We launched the first part of search today. I’ve worked on this for a long time, and the result is… a little text input on the side of tumblelogs. And I couldn’t be happier. (At least until we get a segmenter.)
Search is one of the great unappreciated functions of the internet: it’s incredibly difficult to get right (and I’d argue that nobody ever has), but the result of great execution is nobody noticing. It’s such a basic navigational element that we (rightfully) expect everything to have a little search box near the upper-left corner. We only notice when search isn’t there. Getting search right is about as noticeable as speeding up the database server.
But I’m not one for the spotlight. I’ve always loved behind-the-scenes stuff like this instead. In high school theatre, I did stage crew. When I held barbecues in college, I always stayed by the grill. Now, I mostly program the back-end for Tumblr and keep things running quickly, and my side project requires tons of difficult, complex code to do something very simple (save a complete web page for reading offline).
I think it’s partly a geek thing: I don’t need or seek the validation of others to be satisfied with my own work. I do it for myself and the sake of anyone who might benefit. I love doing little things that almost nobody will notice, such as making checkbox labels clickable or shortening my Amazon URLs, because they satisfy me. In part, I think this contributes to (or is a result of) my independent nature. I do things for me, and it just so happens that it sometimes benefits others.
It also builds a healthy appreciation for well-executed details. (There’s a reason why detail-appreciative people tend to use Apple products.) When I come across something that’s subtly polished in one of these ways, I can recognize and appreciate the amount of effort that went into it. Hardly anyone else cares, but I get excited by minutia.
I like my world.