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The Little Printf (ferd.ca)
208 points by lelf 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

"It is; and because you're the most familiar person with these fires, you get to only work on them more and more, until your employer hires someone else to cover your old job, the one you loved. If you care hard enough about your work to be the one doing the stuff everyone else hates, you're thanked by doing more and more of that work you don't like, until that's all you do. And then there's nothing left for you to enjoy."


This stood out as the most realistic advice in the story to me. I've seen a lot of people stuck working on stuff they don't like just because they're the one who knows the most about it. The farther you go down that path, the harder it is to get away.

This one stood out to me as well. Like you, I agree that it's accurate. I've both seen and lived it.

The others bother me because they're essentially malicious caricatures. This one feels like a dose of sympathy.

Yeah. They're malicious caricatures, but as mentioned in the text, they're all different sub-personalities I've at least had at some point in my career.

Also do note that the text is heavily copying The Little Prince, to the extent that all characters are also malicious caricatures of adults, with only one of them actually being perceived positively, so I tried to play to the original.

I've heard the admonishment before: "never get to be really good at doing a job you hate."

My generic life advice for wide eyed youth is the reverse of that. Summed up it’s to find a gig that:

- Pays (decent).

- You’re good at.

- You enjoy.

The order is equally important as depending on which comes first the sustainability evaporates.

Not quite. Just get good though at it to automate it. I became known as the guy to go to if you had build issues. So I wrote a tool to try to fix them for you.

Yep, you gotta work to work the work you want to work if you want to work the work you want to work.

More than ever hour after our work is never over

"The games people play, the roles and reputations they chase and entertain, the fleeting pleasure they derive from solving intricate problems, is all fun for a while. Ultimately though, if you do not solve anything worthwhile, if you forget about the people involved, it's never gonna be truly fulfilling."

"It is the time you have spent on your system that makes it so important", the man added, "and when you lost sight of why it made sense to spend time on it, when it became a game of pride, it caused more grief than relief.

"Developers have often forgotten this truth; If you lose sight of things, working on your system becomes its own problem, and the most effective solution is to get rid of the system, given it's the problem."

This story is easily one of the best depictions of the software engineering profession I've ever come across. I originally got hooked on programming because of the thrill of solving "intricate problems"... but the fleeting nature of that thrill only becomes more and more apparent as time goes on. Fundamentally I think it's necessary to have a deeper motivation, a bigger "why" behind what you do, in order to sustain your satisfaction from day to day.

A real gem. If you have time check out his other work:


Some of it is Erlang specific but other posts are quite general about distributed systems, overload handling, etc.

He is also the author of https://learnyousomeerlang.com/

Priceless if you read "the little prince"[1] - if not, stop now and invest the hour to do that first. I make all my (adult) guests listen to the audiobook when driving through Tarfaya, where the author was working as a pilot for French aerial post.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince


I suppose I'm not a real adult then.

Seconded, I'd never heard of it until this post and read the submission thinking it was some what original or if not original derived from something I'd never read before.

I did not have time to read the original over lunch but found it and saved it for later.

I'm sure like many things in life now that I know about it I'll see references to it everywhere I go.

Derivative or not I really enjoyed it and that poor dev ops lady really struck a chord in me, been there, done that.

I know that this article is fiction, but there's a common misconception about the Dunning-Kruger effect presented in the story that is worth understanding. People think that Dunning and Kruger showed that less competent people think that they're more competent than more competent people think they are, but this is not what Dunning and Kruger showed, if you'll excuse the complicated sentence construction (the article linked below has a graph and explains this a bit better).

Actually, Dunning and Kruger simply showed that a person's estimate of their own skill tends to be closer to the mean, plus a little than their actual skill level.

The Dunning-Kruger effect has probably been a bit distorted because we like the idea that thinking you are good at something is evidence that you are not, in fact, good at that thing.

See also "what the Dunning-Kruger effect is and isn’t" - https://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2010/07/07/what-the-dunning-...

Hm, that relationship is also what you'd get if people were perfect at estimating their own skill while the proxy being used by the researchers was imperfect, isn't it?

Well, you would get broadly speaking a similar relationship. General error in the measurement would appear as a regression to the mean. However, Dunning and Kruger addressed this in their paper, directly, in section 4.1.3. The actual metric that the researchers measured was actual class rank and estimated class rank. Class rank is well-defined, and estimated class rank is also well-defined. That's not to say that class rank is a perfect choice of metric, but you are asking students to estimate something which can be exactly measured.

The paper showed a difference in the size of the error between top and bottom quartile students that was larger than you would expect if it were just uniform error. When you think about it, this seems pretty damn obvious... if you are bad at something, you are also bad at knowing that you are bad at it. But if you are good at something, you have a more accurate understanding of your own skills. In short, if you're good at something, you probably know that you are good at it.

This is what goes against the popular notion of the Dunning Kruger effect. Many people seem to use Dunning Kruger as some kind of twisted justification for impostor syndrome, where you are not permitted to think you are good at something because it would paradoxically imply that you are not good at it. I say this, just because I know too many people suffering from impostor syndrome, and this incorrect impression of Dunning Kruger seems to be a contributing factor.

I find it a little sad that he did not credit Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who wrote this story and created the drawings in 1943 after he crashed his aeroplane in the sahara desert and and met the real little prince there. Also, that the comments so far are very complimentary but it is not clear that the writers know the original story and I am most concerned that the warning about the Baobabs is not included!


because Le Petit Prince is one of the most translated and sold books ever, and that the title was a very direct reference, I just didn't feel it would be necessary to include a note saying it's based on the little prince story since it felt obvious to me. My bad.

You're right, it is obvious

you could add a tongue-in-cheek note like: with apologies to the little prince

it took me until the 5th chapter to realize this is a parody of "The Little Prince"


I call my little Printf Snigl [0], but (s)he's been telling me the same story.

Can't do it any more, I have no more fucks to give about saving the world and awesome profits.


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