Derek FeatherstoneEverything is a work in progress

Fear of Becoming Irrelevant

Derek Featherstone / Published:

When I left my full-time job teaching high school in 1999, I started to teach people how to design and build web sites. I decided that in order to be the best possible teacher I could be, I needed to have real experience as a web professional. I needed to design and build sites for clients so that I could teach people more authentically. So I started my own company and called myself a web designer and developer, and off I went. Because I needed it to be real. I needed to solve problems that the people I was about to teach were going to need to solve.

In short, I wanted the things I was teaching to resonate, and I wanted to be seen as the person that has been there and done that, and is now teaching others to do it as well.

Aging into… irrelevance?

Things have changed over the last decade in web land. From 2000 through to 2012 ish, I had designed and built backend systems and front end templates, all of it. But then we got to the point where we started talking about “toolchains” and “continuous integration” and “full-stack” and I began to wonder where I fit in.

Then we moved from floats and positioning to flexbox and then grid, and holy crap how on earth can I keep up with all of this?

Add in the fact that I wasn’t keeping everything I did in some git repository somewhere and I started to feel like I was… just old. And my biggest fears hit over this last year: I was starting to feel irrelevant.

(Turns out, I’m not irrelvant, but I was just thinking that way, beating myself up, not giving myself enough credit for… well, anything really)

Diving back in

There was something over the transition from 2019 to 2020 that clicked for me. With all of those feelings of irrelevance top of mind, I started to feel the urge to get back into nerdy things and writing some code again.

I kept reading about static site generators, and I kept hearing about GatsbyJS and the good work they’re doing from Marcy Sutton. And when speaking at An Event Apart in Denver of last year, I had dinner with Sarah Drasner and Phil Hawksworth from Netlify . And then with the new year… I got motivated to try something new.

New is the Number 1 way to get me interested

I am OVERLY interested in learning new things, even if they’re only new to me. So it was a perfect confluence of events that bring this site together. The right FOBI, the right people, the right timing, and the right motivation. Here’s a list of the things that I had to do in order to get this site up and running:

  1. Homebrew. I had tried several times in the past to install Homebrew and use it for managing things, but something always failed and so I lost interest. This time, with a reinstall, it worked right away and I was successful.
  2. React. GatsbyJS is React. So I’m learning React. I haven’t had the need to learn React in the past. I figured this was a deceent opportunity. Plus it helped me address that whole FOBI thing.
  3. GatsbyJS. This has been cool so far as I’m loving that this app that I’ve built pumps out a static version of my site. Light, fast, but with a modern toolset that I kind of like. Automation where I want it, and hand-craftedness where I want that.
  4. Git. Yeah, I just didn’t really git. Now I git every day and I’m kind of loving learning and seeing that there are SOOOOO many things that I should have had in git in the past.
  5. Visual Studio Code. I finally took the time to setup VS Code, with full on bitbucket integration.
  6. Netlify. Getting Netlify setup so that pushing my changes to a remote repository and having that trigger deployment to production was literally the icing on the cake for me. What do you mean I could have things stored in a repository, AND I don’t need to startup Panic’s Transmit to FTP files to the live server? Ace. I’m in.
  7. Modern CSS layout techniques. What can I say? I haven’t built a lot of production code in a while, so I didn’t need flexbox or grid. But now I do, so I’m re-learning CSS.


All of these things have made this stuff fun again. I’m learning, and succeeding (so far). I’m not going to say what my plans are for how often I’ll publish new things, or how often I’ll add in older things that I’ve published.

For now my plan is to just not have a plan, and instead just do.


† With many thanks to both Chris Shiflett and Doug Wilson at Faculty for hosting a wonderful dinner that allowed me to talk with and get to know both Sarah and Phil a little better. Without that dinner, I likely don’t look very closely at Netlify. So thank you, Chris and Doug!