Pride in Software Development

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13 December 2016

Every now and then politics crosses with software development, which makes it relevant to my blog, at least in my mind. And since it is my blog… :)

I was recently made aware of a public figure, Franklin Graham, a confidant of our next President, who directly implied that there’s no pride in computer programming. Apparently only people involved in mind-numbing factory work or back-breaking physical labor can take pride in what they do or something?

Obviously this shows just how out of touch Franklin Graham is with the modern world. And that’s fine - people who choose to live in the past need someone to keep them company. Personally, I have no desire to work a team of horses on a subsistence farm like my grandfather, but apparently people in Frank’s world have that as a life goal.

And that’s fine. I think there’s room in our country for people who don’t want to live in the modern world; as long as they don’t try to impose their Luddite views on the rest of us. Take a cue from the Amish, people!

To think that software developers don’t have pride in our work is absurd.

Many years ago I read The Hacker Ethic, and still highly recommend it. The book covers the basic drives of subsistence life, then the Protestant work ethic (drawn from the Lutheran and Methodist Christian sects), and then builds on it by discussing the kind of work ethic with which I can identify: what the author dubs the hacker ethic.

Another excellent book is Drive. Different people are motivated by different things, but many are driven, at least in part, by pride in their work.

In any job or profession there are people who take more pride in having a job than in actually working. This is true of some people who do back-breaking work, and some people who develop software. And they are generally the sort of people I try to avoid in life.

And there are people who take more pride in doing excellent work than in the formality of having a job. The software developers I know and have been surrounded with throughout my career have almost always been the sort of people who strive to do excellent work. And who take extreme pride in making other people’s lives better through software.

Beyond that, I know a lot of such people (family, friends, and neighbors) who aren’t in the computer field but still unknowingly live by the hacker ethic. Whether they work with their hands, their mind, or both, these people take great pride in their work.

Sorry Frank, but your worldview is hopelessly out of date.