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25 years of coding, and I'm just beginning (dev.to)
415 points by rbanffy 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments



What every salary-person has to show for it: a life lived; bills paid; food on the table; health; a roof over your head; a body not ravaged and damaged by hard labor; the ability to relax and have some entertainment in the evening; a place to sleep; comfort; relative stability; the ability to make a living using mostly just your brain.

Yes, perspective is important, and I’m not saying one should not strive to make more of an impact if you want. Just don’t overlook the fortunate times you live in and the benefits you enjoy every day.


Maybe some of us tend to mix up "a life lived" with overachieving. In other words, we only feel it worth if we produce something truly outstanding.


In other words, we only feel it worth if we produce something truly outstanding

By this metric, most of humanity probably feels it worthless, isn't it?

I understand this is HN and people here achieve more than the normal crowd - still, I don't get the obsession over being productive every second, the need to "produce something truly outstanding" etc. Whats wrong with just being happy, taking it easy, spreading happiness around us and just living a simple life? Instead of optimizing every waking second and moving the goal post until the day we die?


i think when people focus on optimizing code they slip into a frame of mind where they try to 'optimize' their lives like they are a machine. the road to hell is paved with good intentions


> the road to hell is paved with good intentions

This, right here, is the summary of all technology now. Millions of people with millions of (mostly bad) ideas, flooding the world with unprecedented ease and access. Yay convenience...


Not really. For some people having a child counts as producing "something truly outstanding."

What I believe the quoted commentor was trying to get at was that some people have goals for happiness that are harder to achieve, but also can't be replaced for something else.


>For some people having a child counts as producing "something truly outstanding."

Despite the fact that everyone's parents managed to do it.

Each to their own though.


:-)

> By this metric, most of humanity probably feels it worthless, isn't it?

Everyone can produce something outstanding. We often confuse that with the recognition that comes from that something becoming noticed by others.

Do something you love, for the love of doing it. Of course, keep the family happy, fed, and housed, but never forget we are more than work and money and that our worth is not derived from how others see us.

We HN'ers like to do a lot and we often get recognition from that, but really makes us who we are is what we love doing. The rest are side-effects not goals.


Majority of ppl dont really know what they want from life and need someone to tell them that.

The reason why so many are depressed and unhappy no matter what they do.


Sadly, you can't tell them by telling them. You have to be subliminal.


You may even figure out what they want, but they still will need to find it out by themselves.


By "some of us " I did refer to a subset of HN, and not most of humanity.


> I understand this is HN and people here achieve more than the normal crowd

Citation needed?


I've witnessed how one person who couldn't keep it together harmed a family two generations down the line. Life is hard and if you can give your kids a decent childhood, you've done your bit.


Please don't take that as my personal opinion, just a point for a good argument. If you have a nice family, raised and supported kids well into their adulthood, that is all very nice on a personal level, but globally what have you done? I by no means expect everyone to be the next Henry Ford or Edison, but if you're just living your life, you're just consuming planet's limited resources. Animals have lived like that for millions of years, sustainably, in a self balancing act. But I feel that humans are savvy enough to strive for more than just the daily grind and consumption, so that the world they leave behind is a better place, not worse.


>Please don't take that as my personal opinion, just a point for a good argument. If you have a nice family, raised and supported kids well into their adulthood, that is all very nice on a personal level, but globally what have you done?

You don't have to do anything "globally". We're not pop culture superheroes out to save the world. The obsession with "making a dent"-porn has to stop.

If more people were "very nice on a personal level" we'd already be paradise.


I think you underestimate the sacrifices that are made to achieve “supporting kids into adulthood” for one thing.


I think we'd be a lot better off if some of the people obsessed with doing something "globally" had instead lived a quiet life at home.


globally what has xchaotic done?


True..I feel like this...Sometimes, I don't know how to deal with this..it somehow make me incompetent as programmer.. I see really good projects and then I get depressed :(


Hannah Arendt draws a useful distinction between "labor" and "work." Labor is effort required to sustain life: catching food, finding water, plowing crops. Because living creatures need these things continually, labor never ends. Food is eaten or decays and new food must be grown.

Work, on the other hand, has a defined start and endpoint. Ideally, it produces something enduring and unique.

In ancient times, labor was looked down on as something that slaves did. The lowest in society did the back-breaking, life-sustaining work anonymously, while rich, propertied elites built empires, wrote philosophy, and invented new technologies.

The world has changed since then, but I think there's something useful in that distinction. Capitalism transmutes nearly all work into labor. Almost every profession feels like it's performed solely to "sustain life" whether it's plowing fields or producing software. It's all just a salary. So I'm not surprised when I hear that people feel they have "nothing to show for it": they usually retain no ownership of the things they create and it all seems like one long endless task.


Completely different angle:

We're primates who by nature are very hierarchy oriented. We judge our lives by how high in the hierarchy we are. And no matter how rich society gets, how good our homes, health, food supply and culture are, we still end up on average in the middle of the pack.

And maybe that's what feels like you have "nothing to show for it".


Roosevelt said that "comparison is the thief of joy".

I suspect the modern media doesn't help, it is full of people appearing to live richer lives than are attainable by the majority.

Perhaps we need to impose some real hardship on ourselves now and then to remind us how good we have it.


Explanations based on evolutionary psychology tend to neglect the social or psychological adaptations that are responsible for complex society. The validity of the claim that we would be happier as hunter gatherers, for example, is really difficult to assess from the perspective of someone embedded in modern human society. The high level of interdependence (sometimes called organic solidarity) changes everything.

The tendency of evolutionary psychology to assert that life is governed by primal instincts established in harsher times isn't politically neutral.


Sure, you can dress up most any argument in some plausible sounding evolutionary psychology argument.

But "people really care about social status" does not rest primarily on that at all. I just threw that in to sound a little Malcolm Gladwell.

PS The tendency to deny evolutionary psychology isn't politically neutral :)


I like this. I very much like this. I feel what you described matches the problem almost perfectly. Modern economy seems to be transmuting all kind of work into labor.

In particular, in white-collar work is something that abstracts you almost completely away from reality. You come in, do whatever arbitrary thing you're asked to, and get money for it, which you can exchange to services of the modern society. Any contribution you may have is separated by a couple layers of abstraction from its real-world result, so there's almost nothing you can point to and say "I made that".

Your comment also reminded me of my own thinking on a slightly different subject - maintenance. Maintenance is essentially synonymous to "labor" here, the repeatable, unending activities needed to support things we want, as opposed to being the things we want. It's something I always believed we should strive to get rid of entirely.


> so there's almost nothing you can point to and say "I made that".

Really? I'd hazard a guess that most of Hacker News could point to the websites and apps they made and say they made that. What else would be on a developer or software engineer's CV?

Same with many other white collar jobs. Designers and media creators/artists can easily point out what they've worked on, as can writers and journalists, or scientists or academics, etc.


You don't have examples of projects that live on an intranet, belong to a client, or make a thing "go" in an industry you'll never interact with?

You've never worked on a project where you contributed a handful of pieces to a million piece puzzle, of which your contribution is nearly unnoticeable?

And can you say "I made that" when legally, and in the eyes of most, SoftwareCompany Inc "made" it?


> What else would be on a developer or software engineer's CV?

Job roles and responsibilities.

> most of Hacker News could point to the websites and apps they made and say they made that.

