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Jon Skeet: The 'Chuck Norris' of Programming (bbc.com)
222 points by damian2000 on Apr 3, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 106 comments



I respect Jon Skeet very much and it's by his book that I learned C# when I needed. I do feel that we tend to treat people we admire as gods, this being detrimental to the learning process. Especially in a global market without boundaries, like the software industry, it's easy to compare oneself with the best of us and this ends up being quite depressing. We shouldn't forget that such people are humans as well, continuously learning, improving and prone to do mistakes like the rest of us. Here is an example: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1426754/linkedblockingque...


The biggest issue with idolizing people this much in my opinion is that it puts a huge divide between you and that idol.

People have heroes, and heroes do things normal humans can't. That further translates into other parts of life where really terrible things are done by villains and the only ones being able to counter it are those heroes we created.

I don't understand why people fetishize names that much. It's almost as if they are subconsciously saying:

"Given that xyz is so much better than I and he's a genius, I can therefore never hope to reach that goal, so there's no point in trying"

While at the same time consciously saying: "I wish I could be like him"

As the germans say: "Keine Bange, der kocht auch nur mit Wasser"

There's a whole bunch of inventions we accredit to different people than actually did them and we praise them like gods. And there is no rational behind that behavior. Yes, it's still a great achievement, but no it doesn't matter as much as we like to pretend.

On a step further we get to the discussion of what success is. Is success when everyone knows you? Is it when you have a lot of money? If it's all about the money, no european startup will ever be as great as its american counterpart. There's just not as much money.


> The biggest issue with idolizing people this much in my opinion is that it puts a huge divide between you and that idol.

If it's any help, I'd be happy to give a huge list of bugs I've caused due to inexperience and incompetence.

I'm not going to pretend I don't enjoy the micro-celebrity status SO has given me, but I'd be happy to help correct any impression that there's a huge gulf between me and any "regular" programmer. Maybe a gulf in "time spent answering questions on SO" but not some massive intellectual divide.


Honestly, I was expecting a list of projects that you delivered with great code quality, tools you built to improve programming, and so on. I have that for Margaret Hamilton, from Apollo to 001. Bernstein of Qmail and Rod Chapman of Praxis Correct-by-Construction come to mind. Answering lots of questions about programming indicates something about knowledge but that depends on the questions & answers. I know lots of programmers value people doing hands-on parts.

So, all in all, I guess I'm wondering what writings or work you did that puts you on list of top programmers. I mean, is it just how many aspiring or professional programmers you've helped day to day? The amplification effect of your SO activities on our field? Or specific, jaw-dropping software or books I don't know about? Or both?

Just curious.


Well, my C# book (C# in Depth) has been well received. I'd like to think my date/time library for .NET (Noda Time) is mostly well-written.

But no, nothing that I'd expect to put me in the top 15 (or top 1500) programmers in the world.


That's honest. Appreciate the feedback. In case you missed the other comment, I do think we should have recognition of contribution to educating programmers in practical ways. I think your StackOverflow work and book should earn you some place high on that list. :)


As Nietzsche once wrote, "To call someone 'divine' means 'Here we do not have to compete.'"


>> I don't understand why people fetishize names that much.

I think it's basically the same phenomena as "judging a book by its cover" and "can't overcome a bad first impression".

Our brains are constantly putting things in "bins" and these bins cost energy to move around. Looking at it from a minimization of energy perspective, it's basically because minds are lazy and need a way to quickly make decisions without arriving at everything from first principals.

The extent to which this is true or not (I think) has to do with levels of intelligence. Higher intelligence (or, related, neuroplasticity) allows someone to alter the structure of their brain at a lower energy cost.

Personally, I think this is why cognitive dissonance is often accompanied by anger because the brain literally just realized how much work it would be to rewire a mental model to account for such dissonance and would prefer a way to avoid it, hence fight or flight.


> As the germans say: "Keine Bange, der kocht auch nur mit Wasser"

Meaning? My high school German and a bit of Google translate give me "Don't worry, he also cooks with water" or something similar? Can anyone (native German speaker would be good) clarify further, please.


