The datastore/backend guys will just
make sure the data is in a nice format (JSON or something) and that
its accessible from a url - their job is done my friends.

Ouch. For me this points up the absurdity of the demarcation between front-end and back-end developer. Unless each of us understands the whole sweep of it we're going to make stupid mistakes that will make everyone else in our team miserable. Spare me, please, from working with someone who believes that their job is done at the boundary of any particular technology or technique. In my experience everything in this field is too interconnected for that kind of separation to work. It drives me crazy when graphic designers hand me one Photoshop mockup per page and figure that their job of "designing the site" is done. To do a decent job, a web graphic designer needs to understand CSS which requires familiarity with HTML markup and browser technology, and it helps hugely if they understand the economies of scripting, the logic of database queries, and the fundamentals of many other technologies that superficially have nothing to do with graphic design. Just as a good print designer needs to understand papers, inks, and printing technologies, a web graphic designer needs to know the stuff that the page is made of in order to make competent decisions. Looking at it from the back end, there are convoluted handshakes between MySQL and PHP and HTML and JavaScript and CSS, and bingo you're doing graphic design. Even if we don't do all the work ourselves we have to maintain a healthy appreciation for the limits, requirements, and efficiencies of all the technologies in the daisy chain if we're going to produce really great work.

Of course there's a difference between 'having an understanding' of a technology and actually practicing it. I'm familiar with many of the capabilities of Photoshop, for example, even while I acknowledge that I'm a novice user and pass the fine work along to my partner the graphics expert. But when I'm engineering the "back" end of a project my consciousness has to extend all the way to the very "front" or we'll end up with something that's lame at best, broken at worst, a disappointment to the client, and expensive to fix.

I appreciate the efforts of the folks in the Netherlands to come up with some standards of expertise by which they can judge a worker's competence, but the front-end/back-end model that's driven this discussion waves warning flags for me. I think it's a potentially harmful paradigm if formalized into job categories with impermeable boundaries.

Did anyone but me read A.E. van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle as a kid? Specialists are handy appliances, but give me a nexialist any day if you want a brilliant solution.



Paul Novitski
Juniper Webcraft Ltd.

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