intelligence/productivity memes

Many programmers are obsessed with being seen as smart and productive. One of the reasons for this obsession is that the going social currency in programmer circles isn’t your awesome sports car but how much code you can pump out and how much faster/better you can do it than the next guy. The overemphasis on mental prowess warps the Jungian prototype of a programmer into something very grotesque. All subcultures have such unhealthy and weird hero worship tendencies so I’m not saying it’s only programmers that have such distorted views. The hero prototype for programmers is usually the genius marathon coder that lives on nothing but diet coke and mental orgasms brought on by re-implementing C++ projects in the latest language du jour over a weekend. That’s the theoretical setup so what does the concrete manifestation of all of this look like.

On any given day there is at least one HN article on the front page hovering in the top 10 spots that sketches some aspect of the distorted hero programmer. “There Are No X10 Developers, But There Are Certainly 1/10 Ones” is the prototype example of such articles and all of them follow the same basic formula. The author draws the dividing line in the sand that separates the 1x programmers from the 10x programmers. The author is implicitly on the 10x side so if you’re a reader that has internalized the distorted conception of the hero programmer you will identify with the author. Many others reading the post will share their own anecdotal stories about how one day they happened to be the 10x programmer and the circle jerk will just get bigger and bigger. There is no content in any of these posts, just ego stroking and mental masturbation.

I find this state of affairs really bizarre because programmers in silicon valley are treated like kings. They get six figure salaries and benefits that 90% of the country only dreams about and all of that is just squandered away and turned into shitty ego stroking, circle jerking blog posts. The best part of it all is that if you have seen and been around great programmers you immediately realize that anyone who is any good wouldn’t be obsessed with such inane matters. Grace Hopper, Radia Perlman, Barbara Liskov, Alan Kay, Don Knuth, John McCarthy, Ken IversonBrian KernighanDennis Ritchie,Tim Berners-Lee, and countless other real hero programmers wouldn’t give a shit about any of it.

In conclusion. Stop hating and stroking your own ego. Write code, contribute to an existing project, document it, or make something that didn’t exist before without holding some other guy’s dick.