What Calvin & Hobbes Can Teach Us about Web Development

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For over 30 years, readers have been delighted by the adventures of an animated boy named Calvin and his fictitious tiger friend Hobbes. While their tales are certainly entertaining, you may be asking yourself what they could possibly have to do with web development. Much like the many characters that come alive in Calvin’s mind, the key is imagination.

If you’re not familiar, Calvin & Hobbes is a comic strip that was published from 1985 to 1995 in newspapers around the world. It covers the wild tales of a young boy, Calvin, and his trusted tiger pal, Hobbes. While Hobbes is a lifeless stuffed tiger to adults, to Calvin he is a confidant, a fellow explorer, and sometimes even an accomplice. Their adventures are truly legendary and involve outer space, dinosaurs, and interacting with (slimy) girls.

So how can these cartoons possibly tell us a single thing about web development? Hop into my spaceship…

Spaceman Spiff

Never Stop Imagining

ImaginationThe basis for Calvin’s world is built entirely upon imagination. Free thinking and creativity help Calvin create elaborate worlds and situations with death-defying encounters and experiences. This type of abstract thinking is key to any creativity, web development included. In order to develop truly amazing web applications, you have to be willing to think a little differently and try new things. You have to look past the constraints you know and imagine the possibilities of what could be. Often, this means looking at a framework or capability from a different perspective, contrary to your own experiences. Maybe it’s repurposing something you’ve already worked on before or implementing a new library or component. Whatever it is, as a web developer, you should constantly be thinking about how to accomplish things and always be open to ways you might not have previously considered. The main point is this: be sure to use your imagination to think differently because you will constantly be presented with new ideas and change.

Explore

From T. rex-filled jungles to the outer world adventures of Spaceman Spiff, Calvin and Hobbes never stop exploring. Part of imagination is diving into new ideas and concepts that you dreamed up and seeing what the possibilities are. After thinking abstractly and coming up with a new idea, developers should be exploring their potential. Grabbing an emerging framework and implementing it into your site might just be the ticket to your success.

When it comes to web development, there’s no shortage of new technologies and libraries being released every day. As community-driven, client-side technologies continue to take over the web, staying knowledgeable on new frameworks can be a full-time job. But it is an essential one for anyone looking to stay relevant. Developers should constantly be tromping through jungles of technology (and hopefully avoiding ferocious predators along the way) and seeing what lies on the other side. The only way to know what’s possible is by exploring new technologies and concepts and finding new ways to solve problems.

Always Try to Better Yourself

G.R.O.S.S.Even though he’s the founder and president of G.R.O.S.S., Calvin has a good side that shines through on a regular basis, even when it comes to Susie Derkins. We’ve seen him send her cards, carry her books, and even kiss her hand. When it comes to adventure, Hobbes is always pushing Calvin to do amazing things, and they continually come up with new quests and goals. The main thing is that Calvin is trying to be a better person while still having a lot of fun along the way.

Much like Calvin, developers should constantly be pushing themselves and striving to improve anywhere they can. The learning process never ends, and veteran professionals can tell you that there is always something new to learn every day. Whether it’s a new framework, methodology, or just a new way to comment your code, always be looking for ways to improve and learn something different. If you don’t know where to start, attend a conference session on a topic you never heard of, browse online videos, or attend a user group in your area. It’s a great way to stay up to date on the latest developments while keeping your skills sharp.

Take a Friend

Avoid the lava!
Without his best friend, Calvin would just be your typical delusional six year old who thinks his parents are dinosaurs. It’s only with Hobbes that his dreams come alive and he fully sees the world in a new way. Sure, he sometimes slams into a tree while sledding, but you certainly can’t doubt that together they enjoyed the ride and learned new things along the way. And it’s also pretty obvious that many of the ideas come from the two of them working together, playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Web development is a challenging field and, like many things, is easier to do in numbers. As you brave new technologies and frameworks, make friends along the way and work together. Through collaboration and cooperation, teams of developers have created some truly amazing things—AngularJS, anyone? Because everyone’s experiences are different, each person brings a unique perspective that can really help the collective group grasp certain concepts and build awesome solutions. For developers, working with others is a great way to tackle a new challenge.

Have Fun

Wagon ride!Calvin and Hobbes always had fun—a lot of fun! How could a six-year-old boy and his imaginary tiger not? From adventures to challenges, they always remained friends and enjoyed life to the fullest. Through Calvin’s imagination, they explored new worlds, conquered fears, and made some epic snowmen landscapes. In good times and bad, the duo, at their core, were always looking for a laugh and a thrill and to have a whole lot excitement along the way.

The best developers really enjoy what they do, and it shows in their work. It’s easy to get drawn into the technicalities of the industry and focus on the facts. Of course, you should always be coding well and doing your best, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself, too. Programming isn’t exactly a heart-pounding career, so anything you can do to liven it up will go a long way. Try to add some humor into your development through comments or other “Easter eggs”. Make a funny 404 page. Do something that brightens your day, and it can work wonders for your career and keep the fun alive.
 

Calvin & Hobbes was and still is one of my favorite publications. Everything looks and seems amazing through Calvin’s eyes, and I loved reading about the adventures he and Hobbes had. From their journeys, you can pull a lot of inspiration and imagination. And have a lot of fun along the way. 

Silly

Calvin & Hobbes were the amazing creation of Bill Watterson. You can find out all about the author and the comics here.

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Bryan Soltis

Hello. I am a Technical Evangelist here at Kentico and will be helping the technical community by providing guidance and best practices for all areas of the product. I might also do some karaoke. We'll see how it the night goes...