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A few weeks ago, a cool little package was delivered to my home. When I opened it I couldn’t stop smiling, it was a Google Developer Expert certificate to hang on my wall. But why did this make me so happy? Well,... it’s all about being self-taught and believing that communities are important. In this (non-technical) article, I’d like to share some thoughts about communities, what they gave me, what I hope to return, and what scares me.

I absolutely HATE it when people call me an “influencer” or even worse, a “guru”. Still, I proudly hang my newly obtained Google certificate on the wall, perfectly visible to my webcam. The reason for this is simple: this is actually the first “piece of paper” I got, proving I can develop stuff that helps people. Sounds silly, right? I’ve made tons of websites and platforms in over a decade, so why would I even care about such a thing?

Most people I work with have some higher degree and they all say the same thing about it: “Almost no company cares”, “I don’t even know where it is, maybe somewhere in the attic”, “It’s only handy for when you get started”,… But as I went above 30 years old, I kinda wanted a degree and swore that if I’d ever get one, I’d proudly place it somewhere in sight.

Now, of course, A GDE Certificate is not a degree, but it felt like a “thank you” or general appreciation for doing some work (and I do study for that work). If you know me a little, you know that appreciation means something to me. So going on, I’d like to talk about some of the things I believe are important in communities and why I put in the work. I can tell you one thing for certain: it’s not about an extra income.

A Google Developer Expert Certificate on the wall

It starts with a shared passion

It would be impossible to name every person who has influenced me, I wouldn’t be a developer if I had never read Andy Clarke’s Transcending CSS, heard my first UX talk by Aral Balkan, read books by Rachel Andrew, articles by Jeremy Keith, Followed an SVG course by Sara Soueidan and many more. I’m not about to go all fanboy for a bunch more of them, but those are the people who gave me a chance to become a developer even without a degree. Yes, some of them make a living out of teaching now, but that wasn’t always the case for them, they all started from one point: community and a passion for the web. This is where it started for me, and I just want to give a bit back to the community. Maybe it was becoming a dad that triggered that, or just some point in time when I thought about how hard it was just to “get that first chance”.

A lot has changed though, In the past, the whole community could be summarized with a nice Twitter timeline without a bunch of ads and could easily be read with your morning coffee. But it’s about these people just blogging about the web, inventing some cool techniques that I could train myself in while working in a factory in the morning, and trying out some web development in the afternoon. Now this is more than a decade ago, and I never really got involved with communities much. So why now?

Thinking “I’ll never be good enough”

The reason I never really did a lot of writing before was fear. I always thought the following: “There are already people writing about this”, “The others have credentials”, and “Who even cares?”. And I’m still like that, this is still reflecting me in some way.

I’ve been blogging for 3 years now, and this is the first article where I just write about “me”


  • Who even cares?
  • There are more interesting people out there, so why should I write about myself
  • Others do it better, and I don’t even have some credentials

It’s not that I don’t have any other passions or hobbies besides the web: I love outdoor cooking, manga, board games, photography, building Lego, and playing a mean bit of guitar. I just don’t think I should write about these things. Truthfully, I need to set aside some of those things to stay involved with the community. But that’s ok, as long as my family comes first.

If you have the same thing let me tell you something that helped me: When I started writing, I had about 20 readers on my articles tops and I was the most happy person ever. I told some coworkers that I started blogging and most of them reacted positively, some thought it was strange but there was this one (ex) coworker who during a little discussion said “Ow, cus you have a blog” in a very demeaning manner. I’ll add this in bold:
Never let these kinds of people let you down.

Think of it like this: Even if I only had 20 readers, people read the stuff and liked it, how cool is that! But soon I noticed that whether I had 20 or 1000 readers, it didn’t matter because every article I wrote, made me learn a bit more about the subject. It made me a better developer (slow and steady). I do love that more people are reading the things I write, but I still do it out of curiosity or just simply sharing if I find something that I’m passionate about. But I still withdraw from writing personal pieces, mostly because “Who even cares?”.