Not a native German speaker (One side of my family is German so I have assimilated some of the culture, but I know only small amounts of german), but I would hazard a guess that an expanded form of it is

  Don't worry, [no matter how great they are,] they also cook with water
meaning something along the lines of "No matter how great they are, they are still human in the end".



Couldn't it be Crab Mentality?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality


I learned to stop automatically admiring celebrities when I learned that Miles Davis, my all-time favorite jazz musician, was kind of a shithead.


In what way?


If he was the opening act for a musician he didn't respect, he would show up late so the headliner would have to play first.

He was probably right on that one, though.


People fetishize names because they fetishize knowledge as a form of social status, and being able to say "I know who Jon Skeet is and will talk about him, and if you don't, then I'm better than you." But of course, you have to roll some humility into it by talking about people who are also presumably better than you.


>People fetishize names because they fetishize knowledge as a form of social status, and being able to say "I know who Jon Skeet is and will talk about him, and if you don't, then I'm better than you."

What you describe is name dropping, while what the parent described is hero worship / idolizing.

The two have very little to do with each other.

In fact it's the inverse: people not only don't idolize names to be smug over people not knowing them, but actually tend to idolize those that most other people already know (the "stars") that they've seen in the media.

Nobody felt smug because of knowing who Skeet is.


That's a good point. I'm wrong about this.


People do like to hero worship. I think it's a psychological thing.

Although I disagree with saying that you can never reach a level of somebody that's you idolise. What I observe with myself and others is that people emulate those they idolise and emulating people who are really good at something would help you improve.


> I do feel that we tend to treat people we admire as gods, this being detrimental to the learning process. Especially in a global market without boundaries, like the software industry, it's easy to compare oneself with the best of us and this ends up being quite depressing.

It's almost obligatory now that whenever someone raises a person up above the herd, someone immediately knocks them down with a comment like yours. You have a choice. You can take his success as inspiring or depressing. Why did you choose the latter? Do you really feel that doing that is what is best for you?

Few of us will ever approach his level but we can try. If we don't succeed that's okay. It's possible to feel good about our part in this bigger thing, the spread of knowledge. Feeling bad because you're not someone else is ego transmuted to envy.


I don't know how much you've been in SO but Jon gets as much shit when he's wrong as the other guy and none of the other high-rep users gives him any special treatment for being himself although it's safe to say we all respect him.

The only thing you're measured by when you answer by other users - at least in high profile questions - is whether or not you're correct and your answer is useful.


If it's any consolation, many of us have more HN karma than him. :-)

His work on SO massively adds to the canon of programming knowledge. We owe a lot to his service - and I suspect his prodigious output there comes as much from a service mentality as raw talent. This is what I got out of the article.


>I do feel that we tend to treat people we admire as gods

I think it is our nature as a species, collectively as well as at an individual level, to attempt to create supra-/super- states of being, and we do this progressively or conservatively, or not quite much at all, in pretty much all of our cultures.

We, are the very definition of God. (In fact, the word "we" is as good as one can get to the question 'what does the word god mean?', Christian/monotheistic/contempt-of-religion cults notwithstanding.)

I think in fact, We become Gods by our associations, where god is 'any being with an extreme grasp of the subject'.

The godhead, as in a sort of supreme state of being which can be expressed as the 'sum total of all being', for any particular subject, must be expressed. The head of any group, given rightful access to the means of that group, becomes an extraordinarily effective unit of life.

Look at it this way.. Alien observers looking at your odd battleship cruising across the ocean might be suddenly awestruck to see it suddenly disgorge itself of its bodily contents, and .. played with roughly as aliens do .. end up 'dead', just like any other living creature in the universe. Will they even bother to perceive us as individual humans? No, I think they'll be here to kill our gods. Where gods are, toxic slime, cities, etc.


Agreed. I'm not sure, but I get then impression that some people vote on an answer based on who posted it. I don't want people to research an answer and post it, I prefer answers from people who know from experience. That said, a researched answer is better than none.


I thought Jeff Dean was the 'Chuck Norris' of programming. He designed (with others) a lot of Google's biggest infrastructure projects as well as multiple iterations of the main search infrastructure.

