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Early Adopter Risk

Hi everyone,

It may surprise you to learn that I'm not an early adopter. I don't go out and buy the latest and greatest phone, I don't feel the need to upgrade my TV every couple of years, and I don't jump into using new browser feature in my web applications. I'm naturally risk averse and skeptical that the newest thing is actually any better than the previous thing. And that belief carries over in my work.

Web technology changes so quickly that it can feel like a giant wave is pushing forward and forcing you to make changes faster than you're ready. Use ECMAScript 6! Now use React! Add in some Web Components! Uh oh, hear comes ECMAScript 7! Keep in mind that just like my TV I purchased in 2010, everything you're already using still works, but there's an army of people claiming that it's no longer good enough.

In my career, I've been responsible for large-traffic web applications that bring in millions of dollars each year. In that environment, you can't afford to take risks whenever you want, and once a decision is made, it tends to stick for years. Given that, I've always been hesitant to look into using anything that is less than two years old. The newest, shiniest thing might be very exciting for developers, but if it introduces instability into the product, or forces us to go through a gigantic learning curve, then I need to be sure it's the absolute right choice.

Dan McKinley wrote an excellent post entitled, Choose boring technology, in which he talked about this very topic. Successful engineering leaders routinely say, "no," to the latest and greatest technology, choosing to let others pay the innovation tax that comes with trailblazing. I personally look for two years of ongoing development, improvements, and information before I feel comfortable relying on anything. 

Fads come and go, and when they go, you don't want to be one of the few companies left using that technology and be forced to rewrite. That's not to say I'll never try something new, it's just that I need to be sure the application is completely stable so that an instability can be tolerated. Even then, there's a difference between testing something out and committing to its usage long-term. So play with the newest technology in your spare time, but put on the brakes before introducing it into your work. Your peers will thank you.


Be well.

-N
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Recommended Links

How One Computer Hack Conquered Online Dating, Opens Locked Car Doors, and more (podcast) 
Tim Ferriss interviews Samy Kamkar, the creator of the infamous "Samy" MySpace worm that took down the site. Hear how he accidentally created the worm and tried futilely to stop its spread. Additionally, he provides insights into how he's done interesting things like increased his response rate in online dating via split testing and how he's unlocked car doors using radio frequencies. It's a really interesting look at a fascinating person. Tim Ferriss

The Boring Front-end Developer (article)
An article very much in line with the topic of today's newsletter. This article is really a manifesto stating that changes in technology and techniques should be slow and methodical in order to reduce risk. It puts for the idea that preprocessors, while reducing code, also have associated costs and should be used carefully. I really like the overall message here. Adam Silver

This small change could make a big difference for accessible technology (article)
Yahoo, Facebook, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and other companies have decided to adopt common language in their job postings specifying that accessibility knowledge is preferred for applicants. This is important because hiring will favor those with accessibility knowledge, which means if you're looking for a job, you should read up on the topic. 
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Recommended Book

The Shallows explores how using the Internet is changing the way we think. Studies are showing that constant "checking in" on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like is training our brains to have shorter attention spans and seek constant activity. Ever been in line and seen everyone take our their phones to check something? As few as ten years ago, those same people would have been talking with each other or interacting with the environment. This book talks about the isolating effect of the Internet, our ever-decreasing attention spans, and what (if anything) we can do to combat it.

 

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