Maybe I'm particularly bad at it. I list some projects I've made on my site, and I notice that they lean heavily towards my earlier days of programming - they're learning artifacts in various states of completion, and represent a small fraction of code I've written. Ever since joining the job market, I've made things I can't show off because they're internal to the workplace, or internal to internal customers, or simply I've contributed pieces of work all around the stack. Most code I write these days builds either something I don't own, can't present, or is just a small piece of the overall whole.


You could be an Anarcho-Nativist and go back to living in tribal, hunter-gatherer societies and spend all day foraging for and hunting food just to survive and have nothing to show for it.

But it's Capatilisms fault.


You're assuming that I'm implying capitalism is "bad" and that no other form of society could produce the same effect. I don't believe either of those things. I've actually made many pro-capitalism comments on HN before. But it's sort of thoughtless to conclude it has to be one or the other. A complex system can have both good and bad effects.


Not assuming anything about your personal beliefs per-se but imagine we're friends and I know you well and we're having a philosophical discussion over some beers and it's an offhanded, sarcastic comment I chime in with to pillory those who would take such a statement as "see, it's capitalism's fault!"


> Capitalism transmutes nearly all work into labor.

In your opinion, was there ever a system where that was not the case? If not, then you can't really say that it's capitalism which transmutes work into labor, no?

Do you think there could be a system where that is not the case (apart from an anarcho-communistic utopia as in the Culture series)?


I'm not sure, I'd really have to think about that one. I'm pretty sure there has never been a society where the bulk of activity was not labor. That seems necessary by definition: you can't build things if you don't first sustain life which can build it, so "work" is necessarily a luxury of surplus. But I do think the idea of transmutation might be unique to capitalism. If you're really interested in thinking about this stuff I'd recommend going to the source and reading Arendt and other political science. This idea specifically comes from "The Human Condition," which I've just started.

EDIT: Sort of a follow-up thought: capitalism might actually be the escape mechanism that allows the bulk of activity in a society not to be labor. But the tradeoff is that all work is "transmuted" into labor (or feeling like labor) since everything is priced and a salary becomes the means of subsistence. I'm just spitballing, but I thought it was an interesting enough thought to add.


As devil's advocate... The majority of your waking life is then spent satisfying the newest version of "subsistence ".

It is true that new subsistence is better than old subsistence, but its still serfdom with nicer clothes.

The chase, at least for me, is about having time and location freedom while enjoying a middle class living or better. It's not about being a billionaire, it's about being free.


no snark meant, but do you have a family? How close have you converged to becoming a digital nomad (which is what you seem to imply your chase is all about)?


I do have a family, and I find that very fulfilling. I do bemoan the time I have to spend working for others as time I'll not get back. Honestly having my first son really changed the math for me. I went from deriving joy from a job well done to realizing that time could have been better spent. Instead of being a good employee I am now trying to be a great dad. Work definitely gets in the way of that.


You forgot to mention millions of dollars of value created for other people.


If you create an app that makes some annoying task take half the time, you can potentially save literal lifetimes of frustration for your users. The value created for the founders is a small fraction of the value created for the users.


Conversely, if you create an app and optimize it so that users spend way too much time in it relative to what they need, you'll probably rake in lots of money, but you'll also be responsible for much more value being destroyed for your users.


Basically everyone who works for Facebook. Think of the time it takes away from society and what that time is worth. Compare that with the pittance in advertising income they earn off it. That's more inefficient than a thief who steals jewellery and sells it for a tenth of its value. I don't think the small benefits from Facebook come close to the tremendous harm it does to society.

I closed my Facebook account years ago and have never missed it. I'm a lot richer (literally and figuratively) for not having wasted a thousand more hours on it.


I get that Facebook is a solid target to pick for such a rant but frankly it's a tool like any other. Blaming Facebook for potential productivity loses due to its addictive nature is like blaming hammer maker for all deaths it caused. My dad doesn't have Facebook but he definitely spends his spare time watching TV or sports that can be considered just as wasteful.



Maybe. Or maybe you got paid a salary and benefits for years by a business that then failed and took all of the owner’s investment and opportunity cost with it.

The point is, if you think that it’s just so easy and starting a business means you get to reap the benefits of someone else’s hard work, then go for it. Why doesn’t everyone do that?


Large amounts of debt (student loans) and lack of access to capital. I have several friends who have started their own business, which turns out to be "consulting to pay the bills and trying to balance the remaining 20% of time towards new-product development and finding more consulting clients". They are all but doomed from the start because the leftover scraps of time between consulting gigs is not sufficient to really create a viable product or business. If they could raise a half million and give it a serious go, their chances would increase substantially.

Of course it's not a sure thing, but a) neither is it with most of the startups that raise a seed round, and b) failure without seed money doesn't mean "aw shucks, it didn't work out, I'll try again in a couple years", it means their personal finances and credit have been decimated and now they can spend the next N years clawing their way back to zero (remember the student loans they still have).


A lumber jack cuts down a tree and sells the wood for $500 to a high end furniture maker. This furniture maker then produces an armoire that he sells to a rich person for $7000. Was that lumber jack exploited because he only made $500 from the wood?


Uh huh and who are these artisans multiplying value (not just selling but literally adding value) of software systems by 14x?


I think PG said[0] it well:

Suppose you own a beat-up old car. Instead of sitting on your butt next summer, you could spend the time restoring your car to pristine condition. In doing so you create wealth. The world is-- and you specifically are-- one pristine old car the richer. And not just in some metaphorical way. If you sell your car, you'll get more for it.

In restoring your old car you have made yourself richer. You haven't made anyone else poorer. So there is obviously not a fixed pie. And in fact, when you look at it this way, you wonder why anyone would think there was.

[0] http://paulgraham.com/wealth.html


I'm guessing Paul Graham has never restored a beat up car to pristine condition. Your pristine condition car that will fetch you less than the new parts you put in when you sell it at what the market will pay for it. Restoring beat up cars to new state is a losing game unless someone pays you to do the work, except for some rare collectibles, which I am assuming are not your personal beat up car. And even then chances are just about even that you'll end up losing money on it. It's fun to do, you'll learn lots but please do not think you will make money this way, especially not if you put any value on your time.


This metaphor really has nothing to do with car restoration. He assumes in the example the car would be worth more.


And that assumption is fundamentally incorrect, and not just coincidentally.


I think it’s coincidental. Are you suggesting that attempts to create value almost always consume more value than they create? The entire economy is proof this is false.


No, but in the case of fixing up an old car, it is not just a poorly chosen example. Fixing up older equipment when the industry of parts has moved on, is fundamentally more expensive than going with what the industry is currently manufacturing. It's easy to see a product in isolation and see that it needs a "$3 part" to be "as good as new", without taking into account that products are part of an elaborate, dynamic, evolving ecosystem that no longer makes said part for any price.

It makes me wonder, if we were to go full on Jurassic Park and clone some creature from 100mya, would it be able to thrive in today's environment? Would it have sufficient immunity, and be able to digest meat/plants from the present day? Even the alligators have evolved a bit since then.


It makes me wonder, if we were to go full on Jurassic Park and clone some creature from 100mya, would it be able to thrive in today's environment? Would it have sufficient immunity, and be able to digest meat/plants from the present day? Even the alligators have evolved a bit since then.

Historically, the atmosphere was thicker and had a higher percentage of oxygen. Those dragonflies with two foot wingspans could not survive in the current atmosphere. Insects don't have lungs per se and the current lower atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels means you would need to basically give them their own pressure suit.

