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I no longer build software (github.com/docker)
1287 points by tagawa on Sept 21, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 856 comments

All: don't miss that there are multiple pages of comments in this thread. That's what the More link at the bottom points to. Or click these:



Holy shit, this is me!

A couple things to clarify:

I posted the original issue as a minor complaint about the docker cli and promptly forgot about it. I never expected it to get any traction or follow-up. At the time I posted it, I was working as a contractor for my former full time employer. I had left full-time work there in early 2017 to attend the full-time program at the (sadly now-defunct) Furniture Institute of Massachusetts[0].

I finished that program in early 2019, and split my time between commission work and part time work for other woodworkers. Like software, in woodworking there are things you learn at school and things you learn doing it for money.

In early 2020 (which now feels like a million years ago), my partner and I left the Boston area for her to take a job in the northern hinterlands of NH.

It's been an interesting year to say the least: A lot of the opportunities I was hoping to have to publicize my business have been canceled (craft shows and fairs, open studios, etc) due to the pandemic. I'm fortunate to have brought a couple of paid commissions with me when we moved. Owing to the pandemic, the schedule on them has been protracted. I was going back and forth to Boston to fulfill a teaching obligation until early March. Then the pandemic hit, and all of my suppliers and my shared shop space[1] closed down for a couple months.

Just before the shared shop closed, I grabbed my workbench and set it up in my living room. The place we're renting doesn't have a basement, garage, or anything resembling shop space, so that was the least bad option. I bought wood for a couple of house projects, and got going working entirely by hand. The first project was a desk for my partner. I built it following the design for a staked work table from the Anarchist's Design Book[2]. She's been working at it since, and we've been doing our best to manage my noise and her Zoom calls separated by perhaps as much as 20 feet.

Sometime in late May or early June things started opening up slowly. I bought wood for those projects, and the shared shop space began operating with extremely limited hours. I've wrapped up those couple of projects, and honestly, the next thing on my TODO list is to spend some time doing some business planning, re-shooting some of my earlier work, and updating my website[3]. Bad timing on the pithy github comment on my part; had I known it'd hit the top of HN, I'd have made it after I updated the website!

If you're in the Boston area and would like to see some of my work, the Cabinet on Stand shown on my website is on display at the Fuller Craft Museum[4] in Brockton, MA through November 8th. It feels a bit weird to mention it, but that piece is also for sale through the museum. Purchasing it supports not only me, but also the museum. They were closed for a long time this year as a result of the pandemic, and like a great many of our cultural institutions, they're hurting. They laid off the curator for the exhibit my piece is in due to budget issues.

If I can offer everybody only one thing to get out of this, it's that our cultural institutions live a fairly fragile and perilous existence, particularly the smaller ones. The Wharton Esherick Museum[5] in the Philadelphia area is also taking a beating. Please, please, please take some time to support these institutions. A lot of our shared culture doesn't make it to the MFA. Those headline institutions show a limited subset of stuff; there's so much of value in the smaller museums, galleries, and historical societies.

[0] http://furnituremakingclasses.com

[1] https://claremontmakerspace.org

[2] https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/the-anar...

[3] https://longwalkwoodworking.com

[4] https://fullercraft.org/event/2020-biennial-members-exhibiti...

[5] https://whartonesherickmuseum.org

Some really beautiful pieces. Some unsolicited advice... if you haven't already considered Etsy (I used to work there) it can be a great place to sell your work.

I've bought a lot of furniture (some custom) on Etsy and people have been surprised by that / think there isn't necessarily high quality work there.

In addition to the larger pieces, if you have work that's easily repeatable you can make a lot with e.g. tissue boxes or cutting boards, etc...

For example this shop made these beautiful boxes with brass inlays and I was able to commission a custom box with dividers for individual tea packets: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SawdustProductionsCo/sold

Thanks! It's something I'll look into when I sit down to do some business planning. In case anybody else is interested, I've also been recommended houzz.com. Custommade.com used to deal in furniture, but they seem to have pivoted to jewelry.

I've definitely seen quality work on etsy, and I appreciate your perspective as a now former employee.

Kudos to you for having the wherewithal to make such a choice for your quality of life. The rest of us should take this opportunity to think how our requests and demands on OSS maintainers are perceived and be more empathetic: if you aren't paying for something you can't demand anything get done, this after all, is a collective effort of hackers working toward some community good. If you or a company directly benefits from a project monetarily think about supporting those projects -- but even then you don't get to demand anything. ... something something, honey vs vinegar or the however the saying goes.

First off, thank you!

Secondly, if I can leave everybody with just one more takeaway (besides supporting your local craft organizations, wherever you may be), it's that the phrase "it takes a village" applies to businesses too.

Besides first and foremost my partner, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to everybody who has taught me; everybody who was a student with me at the Furniture Institute of MA, I've learned something from every one of them; everybody I've worked for, I've learned something from every one of them; anybody who's ever written a blog article I've read; anybody who's ever made a youtube video I've watched; my suppliers, especially the knowledgeable ones who've taken the time to not just sell me something but help me learn what fits my needs; my customers, especially the early ones who have worked with me as hiccups have arisen; countless friends both in the trade and otherwise who have provided moral support, gotten me out of jams, and been all around awesome; and finally my partner, who bears thanking way more than just twice.

I don't consider myself especially brave for having taken this step or having any particular wherewithal. For most of us in woodworking, there's an enormous number of people we have leaned on and learned from to get us where we are. I suspect this is true for most of us in software as well. There's a lot of companies built at least in part on open source projects, existing infrastructure, etc.

To be clear, I've never made a contribution of any significance to an OSS project outside of working a 9-5 salaried job. Your point is spot-on, but I can't rightly claim to have been on the sharp end of maintaining anything open source. Thank you to those who do.

Lastly, this all came about because I've been following the Fusion360 news on HN and looking into alternatives. I downloaded FreeCAD, started reading docs, and found a dead link in their README.md. I filed a bug, submitted a PR, and figured if I ever wanted it to be useful, I'd better sort the email account that github sends to. I cleared out a couple thousand github notifications for projects I no longer work on, and that many more bounce messages from my former employer.

Among the several hundred remaining emails was a slew of notifications about the bug that I filed 3 years ago. I figured I should check in, and the rest is (recent) history.

Your Cabinet on Stand [1] is gorgeous.

1. https://www.flickr.com/photos/fuller_craft/49837847346/in/al...

Thank you!

Seconded! Can you give a ballpark for how much you'd charge for a piece like this? Seems like an insane amount of work at incredible quality. I want to own it.

It looks great, it looks like it's priced as art and not furniture. Is this a correct interpretation?

A lot of "designer" furniture is priced in that range so that doesn't seem that unusual especially if you consider all the manual working hours going into a piece.

I suspect once you price in the hours of labor required to make something like that by hand the price actually seems sensible.

this is pretty standard pricing for custom made one off furniture. you can't really compare pricing to items off an assembly line style factory.

imo whether you consider it art is irrelevant. the main cost is material (wood) and labor.

Replying to you, and hopefully everybody who commented on your comment:

Oh man, the line between "art" and "craft" is ill-defined. I think of craft as something that has to fulfill a functional need as well as satisfying an aesthetic need, and art as meeting a principally aesthetic need.

Whether you view the cabinet on stand as art or furniture (craft), I suppose depends wholly on what your needs are :-) I built it as a piece of furniture that would suits my aesthetic tastes and also hold some stuff.

The price on it is $5,200 US.

The pricing on anything is a challenge. I have a woodworker friend who is married to a pricing analyst. She works for a sizable multinational corporation, and he feels as in the dark about how to price stuff as I do.

Broadly speaking, pricing for custom work is likely to be at least at the high end of factory made furniture, and by that I mean really nice factory-made stuff. Think like Thomas Moser[0]. Whether you like their look or not, the quality is excellent and as I understand it, there's a lot more hand work that goes into it than is common these days. I'm going to use them in the discussion below, but this applies to any high end commercial maker.

The reasons for this are complicated: On the one hand, my capital costs are (a lot) lower than any factory, I don't maintain showrooms in pricey locations, and I don't have a staff I need to pay.

On the other hand, Moser is buying lumber in quantities that I couldn't store at a price I can only dream of. They have well established lines of furniture that they're set up to make in quantity, or at least know how to build, whereas virtually everything I build is a prototype in some sense.

What you don't see in the final product is the test pieces or the jigs that I built to build it. Project recursion isn't just a software thing, I assure you.

Because it's unlikely that anybody will ever want exactly the same piece, that cost doesn't get spread out over a production run, or even stuck into storage in case somebody wants one in the future. Storage is a cost, and I pay it for stuff I know I'm going to use again and again (a table saw sled, for example). Project specific stuff gets either broken down and reused or put into my wood stove. At best you get the materials back; the time is a sunk cost.

I've talked to other woodworkers about this, and some take the approach of having a line of pieces that they're jigged up to build quickly and efficiently. This is a valid approach to making money at this. Putting some thought into whether it makes sense for me to develop a line at this point is on the list of things on my business planning TODO list.

Even woodworkers who have a catalog of pieces they know how to build have to make choices about how to design and build. Christian Becksvoort has a 15 drawer chest in his catalog[1]. Every tier of drawers is a different height. That means something as simple as cutting parts to rough size involves ripping boards to 20 different widths (for each of the 10 tiers: 3 pieces full height for fronts and sides, and 1 piece reduced height for the drawer back).

And then you have to keep track of those parts. And then you have to dovetail them. I'm willing to bet that Christian Becksvoort would lose money building one 15 drawer chest with a dovetail jig because he'd have 20 different set ups (10 heights, front and back). Could you make it cheaper by making some of the tiers of drawers the same height? Absolutely! Would it retain the charm of his design? For some customers, no.

Before anybody gives up hope on owning anything Christian Becksvoort has ever had a hand in, I'd like to note that he's an author as well as a furniture maker. He's written two books for Lost Art Press[2], and I recommend both.

[0] https://www.thosmoser.com/

[1] https://chbecksvoort.com/cases.html

[2] https://lostartpress.com

Replying directly in case you miss it elsewhere.

The price on the piece is $5,200.

I'm off to bed for the evening. If I haven't addressed your comment specifically, I'd like you to know that I did read it. Thank you everybody for your kind words. I hope I addressed nearly everything people asked about even if I didn't reply directly to every comment; there were a lot of good questions!

I have not read all the way down the over 800 comments, and if you shared kind words or asked a question outside this thread, I apologize if I missed it.

I'm honestly astonished at how much this seems to have resonated with a lot of people. If it's not blindingly apparent by my comment, this was the last thing I expected to see at the top of HN on a Monday morning!

If you're trying to learn woodworking or are interested in learning it, I'd encourage you to do so. We all started somewhere, and for me that was struggling mightily to get a board flat with a hand plane in an evening class. My first dovetails were as rough as anybody's. Whatever you want to build, go ahead and build it. There's room for all kinds of woodworking in the world, fancy and plain alike.

The instagram woodworking community has been a mostly positive space for folks in the field both as hobbyists and professionals. If I can take a moment to veer briefly into politics, it hasn't been universally welcoming to women and people of color. Laura Mays talked about losing followers every time she promoted a show of female woodworkers. This is, frankly, shameful. There is room in this field for anybody who wants to explore it, at whatever level they choose to. Shutting people out because they don't fit our preconceived notions of what a woodworker looks like makes us all poorer.

Lastly, there are really too many people out there sharing excellent woodworking content to hope to name without some omissions. In addition to everybody I've linked or mentioned in other comments, I'd like to add in no particular order William Ng, Richard Macquire, Paul Sellers, woodgears.ca, seejanedrill on youtube, and artofplants on instagram.

I've doubtless omitted any number of other highly worthy people I've stumbled across over the years. I'd encourage everybody to go down the rabbit hole as far as they'd like and discover those people and more.

Replying to say that I'm heading to the shop. If anybody has questions, I'll check back in in the evening (US Eastern) and do my best to answer them then.

Great comment!

Two things I noticed a couple years ago:

1. There is a quite expensive furniture maker near where I grew up -- in the more "genteel" area of course.

2. If I still lived there I'd totally shell out three grand for one of their chairs!

I've never spent that much on a piece of furniture, but it sure looks like it's worth it:


Your work is beautiful and I hope you find many buyers. I humbly suggest you include prices on your web site, as many people have no idea what handmade furniture costs these days, and many of those can actually afford it.

Thank you for your kind words!

Those are beautiful chairs, and I would agree that the price sure looks worth it. Thank you for bringing them to my attention

For a point of comparison, Kevin Rodel designed the side chairs I built (from plans he published in Fine Woodworking). He lists a price of $1,600 each on his website[0]. I think that's also an entirely fair price for what is a simpler chair to build. Ignoring everything else driving cost in chairs, adding arms alone adds complexity.

The question of listing price is a difficult one. Christopher Scharz of Lost Art Press addressed this an an article he wrote for Core77[1]. He's very established (and rightly so) and chooses not to, but he suggests it might be an advantage for somebody starting out.

One challenge to publishing prices that I perceive is that it fixes a price in a potential customer's mind. I wrote to somebody last week about the question of pricing, and observed that a bookshelf for a child's bedroom is a very different piece from a bookshelf for a lawyer's office. The price varies considerably between the two!

What I (and other people doing principally custom work) can offer is the ability to tailor a project to a budget (within reason) by explaining what drives cost and letting them make choices based upon what they're looking for in a piece.

At this point, I don't want to turn anybody away with a price that's outside their budget, but I'm also mindful of the adage that "if you have to ask, you can't afford it".

[0] https://www.kevinrodel.com/showroom/item/dining-chair

[1] https://www.core77.com/posts/86153/Should-You-Publish-Your-P...

Reminds me of the hardware engineer in Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine who burns out and resigns with:

> I'm going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season.

Funny you should mention that book. Tom West's daughter is Jessamyn West, famous Vermont librarian. Her cousin is Christopher Schwarz of Lost Art Press, influential author and publisher of woodworking books. She was recently interviewed on Vermont Public Radio's Brave Little State podcast on an episode about religion in Vermont.

I believe all of the above is public information about the named people.

If I'm honest, I haven't yet read The Soul of a New Machine, but it's on my list. I did pick up House[0], also by Tracy Kidder and read it over the winter holidays a couple of years ago. I'm not sure exactly how I'd sum it up, so I'll leave that to the author, linked below. I've also read excerpts of Among Schoolchildren[1] and can recommend it (at least the parts I've read) as well.

[0] https://www.tracykidder.com/house.html

[1] https://www.tracykidder.com/among-schoolchildren.html

Hey, while you are reshooting the pictures, have a look at David Hobby's material over at Strobist [0], especially the lighting 101 series [1]. Hope you find them as helpful as I did!

[0] https://strobist.blogspot.com/ [1] https://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

Thanks for the recommendation. I've long considered myself not smart enough to shoot with a flash, but I've never given it a really serious try learning. As I understand it, getting the exposure right can be a challenge. Or maybe it's just a learning curve I haven't tried climbing yet :-)

Everything on my site was shot with continuous light, but I'll take a deeper look at the site and see what I can learn. Some of the photos definitely make me want to! And let's be honest, strobes are a lot less hassle to deal with than studio lights.

Good luck with all you're doing. Your work looks incredible. As a budding woodworker (I hesitate to even call myself that, mainly making boxes and shelves at this point), I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into such pieces.

When I look around, I feel woodworking now is what photography was 10 years ago to software people. A hobby that lets you get away from the computer into the physical world, but still tingles all the engineering/math/maker mindset that attracts people to software. Although I got into woodworking because of my grandfather, I see a lot online of software people doing the same just to "get away."

From an economic perspective, I hope you're able to capitalize on that trend of people with lots of disposable income willing to commission this sort of thing (or even classes), if that's partly your intention.

I just recently bought the anarchist's design book and toolbox book! I'm just just getting into though - haven't built anything yet. Need to get tools and set up a shop.

What made you interested in woodworking? My father retired a short while ago (though not from software) and took up woodworking.

How do you price items?

How do you handle shipping, or is the work all local?

