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.
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.
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?
But no, nothing that I'd expect to put me in the top 15 (or top 1500) programmers in the world.
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.
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.
Don't worry, [no matter how great they are,] they also cook with water
He was probably right on that one, though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Jeff Dean is the award winning novelist.
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.
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.
Definitely not right.
(It lists me at around 9000th for Elo and 8000th for votes, so yeah, I peeked.)
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 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.
Man, now I know there's something worse than being born on the 29th of February and having 1/4th the birthdays. :)
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.)
This is good evidence that humility is correlated with mastery.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
He also seems like a nice guy.
It makes me wish the article was better more than anything.
His "C# In Depth" book is fantastic as well.
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.
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.
Its hard to imagine he is making a killing via books sales.
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.
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).
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."
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.