The Law of User-Generated Code
Post from August 4, 2015 (↻ June 7, 2021), filed under Web Development.
Whenever you allow users to edit and control code of your website, you’re doomed. It’s only a matter of time until you need to give up and redo the entire website—and, for an extra twist, alienate all users.
Technically this has been the fate of MySpace, and it will be the destiny of Tumblr.
The reason is that user-generated and user-edited code jams the whole idea of constantly maintaining and improving our websites (web design is a process), and that users, left with HTML and CSS reign, write garbage code (no one can blame them).
Yet! This is all cool. Just as MySpace and Tumblr will have been aware of this problematique for their platforms, others will have consciously accepted this challenge, too. Sometimes what already helps is awareness, and once we are aware, we can do a little even about doom.
This is the first technical “law” I dare to coin (the only useful non-technical one is probably The Law of Travel). But, I’ve written much about web development and design over the years, and just published a little anthology with many things as good as laws: principles. Have a look.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering lead (currently manager for Developer Experience at LivePerson) and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.