Oh man. Shipping. Have I got a horror story about that. Let's just say that the chandelier pictured on my website is the first of two that I built. I crated it and sent it to a show in the care of a well-known shipping company (you've seen their trucks if you live in the US). And then I had to build a second one for the show.

I'm told that shipping via specialist companies that routinely handle art and high end furniture is a much better experience for all parties.

I'm trying to keep jobs within a reasonable drive or the pieces small enough that I can double box and peanut them without driving the cost for the dimensional weight through the roof.

This is probably one of my favorite comments in the history of HN :)

I'd love to know your thoughts on woodworking in a living space. Before the pandemic I took classes at a local art school. I'm considering upgrading to a two bedroom apartment (in a large apartment building) and using the spare bedroom as a workshop. I'm guessing I'll have to go all (or almost all) hand tools. Do you think this is feasible, or will I regret it? I'm worried about dust management and noise for my neighbors. Chiseling in particular seems like it would reverberate through the building.

Any tips would be much appreciated!

I did basically this for a year, except in my main bedroom (didn't have a spare). You're right to be worried about dust and noise.

For the dust I had a pretty powerful airfilter, but I would still have clouds of dust coming out of my pillow/sheets.

I would have said that general noise during the day was ok in my case, but that was before everybody worked from home.

For chiseling you can actually do a lot without hammering. If your chisels are sharp enough, you can push them through the wood for most techniques. That's what I did when I worked in the evenings.

It helps to have a very heavy workbench that doesn't move too much. Sawing still makes noise though, and planing kinda does too.

All in all, less than ideal, but for me it was great for a while! It really depends on what size and type of things you want to make. Feel free to specify and I can give more details.

I think it makes sense to explore other options as well: renting a garage, finding a community workshop, etc.

Thanks for the thoughts. Were your dust clouds the result of hand tools, or were you using power tools? I’ve mostly used power tools, but my impression is that hand tools might make less of a mess? Hopefully being in a separate room I can isolate things...

That’s good to know you can sometimes get by chiseling without a hammer! At the moment I’m interested in making a Danish Modern style chair, likely in walnut or oak.

If you don't want to dedicate the whole room you could try one of the variety of temporary dust barrier systems like this one: https://www.zipwall.com

As others have said, hand tools generate chips or shavings and less dust than power tools. I strongly suggest doing your sanding outside if at all possible. If not, The recommendation other folks have made for Festool is on point. Their dust collection is excellent. I own a Makita random orbit sander and it leaves a film of dust on the surroundings when I use it. I've used other people's Festool sanders with Festool dust extractors, and it's outstanding. You pay for it, but you really do get what you pay for.

Part of my strategy for keeping dust down is to do as little sanding as possible. I generally try to get a good surface off of a cutting tool (a plane or scraper), and then sand once at the grit I want to end at. Squirrelly grain, or tearout around knots sometimes requires pulling out the sander. Still I try to limit my use of it. If I can spend 5 minutes planing, and 5 minutes sanding, I'm a long way ahead on time compared to spending 5 minutes each sanding at 4 different grits to get the same surface (numbers from thin air, but the principle applies).

Noise is a challenge. You're right that chiseling is not a quiet activity. Anybody who thinks hand tool woodworking is a quiet and contemplative activity should spend a day in a room full of people chopping dovetails and then maybe reconsider their opinion.

All that said, there are a great many woodworkers who work successfully in apartments or other tight confines. Some of them are even married :-)

Use hand tools, when possible.

If not, use Fesstool tools and one of their dust extractors.

I built a wood bed for my truck in the living room some decades ago. And also a clavichord. Hand tools generate shavings, but little dust.

I have a very good collection of hand tools in a large tool chest. And, I have a very solid, large workbench. Both of these look great in the living room when not in use.

Can we get a picture of the clavichord?! Talk about burying the lede.

Fein also makes amazing vacuums and they're very quiet. At least they used to; I haven't been in the space for years.

Wow! I'm so jealous that you went to the Furniture Institute, and didn't realize it shut down.

I am lucky enough to live in TN and have access to some great local woodworkers that give classes, specifically some amazing windsor chair makers.

Good luck with everything, I got a good chuckle out of the GitHub comment.

Wow, nice stuff. This resonates because I'm pondering the same move, have a small shop, and have started with small traditional projects. I even live 20 minutes from Wharton Sherick but have never been, thanks for the links!

I know at this point it's basically echoing what others have said, but wow! That chandelier is amazing, I've never seen anything like it!

Do you have social media where we can keep up with your work?

Congrats on the exciting career change, hope you're staying sane while out in the country!

Sorry for such a direct question. With the pandemic hit your business, do you regret switching the professions?

That is such a complicated question. The short answer is no, but I don't feel like that really does it justice.

Looks pretty cool. :)

Have you tried out CNC stuff yet? It seems to be a popular thing for people into woodworking too. :)

Where in NH are you based? Anywhere near Whitefield/Lancaster?

I was being perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek when I referred to the "northern hinterlands of NH". Folks in Boston generally consider anything west of 128 to be "Western Mass".

I'm not far from Lebanon.

What type of containers do you ship your furniture in?

Not Docker, obviously. :)

“Look, the cabinet did not break down in my living room. So I’ll ship you the cabinet with the whole living room together.”

Those are some beautiful pieces you've made!

Add me to the woodworking ex-developers. I built a website that pays the bills, and now I have a lot of time on my hands.

I am finishing my first piece of furniture today. It's pretty scary to work without an undo button. The physical world isn't just instructions, but movements. A little twitch can ruin a cut. A clumsy movement can dent a piece of wood you spent an hour sanding. You truly experience the meaning of "measure twice, cut once". Resources also feel tangibly limited. You can't just spin up another server, you must drive across town to buy more lumber.

I still enjoy coding though. My passion for it returned once I could do it on my own time, without stakeholders, sprints, meetings, deadlines or even schedules. I sit down and work until the coffee wears off, then go do something else. It's a hobby again.

I don't think programming is the probkem. Anything you do 40 hours a week for other people will get to you just the same. Programming is a pretty sweet gig, all things considered.

I went the other way into programming from the trades.

Sometimes, especially when I read about people leaving this industry to go work in the trades it makes me nostalgic and miss working with my hands and building real things.

But I also have enough bad memories of shitty work conditions and waking up sore day after day to give me a gut check to stay put for a little longer.

> I don't think programming is the probkem. Anything you do 40 hours a week for other people will get to you just the same. Programming is a pretty sweet gig, all things considered.

Turning my hobbies in jobs killed off a lot of fun I used to have. I think it's pretty universal and why it should probably be more common to switch industries a couple times at least through your career to keep things fun and not stay in a burned out mentality forever.

I also went from residential/commercial framing and remodeling into systems engineering/sysadmin. There are moments that really stand out on both sides, as you said. I distinctly remember packing the tools up one day and thinking about how the second floor of that house wasn't there that morning. It was a good feeling that has stuck with me for 15 years. But I also remember the days our crew was trying to eke out a few hours of work with a hurricane coming in because we needed the money. We had the walls and roof mostly up on a beach house so we could do some interior work without being directly in the rain. However, the end of one of our extension cords, the one running the skil saw, was sitting in a puddle of water that completely encircled the cutting bench. I remember being told to unplug it to pack up and having to move it out of the puddle with the handle of my hammer since it bit me a couple times.

I think what it boils down to is that, generally, software engineers/coders/sysadmins like to build things. When we don't get to build the things we want, the way we want to, it leads to a desire to get into woodworking. It's building things; its success is purely merit-based; and it's building the things that you want to build. I wouldn't recommend anyone go into construction (especially not commercial construction a la Office Space) from coding. It's joy is fleeting and infrequent and it ruins your body.

Framing seems a bit like a race to the bottom, because it's invisible to most people. Lots of software gigs are the same. Furniture is the opposite, and maybe some software is too

Yeah I did the same. I went from being an avionics/aviation electrician to college and then to being a software engineer. I hated being in the elements all the time so I wanted to have an officer job. Overall it's been good for me but I do miss working with my hands more.

> Turning my hobbies in jobs killed off a lot of fun I used to have.

Yep. I haven't really worked on any of my hobby projects like I had before.

> Turning my hobbies in jobs killed off a lot of fun I used to have.

Thank you. I have nothing else to add. I just needed to read that today.

> I think it's pretty universal and why it should probably be more common to switch industries a couple times at least through your career to keep things fun and not stay in a burned out mentality forever.

Isn't that years of education and work to start at the bottom again? If one has a family to support doesn't seem terribly feasible.

I've done over 10 years in the trades, and now 10 years in dev and am coming to the close of this chapter. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do, but I've been looking at a few projects that would be an intersection of the two.

I'd like to have another couple careers before I retire. The best part of a career is learning, getting it, then doing something as a journeyman and looking at your work and thinking, 'I got it'.

Welcome to this beautiful hobby! I'm sure you'll love it for a long time to come (as you said, it helps to not _have_ to do it for 40hrs a week).

I want to add to your description and say that the design part of the work can also be hugely satisfying! I found that there is something similar to software engineering: you can make it as simple [1] or complicated as you want, but there is something magical about finding the simplest solution that gets the job done.

Consider posting some photos on the woodworking subreddit if you make something cool!

[1]: a minimalist piece that I'm personally proud of: https://www.juricho.me/zurich-table/

"but there is something magical about finding the simplest solution that gets the job done"

if only software were written that way...

Those are some fancy joints

Thanks :) I take little credit, because nowadays a lot of this is very achievable to learn with youtube and a bit of patience.

It's really incredible how much tacit knowledge transfer is made possible because of youtube. Definitely one of the purely positive aspects of the platform and the internet in general.

I love the table! Nice minimal design on it.

Hit the nail on the head. Work is work and it drains passion out for most people. Obviously not all cases, but at least I feel of you are looking for purpose and joy from work you may be looking in the wrong spot.

Agreed. Loving something and it turning into a real job with all the added fluff/protocols/whatever (things like talking to customers, having to do marketing, having to meet deadlines and such) will suck up everything you think you love about it and make it feel bad once it's in the real world with actual constraints and dependencies. It's no longer only you and it, it's no longer exploring and playing in the sandbox.

From what I've heard from other sources, it's kinda like what people call being a grown up.

As a current CS student on his last year, I've heard this a lot and it's taken some time to come to terms with. I've always seen people saying they can get work down by their work, which was really scary to me at first. How could I ever become tired of the think I've loved most since I was 8?

Yet, this happens to everyone, including me to a small extent during my last internship. I think everyone can grow tired of anything given enough of it, and I think coming to terms with that is easier for some than others.

I've mentally prepared myself to branch out into different pastimes, and for some reason, it seems we all land on wood working.

The problem with programming for a job is that you don't get to do it on your own terms. If you really focus on it and have a bit of luck, you can align your job with the stuff you wanted to do anyway, but even then every 40 hours is probably 30 hours of not particularly interesting work and 10 hours of the stuff you loved when you first fell in love with programming.

"I built a website that pays the bills, and now I have a lot of time on my hands."

Okay.... I assume you're not going to talk about this because then you'll have so much competition you won't be able to pay the bills anymore, but do you have any generalized background information about this?

You can find it in my post history. I help people settle in my country, in plain English. It's just not the main point of this conversation.

How do you monetize the site? It looks really useful, but I don't see any ads or payment options.

Some of the guides have affiliate links.

> "This guide contains affiliate links. When you click those links and buy something, I make a little money. The income allows me to work on All About Berlin full time. All my recommendations are genuine. I want to keep this website useful and neutral."


Usually this means dropshipping, but it could be something different.

Nope. https://allaboutberlin.com

Isn't dropshipping extremely overcrowded since The 4 Hour Work Week popularised it?

What you really need is some level of exclusivity, if you can drop ship someones stuff into a different market or bring a new customer base to it. If 50 other people are doing the same thing it probably won’t work.

A decent portion of our business used to be dropshipping onto Amazon against others that were doing the exact same thing with the same terms. Margins obviously ended up tiny and the whole thing was at the whims of Amazon. Glad we don’t do that anymore.

I heard dropshipping still "works" if you know both the marketing and the dev work for it, but I'd say it is getting more rare.

Good to hear I was wrong :)

Count me as one switching my "hobby" from programming to woodworking (even with the astronomical lumber prices these days). I started with some outdoor tables, and now I'm building a woodworking shop in my garage... and LOVING it. It so much more satisfying than figuring out another distributed TX compensation mechanism!

But, I also don't want to start a business doing woodworking. The last thing I want are clients yammering for "seven red lines"; this is something I'm doing as a hobby.

I may offer-up a few furniture items on a local for-sale app or a craft show app... but I will try and resist the urge to create a better local craft show app, or a wood inventory/cut-list app, or a simple CAD app, etc.

I'm a software developer by trade. I have a lot of woodworking experience by choice. I am a strong believer in that every developer should learn how to work with wood, or metal or other physical materials that require you to slow down and think about the next step.

But then I also believe that technical interviews should consist of putting software developers in a woodshop (experienced at woodworking or not) with a bunch of power tools and telling them to build anything they like. Those that still have all their fingers attached we automatically hire. Everybody else we write a glowing reference so they get a job with our competitors.

P.S. This is a joke.

You may enjoy Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. It made sense of the permanent vague anxiety I've always had while working in a digital medium.

I work with wood as a hobby. It's interesting how creating basic objects or furniture is actually really easy.

But making those things really well and flawless is so very, very difficult.

For example, I can whip together a new drawer, no problem. But making that drawer fit perfectly on all sides and open and close perfectly smoothly. Now that takes a whole other level of skill.

And don't even get me started on paint and varnish.

> A clumsy movement can dent a piece of wood you spent an hour sanding

Dents can be somewhat fixed by getting them wet and ironing them.

> I built a website that pays the bills, and now I have a lot of time on my hands.

It's also pretty impossible to build a website that pays the bills indefinitely without maintainence or upgrades. If your website becomes popular enough to pay your bills you WILL eventually have competitors, as well as new mediums of technology, and you'll have to constantly keep up to date.

> Add me to the woodworking ex-developers (...) I have a lot of time on my hands.

Be careful with that table saw...

For those transitioning from programming to woodworking, if you don’t understand how to use your table saw, you’re not supposed to design and build your own table saw because you think you can build a better one.

This made me chuckle and then suddenly realizing that you caught me: often enough, this is how i(t) work(s) . E.g. "i don't understand (crypto) algorithm $XYZ, fuk it, i'll write my own crypto!"

*in not-so-serious side projects

That would increase the time:hands ratio.

SawStop for the win!

After the way they went after Bosch, I have no interest in ever buying a SawStop. Good for them for making safe technology, but shame on them for going after someone else who made better technology. The world needs safer options for tools like these, and being litigious bastards helps no-one.

I've heard that SawStop's patents are expiring soon, so it seems we'll have some competition in the next 5 years. In the meantime, since there are no other saws which protect your fingers from being sliced off, it's the best insurance policy for a software developer who needs them the most.

Yes, heed the scary warning of the complete stranger on the internet. You might want to quit the hobby altogether. I heard that there was risk involved. Eeks!

One of the authors of "The Pragmatic Programmer" was also a woodworker.

> It's pretty scary to work without an undo button.

sawing wood these days too I cannot keep laughing alone in my beard thinking how software people just don't understand how the world used to be and how much had to be designed to work before trying .. there's no way back, or to be precise, every wrong turns costs dearly.

It seems like nowadays you just can't make money building interesting things anymore.

Most of the available programming work is really just writing glue code to make big software systems work as intended, to the point where it can feel more like writing configuration files than actual programming. Put simply, 98% of programming these days is scripting.

On the other hand, you have lots of fun things one can do with code, from building weird experimental things that lack any real-world application but are very interesting to think about to simply recreating some of the giants of the software world in creative ways or in different languages to get a better appreciation of their inner workings and the principles behind them. None of that has any value from a busyness perspective and nobody will pay you for it.

The way I feel about programming is in equal parts as an art and as engineering. The weird obsession of the IT industry with treating code as a resource that has no purpose other than create wealth is absurd and, I believe, one of the reasons why many programmers end up disillusioned and simply drop programming altogether, both as a job and as a hobby.