Among others, the projects he's worked on include:

Spanner - a scalable, multi-version, globally distributed, and synchronously replicated database

Some of the production system design and statistical machine translation system for Google Translate.

BigTable, a large-scale semi-structured storage system.

MapReduce a system for large-scale data processing applications.

Google Brain a system for large-scale artificial neural networks

LevelDB an open source on-disk key-value store.

TensorFlow an open source machine learning software library.

See http://www.wired.com/2012/08/google-as-xerox-parc/all/

https://www.quora.com/Who-is-Jeff-Dean


John Skeet is the spelling-bee champ.

Jeff Dean is the award winning novelist.


That's what I was thinking when I saw him on the list. I've been studying top industrial, FOSS, and CompSci projects for years. I see certain names, like Dean or esp DJB, that turn up over and over in high-quality, clever work they help code. Then, I find they instead list someone who was answering questions on SO. Hmmm.

To be fair, in case he deserves the credit, I did ask him to elaborate in another comment. Most programming in our industry is people solving day to day problems. They encounter all kinds of issues that hold our collective productivity back. Having a one-stop answer to most is very valuable. I think it's worth giving Skeet a high honor if he's done a huge chunk of that and done it well. I just think it should be a different title or type of honor along the lines of educating programmers instead of one that seems to imply his skill of designing/programming.


If Jeff Dean built Google, Jon Skeet is my Google. Atleast until Google is able to tell me where my program is supposed to store local files on the twenty different versions of Windows.


I have a big respect for Jon Skeet, but to dismiss Jeff Dean's work because Skeet is the one who provides copy-and-paste snippets for programmers is wrong on so many levels.


There's also literal Chuck Norris style Jeff Dean jokes... Like a whole bunch of them:

https://www.quora.com/What-are-all-the-Jeff-Dean-facts



The common complaint about stackoverflow reputation is that it's a function of the number of questions answered and not actual skill. http://stackrating.com/ gives an Elo rating of stackoverflow users, where you're rated by how well you answer relative to others (sort of like a ladder).

Jon Skeet is #2 on the Elo scale, so not only is he answering a lot of questions; his answers get upvoted more than others. He really is giving good answers, in addition to being quite prolific. Eric Lippert might be the more interesting data point, though -- despite being 23rd in reputation, he's #1 on the Elo scale.


I like to answer old questions whenever I think there's crucial information missing in the existing answers. This almost guarantees that you'll be one of the lower-voted answers for that question. I don't think the Elo scale accounts for this dynamic, but the timing of answers is a big part of how SO works. That is, you can't directly compare the score on an answer given 45 seconds in to one given 2 years later. The results will be useless (for the same reason that far fewer people are going to see this comment than if I had posted it 12 hours ago).


Also starting bounties (which some users tend to do quite liberally when their curiosity is piqued by some question) loses you reputation.


Thanks for the link to the Elo scale. Kind of depressing though when I looked myself up, I'm much lower there than I am on SO's rank.


I'm suspicious of the Elo scale, at least used to rank folks who aren't near the top of the reputation scales. I'm ranked 2600th for reputation, but 3.5 millionth for rating. I'm not surprised that other people are doing a better job of answering questions than me, but to say that I'm in the bottom 5% of users is highly suspect. I'm active in reviewing other users's flagged questions, I've seen what the bottom of the barrel looks like and my answers are certainly not it.


Not only that, but you've made 400 answers compared to my 125 answers but have almost 7x the SO score and yet I'm rated 12,975th compared to your 3,575,349th.

Definitely not right.


SO is much less objective than chess: people tend to upvote what others upvoted just because they see it first, they see how many votes there already were, etc. Your rank there is not worth paying very much attention to, though there is some useful signal to improve your writing with.

(It lists me at around 9000th for Elo and 8000th for votes, so yeah, I peeked.)


It could be that people tend to upvote names they recognize too.


This is my favourite Jon Skeet Answer: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/6841333/why-is-subtractin...

It's not because he gives a wonderfully description of the problem and solution that makes you fully understand what happened. What makes it incredible It's that he solved it so comprehensively in 15 minutes from the time the poster asked the question. Most high calibre devs would be still wrapping their head around the problem after 15 minutes.


