Friday, October 19, 2007

No Good Deed...

One of my earliest projects was the Community Assistance Directory that I did for the State Outreach department at the University of Michigan. The system went live eleven years ago and is still running as of this writing.

Looking at it now, you wouldn't know it, but back in the day, it was actually a pretty good example of web programming. It largely did what it was supposed to without too much muss or fuss.

Recently, the current administrator of the site contacted me because some of the data had become corrupted. I was able to go in and fix it fairly easily. The only bad thing was that I was brought face-to-face with an occupational hazard.

I had to look at work which I had done more than a decade ago.

I'm sure people in all industries face this problem. As you work in your chosen field, you, of necessity, develop and improve your skills. If you have any sort of early success, you must eventually face that earlier work and wince at its complete lack of elegance. You'd almost be willing to work for free, if only you could erase the evidence of your former lack of competence.

Of course, the real challenge is to recognize that the very fact that your work is still around after ten years must indicate at least some minimal value that you have created.

And that in ten years, the elegant system that you build today will appear as crude as bearskins and flint knives.

So, when was the last time you looked at work that you did ten years or more ago? How well did it hold up?

1 comment:

Andrew said...

This made me laugh when I thought about the first commercial site I built in 2001 for a landscaping company I worked for in college.

I haven't looked at in years, but sure enough it is still around. Let's just say I won't be using that in my portfolio.