I can order a comfy car anywhere I am with the tap of a button.

I can order food from hundreds of restaurants and have it delivered in less than 30 mins with the tap of a button.

I can book flights and hotels with the tap of a button.

I can play with friends in virtual reality and actually sweat.

I can watch a live stream of SpaceX launching reusable rockets in space.

I could buy a car that is almost fully "self driving".

I can exchange value with anyone in the world anonymously and with no delays or censorship thanks to cryptocurrencies.

I can land in a completely foreign city and get step by step directions to wherever I need to go.

I can translate almost any language in real time, be it in writing, spoken or taken from an image.

And so on...You can (and most of the time do) get paid to build interesting things. It's just that most of us are unable to look at the big picture and not realize that the combined effort of a team is more valuable than the sum of the individual efforts. And if you do actually work on stuff you don't find interesting there is enough demand that switching is not that hard.

And if you want to solve puzzles for the sake of solving puzzles then there are plenty of resources for that.

Plenty of choice in my honest opinion.

So we've mostly solved trivial non-problems if/not regressions?

People lived in 1990 and didn't feel that bad to have to call a travel agency to get a ticket, or, god forbid, to actually meet friends and not in VR space...

I'll give you "self driving cars" -- well, I would if they could work today, which they don't...

Anyone remember spending hours at AAA getting TripTiks and a highlighted route on a vague map for a (now) simple road trip? And the ensuing argument about the passenger's navigation obligations when you inevitably miss an exit halfway into the trip? And spending significant time preparing the (unreliable 80s domestic) car for a road trip?

I recently did a ~1000 mile trip that I used to do as a kid in the 90s. Back then it was literally a weeks worth of preparation. In 2020, I did the same trip on 1 hour notice with no concerns about my transportation, navigation, food, or lodging.

Sure, we made do with what we had in the 90s, but stuff is just incredibly more convenient and accessible now.

> Anyone remember spending hours at AAA getting TripTiks

I'm glad to see someone else mention TripTiks. I went on long road trips with my family when I was a kid and TripTiks were the coolest thing. A TripTik was a custom-made flip-book assembled from pages that were map segments with everything of interest noted along the way. Your route was marked with a highlighter. It was bit like turn-by-turn guidance in handheld paper form.

>> People lived in 1990 and didn't feel that bad to have to call a travel agency to get a ticket

Travel agencies were awful; people don't realize how good they have it with online tickets. The way they worked is you'd ask for a flight from X to Y. They'd spend a whole minute typing some cryptic database query into their terminal and come up $1000 leaving at 6:45 am. You'd ask if there's a better price and they'd spend another minute typing a slightly different query before coming up with something slightly better. Repeat for 10 minutes, and you feel guilty every time you ask a question because they're doing you a favor with so much typing. Then ask if there's anything better if you leave Wednesday and the whole process repeats. Finally they obtain a semi-decent flight after a huge effort, but you're left with the feeling that you probably could have saved a bunch more if you'd known the right question to ask.

Even the improvements over the last 15 years have been immense. Remember using printed directions from Mapquest?

These wouldn't have been so bad if they were accurate. More than once I'd have to drive across multiple states to somewhere that wasn't a giant metropolis, and it would take me through a random field and tell me to turn left at a street that definitely did not exist.

I remember doing pretty good with a decent map book. I'm not sure traveling these days is really that much simpler. I did some pretty big trips before the age of always on and it worked just fine. Also me and my wife still argue navigation in the Tesla with its futuristic built-in navigation (that's not always perfect). My "reliable" not-80's Subaru Outback broke down on me in my last big road trip (which indirectly led to getting the Tesla, so far so good).

Not to knock down all the real progress, but things were fine 20+ years ago as well...

> I'm not sure traveling these days is really that much simpler.

I arrive in a foreign country.

My phone works as soon as I turn it off airplane mode.

I already have lodging, which didn't involve any long-distance calling or navigating foreign accents over a scratchy submarine cable.

I don't know how to get there. Is public transit an option? One short map query later, I determine that it is, but that would involve more hauling luggage than I'd like, besides, that 20 minute wait for the bus at the end looks dodgy.

Rideshare it is. They pick me up at the airport and I get where I'm going.


I arrive in a foreign country. I have the Lonely Planet guide. I circled a hotel that sounds good. A hawker comes up to me and hassles me about staying at their hotel instead; I pass.

The guide has some instructions for how to take public transit, but it doesn't sound easy, and I don't speak the language.

First, I convert some currency, and get enough change to make a local call, and call the hotel. I think I just got a reservation? I definitely have enough left over to pay for a taxi, so down to the taxi stand it is.

The first few taxi hawkers strike me as excessively aggressive, eventually I find someone calmer. Time to negotiate a rate; Lonely Planet helpfully informs me that it's one of those countries where this is how it works. Once that's done, I get my ride to the destination, and the cabbie asks for twice what we agreed on. I calmly insist on the original price, which he agrees to after a couple passes; I tip anyway, because I'm an American.

Now I'm at the hotel. I'm in luck! I either do have a reservation, or the room and price that I agreed on over the phone is the same as it was then. Not like last time...

Yes. Traveling these days is really that much simpler.

> Traveling these days is really that much simpler.

Maybe, but I'm not totally convinced the "simplicity" has really made my life any better?

I have personal experience of travelling both pre and post smartphone era. I've spent reasonable or large amounts of time in San Francisco, New York, London, Bangkok, and Singapore (from Sydney), and a day or a few days in many more places. None of the "pre smart phone era" travel I did was onerously difficult without a smartphone, and I don't seem to have started doing additional travel since smartphones "slowed" all those problems you list.

I was comfortable enough travelling using taxis, printed maps, travellers cheques, and travel agents. I would happily enough fall back on those (well, these days I take advantage of credit card/maestro ATM availability and don't even know if travellers cheques are still a thing.) I will admit the stress levels travelling in Thailand, where I don't speak the language or even read the alphabet, are lower with a globally networked supercomputer in my pocket, but I never avoided going there (or anywhere else) because "It's too hard".

(And given current climate, I'm quite likely to arrive in the US next time I visit without a phone, or perhaps with a minimal burner. Sure, my phone makes a bunch of stuff "simpler", but it also carries a fuckton of intimate personal information, and it makes for a very tempting target for badly behaved or overly invasive border control staff...)

> I have personal experience of travelling both pre and post smartphone era.

Neither of those stories were made up...

Never argued that it's better, only that it's simpler.

Hard to tell if it's better since I'm older now. You only get to be a twentysomething on his first trip to Asia once.

Heh. that's all the fun in traveling... Even in the good olden days a travel agent would book you accommodations no problem. You'd book a car if you wanted one. I've done lots of trips without being online ... the world was aligned to support that.

I did spent a little bit of time in SFO trying to figure out where the rideshare pickup area was last time I was there, more time than I spent finding the train the previous time... But it did get me exactly where I wanted to go which was nice...

There are still plenty of places where the phone doesn't really give you much today. Lots of places without ride sharing...

This seems like an awfully reductionist take, and is demonstrably wrong.

> to actually meet friends and not in VR space

Nintendo released the Virtual Boy in the 90s, a (somewhat unsuccessful) attempt at a semi-VR thing; they were (and are) a pretty big business, and I don't think that they were just doing it because they thought it was cool; there was demand for something like virtual reality at the time.

> People lived in 1990 and didn't feel that bad to have to call a travel agency to get a ticket

This is also wrong; anecdata, but at least one person (my dad) hated having to call up travel agencies in the 90s to book a plane ticket. I remember as a kid him yelling at the travel agent because he (having done a lot of business travel in the past) knew how much they were marking up the ticket and they wouldn't meet him halfway. Eventually he started calling the airlines directly to purchase tickets, and he complained a lot that there was not an easy way to compare prices between airlines. To stress, this was in roughly 1995.

Obviously this is just one person, but I seriously doubt that this was a unique experience.

I actually had a Virtual Boy. My father thought it was so cool that it's the only piece of tech, let alone video games, that he ever gave me without my requesting it.

We returned it, because it sucked. It was more than somewhat unsuccessful; it is the paradigm case of overpromising and underdelivering.

The only sweat you'd work up with a Virtual Boy would be after puking because of the induced motion sickness. It was impossible to move around, wasn't designed for that, instead you'd hunch over a table and it would force you to take breaks every fifteen minutes in a futile attempt to prevent waves of nausea from ruining your experience.

Wow, "demonstrably wrong" are incredibly strong words given the lacking counter arguments you provided.

I remember when the virtual boy came out. It was a disaster. From wikipedia: "The Virtual Boy was panned by critics and was a commercial failure, even after repeated price drops."

And the second one, bringing up that one time your dad was annoyed to book a plane ticket. Not much more needs to be said.

What exactly did you demonstrate was wrong with his original take?

I agree, the Virtual Boy was a disaster, but maybe I didn't illustrate my point very well, and that is my fault; I'll give you an upvote to help counteract the downvotes because I probably didn't explain myself correctly.

What I was trying to say that clearly the was some demand for the virtual reality of some kind; I'm sure Nintendo did some level of market research; concurrently, Atari and Sega was also working on VR projects, these demos were pretty popular in expos, so my point was that it's not a recent thing to want to VR in the home.

I disclaimed that me using my dad as an example was anecdata, but (assuming I'm not lying), it does prove the existence of at least one person's demand for such a product. The post I was responding to said specifically "People lived in 1990 and didn't feel that bad to have to call a travel agency to get a ticket", and I was giving a counter-claim to that. The last time I checked, my dad was a person, and did feel "that bad" calling a travel agency. Also, it wasn't "one time", it was throughout most of the 90's, though I mostly remember this from 1995-1997 because I was previously a bit too young to pay much attention to this stuff.

Now, fair enough, I didn't link to studies proving my point, so I probably used the word "demonstrably" incorrectly, and I apologize for any confusion that might have resulted from that.

VR is also not just about recreating irl situations so you can sit at home. There is something deeply satisfying about shit talking with friends in Pavlov and then blowing their brains out with a shotgun only for them to come back 10 seconds later.

>This is also wrong; anecdata, but at least one person (my dad) hated having to call up travel agencies in the 90s to book a plane ticket.

Yeah, and I hate scratching my head when itchy. Doesn't mean an "automatic head stratcher" is the best use of our innovation, or adds anything significant to humanity...

Why does everything have to "add something significant to humanity"?

It's not like "innovation" exists in a vacuum; if I figure out, I dunno, a new motor design for an automatic head scratcher, there's no reason that it can't later be used for something you deem to "add something significant to humanity".

Also, who gets to determine what actually adds to humanity? If you really didn't like scratching your head, or it took you a really long time to scratch your head in the morning, then wouldn't having something automatically do that for you be useful?

Travel websites are an example of something that did solve a problem; despite what you said before, people didn't like having to deal with travel agents (I googled around); they didn't like having to book tickets during office hours, they didn't like how hard it was to compare prices, they didn't like how much of a cut the agents took, etc. Buying tickets online save consumers time, money, and probably helped businesses book flights more easily. Businesses that "add significantly to humanity".

I know you didn't say this, and I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think that the binary mentality that you either are working on "useless" or "revolutionary" things is really harmful. I think it puts a lot of pressure on newbies with the thought that they have to change the world, and they might withdraw from STEM stuff because they don't feel like they're making significant enough contributions.

>Why does everything have to "add something significant to humanity"?

Everything doesn't have to.

A lot should have, though. Most, if possible.

And the reason is opportunity cost.

Ok. I stand by my points; innovation isn't in a vacuum. Plenty of things seem useless initially, or are just built for fun, and turn out to later be incredibly valuable later.

So your argument is as follows:

1. People didn’t mind meeting with travel agencies.

2. Actually people hated meeting with travel agencies. Never mind number 1.

3. Automatic head scratchers are a waste of time.

4. Therefore online travel websites are a waste of time.

innovation doesn't always look like a steam engine or a polio vaccine, with immediate and obvious impact on society.

sometimes innovation looks like 1000 small improvements that only save us 30 seconds of our day, but once they're all built we suddenly have whole hours freed up that used to be taken up by things like spending an hour on the phone with a travel agent

For every 30 seconds the average person saves on misc. Tasks, there are whole minutes spent doom scrolling on social media apps.

So? If I get to pick how I waste my time, then that time is not really wasted.

So, I wonder how much social media use is a real choice. A lot of it feels more analogous the sort of false choice people make when they smoke or self-medicate with over-consumption alcohol.

> or, god forbid, to actually meet friends and not in VR space...

These technologies really do solve problems for some people. Ignoring the temporary problem it’s solving for most-everyone right now, VR lets quadriplegics and house-bound invalids go places that aren’t accessible, e.g. the middle of the jungle. And VR is also useful for assisted visualization in the treatment of PTSD and other associated disorders.

This is also the thing that everyone who makes fun of those “as seen on TV” products needs to be reminded of: they’re not really for you. For many products, there’s a smaller core of people who actually need the product, and then a much larger halo of people who might want the product if you sell it the right way. For the As-seen-on-TV products, the core market is usually “old people who don’t move around well, or have the grip strength/dexterity necessary to operate hand tools.”

But even the core market doesn’t like being advertised to in a way that points out their problems. They’d rather that you wrote your pitch to target the larger halo market, and then they will see that ad, and notice the particular benefits to themselves as a core-market member.

So in the end, you get things like the ad for the Snuggie (whose real point, IIRC, is that it’s a robe that someone can put on an infirm person without having to lift them to get it around them) that instead markets it as a sort of weird throw-blanket with arms; or ads for VR headsets that market them as being for Beat Saber. In both cases, the advertising is ignoring the core market with a need for the product, knowing that they’ll discover it on their own once they see the advertising aimed at the larger market.

>These technologies really do solve problems for some people. Ignoring the temporary problem it’s solving for most-everyone right now, VR lets quadriplegics and house-bound invalids go places that aren’t accessible, e.g. the middle of the jungle. And VR is also useful for assisted visualization in the treatment of PTSD and other associated disorders.

Yeah, that's a valid market. But they're touted as some ultimate revolution / need, to everybody, when they're trivial in utility (outside that niche), few asked for them or would care about them without heavy marketing, and all at the same time basic needs (like health, a job, housing, education) get increasingly shitty...

The thing nobody likes to mention in casual conversation about the benefits of VR, is that there’s a whole industry working on VR sex simulation games, with big FOSS extension ecosystems, control of modern sex toys through open-standard teledildonics APIs, etc. There’s Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 levels of effort and detail put into these.

(And the further thing that nobody likes to mention in casual conversation, is that many people—men, almost always—have an addiction to visiting prostitutes, that can be as costly as a drug habit; and that a good VR rig, coupled with this extensible, customizable VR sex-sim software, can manage—much more-so than regular porn—to mostly sate the same psychological needs that made them retain the services of escorts in the first place; and thus save such people a lot of money over the long term. These people tend to become big proponents of VR.)

Anyone who is into this sort of thing, but doesn’t want to [or can’t] mention it by name in the social milieu that pertains, will just say they’re “really impressed by VR” and “think you should give it a try, too.” You can differentiate this sort of person, because they struggle to come up with any examples of the VR games/experiences that so impress them.

> have an addiction to visiting prostitutes, that can be as costly as a drug habit; and that a good VR rig, coupled with this extensible, customizable VR sex-sim software, can manage—much more-so than regular porn—to mostly sate the same psychological needs that made them retain the services of escorts in the first place

Two thoughts:

1- Are men really replacing flesh & bone prostitutes with VR sex sims?

2- Is this really a "good" development? At least with prostitutes there are two human beings involved. With VR sims, aren't we going to a Brave New World kind of situation, and would this be a good thing at all?

I can't comment on 1.

About point 2 though, prostitution and even just hookup culture is actually more BNWish than sex sims are. If you are using a sex sim, the taboo is still very much present. And that opens up having actual relationships whereas having systematic, mindless sex with random people will give you the illusion of that being all there is to it.

Everyone belongs to everyone else is the primary difference between the world of Huxley and our own, not that we don't have sex chewing-gum.

