Skip to main content

The Problem with Coders' Technology Focus

Coders focus on code. Coders focus on toolchains and development practices. Coders focus on commits and line counts. Coders focus on code, but we don’t focus as well on people.

We need to take a step back and remember why we write code, or possibly re-evaluate why we write code. Many of us might be doing it for the wrong reasons. Maybe you don’t think there can be a wrong reason, and I’m not entirely sure. What I am certain of is that some reasons to code lend themselves to certain attitudes and weights about the code and other motivations might mandate that you take yourself more or less seriously.

We’re taking the wrong motivations seriously and we’re not giving enough attention and weight to the reasons for code that we should.

The most valid and important reason we can code is not what hackers think it is. A good hack isn’t good for its own sake. No programming language or tool is inherently better than another. The technical merits of the approach or of the individual are not the most important factors to consider.

Our impact on people is the only thing that truly matters.

Twitter isn’t great because they developed amazing distributed services internally to support the load requirements of their service, but because they connect millions of voices across the globe.

RSS isn’t great because it encapsulates content in an easily parseable format for client software to consume, but because it connects writers to the readers who care most about their thoughts and feelings and ideas.

The amazing rendering tools built in-house by the likes of Disney aren’t amazing because of their attention to physical based light simulations and the effort required to coordinate the massive render farms churning out frames for new big budget films, but for their ability to tell wonderful stories that touch people.

The next time you find yourself on a forum chastising someone for writing their website in PHP, pause and ask yourself why that was the more important question to ask them than “Does this fulfill something important to you or your users?”

When you are reviewing code and want to stop a merge because you disagree with a technical approach, take a step back and ask yourself if the changes have a positive impact on the people your product serves.

Every time you find yourself valuing the technical contributions of team mates and community members, make sure those contributions translate into enriching and fulfilling the lives of that community and your workplace, before the technical needs.

Nothing that is important can be so without being important for people first.

Comments

vincent said…
What you're basically saying is that the end should justify the means more often than we think.

It's certainly true that coders prefer to focus on the code and sometimes lose track of what the purpose of the code actually is, but it's also this attention to "what's important for the code" that makes the end possible.

The "it works, so lets leave it like this" argument is usually followed a few weeks later by "Hey, it stopped working, that's odd" or "I can't implement this new feature with the code we wrote a few weeks ago", and the code get's rewritten into what the coders originally wanted in the first place.

As usual, it's a compromise; Don't waste time making the code more beautiful than it needs to be, but take your time to make it reliable and maintainable.

Popular posts from this blog

Interrupting Coders Isn’t So Bad

Here’s a hot take: disrupting coders isn’t all that bad.

Some disruptions are certainly bad but they usually aren’t. The coder community has overblown the impact. A disruption can be a good thing. How harmful disruption might be a symptom of other problems.

There are different kinds of disruptions. They are caused by other coders on your team, managers and other non-coders, or meetings throughout the day.

The easiest example to debunk is a question from a fellow developer. Imagine someone walks over to your desk or they ping you on Slack, because they have “one quick question.” Do you get annoyed at the interruption when you were in the middle of something important? You help out your teammate quickly and get back to work, trying to pick up where you left off. That’s a kind of interruption we complain about frequently, but I’m not convinced this is all that bad.

You are being disrupted but your team, of which you are only one member of the whole unit, is working smoothly. You unstuck …

Announcing Feet, a Python Runner

I've been working on a problem that's bugged me for about as long as I've used Python and I want to announce my stab at a solution, finally!

I've been working on the problem of "How do i get this little thing I made to my friend so they can try it out?" Python is great. Python is especially a great language to get started in, when you
don't know a lot about software development, and probably don't even know a lot about computers in general.

Yes, Python has a lot of options for tackling some of these distribution problems for games and apps. Py2EXE was an early option, PyInstaller is very popular now, and PyOxide is an interesting recent entry. These can be great options, but they didn't fit the kind of use case and experience that made sense to me. I'd never really been about to put my finger on it, until earlier this year:

Python needs LÖVE.

LÖVE, also known as "Love 2D", is a game engine that makes it super easy to build small Lua…

CARDIAC: The Cardboard Computer

I am just so excited about this.


CARDIAC. The Cardboard Computer. How cool is that? This piece of history is amazing and better than that: it is extremely accessible. This fantastic design was built in 1969 by David Hagelbarger at Bell Labs to explain what computers were to those who would otherwise have no exposure to them. Miraculously, the CARDIAC (CARDboard Interactive Aid to Computation) was able to actually function as a slow and rudimentary computer. 
One of the most fascinating aspects of this gem is that at the time of its publication the scope it was able to demonstrate was actually useful in explaining what a computer was. Could you imagine trying to explain computers today with anything close to the CARDIAC?

It had 100 memory locations and only ten instructions. The memory held signed 3-digit numbers (-999 through 999) and instructions could be encoded such that the first digit was the instruction and the second two digits were the address of memory to operate on. The only re…