Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

I respect your opinion Antirez, but I hear so much speculation about work habits that I have to ask you: Is this your opinion / experience, or is it based on some specific research / study you can point to?

As a fellow developer I'd love this to be true, however a meme / fad started during my working career in rich cultures stating that hard work isn't rewarding or is unnecessary. I question this.

My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc, and this basically states that my father was being scammed. Doesn't every generation at some point rebel against the previous generation's beliefs? Could it be that the whole work less theme (apparently based on science?) is simply rebellion?

All I know is that I plan to teach my kids that working hard for something is itself a reward. That you can't appreciate anything you didn't work for, and the harder you work for it, the more you appreciate it. I also expect this will help them survive in a hyper competitive global workplace.

Maybe if we consider maintaining physical fitness to be part of our daily work, then I'd be on board with these thoughts. I.e. 4-5 hours at a desk being creative, and 3+ hours of some sort of physical exertion.

This is my opinion and is based solely on my experience after 15 years of being in the industry, including one successful startup built by me and a friend of mine with a decent "exit" sold to Telecom Italia, and a successful open source software (Redis). Additionally I used to work in different places in the past with many programmers, so what I say is also based on how the success of programmers I know first hand correlates with the amount of work they do.

I also follow two companies here in Sicily that I built in the past, one has six programmers.

So all the above is my "data source", that is not statistically significant.

I don't really think a programmer working 8 hours is going to be less successful of one working 12 hours per day: it is either good enough to be outstanding with the 8 hours, or will fail even with the 12 hours, since the productivity gained by experience, skills, understanding of the problem is the kind of 10x or 100x gain, while from 8 to 12 hours the difference is little (and, again, not sustainable for long time IMHO).

Startups are built by programmers, so I think the same applies to them as well, mostly.

In other words I could say that the output of a programmer correlates more strongly with the work it did to learn writing code, than the work it does writing actual code.

Another important thing is that having fun is not lost time if you want to build a startup. Recently startups are a lot more about providing an "experience" to the user, and enriching yourself in your free time can be very useful to provide something that people want.

I'm fully aware of who you are, and at least some of your successes (I've used Redis in several projects now, and love it).

For me it's an age thing. I put in some extremely long hours in my youth, and I think it paid off. I'm not putting in as many hours these days, but then again I feel like I'm quite a bit more productive with my time than I used to be.

I think it's the experience itself that's the differentiator, and not the fewer hours. In fact it's the experience that enables me to work fewer hours. When I was younger I really had to bang away trying many more approaches to solve a problem, and that meant longer hours.

Yes I share this experience with you: when I was 18 or 20 I worked a lot of hours, but this was pure fun as I was learning to write code. This is probably a very good investment: it completely does not weight on you since you are having true fun, and of course 20 years old can do things that are impressive :) At least for me that I'm now 35.

However my father is like your father in this regard: he thought me to work long hours, and he still does even if it is 63 now. But I've the feeling that the work it does that has more to do with people, with moving from one place to the other to fix problems, and things like that, is much more "long hours compatible". The solve fact it does not sit all the day is different... In short I think that programming is exceptionally bad: too static, too focused, too stressing, too timelines, ...

I think you're confusing "hard work" with "working with reckless abandon."

I find I am most consistently productive if I work 8 - 10 hours on the weekdays, and 3 - 5 hours on the weekends. I can sustain this for several months without burnout, despite the fact that I work every day. This is more than an average work-week, but it's also not the crazyness of deadline crunch-times. It leaves enough time for workouts and some socializing. Eventually, though I need a few months where I take at least one day off during the weekends.

I suspect two differences:

First, "working hard" and working the sort of insane, body-destroying hours that Arrington & co are advocating are two different things. It's good to work hard, be diligent, and get things done, but balance is essential. Arrington doesn't agree.

Second, Work for our parents and grandparents involved physical labor in some degree - ours does not. Our work takes a huge toll on the body for what seems so sedentary, and requires (I'd suspect) much more demanding mental processes, which are also extremely draining.

So yes, work hard - as did your father and his father - but don't kill yourself, and don't spend it all in what my doctor calls the Chicken position.