Fair enough. Though I can't see how VR sex simulations can bring us closer to the real thing. They seem more alienating to me. Prostitutes are real human beings with actual feelings and needs, at least.

BNW == brave new world?

How do you define "good"? One criterion that comes to my mind is: prostitution is illegal in plenty of places, so reducing the need for it reduces crime. If by "good" we think "good things are the ones where no-one gets hurt", it can also be seen as an improvement - black market for sex is probably not always a safe space (w/o even considering cases of human trafficking).

I'm not sure how I define "good", but consider this: not all prostitution results in somebody getting hurt -- if it does, that's definitely a serious thing to be addressed -- and when it's consensual, it's about two people connecting (money involved, of course). I know a cliché is to consider every customer/prostitute relationship as predatory in nature, but I'm not convinced this is always the case.

People sating their urges with some VR simulation doesn't seem like an improvement to me. It feels alienating, out of a work of dystopian scifi: people no longer even need to touch other people, they engage with simulations. I don't know, it feels terrifying to me.

Someone else mentioned Real Dolls. It made me think of the pretty good and touching movie "Lars and the Real Girl". We like and pity Lars in his delusion that his Real Doll is a real woman, but the character definitely has issues.

The main problem is that since it is illegal, there's no easy way to address abuse (victims will not want to talk because they are potentially at risk of being punished). So if VR can reduce the amount of sex workers (less demand -> less supply), it may (?) lead to less cases of abuse. That sounds to me like something Better, but maybe not as Good as some other alternatives.

It's also interesting: why is human connection considered good? People connect because it makes them feel something, but if you could achieve the same result w/o human connection, would it be that much worse? It feels worse to me, but not sure why. :-)

Yes, it feels worse to me as well, but I can't say why, except that it seems fundamentally alienating. But this is subjective. It seems to me connecting to other human beings is part of being human.

> Are men really replacing flesh & bone prostitutes with VR sex sims?

Considering people are already buying Realdolls. I don't doubt it.

> Is this really a "good" development?

Maybe in some niche cases. But I'd say it wouldn't be good considering how damaging porn/sex addiction can be.

I'm definitely in that crowd and I suspect you are too, because as you said this doesn't come up in organic conversation. However I can also say I'm a big fan of Beat Saber, clocking around 20 minutes every day on average. And then obviously VR with racing games.

Most of that VR and AR stuff, which while being eminently more suitable for people with real accessibility issues (either due to physical disabilities or environmental constraints), is locked up behind almost entirely unaccessible interfaces in a gamers' world. Why? Because you can sell more that way. The technology and the people who can build it certainly exist; the desire to do something useful with it rather than something cool and highly profitable isn't.

Frustrating in the short term, sure; but it might be the optimal strategy for getting VR out to precisely those people, in the long term. Selling more VR headsets means more revenue plowed into R&D, more consumer demand for sanding off sharp edges, and a larger industry-wide push toward gradual commodification of the technology.

The cheaper, more reliable, and easier-to-build VR is, the more likely you’ll see stodgy old companies (of the kind that build and go through FDA-certification for accessibility aids) becoming interested in working with it.

Sort of the same idea as Tesla: sell people a Veblen good (fancy EV cars), to fund the development of a technology (batteries) to drive the commodification of the EV industry, such that everyone non-fancy EV vehicles will become affordable, and such that EV technology will become something “obvious” to even the stodgiest auto-maker.

Or, to put that another way: you’d never have seen a direct evolution from mainframe computers to the modern PC, because the grass-roots demand for doing what a mainframe does on your desktop just wasn’t there (until it was.) The industry needed to start with calculators, evolve those chips up into microcomputers and kit them out to play games, and sell those as whiz-bang consumer electronics. Progress in that game-playing microcomputer space then carried PC technology along for the ride, until they just-so-happened to become able to do what mainframes could do.

I agree, I've always gotten frustrated when people say "but it's mostly used for games so it's not useful", acting like games don't have huge R&D potential.

Games give a relatively straightforward "pass-fail" criteria to test out new tech. Instead of a nebulous "does this tech directly help people", it's much easier (and more objective) to say "can I get this graphics API to push N fps to make the gameplay more pleasant?". Virtually any time I learn a new programming language or toolkit, the one of the first projects I do to get my grips with it is usually a simple 2D platformer just to stress out edge cases. Is this 'useful'? Not immediately, but it is useful for me to have learned how to code well enough to make a game perform well.

It's not like these optimizations and tools can't be useful for other things after they're developed for games; Unity was primarily made for games but I have friends who use it for developing "useful" iPhone apps now.

If the technology for VR gets good enough (and cheap enough) to get into the hands of the average gamer, I cannot see how that won't be a net win for people with disabilities in the long-run.

Yeah, that argument gets used any time new technology arrises. Sure it wasn't hard, doesn't mean you need to stop working on making it even simpler.

> So we've mostly solved trivial non-problems if/not regressions?

While I agree some developments have worsened the experience of particular things. What developments would you rather have seen?

By the way. VR was already a thing in the 80's. It's hardly new, only improved as the tech came available. And popularity of sci-fi also shows the common dream for many of these technological improvements.

As a fun reference. When the mobile phone got introduced in the 90's here in the Netherlands they did surveys in the street[1]. Everybody was brushing it off as unnecessary.

- "I don't need one"

- "Oh, then you get called while riding a bike haha"

- "I have one at home, and if I'm stranded there's always a landline somewhere"

- "They can send me a letter, and if they need me urgently they can call me on my landline"

[1] => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNwhIHqM60g

Two thoughts.

For one, advances in VR have come from hardware advances, not software.

For two - cell phones are not so much useful because they're phones, but because they're miniature computers with (near) worldwide connectivity to the internet.

>Yeah, that argument gets used any time new technology arrises. Sure it wasn't hard, doesn't mean you need to stop working on making it even simpler.

Why not? Technology has opportunity costs. Usuless "easier" technology makes us slaves to it and to increased infrastructure.

Opportunity costs, diminishing results -- all those are good questions to ask.

Considering the amounts of flights, I'd say that being able to book your travels without calling elimited the costs of needing phone operators. And allows me, as a user, to also easily book outside of office hours.

I agree that there's a lot of useless tech around. Especially in this startup world where it seems to be all "Uber but for x".

You also haven't answered my question. What would've been a non-useless tech that should've been developed on in the meanwhile?

And just because some commercial companie (travel agencies) spent their profits streaminglining their booking process doesn't mean it's all been useless these last 30 years.

I mean people were also "fine" with washing clothes by hand until the washing machine came out. Just because it was done one way that was accepted, doesn't mean there isn't a better way.

Having navigation on my little device I can fit into my pocket and work pretty much everywhere is a huge convenience. I no longer have to plan trips carefully, drive around hoping I get to the right place or stop 3 times to ask for directions.

> So we've mostly solved trivial non-problems if/not regressions?

This. I get called a Luddite because I rant about the vastness of useless tech, but I love tech. I simply think most of what people focus on is useless and that "the immediacy to which I can do anything" now is actually very psychologically harmful.

The “trivial problems” you mention have taken hundreds of thousands of engineers three decades to solve.

As other people have mentioned, it’s awfully reductive to classify these problems as trivial. You think they are trivial because the solutions have been done well. You do not see the millions of man-hours that have gone into fixing these problems because you are not supposed to.

Life today is radically different than the 90s, and for the better. The power of the individual has significantly increased with the last three decades of technological progress.

> to actually meet friends and not in VR space...

This comment is being made in the middle of a pandemic. Does anyone believe that video chat hasn't made modern life better? You have a plan to do remote learning with 1990's technology? Talk to my parents about that, or anyone who has children that live more than an hour or two away. Talk to anyone who's wheelchair bound or who lives in a rural community.

> I'll give you "self driving cars" -- well, I would if they could work today, which they don't...

Fully autonomous cars don't work now, but the extra warning systems, backup cameras, lane shift systems, etc... are saving lives every single day. I like that my car helps me monitor my blind spot when I put my turn signal on. And if anybody ever figures out how to get self driving cars to actually work, they will save a massive number of lives in the process.

> I can land in a completely foreign city and get step by step directions to wherever I need to go.

This was such a common problem that there were entire movies based on people getting lost in tourist destinations and road trips. I grew up reading paper maps inside a car. Nobody would ever want to go back to that. I can think of at least one instance over the past couple of years where having a cell phone with almost universal reception potentially saved my life.

> ...

Netflix didn't exist until 1997, Youtube didn't exist until 2005. Imagine wanting to replace a laptop keyboard, or change an obscure car part, and not being able to find a video that explained how to do it. Ask my parents whether or not they like being able to find videos demonstrating new crochet patterns or woodworking techniques. Ask my parents whether or not they'd prefer to go back to a time when they couldn't realistically pick up any new hobbies or interests unless there was a local community that already existed in our rural town to teach them.

The parent comment here is inscrutable to me, how can anyone be this nostalgic for the early 90s? I grew up in the 90s, it wasn't good. We wanted better technology. There are a lot of problems to solve with modern technology, and a few regressions to address as well, but talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater...

Wow, Netflix existed in 1997?

In 1997, you were avant garde if you listened to MP3s.

Apparently, Netflix was an online DVD rental operation then, haha.

"Trivial non-problems"...What does it remind me of? Oh yeah: Dropbox is just a nice UI on top of rsync.

"Everything that has ever been invented has already been invented", said in 1899.

It's very hard to think of future inventions at large. We are absolutely not done and programming + Computer Science has just started.

Imagine civil engineers giving up their craft in ancient Rome because everything that will ever need engineering has already been engineered.

Aren't most of the examples you list kind of orthogonal to the issue at hand? They seem more related to living in a world where software exists than to actually being the one who builds it.

I think you may have missed the point that someone had to build all that stuff, and the universe of software in the business world (where people are employed to write software) is large.

Did I miss the point, or did you? Someone has to clean out the sewers too. Somebody does, and maybe they make good money to make up for the unpleasantness - I certainly hope so - but that doesn't make it a fun job. If software development has become sewer cleaning, isn't that something worth talking about?

Yes, you can get paid to build interesting things. But the work you will be doing is not going to be interesting. Working as part of a team with the 1000s of engineers on Uber or Office or Alexa is going to be tedious no matter how valuable you think the product is.

That wasn't what I meant with "interesting" though. Useful and polished products often involve tedious work. What I mean when I say "interesting" is that the programming involves something new and different. Messing around with unconventional and weird data structures, trying out new niche languages and paradigms, etc.

To be fair we could do nearly all of that before without much of an issue.

Now we inherit the overhead of the software, demand pricing, apps that are made of shit and string (uber eats I'm looking at you) and zero customer service...

Uhh. Before I didn’t even have Internet, much less a screen on which I could tap on a button.

I think the implication is that ride hailing, delivery ordering, and flight/hotel booking were possible to do by calling the company on the telephone. Which—if you already know precisely what you want—has almost as little friction as opening an app and tapping a button. (And to make that apply more often, these companies used to distribute fliers containing their “browsable UI.”)

“Live streams” of rocket launches were on TV :)

And driving, step-by-step directions, and translation were services provided by human beings. For the richer of us, they still mostly are services provided by humans, because the machine versions still aren’t quite as good.

There have been VR systems at arcades since the 80s. The main difference today is that they’re consumer electronics you can bring home. (Not that that’s necessarily better for everyone; not every home has the room.)

Cryptocurrency is fairly novel in the universality of the access it provides to such services. Before, you and your counterparty had to both have fancy Swiss bank accounts or Bahamian shell companies to exchange the funds through. Still possible, but you couldn’t just send the money to anybody, so it limited what you could do with dirty money. Now dirty money is almost as useful as clean money! :P

Calling has absolutely not the same friction as using an app. It's orders of magnitudes less efficient, more expensive and sometimes just impossible (good luck calling radio taxi in some countries where you don't speak the language). I think comparing what we could do 20+ years ago with what we can do now and saying "meh" is outright absurd. But, hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Not to mention the experience of calling a cab as a foreigner and having the driver take advantage of you by price gouging you or taking you on unnecessary detours.

You might be overestimating the gap in efficiency. For example, last night, I ordered a pizza for pick-up, and the phone call took exactly 31 seconds. Even apps aren't instantaneous, but if they were, you're only talking about saving less than 1-2 minutes per day. In exchange for those time savings, apps introduce a lot of complexity and overhead: service fees, app updates, device storage, logins, behavioral tracking, etc.

Now, that being said, there are a few unique advantages to apps, like being able to order taxis in a foreign country (as you said), or being able to share your GPS coordinates with the taxi.

For people that don't embody crippling social anxiety, calling is less friction and more effective.

I say this as one of those people, and still struggle to phone people when I know it will bring better results :)

Not my experience.

I used to buy the new Thomas Guide (the 1 inch thick paper map book to find my way around Los Angeles). Having Google Maps on my phone has massively changed that. In the middle we had Nav systems but even then I now live somewhere where public transportation is the norm and being able to ask Google Maps how to get somewhere as been a life changing experience. As one concrete example, from 2000-2010 I pretty much never took the bus except for the one that went by my house. Now, since Google Maps will tell me which bus to take it's so trivial just to take whatever it tells me.

As for VR in arcades in the 80s they were remotely as good as 4 yr old VR today. not even in the same league. That's like comparing a 1970s calculator to a smartphone.

Like I said, “getting directions” used to be a service. Specifically, back then—and still today, in many places!—you’d be expected to retain the services of a guide when you were in a foreign city/country. Who would often double as your translator, and potentially as your driver as well.

Machine directions are still not as good as the service a good guide provides in navigating an unfamiliar city. Especially, no navigation app I’m aware of has an inbuilt intuition for avoiding the “bad parts of town” in its routing, that differentiates between what’s safe to drive through vs. walk through, and differentiates between safety levels at different times of day.

> Like I said, “getting directions” used to be a service. Specifically, back then—and still today, in many places!—you’d be expected to retain the services of a guide when you were in a foreign city/country. Who would often double as your translator, and potentially as your driver as well.

So previously, travel to foreign destinations was something few could afford, since it required sourcing and hiring a local guide. It would seem our current solutions scale much better and at a lower unit cost, opening up the world to more people than could have experienced it before.

Yes, correct. But that’s moving the goal-posts, kind of: “making something available to a wider audience” isn’t the same thing as making something possible. The original claim was that we’re now in a world where these things are possible. But really, we’re “merely” in a world where they’re more widely-available. They’ve been possible for a long time.

What I wanted to highlight, was that technology making something possible, that was previously impossible, is actually quite rare.

There really aren’t all that many innovations that come along and change the world in such a way that a time-traveller from the past, would need to learn an entirely new conceptual framework to understand how we do things now. Almost always, what we do now, maps in an obvious 1:1 way to what we used to do. Hailing a cab? You could hail a cab in Ancient Greece!

In fact, it’s pretty hard to think of genuinely-novel things humans only started doing in the last 100 years, due to some technological enabler. Playing single-player interactive story-games, maybe — even the progenitor of the medium, the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, is AFAIK a 20th-century innovation.

The super rich framing isn't useful IMO, much of the advances in technology function to make things possible for people for whom that function was impossible for before.

> You could hail a cab in Ancient Greece!

Depends on who the "you" is. And choosing a super rich person as your point of reference is a pretty arbitrary choice (with underlying assumptions about society that are worth examining, I might add).

The value add is not that the machine guide is better than the human, it’s that the machine guide is available to everyone, at all times.

One might describe technology in general as the way to take the scarce resource of manpower/hired help, and make it plentiful through a narrowing of scope, formalization of the narrowed scope, and then automation of that formalization.

But this misses the finer point of how much is lost in the process of scope-narrowing, formalization, and automation. Or rather, of how losslessly you can truly make such a conversion.

For each well-established technology, it’s interesting to ask this question: given an unlimited budget, is the technology still used? Or is raw manpower used instead? Or some combination of the two?

Truly useful technologies, to me, are the ones that are still used in some capacity even by the ultra-rich, either directly, or because the manpower they hire will themselves use the technology to make their job easier.

