the world, or have you just deluded youself into believing you are? Are you doing what you do because every ounce of you screams with a passion, a message, an urge to make the world a better place? Or are you just comfortable living through a comfortable life while the world turns?

Not enough web developers and web-focused companies are changing the world. In fact, I think I’ve only seen one recently that I can remember. We have more power and a bigger audience than perhaps any other craftsman in history. So I say this to myself and to my colleagues — let’s raise the bar.

Thoughts? Hit me on the twitter or discuss on hacker news.