CPO at Hacker Noon
The internet is old by today’s standard. Nikola Tesla envisioned bits of the world we currently take for granted, way back in the early 1900s. In the 1960s, those visions started to come to life with ARPANET. TCP/IP was invented shortly after my birth on January 1st, 1983.
The World Wide Web launched when I was in the 3rd grade. A historically important event but for me, it didn’t matter. We had a small computer room in elementary, and each classroom had 1 computer. I never imagined being plugged into a global network. For me, computers were designed so I could crank through my math work as quickly as possible so I could play a small handful of atari-like games. I was happy living in those constrained digital worlds.
In junior high, I started hearing rumors. A few kids talked about “surfing the web,” I think I equated the internet to Pogs. What’s the point? I don’t even remember my first internet experience. In my mind, computers were designed for personal experiences, not shared experiences. The most shared experience I imagined was designing a high-resolution graphic of an orc or elf and somehow showing my friends.
Near the end of junior high, the pieces started coming together. I had a computer class that introduced me to programming in LOGO and BASIC. It was fascinating. Being able to create things with simple logic changed everything for me. I felt like anything was possible. I immediately started imagining gaming implications.
In my first year of high school, I bought a TI-86 calculator. One of the best purchases of my life. Having 24/7 access to a computing device seemed too good to be true. In math I used the same tactic as elementary, I wrote programs to chew through my assignments so I could spend my time creating games. I made an RPG called Arena. In the game, you controlled 4 gladiators to fight in an arena against mythical beasts. I had to figure out a lot of creative hacks in order to build what I had in mind with such limited resources.
Fast forward 20 years.
I eventually found my way into web development and now I’m leading the product team at Hacker Noon. The technological challenges I face today are things I never would have imagined in high school. i.e. Does it make sense to use blockchain to build a decentralized publishing platform or should we focus on a centralized experience built on the cloud? That question would have made zero sense to my high school brain.
This all leads me to one of my favorite technology quotes. A classic by Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” I know, technically a science quote but let’s imagine Newton alive today talking about his latest technological breakthrough.
You might be thinking I like this quote as a way of saying “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Build applications by piecing together known design patterns and proven technology”. That is absolutely NOT the way I interpret it. If you become too fixated on replicating existing innovations, you’ll get stuck looking into the past.
The important part of Newton’s quote is the “seeing further” bit. We need to use everything we know as a platform to peer as far as we can into the future. It’s tough. The past is like looking through a telescope into a clear starry night. The future lies beyond a thick patch of fog. We can’t see the other side. But with every step of progress, we reveal a little more and see a little further.
Going back to my original story, I didn’t see the future of the internet because I wasn’t standing on a foundation to gain a vantage point. I’ve noticed this pattern applies to big ideas, and to small ideas. This is how I think about iterating on a product. You can’t always work back from an end goal in mind because you might not be able to see the end goal. Instead, look as far into the future as you can into the future and build towards that vision. With every step of progress, you see a little further and your next step becomes more clear.
As a reader, I might be thinking “Fancy quotes sound good on paper but how does this translate to the real world?”. So enough stories and theories for now. We’re starting the Hacker Noon 2.0 Development Series. I’ll be publishing real-life challenges we face in building Hacker Noon 2.0 and beyond. You’ll see features, designs, and workflows evolve from a crude yet functional state into something better. Your comments and insights will help us see even further into the future. Maybe we’ll even discover a few innovations along the way.
Hacker Noon 2.0 Development Series (coming soon):
P.S. We’re looking for User-centric Frontend Developer with a great taste for Design to help us shape Hacker Noon 2.0. Interested? Fantastic! Apply here, and if very excited for the role, prototype a feature you’d like to see in Hacker Noon 2.0, write about why you think it’s important and submit a hacker noon post to be published on Hacker Noon 1.0.
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