A good example of a truly-useful technology is a washing machine. Nobody is hand-washing (cotton) clothes any more, no matter how rich you are. Even if you have a professional laundry service, they’re putting your clothes into a washing machine.

Navigation isn’t quite at that level yet. Your Uber driver uses a GPS auto-nav, but a city guide usually doesn’t, because a city guide is asking a different question — not “how to get there” but rather “which well-known route would the client favour, if I took a few hours to lay out the differences in fine detail.” Which is a question both of subjective inference of the client’s tastes, in a way that would require learned personalization in an automated equivalent; and of a bunch of context factors unique to every city, in a way that makes it hard to reproduce in a narrowed-scope app (rather requiring individual city-by-city coverage, the way only a monopolistic behemoth can achieve.)

So, theoretically possible, but not likely something we’ll see done for a long while, at least until we see some other meta-technological advance (e.g. GPT-4) that makes one or the other part dead simple.

We had even Uber without having to phone someone in the 1980s. It was called black taxi market and you really just hailed a car in the street.

There used to be telephones (with buttons). You could order all of the above through it, given a credit card.

This is not something you can order:

> I can land in a completely foreign city and get step by step directions to wherever I need to go.

All these apps/etc work fine in, large top tier urban cities across the world. They fail miserably everywhere else, there are huge swaths of the US, where you don't be able to hail an uber. In those cases your falling back on the same methods used in the past.

So, its still fairly common to see people hawking guiding/etc services inside or just outside of airports in central/south America, Africa, etc.

If your going to places where the cell phone service is spotty, or your going outside the the main urban areas hiring a guide/translator might be the only way to get around.

> To be fair we could do nearly all of that before without much of an issue.

Only if you were born fairly recently.

Reading this litany of technologically-enabled consumer achievements, I thought of David Graeber who visited the disappointment we sometimes feel for how things actually went from mid-century to now.

"[...]Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?" (https://thebaffler.com/salvos/of-flying-cars-and-the-declini...)

Kinda makes your list seem like an indictment. Today's world is the world capital wants to make. When you do open your awareness to the scale of effort and the broadest results, technological optimism in the future is deflated.

I think its nonsensical to condemn the rate of progress because we didn't achieve a vision of science fantasy grounded in what people thought in the 1950s. A lot of those ideas are "thing that exists, but more magic." We have helicopters, but it turns out zoom calls work just as good to meet people, without the air traffic control nightmare. We have the internet at our fingers, an advance so monumental that its nearly impossible to imagine life before this. Teleportation and antigravity - I mean - at a point- thats just plain magic. I will grant the space stuff though, we should have been way further along there. But this willfully ignores the mind bending amount of technological progress that we've made in the most rapidly technologically changing period in human history in computation, biotech, nanotechnology, etc etc just because we didn't achieve some of the magic that soft sci-fi or science fantasy writers envisioned.

> its nonsensical to condemn the rate of progress because we didn't achieve a vision of science fantasy grounded in what people thought in the 1950s

That wasn't really the claim. The idea is that the ends of technology have been chosen by corporations, rather than what would have been most generally useful to humankind. Hardly an earth-shattering observation.

Sure, but those examples that you gave seriously undercut that. Antigravity, teleportation, those would be wildly profitable. And we've got an entire anti-aging industry investing billions into immortality drugs. In fact, the investments into immortality drugs right now is a perfect example of your statement that the ends of technology are chosen by corporations instead of what is most useful to mankind. Curing neglected tropical diseases and investing in equitable healthcare availability is what would have one of the (if not the) biggest impacts on humankind's health. Right now, what is most generally useful to humankind isn't science fantasy, we've got a few rungs to go up the hierarchy of needs before we get there. In fact, something like flying cars would absolutely be a net negative - more pollution, a new type of congestion, more types of accidents, all to solve a problem that would be solved better by functioning public transit. And in terms of usefulness to humankind - since when are innovations that are profitable orthogonal to human benefit? There are cases where its either or, but does it really make sense to go and tell someone with a disease that the treatment for the disease can't help them because it was developed by profit motives? Setting aside questions of logistics/funding models/regulations (since if we started bringing in those real world aspects then all of those sci-fi technologies fall apart) - looking purely at the technology, commercial motives developed things that are a net good for the world. There is overlap, and an overly cynical view ends up making no sense. We have it so much better than people did 100 years ago because of technology.

Read the Graeber article I linked earlier in case you haven't and are interested. Bio-tech is one of the industries he specifically mentions as being somewhat a degenerate case with regard to this argument.

In his essay, the the particulars of technological achievement (e.g. flying cars) are rhetorical. If it isn't our current economic system with for-profit corporations driving the direction of technological evolution, what is? The question that interests me, however, is how should we, as a society, make those kinds of decisions?

How about a counterexample? Drones? Human flying (Zapata Flyboard Air, Gravity's jetpack)? Life expectancy increasing steadily? And we do have cryogenics.

The answer to "what happened to them" is the same as "what happened to curing cancer?": those things are hard. And assuming that we would have solved them by now if people had spent their valuable time on those problems instead of making ads better is just wishful thinking. Throwing more brains at a problem won't solve it more quickly, especially if those brains weren't interested in solving that particular problem in the first place (if they were they would be working on it).

>Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

>That last word—simulate—is key. The technologies that have advanced since the seventies are mainly either medical technologies or information technologies—largely, technologies of simulation. They are technologies of what Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco called the “hyper-real,” the ability to make imitations that are more realistic than originals. The postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical period in which we understood that there is nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and liberation were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation, and pastiche—all this makes sense in a technological environment in which the only breakthroughs were those that made it easier to create, transfer, and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or, we came to realize, never would. Surely, if we were vacationing in geodesic domes on Mars or toting about pocket-size nuclear fusion plants or telekinetic mind-reading devices no one would ever have been talking like this. The postmodern moment was a desperate way to take what could otherwise only be felt as a bitter disappointment and to dress it up as something epochal, exciting, and new.

This occasionally strikes me as true when reading some of the comments in this thread about how it's easier than ever to deploy because of a new tool, easier to create a website or app because of a new framework, easier to order a car, easier to buy an airplane ticket..

I can't help but consider that we expected so, so much more.

I think a lot of HN in general is made up of programmers at big tech companies working on what seem like small problems, but from the perspective of someone working in the biotech sector, let me assure you there's a lot going on outside of silicon valley's open offices. I mean first, lets appreciate that tech companies have actually majorly impacted the world in ways sci-fi authors couldn't have imagined, and for all the negatives, there's a reason the tech sector was (prior to recent times) so widely loved - the fact that I can reconnect through facebook with a friend I haven't seen in a decade that I may never have meet again otherwise is straight up magic and that matters. And google search and smartphones - don't underestimate them! But yeah, the valley seems to have this "hardware is hard" mentality (even though it's built off of the semiconductor industry...), but just look around. We've got for the first time ever a potentially sustainable spaceflight industry blossoming, biotech is making strides like you wouldn't believe in tackling some of the most complex diseases, your inkjet printer is a marvel of microfluidics, green energy sources are becoming cost competitive to the fuels that have fueled our entire development as a species from an agrarian to an industrialized civilization, we've got vaccines that might be ready to defeat a global pandemic within a couple years of the first case recorded. I do work in the printing and inks space. There, just recently, there's been a transition away from using UV cured or dried inks that release volatile organic compounds into new inks that are cured with electron beams - i mean, the amount of technological complexity and innovation that goes into making the packaged product you pick off the shelf have the color that it does! And these have real impacts - eliminating huge sources of pollutants and improving health and the planet. There could and should be more, especially more investment into R&D, but don't underestimate what's happening outside the Silicon Valley bubble, and don't underestimate what's happening inside the bubble either.

Half of those things are simply impossible, as far as our model of physics is concerned.

The other half mostly exist in a century after the 21st, in most Sci Fi.

The nonexistence of tractor beams is no cause for pessimism about immortality drugs, since even when the trope of tractor beams was invented, we knew that physics as we know it allows for no such animal. By the same token, we know of no hard reason why effective immortality isn't in reach.

I don't expect to see it before entropy takes me. But that's just realism, not pessimism.

I don’t really see it as an indictment that we don’t yet have a short list of things from science fiction. The reason authors wrote about those things is because the are so beyond our technological capabilities—that’s why they make for interesting science fiction!

>I can order food from hundreds of restaurants and have it delivered in less than 30 mins with the tap of a button.

Where do you live? I would say the same but in under an hour. Is this a little hyperbolic?

Shit I live in the #3 housing cost city in the USA and after 8pm I can get precisely zero decent restaurants to deliver in any amount of time. Domino's will deliver at 9, but the same is true in the boonies.

You should watch the Cube and it's sequels.

Not if you dont have enough money

We can do all this amazing stuff but we can't allocate cloud resources by simply calling a constructor. Wild times.

All this, yet the world is unquestionably getting worse.

Crazy times.

No, it's not. Life has been much better overall. What things are you seeing that is getting worse? I would say things are getting exposed and change is taking place. And you are just being introduced to the harsh reality that exists outside your initial bubble.

Is the world really getting worse or is the amount of negative information we digest daily affecting our perception of how good or bad things actually are?

Except it's not. Books like Factfulness show it quite clearly. We have our fair share of problems but quality of life has been steadily improving almost everywhere and almost exponentially in some areas.

Quality of life is improving, but condition on the planet are rapidly decreasing/

I'm not entirely sure the world is getting worse, but I am certain that it's becoming more complex.

And when the finite cognitive capacity of every human being must manage that complexity just to survive (let along propser), it sure feels like it's getting worse.

- Global Warming - Loss of topsoil - Extinction of species - Thawing permafrost - Rise of far right in many countries - Reinstated nuclear arms race - Corrupted government and financial institutions ...

20+ years ago, a sizable chunk of the software workforce was dedicated to converting legacy systems from 2 digit year codes into 4 digits.

The notion that all the interesting work was done in yesteryear is just looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. At any time in history most software work was glue code. Because the low-hanging fruit is always going to be taking existing systems and applying small tweaks to extend their functionality to a slightly different domain.

Truly innovative software has always been done by the tip of the spear. Building something new and valuable is risky and difficult. 95% of the time the end product is worthless. And that's assuming that everyone on the team is highly competent. You either have to be willing to take a lot of personal risk, or have a good enough reputation that someone's willing to pay you to take crazy risks. In other words, work that never has and never will be done by the median engineer.

But this is pretty much true of any job in the knowledge economy. The average lawyer is just writing templated boilerplate contracts, not arguing Constitutional law before the Supreme Court. The average accountant is just filing personal and small business taxes, not uncovering high-level corporate fraud. The average doctor does the same simple procedure all day long, not working on a cure for cancer. The average academic does by-the-number meaningless research to get his publication count up, not research deep breakthroughs in his field.

20 years ago I was writing one of the first online endorsement engines for producers (independent insurance agents) to allow them to make endorsements on insurance policies over the internet rather than having to speak to an underwriter on the phone. We built a single web front end that was to be used by both the underwriters and the producers.

I remember showing off the role based permissions structure we had in place to allow an admin to control what sort of endorsements users could make. I quipped something like "this is so granular that we could even allow insureds to make endorsements to the policy." The response I got from the head underwriter was "we will never allow insureds to make endorsements on policies".

When was the last time you had to speak to an agent or underwriter on the phone to make changes to your insurance policy?

20 years ago was a very exciting time as many businesses were going online for the very first time. We were getting away from writing websites in C with CGI and using higher level languages like Perl, PHP, and ASP.

> When was the last time you had to speak to an agent or underwriter on the phone to make changes to your insurance policy?

today, and every time. Would like to switch to geico / someone else with web interface but the rates aren't as good and the customer service isn't as guaranteed

This is the best reply on this whole thread.

> Most of the available programming work is really just writing glue code to make big software systems work as intended, to the point where it can feel more like writing configuration files than actual programming. Put simply, 98% of programming these days is scripting.

It's that the entire purpose of programming, though? To abstract away the repetitive stuff? I personally see this as a good thing.

Even with all the configuration and scripting, there are still plenty of lower-level programming tasks involved in piecing together systems.

I'd rather save the difficult programming for the actual difficult tasks instead of re-implementing the already solved problems like CRUD.

> the already solved problems

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard the phrase "XXX is a solved problem," indicating that there's a dependency that "solves" it, I'd be rich.

People think that, just because we can google up a dependency that does what we want (sorta/kinda/mostly), the "problem is solved."

It's been my experience, that, when our "solution" is to bring in a massive dependency to address a very basic issue that we could solve, ourselves, by banging out a bit of code in a day or two, our problems are just beginning. In some cases, that's exactly what I have done. For example, I use dependencies to handle SOAP (yuck), for ONVIF work, and keychain access for login Face/TouchID validation. These are small, atomic dependencies, written and maintained by reputable authors. The SOAP thing would have taken me a couple of months to write something not as good, but the keychain thing is something I could write, myself, in a couple of days. I just find that I don't really need to, as there is an acceptable alternative.

In fact, when I have been dissatisfied with the choices, and have decided to write my own solutions, I have encountered derision.

I feel for the OP, but I am sad to hear they are leaving the industry. Maybe it's for the best, or maybe they will always look back in regret.

In my case, I have just realized that I can't look to others to validate my work, and have to work on my own. It is not my preferred choice. I worked on (often, huge) teams, my entire career. But I won't compromise my personal ethos to be "down with the kids." If writing good software is no longer in fashion, I guess I'll be unfashionable. I won't deliberately write bad software. I couldn't live with myself.

For me, I'm never leaving, but that may mean that I'll need to work on my own. I have a pretty good record of creating stuff that other people value, so we'll see how that goes.

More will be revealed...

You don't need couple of months to implement SOAP, unless you want to make a framework. SOAP is just an XML passed via HTTP. You can build everything from the ground up in a matter of few days. And if you can re-use any HTTP library and XML parser, it's a matter of few hours.

May be there's some layer above SOAP which requires more implementation. I have no idea about OVNIF. But SOAP itself is pretty simple. Basically you're firing SoapUI, figuring out protocol details and write code to deal with that particular XML-based format.

Thanks for that. I based my estimate, looking at the code for SOAPEngine[0], which is the library I use. It's pretty complete, and that guy knows his stuff.

I tend to be fairly anal about testing; especially low-level stuff. It can be a bit excruciating, working with me, as I insist on pounding away at everything. That's why it's taken a week and a half to get to the place I'm at now. I'm working on the login and initial user edit stuff. Basic (but critical) stuff, and I keep encountering edge cases. I'm also debugging the backend SDK.

[0] https://github.com/priore/SOAPEngine

For most companies where the software is the product, there is some part of the system that is the core logic. Working on that part necessarily means actually developing, not just gluing pieces together. I have always been able to find work where I could work on those core parts, instead of composing existing systems, libraries and frameworks.

At many lucrative companies, writing the configs for third party software is the core product

Maybe in that case you could call the core product "domain expertise" but it's not how they position themselves

This could just be an outgrowth of complexity. As the number of pieces increases by O(n), the number of relationships between pieces goes as O(n^2). As a result, any endeavor is going to tend towards the majority of people working on connecting pieces.

This is true in plenty of occupations. I've seen it in mechanical and electrical design, for instance. With that said, I know a lot of good people who actually enjoy the work of piecing things together, so I wouldn't disparage it. Something for everybody.

A pleasure of working on something for fun at home, or maybe in an R&D setting, is that it can start out a lot simpler.

Very nicely put. I mean look at a car: It's essentially a lot of 3rd party components put together coherently. I don't think any part of my Peugeot has a Peugeot label on it, rather Bosch, Autoliv, Michelin, etc.

Same thing with airplanes. Boeing is pretty much Honeywell+GE+Liebherr to name a few.

I am unsure why people find componentizing and integrating unrewarding in IT. I didn't hear my dad (a sound engineer) complain that he no longer spins a wire onto a metal to obtain a speaker. :)

Let me work with your analogy a bit. What if your dad's job was to install sound systems designed around poor quality speaker components, using expensive DSP systems that add a lot of latency to the signal and draw lots of power?