> Most high calibre devs would be still wrapping their head around the problem after 15 minutes. reply

Most high calibre devs haven't stumbled into doing a lot of date/time work. That wasn't some clever decision on my part - it was working on the calendar part of Google Mobile Sync. Date and time is a rabbit hole that I just went deep on. A bit of luck rather than spectacular wide knowledge, I'm afraid.

I love that question and answer too, although I doubt that it's genuinely helped many people. Time zone and calendar stuff has a lot of amusing trivia. My favourite involves the 30th of February, which only occurred in 1712, and only in Sweden.


> My favourite involves the 30th of February, which only occurred in 1712, and only in Sweden

Man, now I know there's something worse than being born on the 29th of February and having 1/4th the birthdays. :)


Having done some time in the trenches with calendar code, I would like the politicians and bureaucrats who define the rules to have some notion of the cost they inflict. Then perhaps we wouldn't have "let's change the DST dates this year (only) as an experiment" and we certainly wouldn't have leap seconds..


Politicians couldn't care less about the leap seconds IMO. It's the other geeks (non-programmers) who enforce its existence. In fact the leap seconds predate the modern computing era. I guess they didn't have such a big impact in 1970s. In fact I didn't learn about them until 2012 when many systems crashed after leap second.

Having said that, politicians changing DST rules with a few weeks notice (like Turkey last autumn) are nuts. The impact of such decisions is huge and worldwide (emergency patches etc.)


Politicians of some sort are in charge of whether leap seconds exist or not. afaik it is mostly a particular kind of religion (belief that human time must be in all ways bound to the heavens) that drove the political push for leap seconds. Like you I only discovered they existed when my kernels locked up..


Comprehensive date/time is a living nightmare from which you can never escape. Even basic date/time handling for, say, charting current financial data has a cavalcade of gotchas.


Not that it contributes constructively a lot to the discussion, but as a Swedish software developer working with C# and Java, your answers have been to immense help. Thanks a lot!


> Most high calibre devs haven't stumbled into doing a lot of date/time work. That wasn't some clever decision on my part

This is good evidence that humility is correlated with mastery.


Jon Skeet already answered this here, but to add, I think in general, if you see a very specific answer or a very obscure solution to an apparent odd or non-obvious problem, usually the person answering is not so much necessarily blessed with knowledge, but rather has dealt with it before, i.e., he knows from experience.


I've personally had questions answered by skeet.

It's totally unbelievable how quickly he understands the question and types out an explanation with code.

It actually boggles the mind how he can have a job and answer questions all day.

Here's an example

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3489197/is-there-a-shorth...


A while ago I thought his account was used by several people, since he seemed to answer questions all day, during day and night - I checked his statistics at the time. It surprised me to learn it's all done by a single person.


Amazingly there's things even the Chuck Norris of programming doesn't know:

http://stackoverflow.com/users/22656/jon-skeet?tab=questions

He's only asked 39 questions (about one for every 1000 answers), but I'm charmed by the fact that they're real questions, usually not particularly esoteric or "advanced". Turns out even Jon Skeet needs to ask how to "efficiently fetch a Mercurial change log in TeamCity."


Interestingly all the ones I clicked on had been tagged as inaproppriate questions by the moderators.


This is just a guess: A lot of those are old questions. They might have been tagged as inappropriate a long time after they were posted as policies evolved.

That being said, if you ask a lot of questions on Stack Overflow, people aren't going to like some of them. It's the cost of putting yourself out there.


Fun to see how almost all his questions are answered by other God-tier developers such as David Fowler and Eric Lippert.


He tweets lots of questions as well ( and many times answers back :)


Seeing someone as the beginning and more importantly end of a given topic is dangerous, but so is the lack of inspiration and aspiration.

Jon's never claimed to be something he's not, he's contributed a massive amount of value by being such a major earlier contributor to a system that's grown to help millions of people daily. Nothing is perfect, but not aspiring to inspire for fear of being seen as something you're not will never help anyone.

Jon is awesome.


While he sounds really intelligent, SO points are a really bad way of determining that. And the artical the story mentions is mostly about fame and publicity, not the best. I've had the pleasure to work with and know a few developers that should have be up there, but they work on commercial projects.