My general understanding is the same would be true for dinosaurs: Their lung design and large size would mean they would need life support to survive at all.


...unless you just want to drive an older car instead of buying a new replacement for the old clunker.

I've never restored a car to pristine condition but have kept quite a few on the road as daily drivers and they were certainly cheaper than buying a new car every three years or so by a huge margin. My current "clunker" is an '87 Goldwing that should be on the road in perfect driving condition with a few hundred invested in parts once I get around to working on it. Heck, might even get the neighbor to give it new paint since he offered "a good deal" a while back and still be ahead on resale value.


after having seen a few shows, at one point I was sold on the idea of driving around in a restored, older car. But the truth is, my new, tiny run of the mill car has bluetooth, AC, 10 airbags, great fuel economy and is much more quiet and turns off when idle. Oh and starts reliably - I haven't had a single day of downtime in the 5 years that I own it. So much nicer for daily driving.


I interpret it the opposite from you. Sure you probably won’t make a lucrative living restoring an old car but over time the value will go up. The lesson is more about putting in work that builds value, self actualization and doing something gratifying. I do this with land/property. Sure I could hire a dozer operator to clear it all but the time I’ve spent manually as well as renting a mini excavator for a small price has supplied tremendous gratification and perhaps added $50k in value by opening up a nice view of the mountains that nobody ever thought existed.


Unless the car is a very rare make / model, you will nearly always lose money on it. You won’t suddenly discover a rare carbuerator buried in there that, with some elbow grease, add $50k of value to the car.

I realize this is missing the point, but this is why one should pick metaphors carefully.


Can't speak for other places but in my city many have made a business out of doing this. They buy and soup up old cars. There's a trust factor because they've been in the business for more than a decade. Also, they have a reputation for selling at comparatively higher prices -- and they don't seem to be running out of business.

https://m.indiamart.com/yash-car-bazar/


I think we have a different definition of 'pristine'.


It's likely. Plus, most cars here are likely to be scratched or dented. The state of UP recorded the highest rate of road accidents in the country which also indicates the recklessness of the drivers.[1] I attribute this to a poor bureaucracy, widespread corruption[2], and careless drivers. My driving test was literally just accelerating and reversing the car once. Personally, when I park my car somewhere I assume it might be a little scratched when I am back. Perhaps that's what most people do and therefore we are content with not-so-pristine vehicles.

[1]https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/road-accident-deaths-... [2]https://www.forbes.com/sites/ronakdesai/2018/03/07/india-con...


As with all car analogies, this is NOT about cars - it's telling a story about wealth creation...


An analogy by definition requires strong similarity to explain the position. Being a poet is about expressing your emotions having the reader transported to the place, like a doctor explaining the condition and cure, err


But if it does not work he should have a better example.

Still remember the paper about the externality of bee farm and apple farm. Obvious issue of apple not paid the bee farm but no such issue - all paid and in fact have contract what kind of bees etc.

A bad economic example is bad example.


> Obvious issue of apple not paid the bee farm but no such issue - all paid and in fact have contract what kind of bees etc.

What are you trying to say? This sentence is nonsense.


There's a famous economics paper by a guy called Meade that gives some examples of externalities (i.e., situations where what one person does affects another in ways not represented by market transactions); one example is of a region where some people keep bees and some grow apple trees, and the bees get food from the apple trees and/or the apple trees are pollinated by the bees. The beekeepers' productivity may be affected by the apple farmers' choices, and the apple farmers' productivity may be affected by the beekeepers' choices, but (in Meade's hypothetical situation) they don't trade with one another so the market doesn't do anything to push them towards making choices that work well together. (In which case, e.g., you might want the government to step in somehow -- regulating those choices, or arranging taxes or subsidies that encourage mutually beneficial behaviour, or whatever.)

But allegedly it turns out that in at least some cases where you have beekeepers and apple farmers near to one another they do trade with one another -- with e.g. contracts stipulating what sort of bees the beekeepers are going to keep -- and the market does do its thing, and the result is efficient allocation of resources.

Here's a paper by Steven Cheung about bees and apples in the Pacific Northwest. It claims (I haven't checked any of its empirical claims or its theoretical analysis): https://www.jstor.org/stable/724823


Oops! I accidentally the last sentence. It should say something like: "It claims (I haven't checked any of its empirical claims or its theoretical analysis) to find the effects I described in the paragraph above: there are contracts, the market does its thing, and the result is efficient resource allocation."


I think you’re correct. It’s an easy-to-grasp metaphor, but cracks appear when you look harder, especially with the specific detail of “restoring to pristine condition”. Illustrative as a fable of value-add, though.


The business creates value by organizing thousands of software developers together, giving them PMs and EMs to manage them, using data analysts to determine the success or failure of a product launch, and having a legal team to navigate regulatory hurdles.

The business also takes on risk for paying software developers to develop products which may not be successful.


> Uh huh and who are these artisans multiplying value (not just selling but literally adding value) of software systems by 14x?

Selling is adding value. If you make something great and nobody uses it, how is that different than never making it in the first place? It would have no effect on the world and nobody would be better off because it exists.

Software adds value to the users and the users need to find out about it and be convinced to purchase it in order to realize that value. That's the case for any category of product.


Any business whose business is not that of software.


Code doesn’t make a business. Go look at the millions of failed startups and side projects that software developers have created and failed with. You need more than the ability to just create software systems. Code is a commodity.


The ones finding the customers. The ones staffing the help desk and providing support to users. The ones writing good user documentation or making how-to videos about using the software.


Illustrators and designers who make marketing pages.


You could argue it both ways. I've always just thought the point is so void.

Compared to what? And someone might propose an alternative system as if to say "well it's better if we do it this way" and you could argue it both ways that they were exploited under the new system too.

The fundamental problem is you need to eat. No matter what political or economic institutions exist, or if any even exist at all, as long as you are alive you are never absolved from having to eat food. For the vast majority of people this means you have to do some form of work. In the base case it means you are a hunter-gatherer and need to forage. This takes all your time and I'm not sure how enjoyable it is either.

Imagine just how ridiculously magical the notion of financial independence through passive income combined with a market where you can procure all the necessities of life would be to a human being living at the turn of the Neolithic Revolution ~14,000 years ago.

It just blows my mind. And people want to throw around words like "exploited". Woe is me.


Hmm, I interpreted what he said as referring to the improved quality of life for the people who use the products/services that the programmer worked on. I'm not sure which interpretation is correct.


$50 is closer.


Not necessarily, but I don't think anyone (even Marxists) are arguing that she is.


In the software space your statement might be true in some cases. You're still far above the median, if you really create real value in the millions for others.


Or burnt.


Being grateful makes perfect sense. But being satisfied with just that sees a bit of a waste. Perhaps even a bit ungrateful. Should I be satisfied if my headstone says simply "I was comfortable"?


I've been thinking about a similar question for 4 or 5 years.

Should you be satisfied with being comfortable? If it's important for you to leave a legacy related to your hobbies or career field, then probably not. You have to be content with what you leave behind.

For me, I have reached a place where I would be at peace if I left a headstone that said, "Good father, good husband, kind person".

I'm not going to make meaningful changes in computer science, and I'm ok with that. Whether or not I make contributions to open source software won't give me more peace at the end of my life, so I don't pursue it. Is it ungrateful? Perhaps. But it's honest.


