Humble coder

One of the reasons I often dislike Joel Spolsky’s essays is because he makes me feel inferior for not having a Computer Science degree. He doesn’t inspire me to become a better coder; he makes me feel bad that I’m not a better coder in the first place.

Likewise, Paul Graham’s writings often concentrate on startups and the entrepreneurial spirit. Sometimes they’re good; sometimes they have the exact same effect as Spolsky—to make me feel worthless because I haven’t started my own company, and have no intention of doing so.

Rands, on the other hand, writes about management in an interesting and entertaining way, without making me feeling like a failure because I don’t have a team of people working for me. Likewise, I find Jeff Atwood an inspirational writer: in his dedication to coding as a craft, he understands that one of the keys to being a good developer is a fundamental desire to become a better developer. In his latest article, he takes Paul Graham to task for his “you suck” attitude. Thanks, Jeff—I needed that.

I still use this quote from Lois McMaster Bujold as my personal motto:

“There is this, about being the sparring partner of the best swordsman in Caribastos. I always lost. But if I ever meet the third best swordsman in Caribastos, he’s going to be in very deep trouble.”

I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that this attitude would give Paul Graham fits, but it would make Jeff Atwood smile. There’s the difference.

4 Replies to “Humble coder”

  1. Well, you know what I think of Joel*. I can see I can add Paul Graham to the list of people to read with the salt at hand.

    Not everyone is an entrepreneur; some people just want to write software. It’s like saying that everyone who wants to use a computer should compile (or write) their own kernel.

    You do what you’re good at, and don’t let some self-important windbag make you feel bad about it.

    * If you don’t, dear reader: he thinks that recruiting testers from support and promising them the chance to one day grow up to be Real Developers is a good idea. He thinks that paying testers low wages is a good idea. Then he wonders why he can’t find any good testers, when he’s just dissed the entire specialist skillset and everyone who values it. And he has a very big megaphone to advocate this approach to the world.

    The man is poisoning my profession, making my colleagues’ lives measurably more miserable. That is, in my book, bad.

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