IMO "working hard" constitutes working an 8-hour day and not being a slack ass in your duties.

My day job is construction, mainly because I'm good at it. I find it every bit as stressful and mentally draining as when I've been doing sedentary work (I worked as a reviewer). The main difference is that the stress can often be used (when you have to nail in a certain position and it just happens there's a 1/8th inch steel plate on the stud, stress makes it a lot easier, and you're not stressed when the nail is driven).

I've said elsewhere here that we get highschool educated guys who can't read tape measures and who can't do basic trigonometry, and it's sad that we get guys in who've failed highschool, but you give them a pencil, a tape and a pair of tin snips and they can do trig, but they've failed math in highschool.

So given I am college educated, it is offensive (not that you personally offended me, I've received enough derogatory comments from doctors and the likes to realize that many peoples hundred-thousand dollar educations simply served to make them very stupid; that said a retired economics professor was happy as shit - he'd been writing newspaper articles for years about the shortages of 'unskilled' and 'semi-skilled' labour is crippling the economy) when people assume physical labour jobs require little mental ability.

My father taught me to work hard. He was a coder; he's taught me electrical, plumbing, concrete/floor laying, drywall, plastering, brick laying, roofing, welding, etc. He never taught me programming, because he didn't want me working for someone else my whole life (he's owned 4 businesses, all successful and profitable in his lifetime). He was happy as shit when I called to cancel my trip to see him next year, because I told him I'm looking to buy property to rent and start a property management company (I literally have all the skills necessary to turn a $90,000 piece of shit into $180,000 in the local market, meaning turning 1 $900 a month house rental into two $1200-1500 month unit rentals).

Yeah, I wasn't sure of how to approach the mental aspect - I didn't mean to say construction or other physical labor required little mental ability, because I've done enough of it to know that's just not the case.

I think coding is different for two reasons - and please do excuse me, because while I've _done_ physical work, I don't do it for a living, so I'm coming at this slanted:

First, with physical work, you're doing, well, physical work. There's a correlation between physical activity and mental acuity, and, as you mention, you can take out some of your stress out on productive labor (if I do that, I have to buy a new mouse). You also have a balance between the physical and mental side - I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.

Second, you can 'outsource' some of the modeling to the actual physical object - the work you're doing has a tangible component, so you don't have to keep the entire thing in your head. That part, to me, is the most draining aspect of coding - I've gotten much better at structuring my code so I can compartmentalize most of that away, but when I'm working with older code or other people's code, I've basically got to have a very accurate representation of the entire program in mind the whole time. That gets really tiring really fast.

I think one of the other big differences, though, is that I can screw up an awful lot more than you can and get away with it - if I completely arse up a section of code, I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost. If you arse up a floor, well, now we need to buy the raw materials for a new floor. The corollary between experts and amateurs mostly holds between construction and coding - give an idiot enough time and eventually you can have either a house or a program - the difference is he'll cost you an awful lot more trying to build the house. That breeds a level of patience and caution which, frankly, is probably better for one's outlook on life in general.

Anyway, again, sorry if I seemed to demean physical labor - I really didn't intend to. Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.

You didn't offend me, and I could tell you weren't meaning to demean physical labour.

> I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.

Have you ever driven to walmart, or work, or your girlfriends (someones) house when you was slightly distracted when driving. You don't drive dangerously, you're not swerving of being stupid like if you was drunk or distracted, you're just not thinking and you end up going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. There's been a couple of times in the morning when I've accidentally changed the time on the microwave, because I always used to have to hit the timer button before putting in the time. Now I don't, but on autopilot I can somehow manage to find 'time' on a different keypad layout and change the time to 1:30.

I agree with the second, having a tactile object to work with seems to free up a lot of the cognitive ability for the task at hand. Although, when I was doing electrical work you often needed that mental model to know where wires were running, so stepping into someone elses job (especially when it was done wrong or poorly) was a major head-job.