I pursue it only during work time.

But becoming a father definitely changed my perspective. Just raising my kid has become a worthy life goal in itself.


What's wrong with being comfortable though? Why should one be dissatisfied with being satisfied? Is satisfaction ever OK? And if so, when? When can you know for sure that you've actualized your full potential? Is it even something that's knowable? This seems overly omniscient to me.

I see this fearful, regret-filled ethos driving a lot of my peers and the western culture at large and I worry about the mindset it instills in people. I know it's well-intentioned and comes from a perspective of the human potential being the highest form of sovereignty. A wasted life seems like the biggest crime. And comfortable has somehow come to become synonymous with wasted.

I'd argue for the cultivation of meaning as a replacement to this search for "finally good-enough" potential actualization, but that's me.


There's something in human nature that finds meaning in turbulence, friction, conflict, movement. A sense of being challenged, pushing past limits, propelling into excitement and change. When you reach a state where you have all your needs met and don't need to go any further, there still remains a sense that there's more left undone. Comfort can be equated with stagnation. It's a Nietzschean notion. A will-to-danger (not to sound too crazy). There's a sense of being domesticated that adds a subtle discomfort to the comfort.

I've worked blue collar and white collar jobs, and it was the blue collar jobs that made me feel more alive, because I was around dangerous tools, hazards, and actuating my body like it was supposed to be outside exposed to the elements. I went home after and my rest felt deserved and truly regenerative, like my body was drinking it in. The white collar work, though it pays better and offers more comfort and is more cognitively demanding, feels at the same time too breezy, too safe.

It seems like a really stupid argument, that things can be bad because they're too good, affluenza and so on, but there's something to it.


Sounds like the complete opposite of what Jiddu Krishnamurti would say. Krishnamurti would ask whether you can live without conflict, agony, turbulence, and yet, live more fully. To me, Krishnamurti is speaking from the position of sanity, such sanity, that nowadays seem to exist only on a small scale, in places, where the "what's the right thing to do" is not muddied in the accumulated daily problems arising extended from the human psyche and our current way of life.

Or are you saying that there is no way to be productive without the stress that is more and more present in our daily lives, in this environment of competition and constant yearning for more, for example?

Edit: deleted a phrase.


There is nothing wrong with having comfort, but if you seek to grow and fulfil your potential (either in career, as a person, spiritually, etc), comfort is a trap you can easily get stuck in.

Maybe you have a good job, but feel like your career isn't going anywhere, but rather than switching to a different role you stay where you are because you like it there. That's comfort.

Plus a lot of people over think what comfort they need and waste a lot of energy on it. Theres a photo of Steve Jobs from the 80s in an empty apartment with a few possessions, where apparently he is comfortable with living like that. I don't know exactly what the story is with the photo, and it's a bit of an extreme example, but imagine instead of working on building his company, he spent his sparetime assembling IKEA furniture, then buying a TV and VHS recorder, then renting movies from the movie store (and physically taking them back).


Walter Isaacson mentions in the biography that Steve had trouble finding the most suitable furniture since he was a perfectionist.


That's kinda assuming you want work to be the part of your life that satisfies you.

Many people would be perfectly happy with a headstone saying "I had a comfortable job, and raised a family I love" or "I had a comfortable job, and made my art in the evenings and weekends".


You'll be dead regardless of what your headstone says


When my daughter says that to me after watching TV or sleeping on top of me (when I watch TV or sleep on the couch), I find it the best compliment I can get.


Of course it’s good to „get by“ and live a life without „hassle“. But I think it’s becoming more and more clear that this is just not the case.

Most part of what we call civilisation, such as industry, sich as the IT industry is simply not sustainable. To survive the 21 century we have to look at better methods to collaborate.

And of course technology is part of the eqaation. Open Source and similar efforts lead the way towards such better methods. But they cannot exist in vacuum or on a island alone.

So we have to change society but by bit. Let’s go!


I agree with this sentiment. Isn't that interesting part of this job? That you get have all of things the listed above and 'nothing' to show for it? We're left with nothing tangible. I'm really happy with my memories, freedom to work where I want, using my brain for living. A life built from my brain, pen, paper and a portable computer.


Great wisdom you have.

*

Of course one may add other may be unnecessary concerns - whether the world we live in are better for our kids than we do. We have enjoyed no world hot conflict for decades. Environment can be used and within our life time ... ba la ba la. Are our kids better ?

Or many things happened in the last several years challenge all our knowledge of society - trump and Brexit and the raise of communist china etc. We live in interesting time.

Just relearn swift (forget quit a bit after my iOS app on app story in 2015).


Progress proceeds in fits and starts, but i'd say we're making very good progress.


I can’t enjoy my leisure when there is so much injustice around me


Sucks to be you, I guess? But really, what is being suggested is that you can do something you find enjoyable when you are not working; in your case I would assume this would be trying to correct these injustices you see around you...


Speaking from 40 years of programming (not counting before 18), OP needs to move to a life that's not about just programming.

The idea that OP has nothing to show from programming is short sighted, in that it's assuming that all one can or should created in life is code.

Do you have stories to tell? Tell them.

Do you know more about how to create solutions now? Become a better problem solver.

Do you know how to talk to a client about the "why" and not the "how" of a project? Be a creator of solutions, not software.

Also, the OP should start thinking of personal projects in a new way. Learn to fish, start a garden, volunteer somewhere, write, create art, travel, learn to play an instrument, learn to mediate. Anything that's not programming.


This response echoes my sentiment. I've been coding for 20+ years and have found that literally writing the code becomes a smaller and smaller portion of my day-to-day as my career moves forward. The solution design, guidance for less-experienced team members, pull-request reviews, solution design with customers/partners, etc. becomes a larger portion of my daily responsibilities.


You're right about this. I do have other hobbies and I have a wonderful family. I think I failed to note that this was in the manor of my portfolio, not my life.


I'm a musician, and I've been one for, well, 20 years now.

Without a doubt, my most productive years were from year 2-6. At year two, I had mastered the instrument enough to be productive, and for the next four years, I'd practice up to 12 hours a day, writing and record stuff as I progressed on.

Lots of times, I re-visit older stuff, that I now felt I could do much better - having progressed as a musician and songwriter. Suddenly I noticed errors or things I hadn't done before.

As the years went on, and I got better, I (for some reason) lost that creative fire I had as a novice. I became much more critical, wanted everything to be "perfect", and would essentially stumble on more challenges.

And then, out of the blue, I'd hit a writers block - or just lose motivation all-together. Suddenly I could go for a year or two without writing or recording anything - zero output.

Even if I don't practice as much as before, I'm still a much, much better musician than I used to be. But my creativity and drive is nowhere the same as when I was transitioning from beginner -> intermediate -> good musician.

FWIW, I've noticed this with a lot of my peers, both in the world of music, tech, and other. Sometimes it's because a hobby has turned into work, or sometimes it's just change in interest.

It's hard to be passionate about something 24/7/365 for years and years, and when you're not passionate, it becomes a grind.

When you're a beginner, it's fun to re-invent the wheel over and over again, as you get a sense of ownership. YOU made it, even though it's been made millions of times before.

Sure, I could spend my evenings pushing out apps just for the sake of it, but it wouldn't give me any pleasure. And besides, that's what I do for a living.


Interesting! In some ways, you're describing the difference between art and craft, which might help explain why I often enjoy early albums more than later ones, or at least appreciate them for different reasons.

