Missing the Point

Is it just me or has Jay Fields gotten awfully elitist lately? First, he starts telling companies they should hire developers and not hackers (where hackers are people who write a lot of very good code but may not be very sociable) which is pretty ridiculous in and of itself given the fact that lots of software companies would love to have just one uber-hacker on their team. Then today, we get his idea that 50% of all people doing software development should find a new profession. Lord, that’s an elitist thing to say in public. I wonder if he’s a Democrat. I kid! Sort of.

Anyway, he seems to miss the point that his ability to work his way up through software to his lofty position giving out dumb advice was directly related to the fact that so many other bad programmers were working. If you eliminated half the programmers in the US, he would have had a much more difficult time working his way into the profession. One of the beautiful things about programming is that, contra Joel, you actually can do a semi-decent job of it without any formal training. Some of the best developers I’ve known haven’t had formal computer science training.

People like Jay want software development to be like medicine, i.e. it takes 12 years to basically even get your foot in the door. Now I can understand this mentality a little because in theory, I can see having my own company and then I’m going to want the best I can hire. And no, Jay never said anything about education. However, that’s the implied content of his post. On top of that, where does it stop? Once you’ve eliminated the bottom 50%, you’ve only succeeded in creating a new bottom 50%. What stops you from wanting to eliminate them? It’s an awfully slippery slope to start down in the name of improving the profession. Far better you suggest ways to drag those Blub programmers you so condescendingly look down upon up to your lofty, all-knowing level.

In reality, there are tons of jobs out there that really do suck. Your top 50% of programmers aren’t going to want to work at Company XYZ making widgets. But those widgets need to get made because Company XYZ depends on them and by extension, the people who work for Company XYZ also need them. Eliminating 50% of all programming jobs would have consequences beyond what Jay seems to be suggesting. The bottom 50% of all programmers make the fun jobs possible.

Look, if you don’t want to work with crappy programmers, find a new job or don’t hire them or go live on an island. But don’t try to spin ideas like 50% of all programmers need to find a new profession as the desire to improve the craft. That’s elitist bullshit. Software isn’t THAT important and thinking that it is involves entirely too much self-importance.

Stealing from a related post by Reg Braithwaite who borrowed the line from Woody Allen: “You have to have a little faith in people.”

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