Dec 29, 2008

A Disconnect from the Real World

After reading both Jeff Atwood's article and Joel Spolsky's response to a discussion topic, I'm wondering if these guys really live in the real world of programming or not. Atwood lives off of advertising revenue on his blog, and Spolsky runs a company. While I'm glad they've managed to get themselves to such good positions, I think the vast majority of programmers are not likely to find themselves in a similar position. These two are excellent writers, and Spolsky obviously has some business acumen considering that he does have a successful business. They are not in their positions due to programming skill. The "mainstream" programmer may not possess the same skills to elevate themselves to similar positions.

These two also don't seem to understand that there is a difference between programming and software development. I define programming as programming things you want to do, where software development is programming to support yourself doing whatever somebody else needs you to do. One is fun, the other is not. Both Spolsky and Atwood are in the first boat, they program what they want to program. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the world can't have a startup or a popular blog with ads for every programmer that doesn't want to work in a boring corporate job. I'd love to either do a startup or work for a sweet job. However the startup idea requires well, an idea, and startup capital. Without some good cash inflow, doing a startup might be a little difficult when the landlord comes knocking. There's always venture capital or loans, but then you must weigh the crappiness of a boring job vs. the depressing feeling of owing tons of cash to somebody much bigger than you. And that's assuming people will actually lend to you, which given the current economic environment is not likely.

The one thing that really set me off is Atwood suggesting that if you don't absolutely love being a programmer, you should get the hell out and make room for somebody who does like it (although given the labour shortage for programmers, I don't think this makes good economic sense).
I love programming. I'm guessing that based on salary increases and job offers that I'm fairly good at it. However by Atwood's analysis, the blog post linked to above that I wrote about 9 months ago would suggest that I should get out of the way for somebody who likes it more. And the more I think about it, the more I agree with him. Let somebody else be a drone, working away for people who do not listen to you or disregard your advice. People who don't understand what it is that you do, but make great expectations without giving respect. Because that (from what I've seen in my short time since graduation) is what the software industry is.

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