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Bootstrap Über Alles

Ok, the award for the best new technology, that should have shown up a freaking long time ago, goes to Twitter Bootstrap. Let‘s get out the crystal ball and look into the future.. you have some great grandkid asking you about what the web was like in the beginning, ten years from now and you‘re like ‘yes, that‘s right: we had these people called Designers who fabricated each website using a markup language, wait, well most of them were using a tool called Photoshop, and frankly, there wasn‘t much fabrication, it was mostly strings of conversations like ‘I looked at 5 sites that have login boxes, and I like the way X does _ and Y does _.‘‘ So, it was kind of like personalized recycling of artistic ideas into a largely form-dominated landscape of inane ‘sites.‘ [pause for applause at this point].

But wait, it was worse than that. For all of its pretensions about process in tech, the dominant approach throughout this formative period was a model not unlike Noah‘s Ark: once funded some genius who had been granted authority over spending commissions disembarkation, but before leaving, makes a list of ‘we need 1 of these, 2 of those,‘ etc. So Designers were often empaneled with this job of makin‘ it look purdy before there was really anything made, and the remaking was constant and often carried out at the behest of people whose sense of what would ultimately serve the purpose had as much likelihood of reaching dock as a calculus lesson to an audience of PeeWee‘s Playhouse.

I‘d like to coin a phrase for this condition: the logic of the asymptote, or asymptotic logic syndrome: when you finally realize in a given situation that no amount of force or additional time will result in the intersection of the current trajectory and the tracking axis.

But here‘s my twist in logic: the real roadkill in the surely certain Bootstrapped Future is not going to be designers. It‘s going to be the witless script kiddies who, ironically, just thought they finally got their pass upgraded to First Class. Why? Because HTML5 and Javascript took the bar for finish and veneer up where the typical programmers couldn‘t reach it (not that they were trying) and it was finally the chance for the little ADHD hacker guy in the steerage compartment to run out on stage and sing Tomorrow. I predict that we‘ve already seen the curtain call and there will be no encore.

I showed bootstrap to a dev on my team who came in with no JSF experience and ended up becoming a RichFaces/facelets ninja and he was like ‘dude, JEE is still making sites that look like 1999.‘ I was like, yeah, I know, but there‘s going to be ways to take this generated shit and hook it up. A day later, while I was looking for the answer to a RichFaces problem, I found a post about the fact that the RF team is integrating with Bootstrap. Freaking brilliant idea there, Guys. RF did skinning, it had styling, it thought CSS was going to make it finally empower its kit with some horsepower, but it was wrong. Again, if the team was doubled and another decade were allotted, it would never get us to where bootstrap can right now. The beauty is that it doesn‘t have to, and the guys on the team were smart enough to see that. Kind of reminds me of the much mocked, hilarious tautology from Obama 2008: we are the people we have been waiting for (never realized this before, but nice nod to Samuel Beckett there, especially now that like Vlad and Estragon, we‘ve seen the time tick off and have realized Godot is not coming). Anyway, it is going to be sad to see the little chimps whose puffed up pride at their Javascript chops was reaching Punic proportions go. But let‘s face it, their cheerful demeanor was only a function of their inability to realize that they were mere fodder, sent as probes, and if there was a hunt in whatever idea they were murdering, they would be wiped out at first engagement with reality and real troops would be dispatched to secure the position.

Great designers, on the other hand, offer immense value (though they be few and far between). A week at WWDC drills that message into your head quite convincingly. The problem is that people still assume that Designers are needed because Developers cannot do design. Which is nonsense. But seriously, comparing a Designer to a script kiddie is like comparing Secretariat to Romney‘s dancing horse.

Finally, this is a victory for modern art and Alexander. I personally love Andy Warhol and think he was a total genius. Surely he would have done a bootstrap had he lived and made it to the web (instead, he died recovering from a routine operation due to idiotic negligence). But also, patterns are not just about lording over other programmers with your knowledge of idioms while they are still skirmishing over stupid syntactical battles, they are about the idea of incorporating approaches in snap together forms, from a learned catalog. Bootstrap may not be pointed this way yet, but it has opened the door to this: schematized, templated assemblage of elements that are not hand hewn and then debugged at each weld point in 4 different browsers. I had lunch with 2 business guys a few weeks ago and one of them, not a technical guy, was over the moon when I mentioned Bootstrap. This has metastasized, rapidly, because its time was ripe.

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