> I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost

That's why I write fiction, because as a professional career it's only loss of time that matters. Thankfully in my job (vinyl siding) my materials are fairly cheap, so waste isn't a huge concern for us (but a good worker always minimizes it, like unless you're confident you use a piece that's already garbage to make a template rather than wing it on a new sheet) because our company gets paid for our reputation and how presentable our jobs are (there's a big aesthetic difference between done and done properly).

> Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.

That's in all jobs, I've seen my fair share of talentless doctors, etc. (At 15 I called a doctor out wrong when I self diagnosed psoriasis, the hallmark is scaly skin that pin-prick bleeds when scraped and I had it and I had psoriasis, but that doctor couldn't admit he was wrong to a 15 year old)

I've had a couple of experiences where I've almost driven on the wrong side of the road in the UK after driving in Europe or the US for a while.

Note that I've never even got close to driving on the wrong side when abroad - only after I return home.

It's ridiculous, but I bet most of us associate construction with that summer job we had back in the day, holding the "slow" sign, sweeping dust off the street, making the trip to Tim's / Dunkin Donuts for the guys doing the real work, etc.

I wonder if I ended up in construction as a profession because my 'summer' (lasted 2 years) job at 16 was working as a movie/game reviewer.

Agreed. Admittedly I do spend a hell of a lot of time in the Chicken position. Even at play...

Nothing wrong with working hard. But do it for yourself. Don't do it because a VC tells you to. Don't do it because the owner of a publication that thrives off of startup news tells you to.

I wholeheartedly agree, and I think this is what jwz is getting at as well. Hard work can be rewarding, but only if you let it. Hard work which is pushed on you without your consent is rarely rewarding in any sense of the word.

"""My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc, and this basically states that my father was being scammed. """

He was. It's called the "protestant work ethic".

For one, you should work smart, not hard. Second, you should work hard only if you enjoy the task or you get a benefit from working harder.

Hard work in itself doesn't mean anything.

I always suspected it had more to do with being raised on a farm (a traditional farm where you have to work most of the day, not an industrial corn farm) then religious beliefs.

No doubt that's right about a great many people though.

Most people I know who work all day on a farm do it because they absolutely love it and would imagine living no other life.

Farming today is completely different than it was 60+ years ago (especially before WWII) for 90% of farmers. I'd wager a large sum that most farmer's do not actually enjoy their job these days. Small independent sustainable farmers sure, too bad they represent such a small percentage of farming compared to the industrial food complex.

Anyways, comparing farming today to what it was 60 years ago is apples to oranges. Many farmers at the time didn't have a choice in the matter. Many had limited options and were simply lucky enough to inherit farmland. Maybe they loved it, maybe they didn't. For most, loving it wasn't as pressing a need as supporting their family.

Small family farms represent 91% of all the farms in the US. 59% of food production in the US is in due thanks to large family farms. There are actually very few industrial food complexes in the US, although it is interesting to note that most of the food production is from these complexes.


Factor out the hobby farms and that number will tumble.

In 2003 it reports that small farms that have $10,000 - $249,999 in sales to be 34% of all farms (in 2003), which is still quite significant compared to the 4.8% that industrial complexes (1.7%) and very large family farms (3.1%) hold.

It's not about super large farms, it's about the industrial machine that has taken over small and large farms, in order to receive subsidies and remain competitive. "Small farmers are often absorbed into factory farm operations, acting as contract growers for the industrial facilities." (Wikipedia) These are still considered independent farms in the census I believe.

Corn and Soy Beans account for by far the majority of crops. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/cropmajor.html (a little outdated). Have you been to a corn / soy bean farm? Visit one and ask the farmer if he enjoys his job, and how much he makes (many are in the red). Small or large, the specific crops and tactics are pretty much identical and probably don't fit our picture of the ideal farm.

Livestock farming is even worse. Most of the farms are only briefly involved at the beginning of the animal's life then shipped off to a feedlot. "In 1967, there were one million pig farms in America; as of 2002, there were 114,000, with 80 million pigs (out of 95 million) killed each year on factory farms as of 2002" (Wikipedia). It's the same story with beef and poultry.

I finally got around to reading Omnivore's Dilemma, and it's extremely depressing to say the least. Especially when it comes to factory farming. Sustainable / local farming is a small glimmer of hope though.

