Thursday, October 26, 2006

More than just code?

Jeff Atwood's Coding Horror is one of my favorite blogs. One of his recent posts argued that most of us are so involved with the detail of our applications that we don't step back enough and ask why we're writing a specific piece of software. He suggests that we should become business people and lawyers and concentrate less on coding, or maybe even stop coding all together. Sure what's the point in writing great code if it never ships or nobody ever knows about it. I often read good arguments that coders should become better writers, salesmen or business people, but the problem with that argument is that it misses two important points:

First is that often the reason people become coders is because they are much stronger dealing with abstract ideas than with other humans. It's widely noted that often the best coders are boderline autistic and in a way it's great that there is such a job as 'programmer' that means lots of these people can earn a good living without having too much painfull interaction with other humans:)

Secondly is the complexity of modern society that demands deep specialisation. There's simply too much knowledge out there for anyone to be a renaisance man in the 21st century. I have enough trouble just keeping up with what's going on in the world of .net development, let alone other languages and platforms. There's simply no way that I've got enough mental bandwidth to be a great lawyer or salesman too. So sure it's good to be at least dimly aware of the reason why you're writing that code, but I expect for the vast majority of corporate developers, the reason they're writing that code is because their boss told them to.

Now, if are one of those exceptional people that do have the mental bandwidth to be a great lawyer salesman and programmer, then you'll probably end up being very successfull anyway. One reads stories of Bill Gates out legalling (is that a word?) his lawyers and he's obviously a great salesman too, but I think for most of us lumpen programmeren just keeping up with our corner of the coding world is probably work enough.

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