Aug 30, 2010

Feet first into the water

My first real day “on the job” as an intern (still in school) went something like this (names redacted to protect the guilty):

BOSS: We’ve got an older system that another intern from four years ago did. We need to update it to support new policy standard X. Have you ever done anything with web before?
ME: Sure! [Played around with personal websites since twelve years of age but nothing too complicated.]
BOSS: Okay, great. This one is in ASP with VBScript. Here’s what you need to do. … Can you handle that?
ME: Sure! [Other than knowing it existed and maybe having seen it once (from a safe distance, of course), has never touched ASP or VB or anything similar.]

As you may or may not already know from reading just about any of my college surface-scratching rants (or maybe you looked over my CV?), I was ejumucated in C++ almost exclusively. I learned basic HTML early on in my own web adventures. On a 14.4k modem (top of the line at the time, baby), I authored some sweet AngelFire (later GeoCitiesTimesSquare, baby!) pages.* Over the years I had acquired a pretty good understanding of HTML and bits and pieces of JavaScript and CSS from playing around. Heavy emphasis on the bits and pieces.

Always ready for a challenge (or maybe just latent masochism), I started in and had to do a ton of studying, reading, and documentation looking-up. I had to refresh everything I knew about HTML, learn about XHTML, re-learn CSS and start all over with JavaScript. To top it off, I had to stumble my way through someone else’s [awful] VBScript code (never doing VB anything prior) as well as figure out and tweak the functionality of a handful of interrelated ASP files.

It was probably the greatest amount of practical work knowledge I learned in two months flat during my entire college life.

Sure, I would barely consider myself even a beginner on them with so little exposure. Sure, it was some horrendous kludging due to my inept groping in the dark. Sure, I feel sorry for whomever, some day, has to convert it to a .NET app or something else.

But, by golly, it worked!

And, maybe more importantly, I got to see it work — see it go from ugly to… less ugly!

Leave Archive Old LayoutLeave Archives New Layout

Pages went from being a mess to being XHTML 1.0 validated with a DOCTYPE, JavaScript moved into separate JS files, all new CSS file with a conditionally loaded IE-specific extra CSS file, and adding about double to the file sizes just from all of the extra documentation/comments to help whoever came next. I was quite proud of myself at the time.

And this was all about, oh, 5x what they asked for. All they wanted was to make it comply with new policy standard X. But they gave me plenty of time, told me to take my time, and so I made good use of said time.

Of course, looking back on it now, I can’t help but see all the areas I could improve it, let alone wanting to move it off of classic ASP. The system is just begging for a GridView solution and its security, while better documented and sensible than before, is still a nightmare.

But as far as learning experiences go… this one was the first major kick in the pants since deciding to do computer stuff for a living.

So what is the point of this post? Well, mostly just the before and after screenshots. Who picks navy on olive as their color scheme, anyway?!

*I won’t link them here, but if you Google well, you’ll easily find what remains of some of them. I still have offline archives, though.

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