I've always loved programming, but whenever I'm asked why I don't switch from ops to development, my answer is that I don't want to destroy my hobby by becoming a professional. I've seen it happen, not only to photographers that shoot weddings and anything else that pays, but accomplished artists who can't afford to not spend their time and talent to "create new artwork for our HQ reception and conference rooms, since the old artwork doesn't match the new logo". It can be heartbreaking.


have you considered transitioning from music to yoga/taichi? I found the same creative force was required but on a different plane.


To start with I've been writing software for 32 years now. I went through what this guy did, at around the same age as him, give or take. And I got past it, as I imagine he will.

Today I work with people half my age who, and this is so obviously apparent it's actually funny, are convinced they have a better grasp of the problem and solution domain than I do. To be fair there was a young lady once who did, and it was amazing to be humbled like that, but it's hardly the norm.

Anyhow, when I hit my mid-40's my ego (which was substantial) just kind of... left. I still love tech, programming, solving problems. But this has taken second place now to enjoying myself, my son, life. I now live for moments - snowboarding, scuba diving, restoring an old BMW R80.

My biggest lesson to my 20-something self would be to get the hell over myself. Life isn't a competition.


Fascinating comparison of comments. If you read the comments to the article, 100% of them are "same with me". If you read the comments in HN, 50% of them are "set your expectations correctly."

I read this and I felt like I needed to talk with the guy. It doesn't matter if you "don't have anything to show" for 15 years of work. It doesn't matter. Where is it written that programmers must have a hand-coded website or a open source project to their name?

I also never buy the "I'm too much of a perfectionist" line. That's not a thing.

You got bored. You didn't have motivation to complete. Sure, happens all the time. "Too much of a perfectionist" is not a thing.


It matters to some people, the same way art matters to some people as a way to be proud of what they’ve done, and have something “tangible” to show for it. Programming can be an extremely creative endeavor, and not having something to hang on the wall can be a bit disconcerting for the kind of craftsman who wants to look upon their work / listen to their latest composition every day.

You may not need anything code related to feel fulfilled / happy / whatever in life, but being dismissive by projecting isn’t useful.

I do agree that “too much of a perfectionist” is a stretch. It could be lack of motivation or fear of failure, or something entirely different, I don’t think the meaning is lost here.


This is an article on dev.to. The home of frustrated redditors trying to make a name for themselves. I'm starting to see too many of these on HN and have never seen anything posted there worthwhile reading.


Is dev.to the new quora? I haven't looked too much at it but it didn't seem to be the worst.


I wouldn't say it's a home for frustrated redditors, but having hanged around there for a while, it feels to be a place mostly made of junior webdevs teaching junior webdevs.


Yep.

The blind leading the blind.

But that's most blogs regarding development nowadays, most are garbage advice.


The difference is Quora started out great with great questions and answers from authoritative sources but can now be thrown in the dung heap of ruin. dev.to, otoh, started out that way.


What is this obsessions with leaving something behind, or doing something noteworthy? Be selfish. Programming is my selfish pleasure; I love it therefore I do it.

Just remember, we are a tiny, insignificant speck in the history of our own planet, let alone the universe. If you truly believe you can improve people's lives with code, go do that. But don't make it about proving yourself to other people, or creating a lasting legacy. Ask yourself, if everything I made or affected disappeared when I died, would I still be doing this?

Fight Ego.


For me it's not ego, well not primarily I like to think. I find, after programming for 30 years now, that programming is deeply flawed and that it is basically a huge disaster waiting to happen (in many cases it's happening already). I want to try to at least progress the field a little bit further so it's not this bad anymore.


I would love to hear more about why you believe programming is deeply flawed.


I often sum that up as follow your heart, however worn out the words may be.

Anything less leads in circles, and that's usually not the goal.

If there was another way, someone would have found it by now.


It's a way of coping with our limited lifespan. The thought of leaving something behind gives people a sense of comfort that they may live on in some capacity when they pass. The truth is, even if you do something impactful, future generations will often take it for granted or overturn your work in making progress. No one escapes the bleak nature of our existence. No one.


Pythagoras would like to have a word with you.


Maybe that’s exactly the issue. Statistically no one will leave behind such a legacy as Pythagoras, but we judge ourselves by the success of those who have anyway.


One out of a few billion. Who is to say you cannot be that one?


Try out gambling. I'm sure you'd love it!


That's only a few thousand years ago. What about 10 thousand years in the future? Those kind of discoveries only seem great because we are so stupid. Future generations will not look up to a "great idiot" just because he was great.


It's human nature to want to be about more than one's self.


>>What is this obsessions with leaving something behind, or doing something noteworthy? Be selfish.

No, fuck that. Most of the world's problems are caused by selfish assholes.


But it's a different kind of selfish. I'm specifically speaking out against megalomania and narcissism, which are really the root causes I think you're concerned about. You should be selfish in the sense that you shouldn't feel that you owe something to society in order to be happy. Anything that you gain an intrinsic sense of happiness from is worth doing, as long as you aren't hurting or negatively affecting others by doing it.


Huh? I think if you want a legacy the reason you do it is exactly because you do not want it to disappear when you die.

So asking if you’d still do it kind of defeats the point.


I've been coding for 30 years and I can't count the number of times my stuff has just disappeared into the ether. All the CP/M apps I wrote, the DOS apps, the risc/OS and the Windows and OS/2 apps, the BeOS stuff, the Linux stuff, the iOS and Android apps which no longer work yet will never be updated to 64-bit "just because", etc.

The industry doesn't promote longevity - and neither do its participants, who graduate from wherever they learned a career skill to enter the market and make waves - by writing new shit that will change everything, and guarantee that the work that was there before they came will become irrelevant and archaic "ASAP".

You need not blame yourself. This is normal.


If open source them trust me someone may take that up and use it. I did. Try to learn something and dig github and find something similar to start with. A basic old turbo bridge program. Just reading it now.


I was applying for graduate school a while ago and the application form says: GitHub link to your programming portfolio.

Portfolio? I don't have a portfolio. My work is jealously guarded by the people who paid for it. I've been able to kick some stuff out as open source, but it mostly isn't mine or especially good. (The victory was overcoming the culture of fear.)

Of course, the form is for people who had just graduated recently. But it made me question myself.

And then it made me question whether I was wanting to study the right course. Were they open to having students who had more life experience than they did? People who have been in the field building real systems? Other stuff came up and I didn't end up finding out how it would go.


It's a bit of a side point, but this is one reason I almost insist on incorporating some of what I do at work into open source projects. I realise there are places that make this very difficult. Sometimes you have to do it in reverse - find an existing open source project, get that in the door at work, then contribute to that project. Done that way it doesn't seem like the same giving away the corporate crown jewels as open sourcing existing things originated in-house.

But the result is you don't end up 25 years downstream with nothing to show for it. You end up with a collection of open source projects to your name that you can keep working on and re-deploying over your lifetime.


I get the sentiment but if you want to be able to point to things that you built years ago software is probably the worst career to take. We shutdown, delete, replace, and rewrite our work all the time.

The small amount stuff that lasts over five years gets called legacy and is made fun of.


"if you program and want any longevity to your work, make a game. all else recycles, but people rewrite architectures to keep games alive."

Why The Lucky Stiff


I am in a somewhat similar position, although I can't say that I have a solid career. I've started through working on a startup and then miserably failed, wasting three years.