SO can be very swayed by names and becomes cliquish. There are a few ppl that have massive points that have questioned SO's methodology and scoring.

Sounds like an interesting guy, but the story seems really flawed.


No one in the business is measuring his knowledge through his reputation directly, people admire him because he's smart, to the point, quick to admit he's wrong, genuinely helps a lot of people and has in addition to SO wrote a very successful book and several useful libraries.

That's hard to convey in the BBC though.

That said, I do know some recruiters send cold-emails based on SO reputation - but that's just ridiculous on their end.


It's more about being popular than being the best programmer in the world. He has answered thousands of questions with insane accuracy since 2008, making him one of the most popular names in the C#/Java world. Also he is very aware of it and is even quoted in the article saying that there are "far, far better programmers than me".


Looking over his answers, his breadth of knowledge definite impressed me. I don't know too many people that can discuss the intricacies of how architecture affects performance, then turn around and talk about enterprise platforms.

He also seems like a nice guy.

It makes me wish the article was better more than anything.


Jon Skeet answered several questions I had when learning c#, he's been an inspiration to me and extremely helpful on my journey!

His "C# In Depth" book is fantastic as well.


It is deeply satisfying to see Jon Skeet in the mainstream.


"All his Stack Overflow work is unpaid, done purely to help millions of people around the world he will never meet."

Atwood did an amazing job gamifying Stack Overflow, but I think it is worth considering that while the contributors gain little from the site financially, that was not the case for the founders.


Jon Published a book, I know at least 3 people (me included) who have purchased the book because of interacting with him through the site.

It's not fair to say he didn't benefit from StackOverflow and his revenue is linked to his contribution and the success of the site.

Note that there are at least 100 people with over 100K reputation in StackOverflow. Also note, it's completely fine to do something as a hobby without looking for profit - and it's fine to grow side profit through it.

I got lots of employment offers through StackOverflow for example.


>Jon Published a book, I know at least 3 people (me included) who have purchased the book because of interacting with him through the site.

Its hard to imagine he is making a killing via books sales.


Books usually lose you money.

Programming books doubly so, especially if your hour rate is that of a Google programmer, it's hardly worth spending half a year or even a year for the measly returns.


That book is doing a lot more for Jon Skeet than putting royalties in his pocket


Well, it's haven't "upgraded" his job -- he still works the same job at Google.

The fame from being "Chuck Norris" of SO is more than enough, and more impressive that having written a programming book anyway (with tons of people have done).


Tons of people have written a programming book, but Skeet wrote a good one.


I understand the benefits of contributing to the site, but I think it is fair to note that the financial benefits are not skewed in favor of major contributors.


I heard that when Jon Skeet divides by zero, instead of throwing an exception he gets thrown a thumbs up. Out of respect.

I also heard that Jon Skeet can't run Array.pop() because the entire array collapses out of sheer terror.

Did you know that Jon Skeet can fix any memory leak just pointing at the computer and saying, "No."


The 'Chuck Norris' reference comes from this long-but-amusing meta thread: http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9134/jon-skeet-facts


I would have nominated Fabrice Bellard or Oleg Kiselyov as the Chuck Norris of programming.


He is on the list (11)


More like the Abrash of .net.


I think it's a win for all programmers that one of us is being idolized like a basketball player.


I just haven't stumbled upon a lot of posts answered by Jon Skeet even though I've always heard of him as the Chuck Norris of programming through SO. Is that because I'm not a C# developer?


I'd like to see him on the QI tv show.


hmmm, I thought Jeff Dean was the Chuck Norris of programming:

http://www.businessinsider.com/astounding-facts-about-google...


Given Norris's political views I'm not sure that comparison is a something I would want.


bbc people may not be as clued in to that aspect of Norris as US folks. Or they may regard it as comedy.


I agree, and find it downright creepy, cowardly and disappointing how many people would downvote you for disagreeing with Norris's right-wing [1] anti-gay [2] political views [3], without saying why they agreed with Chuck Norris.

How about Chuck Norris's brave brogrammer fans reply under their own name telling us what they like so much about his political views, instead of downvoting anonymously? Because if you have some anti-gay bigotry you want to spread, at least put your name on it, since that's what Chuck Norris would do. [4]

[1] http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/people/chuck-norris

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/27/chuck-norris-an...