He knows he could build better components than the ones he uses if he put the time in, and create a better overall system design with a better price/performance by applying state of the art knowledge, but people prefer to pay him to combine commodity parts of questionable design in the standard, proven, but clearly suboptimal way.

Now where is his job satisfaction?

If you really wanted to stretch the analogy, maybe imagine the expensive DSPs he is expected to install all forward a record of any audio played on them to a shadowy government agency.

I imagine a lot of product engineers cringe when they are forced to make a design choice that will save 1c on the BoM but causes the device to fail sooner or be impossible to repair.

I understand your analogy, but I don't think it is that bad. Rather, instead of wiring one perfectly-sized speakers, a sound engineer might have to use two off-the-shelf speakers of a smaller size.

I understand the frustration of not doing things optimally from a theoretical point of view. However, the unoptimality is offset by using battle-tested, robust components.

One issue I've seen is that a person who devotes 100% of their time to integration can lose their quantitative engineering skill -- it's a "use it or lose it" phenomenon. The folks who manage to cling to that work end up becoming the only ones who can do it, resulting in a sort of caste system with no relation to actual productivity.

However, in my experience, the best integrators are worth their weight in gold. It requires a mental organization, patience, and discipline that I don't possess. The ones who do it badly are the ones who are racking up dependencies and technical debt.

O(m x n), where n is the number of pieces and m is the number of systems it needs to interconnect with. O(n^2) is the asymptotic upper bound, which is never reached, because a piece needn't be connected to itself: m < n for all n, but m/n can approach 1 as n goes to infinity.

It wouldn't be Hacker News without such ponderous pedantry!

I think so. That's why eventually you shatter your monolith into micro-services and then have 1000+ people work on coordinating how these services deal with each other.

I've spent the last 3 years building the whole solution suite for 2FA banking devices. We have our own hardware devices with secure elements that use your computer as an internet proxy (connected via bluetooth low energy or USB). If you find a small company doing interesting work, your job looks very different than just writing configuration files. Especially when hardware is involved and the firmware is written in house.

From my experience, if you find a post startup small business with fewer than 10 developers, you end up wearing many hats. Both times I've been at large corporate jobs, though, it's exactly as you describe.

That's the case in most industries. Find me one that isn't just about the daily grind and making money.

In construction, you could do cool stuff, and do things perfectly, but people want "normal" and time is money so you need to work fast.

If you have an auto repair shop, you could build an EV from scratch. But you're getting paid to fix other people's cars. Even if you do tuning and modding, it's all just standardized shit that you buy and install.

Woodworking, farming, networking, accounting, anything really is 90% grind, with a select few getting the chance to have fun while getting paid.

So what you're saying is that it's indeed shit, just like everything else?

Yes, however when everything is shit, perhaps it's our mindset that needs to change. Learn to enjoy what we've got, because while you can try getting into a better position, it really might not get better. And there's nothing wrong with that.

That's a good point, in a lot of cases the major impact that you make on the world is being part of the machinery that keeps everyone's food, entertainment and housing maintained.

> It seems like nowadays you just can't make money building interesting things anymore.

Sounds like you haven't tried or you haven't stumbled on an actual issue. There are lifetimes of problems out there, and many existing solutions are poor or non-solutions.

I run into them all the time and cannot possibly dedicate my one lifetime to all of the problems I see viable commercial solutions to.

Write a blog post enumerating all of them :)

> It seems like nowadays you just can't make money building interesting things anymore.

So what? Then it becomes just a normal job. Most jobs out there arent that interesring, just problems or doing tasks that people don't want to do themselves.

Getting interesting tasks while being well-paid is not any way normal or common, and I also think hasn't been ever.

> 98% of programming these days is scripting

LOL. What a silly comment.

Amen. Modern software development is frankly kinda sucky. The old days pre-2000 were arguably a lot more enjoyable. Today it's just digital plumbing and dealing with all sorts of issues that are not creative. The sheer complexity is frankly absurd as well. I've thought about moving on from software many times, and I know many who have. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's best way to spend your short life. Not to mention that sitting in front of a computer all day is not the best use of one's body.

I think a lot of the pre-2000 programming was a bit more enjoyable because most of us were not programming for the web and actually using platforms that were designed for application development. The web is a very poor fit for what most people want designed.

My guess is that it has nothing to do with pre-2000 (or non-web), it's just that people enjoy a rote activity a lot more at the start of their careers when things are still new and interesting. When you've done 50 web sites, the 51st isn't nearly as exciting as the first ten.

I got burned out badly by a string of gigs that effectively came down to helping clients fight some self-inflicted business complexity and connecting yet another stupid website to yet another stupid database, but instead of quitting the industry I decided to slowly fire clients that wanted that kind of work, and build my own products. It took a while to get things rolling since I did this as a gradual shift, and financed it by doing smaller and smaller consulting gigs, but I strongly recommend that as an alternative to quitting altogether to anyone who feels the pain outlined in the the original post.

For me, immersive coding is an activity that brings a lot of joy. Building software is the closest thing to modern magic - you turn ideas, keyboard clicks and caffeine into something that people actually use; potentially making a positive impact on someone's life/work/day.

By building my own stuff, at my own pace, I rediscovered the joy of coding. As much as it was in pre-2000 work and before web.

If you build your own stuff, then there's nobody to tell you to connect a RSS feed to a RDBMS system. For me, the key to keep programming enjoyable is to be able to control the pace and business requirements. In my case, this translated to focusing on business-to-consumer products at a very low cost to the consumer, so I'm in charge of the product, not the customers. With B2B, especially at a high single customer price, people feel entitled to ask for stupid shit, and whoever manages the product feels compelled to accept it. With low average lifetime customer value, saying no is very easy. I assume that's not the only way to keep full control of the product, but it worked for me.

This. All SW pplz I work with that ultimately experience this I recommend to spin up their own project in order to channel their own creative energy into.

> The web is a very poor fit for what most people want designed.

The web is an application development platform that's split into two pieces with a critical security boundary in the middle, which causes basically all of its problems because every web app has to be a distributed system. If you can constrain what you want to build to either a set of pages and forms or a single client-server app that sits in a sandbox and uses the browser as its display buffer, that makes it manageable.

The default (and indeed only) language for the web not enforcing type safety is also a handicap. People will eventually build a shell inside it where compile time type safety can be mostly enforced.

On the other hand, the alternative is worse: a proprietary platform which shifts unpredictably and from which the owner can ban you.

On the other hand, the alternative is worse: a proprietary platform which shifts unpredictably and from which the owner can ban you.

I'm not sure that's the only alternative. I would actually describe the web as shifting, unpredictable at the behest of one company with the controlling browser and search engine.

^On the other hand, the alternative is worse: a proprietary platform which shifts unpredictably and from which the owner can ban you.

Linux might "shifts unpredictably" too (looking at you Gnome ;) but at least the owner can't ban you.

I‘ve been programming for over 35 years now and have mostly avoided doing web stuff. It is quite possible.

how? SAP/ERP consulting?

I cannot tell if this is a joke or not. If it is not, there are entire industries out that that depend on software development that are NOT web related.

Embedded programming i.e. automotive, industrial, aerospace. The problem is they pay poorly in comparison to web dev but are a lot more stable long term.

I have done almost 0 web development at 3 of the FAANGs and am quite satisfied with the pay. I don’t think web would have paid better. I’ve done OS type work (system daemons, libraries etc), embedded, mobile, etc.

Then there are people who work on compilers, image recognition, AI, browsers, server work of all kinds, etc etc. the variety, depth, and scale of work is much larger than web and can pay better as it can require a deeper level of expertise. I’m sure there exist web developers who make more than people who work in these spaces just as the converse is true. I don’t think it’s possible to say which pays more. Web dev may be an easier avenue to break into things with a low amount of experience though.

That's cool but the thing is FAANGs are absent in most countries outside of the 2 US coasts and a few major tech hubs in Europe. Everywhere else, most of the SW industry is just CRUD/build-an-API-for-this-shitty-JSON type of work.

Compiler/AI work and the rest exists where I live as well but it's strictly in academia, not in private companies and has a high barrier of entry as it's mostly PhDs or post-docs and is also paid poorly.

Web dev work you can find in pretty much any major city in the world.

For example, in a city nearby to me there's a major VR/AR headset company which I'm pretty sure solves really interesting problems. The issue is, what happens when you want to change jobs but want to stay in the same city as that city has no VR/AR hub so there's no other demand for specialists in this specific niche.

Don't know why this was downvoted. As someone living in Europe, this comment is exactly why I stay in my cushy, very well paying and super boring and frustrating backend job. In the backend world, there are dozens of employees who would be happy for me to come work for them, while market for interesting work with similar is very shallow here (a very limited selection of FAANGs, what else?). I don't want to move to the US (mostly because the US visas seem designed mainly for people in much worse situations that I currently am) and the European market is just too shallow to build any more advanced coding career - unless you're ok with low salaries, little savings and coding until you're 60+ years old. I don't love coding that much.

Where do you live in Europe if I may ask that pays well enough for backend dev as not to work until you're 60?

Genuinely curious as I'm open to a move.

I'm from Poland. Of course, everything depends on the conditions of the retirement that you're comfortable with. For me, it's 5000 PLN ($1300) a month till I'm 85 years old + paid-off house. The 5k PLN should be very comfortable assuming no children, which I don't want. Assuming ultra-safe investing to only protect the principal (i.e. no return above inflation) and wanting to retire at 40, you'd need around 2,500,000 PLN ($650,000) to achieve that + buy the house to retire in. Let's call in 3,000,000 PLN ($780k) in total.

If you look around a bit, as an in-demand (meaning - chasing the latest tech fads, maybe some tech lead experience as well) senior backend developer, you can get take home 250,000 PLN per year on a long-term (meaning usually multiple years) contract basis. Assuming 60,000 PLN of that goes to living expenses, it takes less than 16 years to save up the required 3m PLN to retire. And, if you're really hot in terms of CV, you can take home much more than 250k per year. Also, there are options to contract in Western Europe or get six figure remote US job (this one's harder than the other options) for more pay.

You're way underpaid, even by Polish standards. You can easily get a remote job e.g. at German company that pays 70K-90K+ EUR.

I was giving net numbers. Assuming I pay 19% taxes in Poland on that remote job income, the range you've given translates to 240k-310k PLN net.

Also, I myself happen to make over 400k net PLN per year, but I didn't want to use myself as an example, as I only know a handful of people who make that much - so it's perhaps not something you 100% can count, whereas the 250k per year number is absolutely attainable by any senior dev with reasonable/modern CV and good negotiating/job hopping skills.

would you mind naming the German companies paying 90K+€. I know quite a large number of people working in really big companies in Germany, which are considered very well-paying, and while 70-90K is certainly standard, anything else requires taking up management roles, which are not necessarily remote and not so many.

I live in germany here you can earn a decent salary if your in one of the mayor cities.

What's a decent salary in numbers and can you afford to buy a house there with that amount?

That’s true. Outside Silicon Valley there’s probably not as much non-web dev work. I still think it’s out there. Banks exist everywhere and my brother has worked in a European bank for a long time. FAANGS also have offices all over Europe (London, Paris, and Berlin) doing non-web work and even before COVID if you were senior and talented enough remote work was an option. Now remote work for all companies has simplified drastically.

I have worked on mobile OS, PC software development, web, machine learning problems, and now VR. I’m not particularly worried about getting pigeonholed because any company I’d want to work for can recognize the value of a generalist - I’m not going to solve hard domain-specific problems but I can architect the SW and plug all the pieces together and dive into domain-specific problems when necessary. To be fair though I’ve heard this concern from other people who want to move back to Europe, but the framing was different - how do I explain to them what I do in a recognizable manner.

It's a nice area

However some places are 10, sometimes 20 years behind into best practices, be that in coding, tools, PM practices, innovation, etc.

There's a reason a lot of mobile phone companies closed down (as an example).

As much as I like the area I don't miss staring at a hodge-podge of C/C++ code done in weird style that might or might not have been auto generated and will as many memory bugs as possible.

And how many of those are going to let you in without at least a decade of experience in the specific domain, and real world experience with whatever guidelines or practices they use (i.e. MISRA for X).

Maybe all of them? I worked in Automotive right out of university and they trained you for everything you need to know including C programming tricks and MISRA and they hired pretty much anyone with generic programming knowledge as long as you were willing to learn.

I'd imagine embedded being relatively far away from that kind of work (that's until you've got to add WiFi and/or IoT-cloud web interface - and happen to be one of the only few software people in the company).

I can't speak for GP, but I do behind-the-scenes networking stuff for an enterprise ISP.

My team's responsibilities include configuration management, fault management, and certain KPI monitoring. We don't need to write webapps for that (though we do integrate with them) :)

Not OP but I've focused on C++ , computational geometry and graphics programming for over a decade. That field is still quite thriving. You just need to work actively to find the right employers - and they are not as common as 'more regular type' of programming gigs.

Not sure if I would make more doing webdev, but am not in US so it would be normal middle-class income anyway.

Games, embedded, desktop apps, "infrastructure" software (OSes, networking, orchestration, developer tooling), mobile apps (depending on how picky you are about using APIs being "web"), ...

Ugh. I hate web programming, but I'd rather churn out yet another javascript library than write a single line of ABAP.

Embedded, then systems, then offensive, then systems.

You also do web stuff when necessary with SAP though

That sounds like the worst of both worlds.

It absolutely is. Just look at SAP UI5 (their JS framework)

Pre-1985 could have been scientific/high performance computing, Cobol-type business application programming, or something defense-related.

Pre-2000 you actually had a hope of understanding everything your computer software was doing. These days there's no hope, everything is too complicated for the best of minds. You'll only ever know a small portion of it. Maybe that doesn't bother some people, but it's a big demotivator for me. I miss being able to truly understand my computer.

Now I feel like I'm always spinning my wheels. Even worse, I'm more capable of learning and understanding than ever, but the amount I need to know is increasing faster than my abilities to learn it.

I don't see why this should bother you. This isn't just the case with tech. Doctors work with humans that they don't have a hope of understanding even 5%. I have done web development my whole working life and I couldn't tell you how the browser actually renders a page. I just know the interface to communicate with the browser and let it be someone elses job to work out the next part.

It's human nature. You spend your life being an expert at something but as you get older you also get to watch it slowly slip away. That sucks, I don't care who you are.

It doesn't stop me from moving forward (it hasn't yet) but there are those occasional days...

Application development on the web is much more pleasant than what we were doing on any pre-web platform, and possibly even now.

I've wanted one-way data flow (React, Elm) forever.

We just have rose colored glasses because we were younger, dabbling, all tech was new and non-web tech was just what was available. And we confuse that for some sort of obvious tech superiority. I'd say those were the worst times for application development, not the best. Makes me wonder how many people actually worked on a production client application back then.

Application development on the web is much more pleasant than what we were doing on any pre-web platform, and possibly even now.

The platform that the web was designed on (NeXTSTEP) was much nicer to develop on. VB programmers had a much easier time than web development now. The web was designed as a document delivery platform and it continues to show how hard it is to get basic functionality going.

> I've wanted one-way data flow (React, Elm) forever.

How is that different from MVC patterns in desktop development?

I think there is a lot of truth to this. I started programming in C++ and then Java. But for about the past decade I've done web dev. Recently I've found myself back working on some non-web projects and it's a breath of fresh air in many ways.

True, a lot of that could just be the change in scenery. But I really appreciate that just about everything about the platform exists in order to create software, rather than trying to jump through the bizarre hoops that browsers created. Not dealing with Webpack is an absolute god send.

But with all that said, I think wasm has the potential to bring us sanity again. And if not wasm, then possibly tools like Rome will make web dev a bit more sane at least.

There was nothing enjoyable about ActiveX.

Agree 100%.

What really still bugs me, was that it was much easier to build an application on NeXTSTEP in the early 90's than it is today with the modern web.

Okay so it seems most people here on HN hates their jobs? That's sad but i think its not unique.

Web dev was especially insane during the IE era, more than today.

Most people just hate their jobs, it's nothing unique to the tech sector and i would argue that tech is still a pretty comfortable niche to work in compared to most other fields.