Then worked for a small company making money saving and useful services for them, but nothing extraordinary.

Then I tried again. And I failed again. I was disciplined. I planned and worked hard for half a year, having nothing to show for it in the end. To the point, when I just sat and said that I won't do anything code related until I understand where I lack understanding.

I've come to understand that my main problem is fear. Fear of rejection of things that I do. Fear that anything that I can share is of not enough quality to be shareable. Fear of being not appropriate to the people online, or expressing opinions that I have no right to express.

So, now I am working directly with fear. Will see where it will lead me.


FFS this comment resonates so deeply. I don't understand how to work directly with fear except for being completely occupied so as to make rumination impossible. Can you share any pointers?


Several things that I am working with now:

1) Doing what is difficult. (Started commenting on here, planning to share some of my work here and on Reddit).

2) Asking myself whether I am doing the right thing or avoiding it. (That is when you can spend 3 months in refactoring when you really should just make a landing and share the thing everywhere gathering feedback and iterating along the way)

3) Constant exposure. I am planning to take some work in sales (which I dread). That should help with breaking barriers.

4) Observing the mind. A form of mindfulness approach that warrants its own larger explanation.

Now, I am nearly at the beginning of this journey, but I think I will be able to figure it all out.

Hope this helps.


Thank you


I got my first TI-82 about 19 years ago. Never had to study for a math test again. I’ve built some things since then as an employee, as a contractor, as an owner and even as a donor, but never really “hit it big” by SV standards. Still, it’s hard not to be thankful for the way my life has gone so far. My single greatest asset is that I have the confidence to take on basically any technical project imaginable. I’ve started from the bottom of a new tech stack enough times and worked with enough different teams and bosses that I no longer have this fear of being enough or doubt my abilities the way I did even 5 years ago.

There is a lot of value in confidence, ability to execute and knowing the value of your own hour of effort. My advice to anybody out there who feels like the OP is to get our and expose yourself to new things, take a few measures risks and force yourself to grow.


> confidence

That confidence to handle any technical work seems to stem from gradual development abstract thinking w.r.t problems . Top notch problem solvers see beyond the technical details and focus on more abstract aspects of the problem. To them the problem at hand has a few key sub-problems that are very critical and thus, when those are solved, everything else is just minor details. Identifying those critical sub-problems seems to be the key. And that is usually developed over a good amount of real-world experience. There are genius people out there who can think in these lines in their teens, but those are few and far between.

All those years of working, those long hours, those brain wracking problems, those moments of sheet delight at having solved one, all of that is its own reward. I may not have anything to show for my 15 years in a field, but I have plenty of self-satisfaction and the experience living those moments.


There are two kind of life - swim in the sea and walk the mountain.

Swim in the sea you enjoy but nothing left behind. We call the people good at this guys with wisdom.

Walk the mountain you left a path. If the steps repeated made a path to ease late comer. But if not continue walk the path will be covered and gone.

When you walk you follow path not known who made it in many cases. Or create your own. We call them people of righteous.

Are you a swimmer or a walker?


The tradition of the camp-fire faces that of the pyramid.


I cannot express in words how much I feel I relate to this post. Big thanks to the author of the article and OP for posting it here.

A few thoughts:

* Don't compare yourself to others, nothing, absolutely nothing, good comes out of it. Ever. I know this is especially hard in times when anyone can brag about their accomplishments in a blink of an eye on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else. Follow those people, learn from them but don't compare yourself to them.

* Even if you did not finish your projects you still have learned something which makes you a better programmer.

* Programming is just a tool. Nobody will care much about your code as long as it does its job - be it a great application, service or a useful library.

* Your job pays your bills, if you earn more than others (a very common case if IT jobs), donate money to charity, to a good cause.

* The author has taught a person to program and he created a website. This is not something to be jealous about, the author should be proud of himself. It sounds to be that the author is a good tutor, maybe there's an opportunity to participate in local meetups, organize workshops or start a career in that direction?

* As others already mentioned, programming is not the only thing in life. Maybe there can be other hobbies like painting, carpentry, or gardening?

EDIT: formatting


Thank you! I appreciate you saying this. I will take your points and apply them.


As article author did, I code since I was eleven and yes, that's 25 years too. I feel for him, because perfectionism along with need of exhausting everyday grind (especially when you have kids) quite reduces our ability to spend productive time to create Next Big Thing. But for me, the biggest showstopper is that I love to code, but just to code. I don't care much about sharing what I did, nor I want to get approval from someone who uses my work. Maybe I will overcome my issue one day, as author did overcame his. (edit: spelling)


My father-in-law is a carpenter. When we talk about work, he talks about things we can drive around and see: porches, houses, parts of big buildings, housing projects. I have nothing to point to that would mean much of anything to him. At least I didn't up until the last ten years or so.

I used to focus on the code. People wanted stuff and the code had to be "correct" so that they could get what they wanted. I found "correct" to be endlessly complicated, but heck, that was part of the fun of it.

Then I focused on the people. How am I interacting with the people I'm trying to help such that I have a better idea of what "correct" means? I found that people don't know what they want, they don't know how their desires might change, and even if they did they are incapable of describing that to me in a way that would provide significant architectural guidance.

Finally, I balanced them. I created a definition of good code. Good code is code that does something for people that they value that I can walk away from and never touch again If the code doesn't do anything valuable or I can't walk away from it, it's not good code.

This made me realize that as much as I knew about people and programming, I suck at good code. I get wrapped up in the people part, not figuring out value or being able to scope it well. I get wrapped up in the coding part, building out things that I'll only need in my imagination.

It made me feel a little better to see that so many other developers suck at my definition of good code also, but it was a terrible blow. Humbling.

I'm happy I made the change. I don't feel the way I used to a decade or two ago. My journey is not this author's journey, but I feel the pain he expressed in his essay, and because of that pain I began mine. Best of luck.


I like your definition of good code. In the industry we are brainwashed to think that code is something that needs constant maintenance. Good to see someone who haven't succumbed that mindset.


I guess I didn't realize just how many people out there are seeking anyone who knows even a little more than they do. They don't care if that person has 25 years or 25 minutes more education than they do. They only care if they can learn from this person and build a communication line with them.

In the business world it's the same with software. At one place I worked they were paying thousands of dollars a year for a software product that was buggy and barely worked. It was slightly better than a shared spreadsheet. But it was better, so they paid for it. Most non-technical people are pragmatic, and also jaded about software. They expect it to be arcane and difficult and spitting out errors and warnings. They just learn how to get through it in the ways that do work, and as long as it's a net time saver they'll accept it.


I recommend "The War of Art". For me it holds up to multiple readings and gives me a kick in the pants each time.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1319.The_War_of_Art


I read this based on some HN comments, I found it to be pretty motivational but not much else.

Was there anything else you gained from it that I may have skipped?


The whole thing is concrete examples of thinking deeper about a problem. I guess it can be motivating if you’re ever in position to corner an enemy army.

I’d say it’s examples of game theory, that worked, without any sort of sense of game theory existing. It’s kind of the root of a weird synthesized way of thinking about the world.


I think you are confusing „The Art of War“ with „The War of Art“. I‘ve partially read both and the second one is purely motivational and not much else.