We're way off topic now and I have no idea what I was trying to say that relates in any way to the original discussion...

"Have you been to a corn / soy bean farm? Visit one and ask the farmer if he enjoys his job, and how much he makes (many are in the red)."

Have you done this yourself, or are you just trying to score rhetorical points?

I have: my parents are corn/soy/livestock farmers on a small farm they own in the Midwest. Their friends and neighbors are all small operations as well. It's not a job you make much money at, it's true--imagine if all of your income depended on good weather and timing the commodities markets right! They stick with it because it's a job with independence and pride in producing something the world needs. Heritage and tradition, too: many have ancestors who have been farming in the area for a century or more.

It's easy to vilify something if you don't understand it.

Rhetorical points? I have been, and very recently in fact (I've become sort of fascinated with the topic). I'm not even remotely vilifying the farmers. That would be like vilifying anyone who bought a house in 2006 only to lose their shirt. It's the system I take issue with. I'm starting to see most corn / soy farmers more as slave labourers if anything. I realize this may come across as offensive, but I honestly don't mean to offend, as I have absolutely no issue with corn farmers themselves. Rather I take issue with the corn subsidies, the CAFOs, the large meat processing firms, the genetically modified crops, and the fertilizer pushers.

More corn / soybean is about the last thing the world needs. It's also extremely dependent on oil prices due to the fact that most corn farmers requires heaps of fertilizer to produce corn / soy at such an unsustainable rate. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=that-burger...

I know some corn/soy bean farmers but not very well. All the farmers I know really well (and have to a point grown up with) are livestock farmers, and they live on a farm and do farm work because they love it. It is not their primary job, most of them do contracting, some are mechanics, some are auctioneers, and others are nurses.

Despite farming not being their primary job, they still make a few thousand dollars a year from sales, which I believe should classify them as a small scale farm.

Farmers don't make a lot of money at all, and they tend to get screwed a lot, this is why you always hear of the angry hillbillies taking over the city. It's kind of like musicians making a living. (Farmers are more important because they provide food, but that's not the point).

As far as industrial machines taking over the business, this is just the nature of needing a lot of food in the world. The morals of these industrial machines are questionable at times, but in the end we need food and most people aren't willing to vegetarian so I guess we are going to have to suck it up until we have better methods. Small scale farms also fill a niche market with local meat/produce and often end up trading/selling their products to other farms.

Back to the point of the main topic; your father wasn't scammed out of his life because he worked hard on a farm. I'm sure at some point he realized that he could sell the farm, move to the city, get a desk job and work less hours much like many other people did in rural areas.

I don't know your father, but I would go as far to say that he probably made a conscious decision to stay on the farm for probably a multitude of reasons. Maybe he liked the life, maybe he liked rural areas, maybe he felt a kid would be better raised on a farm doing lots of hard work, it could be anything really.

Farm work isn't smart work because it requires lot of hard hours with little benefit. Doesn't mean someone is wrong in choosing to do it because it is not only necessary for society, but some people really do like it.

We're just not on the same page. I'm not sure how to emphasize the massive difference between the types of farming you're outlining here. They're so completely different we need new words other than farming to describe them.

When I spoke of my grandfather, I'm referring to grass farming. Corn / soy / industrial livestock farming has almost nothing in common with grass farming so let's completely throw them out for the sake of this topic and reword my statement to this; "My grass farming ancestors believed in working hard and passed this belief onto their children. Their work ethic probably had more to do with what was necessary to survive than their religious beliefs (protestant or otherwise)".

I don't know where you live but I've never heard of angry hillbillies taking over a city. Where I live the farmers are all millionaires, work five months out of the year and spend the rest of the year in Tampa or Tucson.

I was just making a joke about some of the stereotypes people hold for hillbillies.

"My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc"

This is a very good lesson to learn. Make sure you take it to heart.

The thing to know, is: WHO are you working hard for? If the answer isn't yourself, then you have the wrong answer. Spending your effort and time working hard for the benefit of someone else is being scammed.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact