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John Halsey
John Halsey

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Life in The Matrix

Come on, we've all done it. We've all pretended we're in The Matrix whilst coding. I don't mean just pretending to be in the film, but actually be inside the matrix where we can see the world around us, in code format, scrolling letting and numbers that seem to make sense to us, and seemingly, no-one else.

I'm lucky enough to be in a job that I love, to be a web developer and spend all most some of the day coding, creating new features is a really cool thing, but it does mean that it makes it hard to describe to family or friends, what it is that I actually do. Sometimes when talking to muggles (non magic/web folk), I shouldn't, but I do play up on it a bit.

"So John, what do you do?"
"I'm a web developer". Nothing, I mean just blank stares while they think of something intelligent to say.
"What's that then?" Game on.
"I teach spiders how to create better, more efficient, intricate webs, in order to catch more pray, thus being more effective and more profitable." Nothing.
"Oh right".

Sure its funny for a while, but eventually it does make me come across a bit of a weirdo. Which really isn't fair because it's only partly true. The thing is though, that even people who know what I do, and what it involves have a hard time understanding the finer details. When attempting to explain a particular piece of work to my wife (muggle), I can see she's interested to a point, but then the generic nodding and "mmm hmm" sounds start coming out of her mouth, her eyes glisten over while she stares straight through me, into some black hole abyss of boredom and daydreams.

So I talk for as long as possible.

She doesn't ask about my day anymore.

Then there are the people who know what I do, know what it involves, and even have some basic understanding of how programming works or may have done some real simple coding, or have looked at HTML once before. These people are interesting because they think they "get it", and will attempt to instigate conversations about project I may be working on, or how they "could have been a developer", "thought about being a developer", or "have a family member/friend who is a developer". (Squibs). These people are actually OK to talk with, and can hold up reasonable conversation about basic coding concepts or underlying HTML and Javascript, but ask them about tabs vs spaces, and their game goes to shit. They crumble like a soggy digestive biscuit dunked in cold tea by a fat fingered pencil pusher with food in her beard.

Actually being in The Matrix though is where its at for me, I'm not too fussed about whether or not I can comprehensively explain what I do for a living, or if anyone is even interested. Truth be told, I don't care what you do, so why should you care what an XSRF token is, or what a 418 response status really means?

Talking dev is kinda like having a special Masons handshake, everyone around you can hear what you're saying, you're speaking English, they could talk with me too if they want, but the conversation are very different, and its all kind of a secret.

A fellow developer might say, "I spent the morning fixing a bug that prevented the side menu sliding out properly on mobile devices, which meant the nav was all skewed". Or "Ive been cleaning up some controllers in my application, created a trait for similar methods, and now its a lot more DRY". Reasonable dev talk.

A muggle might say "You work with computers, right? Do you know why I can't connect to the printer?" And theres nothing sarky I can say here that doesn't involve me getting fired on the spot. So inevitably I spend three hours wasting my time trying to connect to a printer that I can see, I can touch, I can smell, but that it turns out isn't turned on. It's not even plugged in. Once it's up and running and they say "Thank you so much" (if you're lucky) I respond with "My pleasure". But of course it isn't, and I'll spend the rest of my life avoiding them at all costs.

I like to spend as much time in The Matrix as is possible, in the digital world where I can control and alter the elements as I wish, like God. Yes, now that I think about it I'm basically God for the internet. I giveth, and I taketh away. I never really thought about it like that before, but that makes a lot of good sense. Think about it, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (The framework, and the database migrations), and God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (data, seeded at first), and saw that it was good (validated). I think this really speaks for itself, why do you think the first thing anyone ever learns to develop is a Hello, World application?

Time in The Matrix is a funny thing too, because when you're in there it goes much faster than normal, meaning you have less time to do anything. It's like the exact opposite of Inception. Seriously, I'll go in at say 14:00pm o'clock in the afternoon, and before you know it, it's five in the evening, the next day! This makes estimating task durations far harder. How long can it really take to make a small box panel with some text in it, maybe a picture, and a link. Oh and it needs to be responsive, have dynamic content, only appear if there's an 's' in the day and compliment you on your ability to use the internet? Longer than you think. I tend to add four hours onto any estimation just to be sure. Five if it's a Friday. Six if it's a Monday. Seven if it's a Tuesday or Thursday.

To look at my computer monitor, and specifically at my code editor (PhpStorm, what else is there?), you would see a dark background with cool colours for different elements of code. Red for operators and statements, yellow for text strings, Blue for classes, orange for properties, white for variables and so on. I prefer a darker theme for The Matrix because it is genuinely easier to read the code like that. But now here's the thing, muggles and even other developers assume that because I like a dark theme editor, I like dark mode on everything which is far from the truth. I actually prefer a normal, brighter, whiter theme for everything else. I don't set my macOS to dark mode, I don't set Chrome to a dark mode, or anything. Having a dark mode all the time would be like walking round your house with the lights off, or driving on the motorway at night with no lights on, because it's cool. Umm no it isn't, it's stupid and everyone should stop it right now.

Dark mode is like the new cool kid at school that offers you sweets, you might like it at first, then you start to feel sick and soon start to hate it until you realise that it's actually the school bully who will get you into a headlock and flush you down the toilet unless you abide by his rules.

I digress. I'm God, I create all the things and I see that it is good. And occasionally I do some developing.

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