I'll read up on this, thank you


Hi there, programmer since age 4, professionally for about 27 years. You haven't heard of me. There's a fair chance you've used something I've worked on, but more likely you haven't. I'm over 40 and haven't had my zillion dollar Californian exit. In fact, despite extracting some rather generous sums from clients over the years, I still often struggle financially due to the people, animals, and causes I care for.

I know people who've had exits. Some of them have a family they neglected for it. Often there's an abused (or just cheated-on) spouse. Many of them are just pure sociopaths who would shank their own mothers, and literally gave all to pursue an exit. If you really wanted to join them, you know you could. But you haven't. This shows that despite your doubts about your career, you have some degree of integrity. And yes, I'm aware not all people with the Grand Exit achievement are this dirty, but having had a front-row seat enough times, I can verify it's substantially easier when they are. I should also mention I know some genuinely nice, and not incredibly talented, people who sort of stumbled into the Grand Exit and have been horribly alienated by the ruthless financial demands of entitled "friends and family."

You've chosen your battles, be proud of your choices. In just a few more decades, you and I and the overachievers will all be equal below the surface of the planet. Their names and works will be forgotten too.

Till then, let's have fun and maybe lift a couple other people up with us.


wow, this gave me cold chills. I seriously ran through scenarios a million times of what happened if I made progress on my projects and they sold for big money, is that even something i want? No, it's not. I just want to code cool things, and maybe share my knowledge with those who are interested in it. Have my family close to me. What I really want is just to feel like I have a story to share with others. To have my knowledge and skillset appreciated by others. I don't need to be rich or have the coolest projects. Money is great, but you're right, it brings out the devil in some. My aunt's husband just died and his own kids are after the money... it's sad. So I'll take your advice. I'll be grateful for my family, and for my experience. That I get to code, that is my reward. Thanks again for this post.


I think one of the most important lessons I took from the coding boot camp I went to was the value of the MVP. There, the first step was to deploy an index.html with "hello" before doing anything else, before even npm init. Then, get your framework running with another hello. Then, the barest functionality possible - if we were building a GitHub analysis thing, make the frontend capable of listing repos before building the server that did analysis on those repos (or vis versa).

Through a couple group projects I refined the concept of KISS and feature prioritizing, siloing, and escalation.


Programming is a means, not an end.


> I only have websites for clients, which most are no longer up; or businesses I have worked for as an employee.

This is the worst and contributed to me doing different things, for me it was apps whose API servers were no longer responding.

It is very hard to keep your portfolio up to date, when you aren't able to show even the public facing side of it.


1. Make a video, showcasing results. If you need approval delete sensitive data first

2. Take lessons from work apply to opensource. You take your lessons learned with you everywhere


I like this idea, thank you.


yep thats the way to do it.


The key is to be open to understanding yourself. Have people praised your intelligence in the past? That can be paralyzing over time. Or did they praise your effort?

I recommend giving a book called Mindset a read. It helped clarify behaviors of a fixed vs growth mindset, and how having talent still means working hard and putting themselves out there.

This book appears well researched and is the first audio book in a whole that has been able to hold my attention.

https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0...


Some suggestions I have for the author is to participate in open source or write a blog, which allows you to benefit others with your work and gives you “something to show for it”.


Totally agree. That is part of the fear I've dealt with. Would these developer even accept or want my help? I realize now, I have to just do it and learn to improve until they do.


I have been in this same space for a while. But the problem I am solving is lot more complex for a individual part time contribution. I am aware of it and I keep pushing it and it is now into final testing / deployment though a million things can be polished. I am dying to release it, but the problem itself to be solved reasonably well kept me at it.


Just do what I did. I cut a new branch, removed all the parts that weren't done and released it. Then I wrote a post about my fear about it, and the comments have motivated me so much that I already did a whole new layout just in 1 night!


"I've worked on software/apps that pull in millions and millions of dollars and have hundreds of thousands of users. So when it comes to work, I'm solid and secure."

Sorry but nope. Just because you've worked on something that is popular doesn't mean that it is of good quality or well developed or secury or that the particular devs are competant or good.


I meant emotionally, that I'm solid and secure. That was not a reference to my code. The point of me stating I worked on projects that make millions and millions with thousands of users, is that, if I can do that and work on that with confidence (not ego), then why am I so scared to work on a tiny project and even release to just a few people.


Just realized that I have 29 years of experience


He's only 36. pfft.


I feel this same thing with coding every day. Architects and Engineers design building/bridges that last lifetimes, Doctors cure people, Lawyers can advance our legal system.

We crank out code under deadlines for projects that get shuttered/replaced within a couple years due to changing tech business.


OP here. Perhaps I should have clarified what I meant by "having nothing to show for it". I meant in the sense of my portfolio. If you asked me to see what I've built, I'd have nothing to show you other than corporate websites.


When the first thing I learn about someone is how long they've been doing their job, a little red flag begins to climb the pole. It usually announces some deeper insecurity about their competence at said job.


Sounds like a good healthy dose of imposter syndrome.

It’s a struggle a lot of us have.

Thanks for writing this.


Pretty cool site so far, the background noise feature is pretty soothing



I feel cheated by the TL;DR - you can listen instead of "read". But it takes longer, where's my summary!

I think the tension between perfectionism and pragmatism is intrinsic to programming. You need some perfectionism to be able to do it, but there's no limit to how overperfectionistic you can be.

20 years ago, the "pragmatic programmer" addressed this issue. https://wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pragmatic_Programmer


Jordan Peterson has come up with this rule: "Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today". Aside all the controversy that surrounds him, this is really deep and solid advice IMO. You don't live the life to impress others, so who cares if you have to show "something", you did a tones of projects, you got knowledge and experience from those projects, that's what you can (and should) show - and if you also got yourself a normal, stable life, family, friends - what else do you need really? Fame, boosting your ego by getting stars on github, is that really such a big deal?


His advice is applicable to those wanting to impress others, it's really a healthy way to look at making progress in your endeavors by focusing on said progress rather than all the way you still have to go.


Pretty sure that Jordan Peterson didn't come up with that.


I can't claim that he did or did not, I quoted him simply as I first heard it from him in this form. And it's not really important who come up with the idea first, in some way it is really an obvious thing, but we all forget about it too often. With the rise of Internet we stopped comparing ourselves with people around us locally, instead now you compare yourself with the whole damn planet. Instead of competing with few hundreds or thousands, you've now set yourself against billions of people - and that's a recipe for depression.


The internet is sort of like a local neighborhood in that regard, it's just that your neighbor next door is The World's Biggest Genius in [whatever your passion is] and down the road there's a few more contenders.

Now you could look at others too but when everyone around you talks about the same few people over and over, it's hard not to think that "unless I'm as good as them, I don't matter".


You actually said he came up with that, so I corrected you.


I meant that it's one of the rules from his book 12 Rules for Life.


As a relatively new coder, I feel like I took a lot away from this article. There was a lot that they mentioned that made a lot of sense to me and I will try to hold on to.


People seem to assume that once they get a computer science degree, and when they become good programmers, they will automatically be wise in all domains of life. The cockiness and gigantic egos of programmers is very clear evidence of this. Some of the weakest people I encounter, in terms of the thoroughness and completeness of their existential philosophy, are programmers. Having a feeling of content or completeness when you identify as a “programmer” is a trap that only the weak-minded seem to fall into. Just look around the peninsula now.


You are not coding from the age of 11 !! , you are coding from the day you paid to code


I’m glad you had a long career and continue to do so. You sound similar to engineers I’ve interviewed with 1 year of experience for 15 years. Good luck on your journey.


