A former boss loved mentioning things his "engineers" have accomplished when he's on teleconferences, but when he's upset at something done at the technical level, he refers to them as the "geek squad".
I see the same thing when I'm surrounded by the engineers. They all refer to management as "the suits" and speak condescendingly of non-engineering work.
This difference seems like it's transcended a bit in startup culture, which is one of the most attractive parts of it to me.
I like doing stats, and making sure that I really understand how things work, and at times automating parts of my life. At most I will end up knowing three of the programming languages that currently exist, and those only to a moderate level.
Calling myself a coder is, I believe, an accurate summary of my skill set and desires. Is there a better term? Is it condescending only when applied to engineers or programmers?
You seem to be trying to imply that companies are hiring unqualified workers. I don't see any evidence of that -- do you?
How many people do you think are actually getting paid to write social recipe sharing software? Maybe 1000? There are ~1.5 million software engineers in the US alone. Even if you think that there are 10000, that's still less that 1% of all positions.
I don't think so: I think Joe Blow is learning basic coding skills because he realizes that virtually every job, or at least every intellectually engaged job, is going to need those skills soon, if they don't already. His company isn't going to fire him if he's the only one who knows how to update the blog and he's the one who wrote script automating that tedious task everyone else has to do.
How long before computer programming skills become as everyday as basic vehicle repair knowledge?
I guess its not really the same thing, because computer programs aren't as homogeneous as car guts (although I wouldn't really know) and cars aren't being engineered in repair shops. But if you look at common frameworks like Rails or plain HTML or WordPress then you could almost think of those areas as being like their own mechanical specialties.
Point being there are a lot of relatively high-tech devices that we maintain where those careers aren't considered particularly prestigious, and I wonder if at some point software development will be a little more like that.
I mean in the first few decades of the development of motor vehicles (I know, computer programs aren't combustion engines, they are much more varied and complex than that) there was a lot of invention and innovation and those people were probably considered to have fairly elite skills and knowledge.
Ironically enough one of my goals is to cause this to happen. Which while sounding like some sort of betrayal, is really an enrichment of human creativity. Concentrating the heart of what defines the 21st century into a sort of weakly protected oligarchy makes me feel nervous about the future. The thing about cars is that they represent a different revolution, one which doesn't necessarily require people to join in on what would probably be called "hacking" if the equivalent tasks were done on a computer to have their full effect.
Part of the power of the home computer and electronics revolutions is that the programmability of the computer is itself a medium. A largely underutilized medium that has more potential than most others. To have this medium marginalized by a widespread belief that it's beyond peoples capability is really...depressing.
How do you plan to make programming easier (or whatever it is your goal is exactly)?
Not all hackers are great software engineers, capable of planning and building a product that people will enjoy and pay for, just as not all mechanics and hobbyist engineers are capable of designing the next great automobile.
For hackers, the barriers to entry are lower, and the reach of our quickly-developed products is vast indeed. But there are still the human barriers, those of willingness to succeed, passion for work, and raw skill.
That hacking is becoming more widespread is not a bad thing for the field, or a harbinger for its twilight. It's part maturity, and it's mostly success.
The big difference between programming and auto repair is that auto repair consists of executing a few well-defined procedures on a known, consistent device whereas non-trivial programming is always a matter of solving a new problem.
On another note, I think there's an analogy to be made with mathematics. I bet that mathematics as a "profession" has been declining in the past few decades with the rise of math education. My impression is that most mathematicians nowadays have solid domain knowledge in at least one other discipline. Anyone care to (dis)confirm this?