Why I’m a lonely programmer


No, I’m not a loner. I have friends, trust me.

So what do I mean by a lonely programmer then?

Since I started programming in 2008, I have explored many types of programming, but what has always resonated with me is web programming. In fact, that’s why my business tends to concentrate on the web. My business MyWikis uses MediaWiki to host wikis, so naturally, since MediaWiki is written in PHP, I have become quite fluent in the language. Although it’s been derided for its confusing array of language constructs and inconsistent functions, it’s still important to web programming.

Why am I so interested in web programming, then, if its main languages are beginnerish and inconsistent? Because I know that desktop applications are lame, inaccessible, and unless it’s really good, there’s not much of a point in using them. I started web programming before HTML5, before Chromebooks, before the present era of the easy, modern web. Most people are interested not about downloading a web application and then using it, but simply typing in an address and getting all the information on a website. And if this website can do really cool things, all without leaving the comfort of one’s web browser, then that’s awesome!

Thankfully, I have an awesome group of friends that I’ve had for many years now, but they do not share the same passion for web programming that I do. (There are thankfully some exceptions, but more on that later.) While I slaved away at building MyWikis using PHP, JavaScript, HTML, shell, etc., my friends developed their interests in Java, C++, and other desktop development platforms. I do have minimal experience with desktop application development (some attempts at Visual Basic, Java, etc.), especially with my AP Computer Science and Computer Science 3 classes I take in high school. However, I still strongly resonate with web programming, and the recent developments of web programming has led me even further away from their programming passions.

Unfortunately, I’m an old dog, new tricks kind of web programmer, because the industry moves so quickly it’s unimaginable and hard for me to keep up with. The issue with old dog, new tricks kind of people is that they tend to stick with their old-style roots, which doesn’t help in an environment where new is (almost) always better. Now, the new thing is Node.js and since MediaWiki requires this in Parsoid, I am forced to bend down and get familiar with Node.js. And don’t forget Python and Ruby, which have somehow become backbones of the web. (I’m clearly in denial! :P)

Here’s where my exceptions come in. (Not try-catch ones.) Both friends are interested in web development and that makes me excited! One friend has recently picked up Node.js and has caused my school project with him and another friend to lead to two flavors: one in PHP and another in Node.js. I’ve got to hand him the trophy for “Most Modern Idea” but unfortunately Node.js just isn’t that mature yet, and I can’t really support Node.js because I don’t have the money for it. (Yes, that is my biggest reason why. Also, JS wasn’t that useful back then.) PHP is still more accessible to others with a tight budget and resources (cough cough that’s me cough cough) and that is why I continue to use it. Another friend develops in Python and helps Mozilla, and has actually created several creations of his own, which I support because they’re great ideas and I have just enough resources from my company to support him at the most basic level.

But I still feel lonely.

I might just have a really closed mind, or I might actually be a loner, but it’s mainly because web programming is so diverse and nobody comes near the web development associated with MediaWiki, WordPress, and other software like that. Node.js isn’t used for stuff like that, and Python is probably better suited for newer, larger, and more complex applications. The nearest cousins of MediaWiki in Python would be MoinMoin and I’m not getting into that! (I don’t think there is a MediaWiki in Node.js yet.)

Why am I so concerned with people knowing PHP or even remotely having some kind of passion for MediaWiki?

It’s hard to run a company alone, but I manage to do so because there isn’t anybody interested in what I do, even though it makes money! A company is supposed to be a team effort, and honestly would be much more fun and efficient if that was done. However, nobody has that passion, and being a teenager who has done this for half his life (yikes!) doesn’t help with finding people actually interested in developing with or maintaining a company about MediaWiki. Furthermore, the market is quite divided, with most people not even needing the services of MyWikis or they use a completely different wiki engine that isn’t remotely compatible, like TWiki or MoinMoin.

And that’s why I’m a lonely programmer. I’d love to be not-lonely.

(Friends-o-mine: I am so thankful to be friends with you! We’re just different, and the best of friends are fine with and embrace being different. I really like what you make on the desktop but it’s just not my true passion.)

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