One particular morning, as I was eating my breakfast of oatmeal and almond milk, I realized I had forgotten to bring my iPad with me. Deprived of morning entertainment, I picked up the box of almond milk and started reading the label (yes kids, that’s what we did to entertain ourselves before tablets and smart phones). Something on the box caught my eye — proudly displayed on the side was a bold, star-burst proclamation that the almond milk in my hands was made with 98% Australian ingredients.
So that got me thinking: What would a 100% Bruneian Website look like?
A 100% Bruneian Website: Ground Rules
Let’s set some ground rules: by 100% Bruneian Website I do not mean that the website content is solely about Brunei. That’d be the easy way out and any government website could easily lay claim to the title. I define that building a 100% Bruneian Website is that the people, skill sets, tools, technologies and assets are sourced, grown, developed and produced within the borders of Brunei Darussalam. The timeline will start from brainstorming anything to do with the website (information architecture, marketing opportunities etc…) and end with the website being launched and made available to the public. For simplicity’s sake, post-launch maintenance will be excluded.
You can probably tell where this will end up but walk with me anyway.
People & Skill Sets
Everyone involved in building the website within the defined timeline must be Bruneian. Despite the somewhat controversial question of what makes an individual Bruneian, I think this is actually the easiest criteria to meet. Everything from here on gets grey and murky.
So let’s begin the confusion by considering skill sets: programming, designing, content creation etc… Certainly the programmers, designers and writers who utilize these skills to build the website can do so from within Brunei but where did they obtain and develop these skills?
I first learned HTML from a book I’d bought from one of the local bookshops but it was likely written and published in USA. I learned to program during my university years in Singapore and even today a lot of my knowledge is gleaned and honed by reading websites with contributions from people all over the world. I may have a Yellow IC but can the knowledge in my head say the same?
And when we consider the artistic side of skills, there is the concept of Influence and Inspiration which is difficult to limit to only Brunei. Influence and Inspiration can be ignited from quite literally anything and within Brunei we have potential kindling from Western countries (movies, music, clothes), the Middle East (mosque architecture) and the Orient (movies, music).
That’s just 3 non-Bruneian sources, there’s an infinite number out there.
Tools & Technologies
Think about everything you’d need to build a website: a text or code editor (e.g. Notepad++), a graphics program (e.g. Adobe Photoshop), maybe even video editing software. What about support tools that enable collaboration (e.g. Basecamp), help you keep track of things to do (e.g. Trello) and allow communication (e.g. WhatsApp). And let’s not forget the almighty Microsoft Office and Google because you know you’re going to need them at some point in the process.
We haven’t even begun to talk about systems, frameworks and libraries that make building websites easier: WordPress, Angular, Bootstrap, jQuery and their own library of extensions and plugins. Building any one of these would be a project on its own.
When it comes to Tools & Technologies, I think the answer is pretty clear: if we were to require all of them be created in Brunei there is absolutely no way we’d be able to build a 100% Bruneian website.
I could have thrown this in with skill sets but felt it deserved its own (if somewhat short) section. By Assets I mean self-contained resources used on websites: icons and flourishes come to mind.
But the real reason I decided to give Assets its own section can be summed up in 1 word: fonts. You can get a Bruneian designer to create icons and flourishes but an entire font set? Good luck with that. If the backlash against Comic Sans MS has taught us anything, designing a good font that caters to legibility and readability is a specialized skill in and of itself.
When I was thinking about the Tools & Technologies used to build a website, I was reminded how most of them are Open Source which enables people from different walks of life to cooperatively create. Similarly, licenses like GPL and Creative Commons are all about allowing people to build upon what others have already completed.
Perhaps trying to build a 100% Bruneian Website is being needlessly restrictive since it appears to be antithetical to the direction in which the technology field is moving.