The Unsolvable Problems

There are issues in web development I don’t know if many people have answers to, and I don’t know if there are even discussions happening about them. I’ve been coming to terms lately about my working habits, I feel as if I’m putting in more hours for work, but in return getting less done. I’m not sure if my mind has changed the definion of what it thinks is “done” or if I’m actually being less productive, but it’s a mental state worth noting.

In the past few years, I’ve taken my knowledge of web development to new levels. I’ve always had an interest in Linux and I think that helped to solidify the fact I’m a “full stack” web developer, meaning I can take a fresh install of Ubuntu and get the LAMP stack running and write the code for the back end, and front-end and take a Photoshop file and turn it into a functioning website. I always thought “This is great, this is exactly what will make me a valuable developer”

It’s true, it’s made me a valuable developer but it’s also turned it into an issue that I do have that ability to write an app from scratch, and not only that but write an app that scales in high numbers. This should sound great, it’s what all web developers dream of but then comes the other issue.

A lot of the time, I’m the sole developer on a project. If I’m able to get the project done from start to finish then there is no reason to include other developers. But what happens when I want to take a break? What happens if the app crashes in the middle of the night, or if one application needs to scale but another application needs new features pushed out right away?

This is how burn-out happens. This is what causes people to quit, or to have mental break downs. It’s not a good thing for any party involved, but it’s so common in web development. The common solution is “cut back on work” or “speak with your supervisor” but again, if you’re the sole developer then how easy is it to get a solution in place that can honestly take a few weeks when the issue is happening right now?

I don’t know what the answer is, sometimes I think it’s the million dollar question. Developers have different levels of when burn out happens, or the degree of the response of such a mental state, but I think it needs to be spoken about more often at least amongst developers.

In all honesty, it’s hard to say that any website or application out there that a sole developer out there is working on where people would die, or lose their job, if the developer had to take a week off. If there is an application out there that has the degree of that much importance where one person has the weight of ensuring all pieces are running 100% of the time then the discussion to hire on more people needed to happen yesterday.

If you feel you are in this position, you need to speak to whoever is in charge about this now. If you spoke to your supervisor about this previously, then you go up the chain of command because if your supervisor didn’t take you serious then they’re only looking out for their own self interests.

One thing I think could help as well is there needs to be a budget in place to be able to write documentation for proceedures on how the website functions and documentation in the code. Not just one-liners placed on functions that are 100+ LOC but detailed instructions where any other developer could pick it up right away and understand what is happening in that function and feel comfortable about changing it, regardless of their knowledge of the codebase. Developers should not be expected to write this documentation for free, or in their “off-hours.” This re-assurance to a developer knowing that if they weren’t around tomorrow that someone would be able to pick up the code is relieving.

These aren’t really solutions though, these are just band-aids to the underlining issues.

How do we solve burn-out? How do we help the developers that have nobody else to lean on when they sometimes just need a break?

Have you put practices in place with your work flow to prevent burn-out? I’d be very interested in learning about them.

If you ever feel like you’re overwhelmed from work, or stressed then I’m providing you an open invitation to e-mail me at [email protected] just to have a conversation. I’d be more than happy to allow you to bounce ideas off of me, or just have an ear to speak to if you need one.

Last Updated: 2015-08-03 22:05:21 +0000 UTC

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