Rant: Programmers and Egos

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Editorials Programming
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Some may remember my old rant series I had way back when on roncli.com... While this is not about the digital music scene (or whatever it calls itself these days), this is in that vein. Be prepared for bad grammar, spelling, language, and attitude.

Pardon my hypocracy for a moment.

I've been a programmer now for 7 years by trade and 20 years by hobby. It is to the point where programming concepts come naturally to me, and there is very little that I can't figure out. When presented with a limited set of programming tools, I can push those tools to the limit. I know for a fact that my ability, skill, and talent in the field is well beyond what many people who call themselves programmers even strive to become. Therefore, when I say I know programmers and programming, I know what I'm talking about.

I prefer to work alone. The reason being is that when I program things by myself that the logic is mine, the errors are mine, and I can be extremely self-critical when it comes to my work. And, I can do this all without pissing myself off. Because it's me! I don't get mad at myself when I'm programming because I've discovered that I've done something the wrong way. I just fix it. I am, however, able to easily tolerate working with a team.

Most of the time.

One thing I have discovered is that programmers have an ego about their own work. Even I do. When someone changes something I wrote, I want to know why. Did I make an error? Did I not understand the required logic? Just tell me, and my ego is satisfied. And, thankfully, most people are like this. If you show them an error they made, they are like "OMGLOLZ, I can't believe I did that, thanx."

Then... there are the idiot programmers that are Never Wrong.

These programmers are the ones that can take a well-established team environment and wreck it in a matter of seconds. They can deflate the confidence of other members of the team by imposing a ridiculous set of standards that don't make sense.

How do they do this? By taking offense at every little thing that is directed at their work. Let me give a few examples.

"It's not a bug/limitation/problem, it's a feature." - The canonical developer response. Believe it or not, some people use it. It's synonymous with, "I'm lazy, and I'm not changing it." News flash: If you're lazy, programming isn't for you. Programming can be redundant work, and if you're not willing to step up and do all of the work required, don't bother.

"I can't do that because it encourages bad programming." - This interesting one was told to me by someone who developed a scripting language. Basically, the script I was writing would error out if someone provided the script with an invalid number. The reason it would error out was because I had no way to test whether or not the number provided was valid. Upon asking for that, this was the response I got. Of course, this is in an environment when scripts are required to be approved before they are used. When suggesting that those who are approving the scripts could watch for scripts that don't handle user input correctly, I instead got a piece of his mind about handling user input.

"You're not supposed to do that." - What, I'm not supposed to use the tools you've given me to do what I'm supposed to do? Then why do I have them?

My favorite one as of late: "The scripting is supposed to be slow, it was designed that way." - What the fuck are you on?! If it's designed to be slow, you are not going about programming correctly at all, and should consider a career change. Seriously. You aren't a programmer if you can't figure out how/don't want to optimize something. Is scripting slower than compiled code? Yes. But you can visit any of the ASP websites I have designed - which is *ALL* script - and you will find that not one of them runs slowly. Scripting != Slow - and if it does, either the script that is slow was written wrong, or the scripting language itself needs some serious optimization.

These same programmers are almost always the same people that want to design something from the ground up without having a clue of what they are doing. They will run into problems that they don't perceive as problems, because they designed it and it must be right. When programmers like this are in positions of authority when it comes to software design, your product is either going to be very low quality, or it's going to fail miserably.

So programmers, you have an ego. I know because I have one, too. Get over it. Learn from your mistakes, realize you have much to learn, and stop being a roadblock to productivity and innovation.

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