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My struggle with quantity over quality, reflected in creating content for the web and using PHP for WordPress

I have had this website for a few years now, but I have only a few articles up. As a programmer/developer/software engineer / etc., I always felt that I would need a website for myself. I built many applications and websites for other companies, but I never took the time and effort to build something for myself. I did the initial parts years ago. I migrated this website into different domains and changed hosting services over the years. Still, I never truly knew what to write about and how to build this website that could reflect who I am and how well I do my own profession (or at least what I want other people to see and believe).

I faced the following challenges (and I still do):

  • If I wrote something, I wanted it to be quality content that could picture me as a professional who knows what he is talking about.
  • I wanted my website to look as professional as possible. Although I still genuinely do not know how does a professional programmer’s website look like. I just realized now that it is all personal, and making something that has the quality that I wish for takes a lot of effort and time to build. I wanted this from day one, but life does not work that way.
  • I wanted to write about things that many people could relate to, which would be helpful, entertaining, and educational. What I realized is I only ended up writing about anything when I made up my mind and gave up on the idea of perfectionism. Whatever problem I ended up solving, or whatever topic was in my mind when I said, “I have to write something,” I wrote about it. There was no structure, no plan. Just action.

During my work, for work, I learned that perfectionism is rarely a good thing. There must be a balance between quantity and quality. There are situations when quality is a must. Let’s say building software for a car is all about quality. I have a few friends in that industry. For the projects I worked on, the quantity was prioritized. Quality was a second thought, and mostly it was the right choice for the project. If the feature we wrote was useful, we spent months fixing it up and making it faster, better, and smarter. If the feature was not used for a period of time, it was reworked or deleted. On those projects building quality features without getting feedback, if it is needed at all, would have been a big waste of time and money.

I am telling you this because it had an impact on my attitude. Building everything with the make-it-work attitude as a software engineer hurts. Usually, most of us want to write quality code. Fancy over-architected, smart code that is a beauty to look at as a professional. With all the learned patterns and latest advances within the used technologies. Oh, and there is always newer and better that could be used. I think you can see now where I am going with this. It made me want to relieve my perfectionism energy into my own projects.

How it ended up, you ask? Nohow. I was not working on the web design of my website because I do not have enough time to make it look as professional and innovative as I wanted it to be. I did not write about almost anything because non of my ideas were good enough or worthy of sharing them.

Another burden on a software engineer is learning and knowing many languages and their stacks. It brings the quantity problem of knowing many things. Those languages have different styles of writing code, different conventions, and different patterns. Different tools and frameworks. Sometimes antipatterns in one language are considered a bad practice and vice versa. Coming from a C# background, PHP was considered to be a language that was not worthy of use. With all its stereotypes, if I talked about that I used PHP, people just “ugh”-ed. It was not a good feeling. PHP is a tool, and it has its place on the market. A really good share, actually. Before that, just to see what the fuss is about PHP, I worked for 2 years as a PHP developer. I have seen both the bad and the good parts of it. Not all, but I have seen soul-burning and fantastic code written with PHP. It gives you freedom for sure. How you use it is the question.

Regardless, over the years, on the back-end side, I preferred writing code in C# and front-end in JavaScript. So I was leaning into full-stack web development. The opportunities for me opened better when I leaned toward full-stack JavaScript, so for 2+ years now (as of writing this article), I have been solely on full-stack JavaScript, and I did not write any other code since. Neither C# nor PHP. (Not including the different databases, external APIs, CSS, TypeScript, Terraform, Docker, K8S, and HELM, and who knows what I just not listed)

When I was researching where I should start building anything for myself, I knew that I wanted to start building on the WEB. Not Desktop nor Mobile. I want to own what I do, and I do not want my apps closed down just because an AI bot believes I did something wrong. After that, I tried writing my website in .NET with C#. I quickly realized that, ok, I can do it, but since I have a full-time job and I have other responsibilities as well, I do not have enough time to build everything from scratch for myself. Looking at what the community built on the Internet that is free to use and gives control, WordPress came out as a winner. It is not written in .NET; it is not written in NodeJS; it is a platform written using PHP. As I mentioned, PHP is ok unless people use it otherwise. And because of people’s stereotypes (and because PHP work is underpaid compared to the alternatives), I rarely use PHP on big commercial projects. So, as a programmer, if I want to personalize this website on a level that I wish to do, I have to use PHP. It is hard for one reason: I already have to use a dozen technologies, and hard to be fluent in all of them. I wanted to use a CMS that is written in either .NET or NodeJS. The problem was that none of the options had such a big community as WordPress, so I could not get the time to invest myself in the platform.

The verdict is I am here; I am learning WordPress and its platform. I am writing about things I never considered writing in a quality that I would not accept a few years back. I have my website up in a plain yellow/black default theme (as it is for now), and I accept that it will take quite some time until it will look anything I expect it to look (I have to pick up a really good designer hat, on top of the software engineer hat after all). I also realized that having quantity over quality concept has its merits, and I hope I can keep up doing this for my own project as well, and not just for my contract projects.

If you are reading this post in the “far” future, after 2023, I hope this website and its content will not be recognizable based on this article, and it will have the quality I have dreamed about since the beginning. Or at least one step closer.

By Botond Bertalan

I love programming and architecting code that solves real business problems and gives value for the end-user.

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