Doctors have extreme debt and work crazy hours, teachers get way too little, manual labor is very tough on the body, journalism is dead etc. - it seems to me that everyone i know just "has a hard time" because of information-overload, 24/7 connection, lowered real wages etc. I.e systemic issues at the core.

That said i also want to get more zen, cut back, transition to more resilience - but tech is not uniquely bad, and while i also have dreams about transitioning to more entrepreneurial roles or "moving into nature" - i still can enjoy "the chaos" of modern development / design - and this really is the key i think: to accept the mess, the imperfection, that no one knows what the hell they are doing in most sectors.

Drop the fake self imposed yuppie consumer self policing and perfectionism mindset and just accept that we live in a crazy part of history where everything is obsolete after 5 minutes, so just do what you find acceptable, try to scrape some money together and remember to appreciate the fact that at least you are in a sector where it's pretty easy to be an entrepreneur if you want to - compared to a lot of other people who have no idea about how to get started or jump ship.

Years ago if everything went awry i would stress out, be afraid of angry clients, be angry at myself - today i relax, i am interested and laugh at the complexity, and if someones angry i don't care, the world is crazy, we are monkeys living in a world not made for our biology, it's future tech dystopia/utopia right now, no one is able to piece something together that works for a long time anyway, it's mostly not my fault, but i still try to do my best. This mindset has helped more than a lot.

> Okay so it seems most people here on HN hates their jobs? That's sad but i think its not unique.

Internet comment sections have always biased toward people who hate their jobs, are unhappy with their lives, or are otherwise trying to escape into virtual distractions.

Not everyone fits this description, of course, but the negative comments are over represented relative to what the general population thinks. Never interpret any internet comment section as representative of the norm.

Growing up, my internet commenting activity was highest when I was least happy with my jobs. It was lowest or even non existent when I loved my job. (Currently I enjoy my job, but I have 10-20 minute periods of time to kill on my phone daily for other reasons now).

Also, don’t forget that HN comments are heavily biased toward cynical interpretations.

> Drop the fake self imposed yuppie consumer self policing and perfectionism mindset and just accept that we live in a crazy part of history where everything is obsolete after 5 minutes, so just do what you find acceptable, try to scrape some money together and remember to appreciate the fact that at least you are in a sector where it's pretty easy to be an entrepreneur if you want to

If you hate work, becoming an entrepreneur is the last thing you want to do. Dealing with grumpy customers directly will only make things worse.

The majority of people I meet in the real world have no problems separating their personal identity from their home life and well being. For some reasons developers are particularly bad at mixing their work and their personal identity while chasing perfectionism. I assume it’s because we grew up in front of computers and many of us spend our leisure time on computers as well.

Even the smallest bit of separation of work and personal life can fix this. In other words, learn how to disconnect from technology and do literally anything else for a few hours per week. We don’t need to go all in on quitting the industry to get a break.

Important point. I do remember the general level of cynicism and depression being several magnitudes lower 10-15 years ago though - on early HN/Reddit for example - today it seems everyone hates everything and we are 1 year from collapse every year - and i don't personally disagree that we have more than enough important things to tackle, but the "i have given up"-tone has become widespread even in MS news that i don't check very often anymore.

I miss excitement, enthusiasm and humor - and yeah the world may be plummeting into tech dystopia and climate collapse but throughout time aid workers, firefighters, war time doctors and myriads of other people have kept their humor, interest and skills despite chaos around them and so should i.

About the entrepreneurship, yeah i agree but i still think "knowing how the internet works", how to make a website and how to learn by yourself is still a pretty good "extra skill" you get to have as a tech worker than can easily work as a stepping stone into new fields.

Doctors have guaranteed work and income (the debt is only true in the US), they can walk into any hospital to get a job or open their own office, their status is protected and the job cannot be outsourced abroad. Have a look at what doctors make and what engineers make, the H1B salary data is a good sample, you will see that engineers are very pale in comparison.

Teachers have guaranteed job, good income and many benefits. Salaries are usually set nationally not adjusted per location, it's not great to live in the most expensive tech hub but it's pretty good everywhere else in the country.

Yeah, this. As a doctor, the older you get, the more valuable you become(usually) while as a SW engineer the older you get ... well you know it already.

You have no competition from abroad and no shortage for demand, like seriously, do you know any area that's lacking sick people?

Not to mention status.

Well, the grass doesn't seem to be much greener elsewhere, and it seems most of folks here are confusing hobbies (things you do at your own pace for fun) with work (things you've to do for others, at their own terms, for money/material stuff).

If you google "being doctor sucks", you will find very similar complaints (see link below), and it seems some doctors were envious of nurses, but I didn't bother googling "being a nurse sucks" because I know what to expect.


and here is another one about being carpenter sucks http://www.bbcboards.net/showthread.php?t=828471

and this one is about how hard is it make money from woodworking https://thewoodwhisperer.com/articles/why-i-dont-offer-woodw...

here is an interesting take away from that last thread:

"I have built maybe 6 pieces I really liked in the past 10yrs. Thats someting you’ll face in any craft business. Making crap you don’t like."

Well, welcome to modern capitalism, adulthood and work. The underlying assumption here is life supposed to be fun and easy, it is not, it has never been and perhaps it will never be.

Yes both teachers and doctors in the US are protected from competing with immigrants through licensing schemes. They are also protected from competition due to the fact that they can be paid mostly from government accounts.

I think I wrote this somewhere else too but in my opinion one of the issues is that software development is one of very few jobs that can “not suck”. Many of us are pulled in for that promise and ultimately many will end up in plain boring jobs like everybody else.

I was just starting pre 2000, but it was not much better. I had to deal with a legacy COBOL system. I had to write C++. VB6 was actually pretty great for doing quick plumbing. And C# + WinForms which succeeded it was also great. But in the end, I’m still solving problems today, just like I was back then. I still enjoy programming as much or more than I did then. Some super tedious things have gotten substantially easier, too, such as building telephony apps. I had to do things like that pre-Twillio, and I don’t miss it.

In the early 1990s and early 2000s web development was a nightmare. Having to test not just in different browsers, but different versions of different browsers, because they had substantially different behaviors. There was no "Inspect element", JavaScript debuggers were entirely absent or incredibly crude. Getting a decent looking web page to render and function correctly across all the different browsers you supported was a real achievement. You spent most of your time fighting browsers, not making actual progress.

It was, but it was also much, much simpler. You couldn't shoot yourself in the foot as easy as you can now.

Definitely. I generally wrote jscript and didn’t support non-IE. That aspect of things is miles better today.

>Not to mention that sitting in front of a computer all day is not the best use of one's body.

You can say that about all desk jobs(even bus drivers) since they all sit on a chair the whole day but at least in some cases we get paid better and have more free time to take care of ourselves. And unlike the bus driver, I can leave work or take a coffee/toilet break whenever I want.

And labor jobs that don't require sitting are usually even worse for your body long term(landscaping, plumbing, gardening) and sometimes pay worse as well. If I'm coding, I can constantly shift my body position if it gets uncomfortable while a plumber/gardner is just stuck in that straineous position until the job is done.

Maybe athlete or personal fitness instructor is the only job I can think of where you earn money while staying in shape.

Not all desk jobs, well certainly not all jobs where you are always sitting down, cause the same long-term strain on the eyes, however. A bus driver is at least focusing on the distance for most of the day, which is much more natural than staring at a computer monitor and its artificial light and small text for hours on end.

Personal trainer is fairly bad for your body and wellbeing as well. Its basically split shifts since clients want training either before or after their work. So sleep is an issue.

If work was easy then we wouldn't need to be paid for it.

>If work was easy then we wouldn't need to be paid for it.

"work" in its natural sense is indistinguishable from play. Animals play as a way to practice "work". Lions etc play hunt. The problem is that "work" in modern times has little to do with what we are genetically-inclined to want to do.

Given certain passages early in Genesis, it's safe to conclude that work has been a pain in the back since, at least, the dawn of agriculture.

Which, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

We are genetically inclined to sleep, find food, and have sex. Work in any civilization pays money, which allows you to buy food, a place to sleep, and resources to attract a partner, so I disagree.

Yeah OK. But you see my point?

Any work is going to break down your body. It's the nature of the beast.

Pre-2000 it was also plumbing, the difference was that you were mostly plumbing someone else's homegrown cruft. Occasionally you got the chance of building some framework by yourself, probably to the dismay of the developer who had to maintain it after you left. I like today's plumbing better.

> The old days pre-2000 were arguably a lot more enjoyable.

The existence of Dilbert says you're wrong.

Honest question, what is a great career pivot for someone that's been in development all their life? It seems that nothing pays as well as building software, unless you go into management which most developers would enjoy even less than digital plumbing.

A very common pivot I've observed and am part of is to brewing craft beer (with the caveat that maybe that's a local/regional thing). It sure as hell doesn't pay as well as development, the hours are longer, but... you get to drink plenty of great beer! Something about brewing seems to draw the same sort of personality as development - there's a fair degree of technical knowledge and skill demanded, an attention to detail, and yet a creative aspect, too. Then, too reformed/recovering developers can always find a small refuge in automating some/some aspects of the brewing process.

Oh, and it's real plumbing...

I run a website that helps people. I still deal with software, but on my own terms. If I put the same content on a cookie cutter WordPress site, no one would care. Now, programming feels a lot like woodworking: a deliberately inefficient way to do something, just because it's fun.

> Now, programming feels a lot like woodworking: a deliberately inefficient way to do something, just because it's fun.

Now that is a standout line right there. It perfectly describes some of my own personal projects. Sometimes—oftentimes—they go nowhere but I had fun.

One such task was developing a secret Santa system in python with an auto mailer and “paper” backup while in Hawaii last year. It took me part of a morning during breakfast before we went out for the day. I refined it when we got home. There were others already out there and it did nothing more then putting names in a hat, but it was fun. And it’s reusable. And it had the added benefit of needing no moderator—nobody in on the secret.

The metaphor of a wood working project just seems to fit so well. Nice one.

Start your own company and build something you believe in. Few other professions are as well equipped to start their own business. Except for real plumbers, maybe.

It's a trap!

Hate your job? Maybe it's the job, not the profession. Developers have an enviable amount of mobility; use it.

Maybe you aren't taking care of yourself in some other way? Sleep, diet, exercise, possible clinical depression: these are all things to try.

Perhaps you're burned out? It's 2020, that's a very real possibility. There's a whole literature on what to do about it, and "abandon your career" is dead last.

Both of the preceding paragraphs have a "talk to your boss" component. Don't think that's a good idea? Great, you definitely have the wrong boss, GOTO LABEL "Hate your job?".

Good reasons to stop developing software: a) there's something else you really want to do, and you have rational confidence you won't starve, and b) you're ready and able to retire.

Bad reasons to stop developing software: literally anything else.

My plan is to bank enough money from software jobs to be financially independent at a high standard of living (I'm well on my way to that). Then afterwards, just retire and do all sorts of hobbies without trying to make them into a career or earn career-equivalent amounts of money from them.

If you're currently on that trajectory (i.e. you're able to save a large percentage of your income every year) then I'd recommend it. If not, then yeah, you might need a second career if you want to get out of development soon. My plan is not to need one.

I pivoted tomorrow sales engineering for 8 years, then a technical BD role, then back to SW engineering.

You get to talk worth a bunch of people in sales and still exercise your problem solving skills.

Sales engineering is a great place for being able to tinker, interact with a wide range of clients/prospects, and plus being a revenue center...

How does one break into this? I've tried getting into the sales side of things, but it seems to elude me.

Find a smaller enterprise system integrator in the field you're familiar with. Titles such as Sales Engineer, SE, Solutions Architect. Usually the compensation plan is a 70/30 or 65/35 split between base and commission. Once you cut your teeth and are building out your professional network, then looks for an ISV to be on direct sales...

Yikes. Apologize for the autocorrect.

Does it need to pay as well?

I have a cousin who is a travel welder, he is young and single. He is making over 100k but he has to relocate for work about every 6 months. It's a great gig for a young man, but ones lifestyle would have to fit how the work comes to them.

The actual business analysis and requirements discovery?

Meeting users, finding out about their problems and working out how software can solve them?

UX researcher? That doesn’t pay as well

Business/System analyst is a very different role than a UX researcher.

In the agile world, the analysts were basically replaced by product owners, but I assume there are still places where they exist. I've done it for a while, it's quite cushy job if you're good at talking, writing, presenting (same as product owner but without the "ownership" part, so much less stress).

Perhaps something software-adjacent, such as a statistician.

As a statistician now working as a machine learning engineer, my response is “definitely not”. It’s all the frustrations of software development, but on top of that you are now frequently dealing with clients/colleagues whose requests are now not simply impractical, but usually defy the laws of mathematics and probability, and an ever present pressure to put out work that amounts to fraud. Analytics have a lot of value to provide many organizations, but it requires planning, foresight, and a willingness to sacrifice a little now for the sake of a payoff in insights later, which very few organizations have, in my experience. So it essentially becomes a buzzword and people throw worthless data at you to wave a magic wand over so you can tell them what they want to hear. Doing so would essentially require lying, so instead, we would perform the awful, worthless analysis, it usually didn’t provide much insight, and we would include a litany of disclaimers about why the little insight it did provide wasn’t al that trustworthy, which would just disappoint and infuriate the people we were working with. We would also provide detailed guidance on how to execute moving forward to make the process much more valuable the next time around, which without fail went in one ear and out the other.

So essentially we became figureheads. Our work rarely was used in any significant way or provided much value, but we were kept around because the company wanted to be able to tout its “data driven” culture.

It was so bad that at one company I worked for, they had the data science/analytics department start putting on a yearly intracompany conference on analytics that became a huge deal. One year they got Stephen Levy, the author of Freakonomics, to be the keynote speaker. At one point he shared a story about how he was consulting with a company on their marketing, and they found that they had accidentally not been running ads in a particular metro area, and were able to leverage this to act as a control to assess the materials effectiveness. But when asked to intentionally do something similar moving forward, the company balked. It was so close to home that my colleagues and I wondered if the head of our department had fed him the need to talk about it. And yet, not a single thing changed at the company during my time there.

I currently work in a role much closer to software engineering, and I have all of the same problems described by the person in the original post and that many are describing here. But I consider it a strict upgrade over my time working as a statistician.

Seconded. I work as a data analyst in medical research (bioinformatics postdoc). I am often introduced as a statistician, even though I'm not, because I can do a bit more than a t-test.

The situation in research is exactly as you describe -- we are figureheads who are put into place and highly pressured to confirm whatever hypothesis a PI wants for their latest grant or paper. They would never ask us to commit fraud, only perhaps to "double check" an analysis 10 times until it shows what they want to see.

If I were working for a company, this would at least be understandable, as companies don't even have a theoretical commitment to truth and scientific integrity, and there are no real consequences to a faulty analysis.

But it is immensely galling to see in research. Here we are, paid by the public to supposedly pursue truth and improve human health, and instead the job is to constantly be finding ways to avoid fraud and fabrication without pissing off the collaborator. The result is, as you say, useless analyses if the analyst is honest, and fabrications if they are not.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is one of the key reasons the ROI on science has declined drastically in the last few decades. It makes me laugh bitterly every time I see (increasingly frequently) political exhortations for plebeians to "trust the science".

Thank you for sharing this, these are fair comments. My experience has been more positive, but I see the truth in many of your points. For what it's worth, I have always been involved in controlled experimentation, and never anything related to ML or modeling. Our biggest issue is usually ensuring we are getting accurate counts of events, and when I see all the challenges in that, I wonder how anything more advanced ever gets done.

I suppose, as with anything, your mileage may vary. And in this case, your mileage will depend largely on your organization. In my experience, most organizations are not equipped or prepared to do what is necessary to make most analytics efforts worthwhile. But in the instances where this is not true, working as a statistician is very rewarding. If you have had a more positive experience than I, more power to you, and kudos to you and the people you work with/for.

Most programmers I met do not have the skills needed to be a statistician or a data scientist

Or dentist.

