I’ve reverted to my natural state, a self-absorbed hermit geek trying to force myself to grow a bigger brain. See, I’ve got this anxiety problem ever since childhood. It’s rooted in the mantra, “I have to, but I can’t,” and it can be applied to many situations in life. It’s the thought pattern that stresses me out more than any other.
Our company has five websites for the six organizations–some of the for profit, others non-profit–that we run out of this office with fewer than ten employees. (My boss redefines the term “workaholic.”) I’m the IT guy. Just me. Anything more technical than browsing the web and accessing your email? That’s my job. I’m also the maintenance man, tightening screws, fixing doorknobs, and changing light bulbs because I’m also the tallest. I also get to haul out the heavy garbage.
Did I mention all our websites are also bilingual English/Japanese? That’s an extra challenge, and a big one, because there’s a technical aspect to it in addition to the comparatively simple task of keeping the contents in each language in sync with each other.
Is the stress getting through to you? Can you tell I’m stressed? I’m not done yet.
Our three main sites need to be overhauled. Site #1 was developed in 2000 in Java by the guy who had this job before me. I don’t know dick about Java, which means I can barely understand the concepts behind servlets, containers, Jakarta Struts, Tomcat configuration files… Whenever something has to get tweaked under the hood, I get that, “I have to, but I can’t” feeling, and it stresses me out. Our business model has changed since the site was developed, so the way the site fundamentally works has to be changed. Overhauled.
Site #2 is the ugliest website I’ve ever seen. It was written in Perl sometime in the mid to late 90’s. It’s my duty to humanity to tear that eyesore down and start over from scratch.
Site #3 consists of completely static HTML pages, but should be database driven with an easy-to-use backend so our non-technical staff can update it. In both Japanese and English, remember.
So the boss wants this all done like, two months ago. Oh, and site #1 (and possibly #2 and #3 also) needs a mobile interface so people can read it on their cell phones in Japanese, which means the view for phones has to be in Shift-JIS while the web version should be in UTF-8. Do you understand that? I’m the only one here who does. It’s a lonely job. Whenever I try to explain something technical to my boss or coworkers, it takes half an hour of excruciating patience on both sides.
So that’s the gist of the situation, and here’s the problem: I suck at programming. I can tweak already written code or write little snippets of code that work, but God forbid I’d ever have to figure out what they do six months later, or even worse, have to make any major changes or additions. The temptation to do things the quick and dirty way is strong–like I said, the boss wants stuff done when he tells me to do it, not half a year later. That’s reasonable, and I really do feel for him. He’s a great guy and works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s got real guts. He gets things done.
Here’s my major personal issue: I feel like I’m the albatross around his neck because I want to do things right. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner or get tangled up and tied to a solution I hacked together in a rush. But I also have to deliver. I don’t get paid to just think and do research.
But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks (and over Golden Week), learning the very basics of Java Servlets, object oriented programming in PHP, XHTML, CSS, and researching the multitude of PHP frameworks available.
I gotta get back to work now. But I’m leaning towards using Zend Framework to redevelop our websites. I discovered it at 3am this morning (slept on the office couch) and at first glance it looks good because it has support for internationalization and localization built in instead of being an afterthought hack someone hobbled together with gettext and spit.
I wish I could use Ruby on Rails. It’s an awesome language and the available documentation is superb. But deployment of Rails a application to the web is a huge, huge, fickle bitch I wasn’t expecting to have to cross swords with. PHP on the other hand is industry standard and supported by default on 99.9% of web servers. So I’ve got to learn some serious PHP kung-fu from now just to be able to do my goddamn job. It’s not all bad, seeing as how I’m being forced to learn stuff I should already know.
So if you don’t hear from me for a while longer, at least now you know why.
P.S. I’m also the audio-visual guy. The skills I acquire in audio and video editing here get applied to work when the need arises. My boss also wants to get into multimedia in a big way, and I’m the one who has to do it, and do it right.
P.P.S. My wife resents me for not doing more to help her around the house.