The Gifts of the Internet

I started in web design and development quite late. Unlike these kids, who I’m really admire, I only started really getting into web work during my masters.

The kids in the above article are as young as 14 and are now world renowned for being at the top of their craft. Compared to these guys and gals I started really late, in my early twenties.

I didn’t have the money to pay for expensive tutorials or to pay for extra lessons, and my masters wasn’t really teaching my what I needed to know either to get ahead in the web.

I realized I was going to have to teach myself, or rather, find people who would teach me. What I found was an entire world of people who were willing to teach me for free!

The internet gives a person the power to give gifts

I was reminded of how these free learning resources were gifts when I watched a recent video. Frank Chimero explains in his Do Lecture, gifts involve a cost. A person must stand to lose something to give a gift, whether it be time, money, effort or something else. He gives an example of a friend of his who gives an app away, for free. This he describes as a digital gift. His friend spent all the time and effort of creating the app, only to gave it away.

I was surprised that Frank seemed to have a tough time thinking of digital examples of these gifts.

I could mention a huge list of people that give away their knowledge for free. That’d take all day because there are so many. I’m going to point out NetTuts+ because this site has made the biggest impression on me.

NetTuts+, a site that provides free web related tutorials. They write a lot of PHP tutorials on the site. While I was doing my Masters I had to learn some basic PHP. I sucked. I really sucked. I just couldn’t learn it. It wasn’t that the concepts were particularly tough, I just found that they way it was being taught to me didn’t work. I wasn’t very upset. I didn’t really get what all this code could do and I just wanted to get my assignment finished.

However, when I found NetTuts+ I was able to find examples of what I had to learn for college. This was great. I could get the project done quickly and be done with it.

However, NetTuts explained everything really simply. I got it. I realized that they liked what they was doing. Then I realized that it was kinda cool. When I has my assignment finished I looked up the basics of PHP, just to see what was going on there. That was pretty cool too. I started another tutorial to try out the tricks there. I loved it.

I could have just copied the solution for my college project from someone in my course the next morning. But fact that I looked it up that night and that I had someone explain it to me well, sparked a passion in me once I understood it. I had found the thing I loved to do. I had found that precious “Thing I Want to Do with My Life!”. And the best part about this was the price that I had to pay for all the education NetTuts+ gave me.

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Over the next few months, with their tuition, I learned PHP. Soon I had created a website for a local youth group organize their events. 6 months before this I couldn’t have imagined creating such a thing, but now I could create it. I enjoyed creating it and I had gotten all the information about how to do it, for free.

I thought that there had to be a catch. There must be something in there that costs me money. I have to have just gotten a sample. But no. This was all free. This was a gift.

Sure there are Premium accounts and books to buy on the NetTuts+, but they aren’t required to access most of the content. I have made some of these purchases since. You have to support those that support you, and I refer to the site at least once a week. However, I dont give my money simply in exchange for access to content. I am trying to repay them for the gift they have given me.

That’s what really makes me love the internet. Armed with just a crappy laptop, an internet connection, some willpower and these gifts you could arguably teach yourself how to make most of the websites on the internet. You wouldn’t have to pay for Text Editors, Image Editors, Frameworks, 3D design programs, anything, if you don’t want to. Hell you could even get the operating system for free.

This is what the internet it about. Sharing our knowledge. Sharing our expertise. Sharing our time. Sharing our gifts.

I’m starting this blog because I want to try and give back to those that have been so kind to me. That is said a lot in this industry “I wanted to give back”. Hopefully this post explains what that is. I want to give back that knowledge that I got for free. I want to dust it off, maybe make some of my own adjustments, make a few observations and hopefully hopefully create something new and useful. I want to put in my time and effort. I want to give away my knowledge. I want to give some other bright eyed young buck the gift of learning about the generous wonder of the intertubes.

Wish me luck,
David