Wow, what a week in world politics, huh? Well, let me tell you, if you’re looking to hear absolutely nothing more on that topic, then you’re in the right place, my friend.
The only partisanship here is over the music in my videos. In previous editions of the reader question round-up videos, such as this one, I I featured background music throughout the video. This week, I left that out, except in the intro and closing.
Early on when I was making videos, a few people suggested incorporating music. More recently, people have suggested, well, unincorporating it.
Now, I honestly don’t care one way or the other. I suppose it’s slightly less work to omit the music, but that really, honestly doesn’t matter much. So I’m turning it over to mob rule and asking you all to weigh in.
If you have any opinion whatsoever on the music in the videos, please head over to this one and leave a comment on it voting yay or nay.
Do you have a question you’d like to see me answer? Head to the “ask me” page and fire away!
Apologies for my absence last week from the tech pundit-o-sphere. I was, well, what I mostly am these days: busy. But today, I’m back with a premise that sounds suspiciously motivational-speakery.
Don’t worry, though, realpolitik fans. It’s not that. Not exactly.
Sure, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a ‘real’ programmer because (1) that’s a crappy thing to say and (2) because you’re awesome and all of that. But I’ll leave those lines of argument to others. Instead, I’m going to talk about why letting this nonsense into your head is bad for your career and your positioning.
The No True Scotsman Fallacy
First, though, let’s wander down to the anthropology dime store and categorize what we’re dealing with here. When someone tells you, for whatever reason, that you’re not a ‘real’ programmer, they’re most likely indulging in something called the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.
The gist of this is to create a subjective, moving-goal-posts purity test for membership in some club. And people generally do this as a direct follow-up to painting with too broad a brush and having someone subsequently call them on it. For instance, here’s the eponymous example, quoted from the Wiki article:
Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.” Person B: “But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge.” Person A: “But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
In my personal experience with purveyors of this fallacy, I generally see two principle motivations, often intermixed:
Zealous, subjective belief in the purity test itself.
Having made a strident claim before really thinking it through, accompanied by a personal tendency never to back down afterward. (Sound familiar?)
Now, take a dash of this part of human nature, mix it into a heaping bowl of the internet, bake it in the oven for 20 years, and get ready to enjoy a bottomless casserole of “why you’re never good enough.”
The Many Flavors of ‘Not-Real’ Programmers
By now, you might find yourself nodding along, imagining programming-oriented statements like this. Maybe people have painted you with a brush like this, or maybe you’ve just seen them do it to others.
No real programmer works heavily with CSS and markup.
Real programmers use the command line — not user interfaces.
In 2019 you’re not a real programmer if you’re using anything but git.
No real programmers just use their IDE out of the box, without customizing it. (Also, bonus for, “real programmers use VIM and not IDEs.”)
I imagine these statements sound quite familiar. There sure are a lot of armchair arbiters of ‘real’ programming, aren’t there?
So, having defined what this is and given examples of how to recognize it, I’d like to spend the rest of the post talking about why this type of seemingly-minor bloviating is actually insidiously pernicious for those exposed to it.
Well, going back like an archaeologist through old reader questions, I see that these two posts prompted a bunch of questions. So, in today’s video, I tackled four such inquiries. Always interesting fodder for me, personally, so thanks for asking.
By the way, if you have questions, please ask them. I’m letting this drive a lot of content for the blog these days. And, I’ve also settled on a more canonical way of asking people to submit them: a simple “ask” page.
So if you’d like to hear my take on something, head on over and submit a question.
This Week’s Picks
I spent some time visiting family over the weekend, and stayed in a hotel in my childhood hometown. Specifically, it was a Courtyard Marriott, and it was a stand-out in terms of the service, even among the countless Marriotts I’ve occupied over the last 6 years. If you’re ever in the vicinity-ish of O’Hare and run across this place in your search, it’s a gem.
Last Thursday, I did something that I now wish I’d done years ago. I un-synced all email from my phone. I can still get the emails on the device if I want them, but I have to actively pull them from the server, instead of having this pushed at me. I can’t tell you how great this is, both for avoiding distractions and for minimizing my hour-to-hour cognitive burden.
This Week’s Content Digest
Here’s one last live blog that I did on the Sonatype site, this one about table stakes for DevOps.
My belief in picking a niche for yourself becomes obvious to anyone who reads more than a post or two here. I’ve written too many posts about it to list, and I talk about it on my Youtube channel these days.
But today, I’d like to reference a couple of specific posts where I talk about this in order to flesh out a concept. Here are those posts.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about picking a niche. And, in that post, I distinguished between generalizing, specializing, and niching. Specializing involves looking at your own skill set, picking something you like, and hoping people want to pay for it. Niching involves looking at needs that others have and filling those needs.
Here’s the gist of what I want to talk about today. 2 years ago, I gave advice that would indeed help you pick a specialty.
But, I actually think that it’s, at best, locally maximizing advice to help you pick a niche. So I’d like to course correct a bit with my advice to the countless people that ask me for help finding a niche.
As you may recall, a few weeks back, I offered the hypothesis that software is a business tactic, rather than a profession. My main purpose in writing that post was to level set a bit with my desired direction for the blog, leaning toward an increase emphasis on reader questions. And, you all immediately obliged, so thanks for that!
So, I’ll start by responding to people’s questions/reactions to that post, both in comments and through other media. The follow-up questions/thoughts that I’ll address fall largely into 2 buckets:
How do you reconcile “software as a business tactic” with “software as an end,” particularly an aesthetic one, such as with video games?
Maybe software is a business tactic and isn’t currently a profession, but why shouldn’t it be?
Number (1) is easier and chronologically first, so let’s do that.