It seems like the only realsitc pivots are going to be adjacent business type positions, and even then there's a chance of a payout depending on company / position, etc. Like you said though I would hate these more than I do the software jobs.

Having been there per-2000, not really. It was not appreciably simpler, most of it was really plumbing (but maybe you were making up the pipes as you went along), and there were assholes abound.

I also feel that back then demand massively outstripped supply which created its own kind of stress as I felt I was working a lot more with much less experienced devs who just got into it because it good paying work, but they didn't really enjoy it.

Nowadays there seems to be a lot more software engineering skill around generally, and a big yay! to github and Stack overflow, and the thousands of developers who freely provide code/frameworks and knowledge to give all developers a leg-up.

It's good to no longer be in the thrall of the large software vendors (sun/apple/MS) to provide frameworks, tools & documentation.

There was a thread about what you learn when you get older. One thing I have learned is that nostalgia is bunk. It is just selection bias and bad memory.

Music was not better back then, people were not any more polite, educated and rational, and trying to fix bug in some big-ball-of-mud visual basic codebase on a 640x480 screen without access to Google was not any more enjoyable than debugging an overdesigned React application is today.

If you enjoy a challenge and have a great team in a well-run organization, developing is enjoyable, then and now.

There are still many many many good projects. Even with Web technologies. However in my observation Web stuff brings in a lot of people doing things they don't understand even fundamental things. Observing JavaScript or Node forums is generally a pain. Regularly there are people asking basic questions and all they want is the next library stick into their pile of things they don't understand.

Sure, one doesn't have to be able to write an operating system from scratch and there is value in high level libraries not requiring to reinvent the wheel all the time, but basic understanding of HTTP or such should be there for web developers as well as basic understanding of data structures or algorithms (while computers are fast enough and data sets small enough that so many people get away without knowing for quite some time)

Some memories of pre-2000 that were not that enjoyable:

- Most of the teams were not using SCM, but connecting to the same network drive and daily copying the whole folder as a backup. For those who did it was CVS (ugh). Even during the 2000's the best you got was SVN.

- So many Visual Basic projects

- For web projects: deploy by copying the files with FTP, getting shouted by a colleague because you override the hotfix he did using SSH and VI on the production file

Now there were good projects back in the day, and there are good projects today. You just have to take control of your career and not just follow the flow of the first company who hired you in your area.

Also remember that you can pivot within software development, there are so many different kind of software, you just have to accept to get out of your comfort zone.

It's digital plumbing, but it pays well. My parents did physical work, and frankly I'd rather earn my keep with a keyboard than with my hands.

What do you use to strike the keys on your keyboard?

My fingers, of course. Are you seriously comparing hard physical labour to typing on a keyboard? One of those is back-breaking and seriously dangerous to personal health, depending on what you're lifting/operating. The other may earn you RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome if you're not careful. There's a whole world of difference between these two.

This is a very narrow view. I've probably practiced software development longer than almost anyone on this thread - right at 40 years. I'm still a practicing software engineer, doing "enterprisey" software development in Java. Still interesting, lots of challenges, and yes, lots of complexity.

That said, I've done a lot of other things over my career, and one reason it's stayed interesting is the variety. If I wanted a change right now I'd probably look at small embedded systems work.

With all the AI, IOT, scientific, real time control, and robotics software being developed these days, I think there are a lot of interesting directions available!

I'll add a shameless plug for Julia, which I think could become a major general purpose programming language, and which makes for some enjoyable development!

(On the "best use of one's body", I have some sympathy there, but "balance in all things". Or just up your rates and work 32 hour weeks. heh)

I miss the old days from time to time. I will say though that everyone once in a while, you still get to do something "hardcore". It can still be fun, although it's not like it was. I do think we have as a field have done ourselves a disservices. Not to do the "back in my day," but I will say that with making many mundane tasks becoming easy, it's easy to slip into the mindset that there are no really complex things going on under the hood that sometimes you still need to tackle.

A lot of people just starting out don't see this immediately and it is often too late in a project when it appears. This isn't their fault, and it's sad people outside of the field don't recognize this at all. I think it puts a lot of undo stress on new people when non-developers expect them to build things effortlessly and quickly all the time and when something doesn't work, the developers ultimately blame themselves, because they've been led to believe it was easy too.

I remember fondly tasks like writing my own collections and logging pipelines. It wasn't as efficient as connecting libraries but it was more satisfying when you built your own way from the ground up.

I don't miss pre-2000 days when an admin would bounce the Linux servers and not bother to add a startup script for our JBoss or Tomcat servers in their service startup scripts. Our web servers would disappear for no reason from time to time and we would run around chasing the cause.

> Today it's just digital plumbing and dealing with all sorts of issues that are not creative. The sheer complexity is frankly absurd as well.

Is this not a contradiction to you?

I feel the same way. The plumbing required has become so complex these last few years (if you use new technology).

10 years ago we uploaded the server/backend binary to a VM, installed postgres/mysql and configured nginx/haproxy as a reverse proxy/ssl termination.

Now, if you want to deploy a modern SPA while using some buzzwords like k8s and devops you need:

* complex frontend build process with things like webpack which have huge config files

* Build docker images for all components (each microservice, frontend, etc)

* Build zips for deploying your lambda functions

* Configure docker repository for storing images

* gitlab/bbpipelines/githubactions/whatever pipeline configuration for automating all this building

* Setup a production-ready k8s cluster

* Write the kubernetes yaml files for describing your services

* Figure out how to hookup a cloud load balancer to your kubernetes ingress

* Figure out letsencrypt certificate renewal and make your ingress aware

* Figure out CDN configuration (and invalidation) because apparently we don't serve the frontend from the backend server anymore

* Some network config so your lambdas can access the backend

* Since we're using microservices we're going to need some service discovery, and depending on which SD solution we choose we might need to build this into each individual microservice (Consul)

* And probably lots more as I haven't even touched service meshes, or JWT authentication, caching and cache invalidation

All this for something that can be handled by a single server. This constant waste of time and energy, both the devs' and the machines', is what bothers me the most. I'm constantly reminded of the quote "anybody can build a bridge, but it takes an engineering to build one that barely stands". Maybe I should go into games or embedded.

I suppose your argument is that most applications could and should be handled in a monolith.

But I think it would be a terrible idea to be reliant on just one server because downtown, latency are real-troubling issues.

none of that is required. chasing fad based development would make you think that it is, but there are a lot of successful products that aren't burdened with all this cruft.

What you're complaining about is basically that certain features have become simpler to the point that it's feasible to have them in more situations--and adding those features adds a certain amount of complexity.

There are three overlapping issues in what you talk about:

* Moving from bare metal servers to VMs to containers, with cloud deployment optionally thrown in there somewhere.

* Moving from hand deployment to continuous integration.

* Moving from monolithic applications to microservices.

This systems you just described are virtually infinitely scalable.

Lambdas expand infinitely, k8's can easily autoscale stateless docker containers out forever.

All for starting under a 500 dollars a month?

150$ for EKS, lambdas first X million are free, and are cheap as hell from there, cloud LB is 50 bucks a month, etc.

Not to mention all the other benefits that containers provide Infrastructure as Code, no dev environment incompatibility problems, etc..

That is UNHEARD OF historically.

I think you may have some rose colored glasses or I'm just idealistic and naieve, but it's insanely exciting what's possible for a small enterprise nowdays.

The problem nowdays imo is management. The business people have taken over tech instead of tech people running things. And people without knowledge of tech, running a tech shop always makes the job suck.

The plethora of tools to make "devops" simpler and cheaper made it much more expensive.

You cannot simplify something by adding overly complex layers of abstraction on top of it.

They make it cheaper at scale. Most of us don't need that scale, so for us it's expensive.

...and yet all FAANGS implement their tooling instead of using the popular devops stuff.

Are they not understanding costs and scaling?

If you are doing that and do not want to do it then you are probably at the wrong company or not speaking up about it.

To me, no. A significant amount of the complexity that I generally deal with is “accidental complexity” caused by the current general approach of mixing up a ton of random dependencies of unknown quality or pedigree and the subtle flawed interactions between them. Coming up with ugly workarounds is creative I suppose, but ton in a sense that makes me at all happy.

It's not a contradiction to me. Things can look like plumbing from the surface, require no creativity at all, and run some ML model below the surface that only a handful of mathematicians can understand. The upside: powerful tools that just need to plumb in place, the downside: god help you if it breaks.

Not at all. Plumbing can be very complex, digital ot otherwise. It's not as easy as "connect input to output and done", there are constraints on the system that need to be accounted for, and meaningful design decisions to be made especially with respect to expected volume.

But that doesn't mean it's creative. Plumbing, like web development, may have all of these complexities and constraints, but typically there is really only one solution that can be considered "right" and your job is to go through the steps and do the math to find it, there's not a lot of room for creative thinking, despite the complexity of the problem.

If it pays well for as a job, what else can you ask for? Unless you are independently wealthy, how can one be so picky as to complain about the nuances of software development at the tooling/dependency management level? Sheesh

Look at the broader job market. Compare the pros n' cons of any career against software development. Compare the barrier to entry, demand, and other market conditions. Software dev comes out pretty well.

I don't think it's unreasonable to want to be paid to solve software problems creatively. A lot of people get in to software for the creative challenges rather than (or as well as) the money. The problem is that most software isn't actually doing anyting new so it doesn't need much creativity to build. It just needs people to glue together the right combination of parts that have already been built to solve generic problems in order to solve the specific problem they're making software for. That's usually pretty boring.

I will complain about whatever I want. I will not force others to hear/read it or agree with me. But I will do this and I will not care about other describing it as a picky and entitled.

You must be in your twenties. Software development can be a uniquely depressing kind of work. All the complexity, which can be compensated for with youthful vigor, can eventually become so overwhelming and exhausting that you will need a break.

Money isn't everything. If you can do a job that pays less but doesn't depress you as much, you probably should go for it. You won't keep your job as a developer forever anyway, age discrimination is very real in the industry.

>Money isn't everything

At the top of the requirements list of any job, is How Well It Pays.

Having comfortable amount of money frees you to to enjoy other aspects of life/personal passion/family building. That's how the global economy works, for the time being.

For a job that doesn't require overtime, consistent schedule, a solid 9-5 type position. What is there to complain? Looking at the big picture, the economy is filled with people who are barely getting by, laid off due to pandemic, and working overtime or multiple jobs, to generate enough income in attempt to sustain life.

Having a "comfortable amount" of money means nothing if you're burned out to the point where you can not enjoy the rest of your life.

If "I no longer build software" doesn't resonate with you, you just haven't "been there". Again, you're probably in your twenties. Don't expect your rationalizations to last you into your forties.

If you're still a developer at the end of your forties, chances are you will lose your job and your spouse anyway.

> That's how the global economy works, for the time being.

Curiously, people in the less affluent countries report being happier. Also, in the US, most of the money you earn goes into someone else's rent: Your lease or mortgage, your car, your insurance, your loans, your taxes, and so on. It's the American Dream!

> Looking at the big picture, the economy is filled with people who are barely getting by, laid off due to pandemic, and working overtime or multiple jobs, to generate enough income in attempt to sustain life.

If you think those are your two options, that's fine. I'm not telling you to quit your job.

Huh? What does the spouse have to do with things?

The trap is that the youthful vigor leaves but you still need the money. I find myself growing tired of the constant churn and needing to learn new stuff to keep up with what's going on, and then pretending I know enough of what I barely learned to be able to talk to a room full of clients about it, but I need the money (I am nowhere near the valley so I make a mnerely average amount of money for where I am in life) so what can one do? Just keep plugging away because I can't not have the money.

Money isn't everything, but without it there isn't much that you can do to sustain yourself. I'm privileged to be where I am today, and I keep this at the forefront of my mind as I see people struggling in jobs that are all about physical labour or the service sector, if they have a job at all (or are on zero-hour contracts). Choosing a job is something that only select people have as an option, in the grand picture.

The old days pre-2000 were arguably a lot more enjoyable.

Yes. 1 monitor running the editor full screen, no constant interruptions from IM, documentation in books that actually was accurate, programming the actual machine not piecing together other people’s crapware libraries.

> piecing together other people’s crapware libraries

This is my biggest concern about the state of my profession. It might not be the right analogy, but it gives me a house-of-cards type vibe.

I don't recall it being any better pre-2000.

Frankly the tools really sucked back then. Build systems and IDEs were awful. Just go play with an autotools-based C project sometime to remind/education yourself. Visual Studio 7, horrible. No mainstream refactoring IDEs to speak of. C++ compilers across multiple platforms were horrible at standards compliance consistency, and you could barely get a working STL, practically everyone wrote their own string and containers classes. CORBA -- some nice ideas, bad in practice. Java was a dumpster fire of EJB/J2EE heavyweight, with slow an d expensive application servers. Expensive Oracle installs dominated the database world, with the rest shored up by MySQL installs that were only partially ACID. No CSS HTML, pre-HTML5 so a mess of nested tables to make things lay out properly. Most sites were a pile of spaghetti code "type 1" JSPs or ASPs or really bad PHP sites making database calls and queries right in the page source, horrible to maintain.

Then the serving or hardware infrastructure, in the world of web stuff... forget about cloud or even reasonably priced hosting services. Most shops, even small ones, I worked at ended up having their own sysadmin team managing an owned or rented fleet of expensive Sun server hardware, etc. Closets full of hot and pricey hardware etc.

And as for languages... I learned Python in 95 or 96, back when it was pretty new. But almost no shop would have considered hiring me to work in it. Erlang, Python, OCaml, various Lisps, Smalltalk, all that good stuff all _existed_ but pretty much nobody would ever consider letting you write production code in such "weird stuff" until Ruby kinda broke the barrier. Perl was everywhere, but "serious" shops started to push Java, but Java was frankly awful back then around 2000. As I allude to above C++ was painful to work in at the time. C# didn't really exist yet. Visual Basic was all over the place, but was frowned on for "serious" stuff.

I think people forget how dominant and awful "enterprise" development is/was. It's still out there, but HN in general doesn't seem as exposed to it. Back in the late 90s, early 2000s, the accepted "enterprise" stack was the aspirational crap _so_ many shops adopted... it was for that time what "microservices" and "bigdata" other dogma are today. People didn't need it, but they thought they did.

Frankly, everything took longer to get done. Simple things are quicker to get done now.

Nah, it wasn't a particularly good time to be doing software dev.

I guess if you were employed in the right place, and were lucky, you would at least get to work on pioneering work building the tools and infrastructure that we now take for granted and complain about. Being at a Google building Bigtable etc. or Sun Microsystems working on the innards of Java etc. back then would have been a dream job. But the vast majority of us never got that chance. We were plumbers, too, just with really crappy pipes.

> Just go play with an autotools-based C project sometime to remind/education yourself.

Funny you should mention autotools. It reminds me a lot of webpack, especially in the way nobody[0] really understands how it works, but you search around for examples and copy/paste what works for you.

[0] a hyperbole; i'm sure someone does, just as I'm sure some people dreamt of M4 macros back in the day

Oh it's so awful; but I recently was exposed to a project where some of the leads were trying to defend it as a reasonable tech choice. It really isn't. Not in this era. Most people never even used it correctly in the first place.

Totally agree, and let's also mention Stack Overflow and the plentiful learning resources on Youtube etc. In 2000, I was a teenager trying to learn C++ and the Win32 API, and when I got stuck I got really stuck. These days, the amount of resources to help you with a problem or learn a new technology are infinitely higher which removes one of the most frustrating aspect of software dev.

> autotools-based C project

It wasn't autotools per se that was horrible. It was the the fact that you had to pollute your system with random libraries, often no longer available from the operating system vendor repositories. Docker has been a lifesaver with these older projects.

I’m in desktop development (not games, not cross platform - old school document based apps) and it’s bliss. I do 95% actual programming algorithm/data structures/domain problems and only a tiny bit of wrestling package managers, deployments and other plumbing.

In my experience gaming or playing with emerging tech is still fun--give it a shot!

This comment sums up exactly how I feel about my work and career at this point.

It can still be fun if you don't follow fads and have no feedback ticketing system/forum/e-mail.

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