This is a blog post from the launch of my new side project Henry Gives Coffee.
The short version is that I love this new boom we're seeing of folks building personal "non-corporate-y" corners of the web for themselves and I want to encourage fledgling developers to keep building!
Are you working on something rad? Let me throw you some coffee money!
This month's theme is "Web Projects for Local Communities." So if you (or anyone you know) is working on anything even vaguely under that umbrella, head on over to the website to tell me about it! Might just be a free coffee in it for you!
I was born in 1992, had access to a computer since the age of four, and experienced firsthand the emergence of web 2.0.
The internet seemed like a modern miracle. Plenty of folks have written about how the "early web" was like the Wild West where anything can happen. A free exchange of ideas, information, and art.
In all seriousness, though, that's what it was.
When I was seven years old, from the back of our living room, I was able to apply online for an audition for (and eventually act in) a traveling musical that would go on to have a few mentions in the New York Times.
When I was fourteen, after moving every couple of years for most of my childhood, I was able to use social networks like Facebook to get back in touch with every best friend I've had since pre-school. And let me tell you, connecting those dots was a REALLY fun road trip.
When I was twenty-one, I started learning modern web development in earnest. I wanted to start contributing towards building the amazing internet that I'd always taken for granted. Between free time at work and attending a local web dev bootcamp, I was able to build all kinds of fun stuff.
And now, at twenty-eight, the web is starting to feel REALLY stale.
The web I grew up with was full of personalized spaces that people built to share something they were passionate about:
- Some developers built games for everyone to play.
- Enthusiasts created static sites to share information about their hobbies.
- Others just wanted to share what was going on in their lives, before Movable Type commoditized the idea of a blog.
- And honestly, there was seemingly no end to what folks wanted to share.
It really feels like (and data from Alexa backs this up), the content part of the internet (at least in the US) is mostly a conglomeration of Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia, Netflix, and Instagram.
There's a lot of good content there, but it's from a lot of incredible creators on a small handful of platforms that incentivize (intentionally or not) a homogenization of content to please "the algorithm." It often seems like folks can't really be themselves when they're needing to bend their creative processes to match what garners better metrics through the lens of a machine learning backed recommendation engine.
Counterpoint, though: the recent rise in popularity of static site generators and easy hosting platforms seems to be creating a new boom in people creating, owning, and populating their own personal spaces on the internet!
The internet I grew up with is showing signs of life and seems to be crawling back to being fun and personal and weird.
It's an incredible thing and I want to use the platform I have, however small, to do my part in encouraging this kind of growth to continue.
We're in a period where all sorts of people are creating all manner of cool things on the web.
Statistically, there have to be some really rad projects that aren't getting the kind of distribution and awareness they deserve.
And on every project I've worked on, I've always come back to thinking "wouldn't it be rad if I could earn some beer money from this?".
That's what Henry Gives Coffee is about.
I want to highlight the incredible work that both newer and lesser-known web developers are doing. Hopefully throwing them some money for coffee (or beer) and signal boosting the cool projects they're working on lets them know that what they're contributing to the internet is worthwhile and motivates them to keep building.
I've done okay for myself working on my little projects mostly in the shadows. Hopefully, whatever little nudges of encouragement I can provide will keep people building who might otherwise get frustrated with web development.
And remember, the internet is fundamentally a way to connect all of us. It should be a lot more fun and a lot less corporate. I'm happy to be able to throw this project together and do my part but my hope is that at least one of you reading this might take away some action items and spread the "GivesCoffee" ethos of encouraging folks to both own and personalize their own corners of the web.
I'm pumped to finally launch this project for real and see all of the incredible things y'all are working on.
Hopefully, it's a wild ride.