[3] http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/articles/5-reasons-its-no-lon...

[4] http://www.newnownext.com/chuck-norris-hired-by-anti-gay-gro...


This is a site about technology, not politics. I downvoted the original comment because it is not a good match for the topic or tone of Hacker News. I downvoted your comment because your tone is even more aggressive and antagonizing, and again, not on topic.


[flagged]


> Of course I'm familiar with it.

Then there's no point in continuing this. No one's confused by what the headline meant, you've just purposefully read it in bad faith to shoehorn in your complaints about Chuck Norris.

> ".. have overshadowed the mythology in _many American's_ minds"

It's not necessarily either or. Many Americans disagree with his political views but recognize that calling someone the "Chuck Norris of X" does not mean that person shares those views.

edit: as an aside, it is funny how little weight (as a rule) the phrase "Many x do y" carries. Many Americans believe Elvis is still alive. Does that really mean anything? No.

I mean honestly, you're arguing just to argue aren't you? No one's called him a role model, you're extrapolating that out so that someone else has to unwind it. This is diversionary and rude.


Given that the BBC article shows the following... 1 - A woman (presumably his wife) in a "Some People Ar Bi: Get Over It" shirt with his arm around her (and kids). 2 - The kids are at the same time all wearing rainbow ribbons of some kind (presumably supporting the same cause) 3 - He's showing some kind of flowery silvery face paint at the same time...

That it's a very long box to draw that he harbors any kind of discriminatory views on sexuality.

And you know what - given that he is selflessly helping educate a very large number of people, and giving to the community - It's a bloody rude and woefully offtopic point to make.

I'm a fan of Jon Skeet's blog entires, and his occaisional podcast appearances (and the classic - tounge in cheek - going to cause me problems "Of course I'm right, I'm Jon Skeet" quote).

Great work Jon, and I do appreciate the work you've done, and continue doing in the IT world.


I'm really sorry that I implied I thought Jon held Chuck Norris's views, that's not what I meant. Maybe Norris's political views are not widely known in the UK, but I thought that the BBC's title had unfortunate connotations, like comparing a good dad to Bill Cosby. It would be better to compare Jon to Jackie Chan.

My point is just that the memes of people like Chuck Norris, Bill Cosby or Josh Dugger as role models have played themselves out, and the BBC should know that.


It doesn't suggest he does.

You (edit: and the OP) may be unfamiliar with it but there's been an online mythologizing Chuck to be some kind of ultimate badass.[0] To say someone is the "Chuck Norris of X" is not to equate the whole persona of the person to Mr. Norris but to imply extraordinary skill, toughness etc.

I feel it was obvious the title was made in a very light hearted manner and as the piece is uncritical and makes no mention of Norris' views I can't agree that a literal comparison should be made.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Norris_facts


Not to mention how calling out every opposing political view from famous people chills discussion and promotes an echo chamber.

Fine if it's technically relevant but I'm sure Chuck has a lot of views most of this forum doesn't agree with but there's no reason in my mind to go on a witch hunt every time someone with an R by their name is mentioned here in any positive light.


Asking if Jon Skeet is a homophobe seems really freaking rude in a nice thread about someone who is (by all appearances) humble and very helpful to many people.

If you can find him saying "heterosexuals should read this obscure information about timezones. Homosexuals should go burn though" then sure, come back and plenty of people will pile on.

Here's what he's said in the past, which is easily findable with a simple Google search: http://skeetfaith.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/coming-out-of-belie...

> That, for me, says it all. I believe that homosexual love is on a par with heterosexual love. It can be as close, warm, loving, supportive, self-sacrificing and fruitful as heterosexual love. That doesn't mean I have some rose-tinted vision of every gay couple being blissfully happy, of course, any more than I would for straight couples.

> What's important to me (in terms of faith) is that I can't see how God could have anything against the kind of love I see exhibited by the gay couples I'm proud to count as my friends.