Another thing that I learned is that you should never rely on the number of readers to begin with. I had articles that I worked hard on, more than 16 hours of creating demos and just finding the right words, to notice it barely gets any views. A few weeks later, I chose to write a quick article on a Saturday morning, and it’s a hit. This doesn’t matter, If you learned something from that big article and are happy that you wrote it, that’s the important part. Unless you are writing for a company where views are important, on your personal blog, stick to things you love doing.

So taking some of those fears into account, I think it’s understandable why I don’t write a lot of big opinionated articles and keep it technical. In contrast to that, I love reading opinionated articles and some people are just so good at it. Different points of view matter to me, which brings me to the next bit:

Tweet by @utilitybend with text: I wrote a personal article about the fear of writing opinionated or personal articles and now I’m in serious doubt of publishing it… that’s irony, I guess.
And here it is…

Getting involved with web communities

For the moment, I’m part of some internal communities at iO (my job), some W3C open community groups (Open UI and CSS4), and of course the GDE community. The most interesting part is learning from people’s opinions. It all starts with listening and asking questions.

As an example of communities: In Open UI you have so many types of people: browser engineers, accessibility experts, CSS experts, and Maintainers of design systems, It’s a fantastic group that deeply shows the difference in what matters most to certain groups of people. In my eyes, it’s a great experience to be part of. I mostly create some demos and spend some time asking questions, adding small contributions, or giving an opinion here and there, and people listen, help, and are respectful.

It’s a great example of how a community should be. And it starts with yourself, I know I said a lot of dumb things as well, but that’s great, it helps me move forward and learn. Believe it or not, it can also help the community, because sometimes, “that dumb thing”, Is the smart question people forget to think of and helps to move things forward. Also, I had never spoken to browser engineers before, and being part of this group made me really respect the work they do even more. (Almost made me want to give it a go as well ;) )

The reason why I speak so passionately about this group is because I’m being sincere, I mean every word. And that - once again - brings me to the following:

Be ******* grateful - always!

When someone helps me with a quick finish of a demo, helps me out by explaining some new specs a bit closer, or reviews an article or a demo I’ve written, I thank them. Maybe_ a bit too much_ but I mean it, every time. When people take time for you, time that they could’ve easily spent on something else, that’s golden. When I give a presentation my last sentence is “thank you” not because it should be, but because I mean it. I am happy to be invited to speak, happy to write, and to maybe help a few people find some answers. I’m not an AI, I’m a human being, spending hours a week next to my day job for the sake of the community. And to all those others doing the same thing, remember that you could be the one that brings a low-educated factory worker to a web development job.

Even when your opinions clash, be respectful, and give your opinion but also “pick your battles”.

Why I suggest everyone should get involved with at least one community

If you’re a developer, chances are high there is something you are passionate about. It might not be the same thing as your day-to-day job, but that doesn’t matter. There are many ways you can get involved with open source projects, W3C community groups, Frameworks, take your pick… Every bit you do to contribute helps. Whether that is commenting on issues, helping with an implementation or even just listening and spreading the word. It can make you grow as a person and you would be surprised by how little this world of web developers is. I’m not suggesting everyone should blog about the work they do, hell no, I might’ve started an outdoor cooking blog and I even used to have a photography blog long ago. Write what you are passionate about. But you’d be surprised how much an hour/week involvement in web communities can make you grow.

This is how it all started for me, by “joining stuff and”, “listening about stuff”, and now I get to speak about stuff to students and others.

I still have so much to learn, and so many things I want to do, I’m glad that people and initiatives such as the GDE program help me with that, spreading my enthusiasm for Web UI.

For now, I’m trying not to undersell myself, and celebrate some of the achievements. This is probably the hardest thing for me completely, because deep inside: I’m still that 20-year-old, working in the factory morning shift, trying to learn things that all these amazing people are writing about. But maybe that’s my strength, who knows…

For me, my passion for the web has always been UI and CSS, and I love sharing this learning journey with you on this blog. So yes, this was a little personal blog post and I probably won’t be adding much of those soon, but still, I’m happy I did.

 in  general