So, I've had a personal project going for a couple of years now. It's one of those "I think this could be the billion-dollar idea" things. But I suffer from the typical "it's not PERFECT, so let's start again!" mentality, and the "hmm, I'm not sure I like that technology choice, so let's start again!" mentality.

Or, at least, I DID until 3-4 months ago.

I made the decision that I was going to charge ahead with it even if I started having second thoughts along the way. But, at the same time, I made the decision that I was going to rely on as little external technology as possible. Simplicity was going to be the key guiding light and if I couldn't truly justify bringing a given technology into the mix, it'd stay out.

That means that when I built the front end, I would go with plain HTML/CSS/JS... you know, just like I did 20+ years ago... and when I built the back end, I'd minimize the libraries I used as much as possible (though I allowed myself a bit more flexibility on the back end because that seems to be where there's less issues generally). Similarly, any choice I made I wanted to have little to no additional tooling required.

So, given this is a webapp with a Node back-end, I had some decisions to make.

On the back end, I decided to go with Express. Previously, I had written all the server code myself from "first principles", so I effectively built my own version of Express in other words. And you know what? It worked fine! It wasn't particularly hard, the code wasn't especially bad, and it worked. So, I considered re-using that code from the previous iteration, but I ultimately decided that Express brings enough value - more specifically all the middleware available for it - to justify going with it. I also stuck with NeDB for my data storage needs since that was aces all along (though I did switch to nedb-promises instead of writing my own async/await wrapper around it as I had previously done).

What I DIDN'T do though is go with TypeScript. In previous versions, I had. And, hey, it worked fine. TS of course brings some value, but having to have a compile step in it goes against my "as little additional tooling as possible" mantra, and the value it brings I find to be dubious when there's just one developer. As it stands, my "tooling" amounts to a few very simple JS scripts run with NPM. It's very simple, and that was my big goal: simplicity.

On the front end, I of course had to choose a framework first. React is fine, Angular is horrid, Vue, Svelte, others are okay. But I didn't want to bother with any of that because I dislike the level of abstraction they bring. But I also didn't want to be building my own widget library. I've done that before and it takes a lot of time and effort to do it well. So, after looking at many different options, I settled on Webix. I'm a fan of that library because it has a JS-centric approach. There's no JSX-like intermediate format, no build step involved, it's just straight, simple JS, and it's powerful and looks pretty good. Perfect for my needs. For one specific capability I did allow myself to bring in AnimeJS and ThreeJS. That's it though, no other dependencies (well, at first, I was using Axios because it was comfortable, but I've since migrated to plain old fetch). And no Webpack, no bundling at all, in fact. I dynamically load resources, which effectively is code-splitting, and I have some NPM scripts to do minification for a production build, but otherwise the code that runs in the browser is what I actually wrote, unlike using a framework.

So, what's the point of this whole rant?

The point is that I've made more progress in these last few months than I did the previous several years, and the experience has been SO much better!

All the tools and dependencies we tend to use these days, by and large, I think get in the way. Oh, to be sure, they have their own benefits, I'm not denying that... but I'm not at all convinced those benefits outweighs the time lost configuring this tool or that, fixing breakages caused by dependency updates, dealing with obtuse errors spit out by code I didn't write, going from the code in the browser to the actual source code to get anywhere when debugging, parsing crappy documentation, and just generally having the project be so much more complex and difficult to reason about. It's cognitive overload.

I've been doing this professionaly for a LONG time, I've seen so many fads come and go. The one thing I think we've lost along the way is the idea that simplicity leads to the best outcomes, and simplicity doesn't automatically mean you write less code, doesn't mean you cede responsibility for various things to third parties. Those things aren't automatically bad, but they CAN be, and I think more than we realize. We get wrapped up in "what everyone else is doing", we don't stop to question the "best practices", we just blindly follow.

I'm done with that, and my project is better for it!

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