> That's why I support gay marriage, rather than just civil unions. To many people it may make no practical difference, but it makes a big difference in emphasis. While there are two tiers, however legally equivalent, there will always be an implied moral inferiority of civil unions - and I find that repulsive. I believe God is happy to bless any loving, informed, consensual, monogamous relationship, no matter what genders are involved.

He seems like a really nice person, and you should be ashamed for your mean, nasty, attack.


I'm sorry for my implication that Jon Skeet is a homophobe. I was frustrated that BBC would make that implication by choosing to compare him with Chuck Norris, instead of say, Jackie Chan. It's like using Bill Cosby as a fatherly role model: the meme has played itself out.


How is this top of HN with only 60 points and 10 comments?


Sunday


Just how meaningful are these "reputation points" that make this guy number one?

If Visual Basic was the language with the most number of beginners and programmers, and I had the best answers to Visual Basic questions, I could be Chuck Norris instead.

But I don't find Visual Basic challenging or interesting. Neither C# or Java for that matter.


They're not meaningful at all. Hopefully relatively few people really think I'm one of the "top 15 living programmers" or anything like that.

I'm good enough to make a living, and good enough to help people on SO. One of the nice things about programming is that what you find interesting, I might not and vice versa - hopefully there will always be enough people who find a variety of topics interesting to hope those who have problems in those topics. But yes, considering rep as a proxy metric for programming awesomeness would be a mistake IMO.


In case it needs stating, your contributions to the programming community are simply remarkable. And it is only right that your efforts should be better appreciated by the tech community and wider society.

But there are numerous unsung heroes who, for whatever reason, do not get the recognition they deserve.

Like those on Stack Overflow who are investing the same amount of time and effort as some of the top rep contributors, but in areas that are not as reputationally rewarding.

But there is also a large group that are not posting on Stack Overflow, who are more likely to be working somewhere across the thousands of forums, git repos and mailing lists that developers inhabit. Out of the limelight, and with no reputation points to show for it.


Your answers have helped me out many a time on stack overflow. I live in Reading, and would love to get you a beer sometime. Wonder how many other HN readers are in Berkshire


You're right, rep is not a proxy for programming awesomeness. But it is a proxy for how helpful you've been to the rest of the programming world, and I think that's something worthy too. I've only been 1/5 as helpful as you, and I'm quite proud of it.


Does it matter ? It is not about who is the best in the world, just who is popular. He knows his stuff and has helped thousands of people with mindblowing accuracy and consistency for almost a decade, which in my book is as valuable as a genius programmer writing great software. Besides, he works for Google, so he is probably still better than >98% of programmers. Super complex software has been written in C# and Java, not sure why you are trying to say that it is not challenging.


What constitutes good code? I would say it's a combination of these five factors (I'll provide definitions if you want them):

Clear, concise, correct, robust, efficient.

The strengths and weaknesses of various languages boils down to how easy or hard it is to meet those factors + how good the tooling, library ecosystem and learning resources are.

Meeting those five factors with a language like Visual Basic is harder than a language such as Python or F#. Coders who write good code in VB deserve respect.

Your view on 'challenging' is too limited. If a language is easy to pick up but hard to master is it challenging or not? The goal should be good code, regardless of the language.


>If Visual Basic was the language with the most number of beginners and programmers, and I had the best answers to Visual Basic questions, I could be Chuck Norris instead. But I don't find Visual Basic challenging or interesting. Neither C# or Java for that matter.

That's neither here nor there. He does, and he got to be Chuck Norris.

Besides, who could have been the Chuck Norris of Haskell or Idris or whatever rocks your boat. Have you answered the most questions in your preferred language?


I guess being "bbc" is the only thing that made this post first page.


I don't know about that but I can report that Skeet went to Cambridge University, which tends to produce a chunk of the UK's governing elite.

The unfortunate thing is that in the UK, as elsewhere, programmers and technical people are generally regarded as socially inept boffins who don't quite "get" the way society works. Recognition of this goes back to C.P. Snow's Two Cultures from the 50s.

So being hailed by the BBC as the world's greatest programmer is a mixed honour. It comes with an implicit dose of condescension.


The article contains not one single condescending word about him.


You need a chip for the other shoulder otherwise you are going to become really unbalanced.


What exactly seemed like he has a "chip on his shoulder" for you?




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