No offense, but you claim you have been "officially coding for 25 years now". You state you are 36. Were you really, officially doing anything at 11 years of age. What does that mean? I was a solder tech at 13 years old. I NEVER throw that out there in any blog or write up, even though I was _literally_ getting a paycheck from a company. Does that make me an official solder tech? Hell no. When people ask how much experience I have as that, I usually start from the time I was 18. Why? Most of the world does not care what we did as kids. I find it strange you would throw out "official coder" at 11. Really, what does that mean?


By around that age I'd learned BASIC, Pascal, and 68k assembler, was participating in BBSs and swapping software and that sort of thing. I wouldn't (and don't) say I was a professional coder then, and I still had a lot to learn, but I was well on my way and it seems reasonable to count it as a starting point. If the author followed a similar path then I don't see a problem with it.


I think you understand the statement as "officially coding", but the author's point is probably "it is official that I have been coding for 25 years". Thus the confusion. He says nothing about the quality or consequences of his coding. I've started coding at 14, so yes, I have been coding since then (and I can "officialy" make this statement).


Wow. Downvote. When I was 11, I was writing assembly to modify SEGA Genesis games, writing my own C++ functions for SRB2, a modification of the DOOM 2 source engine, and experimenting with my own raycasting 3D engines.

People can do really serious programming at virtually any age. I’m 29. I’ve been coding for almost two decades, extremely seriously. I got my first job as a software dev for Chase banks directly out of high school, and I’m currently employed at one of the top banks in Canada.

I would argue part of my curiosity as a kid really blossomed my coding ability, especially in terms of stretching limited hardware to its limits.

Don’t discount kids. They are the future.


Aaron Schwartz, well known case in point.

Many of us were doing things in our early years. That crap is for the people who will consider it.


I was selling homemade games on floppy discs then, so I wouldn't sell short the experiences you can pick up at a young age.


Eh. I did coding when i was 13, started a project that got famous at the time, was a well known member of programming community back in the day, and got semi famous in .net circles when i contributed to castle project and nhibernate at age 19ish. Nothing big, but we got more free time as kids, hence did more.

And yes, i think my engineering work was probably high quality even by my today's standards.


My first reaction was similar to the GP - not sure you can throw out the word "officially" when it refers to something you say you did at 11 years old, unless it's documented or there is some sort of record. When the overall post is how you have nothing to show for it, that's kind of the opposite of official.

Don't really care if people want to measure differently, but IMO what you've done in the past 2 years is way more important than how long you've been doing it. The 15 year old genius I went to university with is now 33 and doing the same mundane things as most salary devs.


None looks further than your last work experience when they are hiring you. That's true.


I suppose perhaps that is what I was also thinking. I too was doing nutty stuff at 12 years of age, soldering together computers, writing code, creating software. When I interview or talk to people, that would not matter much. Perhaps it just came off as pretentious in the context of the blog.


Obviously it means they started programming at 11 which is not unheard of. Not sure why you are trying to gatekeep programming.


At another point in TFA he says "I've been in the field for over 15 years." The sentence you quoted from comes immediately after a sentence where he states his age. I don't think he was being misleading -- he's been in the field for 15 years, but has been coding for 25. I think the word "officially" might be the source of your objection? Perhaps a fair nit-pick, but in context clearly not malicious. He didn't say "in an official capacity," just "officially."


I wrote my first commercial software at 13, in 1983. That has been relevant all my career - it explains what kind of computer interests I have, and relays clues about my motivation for continuing to work in the industry. I see nothing wrong with this - in the 80's, a heck of a lot of good programmers were teenagers. So? It is still the case, and in my opinion one of the positives of the industry...


Well i've been coding since 11. I also mentioned only professionally for 15 years. I could see how it comes of in a misleading manor if read from a different view, but I have literally been coding since 11, now 36 so saying 25 years doesn't mean I'm wrong.


When I was 11, I was writing 6510 machine language. Within a year after, 68000. Of course I started all this when I was merely 9.

To this day I've been able to use my knowledge about low level hardware features from those days, like IRQs, timers, DMA and such. So why wouldn't it count?


I was coding lots of games on the PC at that age in Basic. As I went into high school everyone had stories of getting drunk on the weekend. I was coding and learning C++. This guys article generally really resonates with my life. Glad he overcame the fear and posted this.


Exercise for anyone who thinks that your programming as kid counts. Apply for a job as a senior dev that requires 10 years experience when you're 21.

See how interview offers you get....


It only counted in the sense of the topic, which was me having no work to show for it in the sense of having a portfolio. Perhaps I could clean up the post to make it clearer.


It might have been better if he said he was coding professionally since 18-22ish and officially coding since he was 11.

I made my first BASIC game on an Apple IIe in the 4th grade at 8 years old. I didn't start professionally coding until 23 when getting paid to code/create. Though I still use that initial game as motivation to keep creating, building and shipping products.

My main goal with coding is creative and shipping products, I still had that goal even way back on the Apple IIe. The idea of making games to make a living was amazing, luckily I get to do that and I think it has lots to do with that 4th grade honors/GATE program group where a couple kids and myself made BASIC games.

Another big impact was my Pascal/programming teacher in high school Mr. Iles. He let us mess around with all sorts of fun during class and at lunch in computer lab. We setup the first internet and TV cards I had ever seen in '92-'94. We played games like Scorched Earth and created games, one of my friends Adam worked for Intel and was making Sierra looking games at the time.

I have had computers at home since middle school and always created projects on them including programming/art projects. I taught myself web development, interactive development (Flash and others in late 90s), and game development with C++ before having professional work by completing projects, much of it pre-internet or early internet just by books and BBSing/IRC. I studied the Quake II engine in early 2000. I learned Unreal starting with 2003 mods and Unity in 2008 on my own, and now make games on those platforms. When mobile finally hit with the iPhone in 2007/8, I realized it was the next handheld gaming market with the SDK and OpenGL support and jumped on that.

All of those moments have major impact on future programmers, it did to me. So people really can be seen as "officially coding" well back into elementary/middle/high school, but learning and shipping/creating is a consistent thing in my life since then.

It would have been better for OP to say "professionally coding" for less time since they were actually paid to program, but even an artist or writer or actor would say they started way back then but they later got paid/professional work to solidify their field or career professionally. I professionally started working as a coder/web/interactive developer in 1996 and have worked at tech companies, agencies and game studios since doing web, app, game development for entertainment, promotional and marketing systems.

My advice to programmers, creators, product developers is to always be creating products for yourself, to ship to the world on a consistent basis, perfect or not, everything is iterative.

Work projects are important as well, but to feel fulfilled, side projects or eventually going fulltime on your own projects/products where you get to decide and create is much more fulfilling. It can make contract/work projects less intense and can make you a better team member when you can relinquish control on those projects to a team while you get to work on your projects in freedom or with small teams of people that work great to ship content to the world. Programmers that aren't doing their own thing, might have difficulty with ego and making sure everyone uses what they like in terms of tech/process/product/creative properties of a project.

> "25 years of coding, and I'm just beginning"

Good, it is always better to have a beginners mind even if you have decades of experience. The more you can create on your own the better. If your friend that you helped quickly learned and created a website, you should thank them that they motivated you to publish and start building for yourself.

Programming is a tool, to create, to build products, but shipping and making them public is what it is all about, no matter when you start.




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