<CharlieDigital/> Programming, Politics, and uhh…pineapples

19Mar/08Off

Bees

Caught this little gem in the comments section of a Slashdot posting:


Windows Made Me This Way

How Software Companies Die

Windows Sources, March 1995, p. 208

By: Orson Scott Card

You can domesticate programmers the way beekeepers tame bees.

The
environment that nutures creative programmers kills management and
marketing types - and vice versa. Programming is the Great Game. It
consumes you, body and soul. When you're caught up in it, nothing else
matters. When you emerge into daylight, you might well discover that
you're a hundred pounds overweight, your underwear is older than the
average first grader, and judging from the number of pizza boxes lying
around, it must be spring already. But you don't care, because your
program runs, and the code is fast and clever and tight. You won.
You're aware that some people think you're a nerd. So what? They're not
players. They've never jousted with Windows or gone hand to hand with
DOS. To them C++ is a decent grade, almost a B - not a language. They
barely exist. Like soldiers or artists, you don't care about the
opinions of civilians. You're building something intricate and fine.
They'll never understand it.

Beekeeping

Here's
the secret that every successful software company is based on: You can
domesticate programmers the way beekeepers tame bees. You can't exactly
communicate with them, but you can get them to swarm in one place and
when they're not looking, you can carry off the honey. You keep these
bees from stinging by paying them money. More money than they know what
to do with. But that's less than you might think. You see, all these
programmers keep hearing their fathers' voices in their heads saying
"When are you going to join the real world?" All you have to pay them
is enough money that they can answer (also in their heads) "Geez, Dad,
I'm making more than you." On average, this is cheap. And you get them
to stay in the hive by giving them other coders to swarm with. The only
person whose praise matters is another programmer. Less-talented
programmers will idolize them; evenly matched ones will challenge and
goad one another; and if you want to get a good swarm, you make sure
that you have at least one certified genius coder that they can all
look up to, even if he glances at other people's code only long enough
to sneer at it. He's a Player, thinks the junior programmer. He looked
at my code. That is enough. If a software company provides such a hive,
the coders will give up sleep, love, health, and clean laundry, while
the company keeps the bulk of the money.

Out Of Control

Here's
the problem that ends up killing company after company. All successful
software companies had, as their dominant personality, a leader who
nurtured programmers. But no company can keep such a leader forever.
Either he cashes out, or he brings in management types who end up
driving him out, or he changes and becomes a management type himself.
One way or another, marketers get control. But...control of what?
Instead of finding assembly lines of productive workers, they quickly
discover that their product is produced by utterly unpredictable,
uncooperative, disobedient, and worst of all, unattractive people who
resist all attempts at management. Put them on a time clock, dress them
in suits, and they become sullen and start sabotaging the product.
Worst of all, you can sense that they are making fun of you with every
word they say.

Smoked Out

The shock is greater
for the coder, though. He suddenly finds that alien creatures control
his life. Meetings, Schedules, Reports. And now someone demands that he
PLAN all his programming and then stick to the plan, never improving,
never tweaking, and never, never touching some other team's code. The
lousy young programmer who once worshiped him is now his tyrannical
boss, a position he got because he played golf with some sphincter in a
suit. The hive has been ruined. The best coders leave. And the
marketers, comfortable now because they're surrounded by power neckties
and they have things under control, are baffled that each new iteration
of their software loses market share as the code bloats and the bugs
proliferate. Got to get some better packaging. Yeah, that's it.


Programming is the Great Game. It
consumes you, body and soul. When you're caught up in it, nothing else
matters. When you emerge into daylight, you might well discover that
you're a hundred pounds overweight, your underwear is older than the
average first grader, and judging from the number of pizza boxes lying
around, it must be spring already.

I know this feeling...well, minus the fat, smelly part.  And I have to admit, I haven't felt it in a while šŸ™

Posted by Charles Chen

Filed under: DevLife Comments Off
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