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The 501 Developer Manifesto (501manifesto.org)
224 points by tomstuart on April 17, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments

“It’s just a job.”

It's just 8 hours a day. 5 days a week. Roughly 25% of your life. Another 33.3% is spent asleep. Maybe you commute to work; maybe that takes you 45 minutes each way. That's 4.4% of your life spent driving, walking, on trains or buses to get to your job. You're going to spend a small percentage of your life on the toilet; another small percentage in supermarkets buying food, in a kitchen preparing it, or in a dining room eating it.

All the 'big events' in your life will be squeezed into the precious little time you have left after survival's necessary subtractions. Going to school. Getting drunk. Being hungover. Getting married. Buying a house. Attending funerals.

Perhaps we were thinking in similar terms. You took those thoughts—nay, facts—and channeled them into a manifesto which guides your relationship with your employer.

Here's what I did with the same facts. I decided I'm not spending over 25% of my life (37.5% of my waking life) doing something I don’t LOVE. For comparison, if I find a spouse, it's likely I won't spend 25% of my life in their company. So if I'm going to spend more time at work than I will with my future husband, I need to love my job at least as much as I do him. That's the conviction which caused me, just a few hours ago, to hand in my notice of resignation to my current employer. Because when I find myself watching the clock waiting for 5:01, I must concede that 25% of me (37.5% of the waking me) has already died.

This isn't a judgement. I respect you for your decision. There's probably some pity in there too, but honestly, it's mostly respect.

Hopefully you change your employer more frequently than your spouse, hobbies, family, or friends. :)

The vast majority of people in the world do not have the luxury of loving their work. For those, 25% of their lives working for someone else in a job they tolerate but do not necessarily enjoy is a means to an end. Maybe it's 20 years of comfortable retirement, or the relative security of a regular paycheck to support their spouse and children.

Most of us on HN are lucky enough to enjoy coding and are well compensated for it. We get caught in the feedback loop of tech chatter and forget that the majority of our friends and family, outside the blissful tech world, do not enjoy their work.

Not everyone who programs loves programming, but everyone needs to make a living. You are lucky that what you love also makes money.

Make a living doing something you love. If you don't love programming then do something else.

I think this is the nearest real-life equivalent to "let them eat cake" I have ever seen.

Are you going to pay me to play Xbox with my brother or go out to dinner with my wife and talk about interesting books we've read? Neither is anybody else. For most people, the set of "things I love" and "things people will pay me to do" intersect very little if at all.

(I don't actually have this conundrum. There are a few things I enjoy doing that people will pay me for. But I'm lucky that way. If I suddenly became unable to do those two or three things, I'd be in the situation I described.)

Do something you love is referring to creative passions. Find something creative you love to do and make it your profession. Think of the people making the games you enjoy and how many of them must enjoy what they do because of the obvious quality in the product they are producing. Try to find that for yourself.

If you only love consumption habits, try taking up new hobbies. There must be something that you will enjoy that is constructive.

Think of the people making the games you enjoy and how many of them must enjoy what they do because of the obvious quality in the product they are producing. Try to find that for yourself.

This sounds very naive. I've gone for beer with various people in the gaming industry. From ubisoft QA team leader to indie game programmer to Blizzard Project Manager. All of them were tired of their jobs. For all of them it was "just a job" and sometimes even less. It's these people that I end up going to beer with in normal social contexts. Maybe because the ones who really like their job don't go out. OTOH I know the colleagues in my company who spend too much time on their job and I really wouldn't want to go out with them.

Games programming is probably a bad example because many people follow their passion for gaming into an industry that does not allow many to contribute creatively. If you are hired to make the game engine or tools, few are going to care that you have unique ideas about the actual content of the game. I believe it would be difficult to cope with that in the long term and that people would ultimately "give up" or "get out".

I am interested in the indie game programmers being unhappy. That seems almost paradoxical, unless they were just unsuccessful. I cannot imagine Notch having a stronger passion that making video games.

"Do something you love is referring to creative passions. Find something creative you love to do and make it your profession."

There's nothing like being forced to do something for a living to turn what you love in to a chore.

I used to love programming. Then I did it professionally, day in and day out, for years on end. It didn't take very long to make it a boring chore that I felt I was forced to do.

Then I switched to system administration. At first it was fun and interesting, but as my learning plateaued it became boring as well (not to mention very stressful).

Then it was on to something else. Rinse and repeat..

There are consequences to this sort of career-switching (not to mention to the burnout involved). Usually, it's the specialists with a simple, linear career path that get rewarded. Generalists and jacks-of-all-trades do not typically get much in the way of compensation or respect. Companies will look askance at your switching jobs (not to mention careers) so often, and you will find it difficult to compete with someone who's been doing just that one thing his whole career.

But the problem for people like me is mainly the tendency of getting bored too quickly. We pick up hobbies and interests for a while, but then they bore us -- even if we are not forced to do them for a living (though the rate at which they bore us tend to increase the more we are forced to do them day in and day out).

So what's the solution? There doesn't seem to be one. We just have to suck it up and work at a job that we'll inevitably get bored of and hate.. unless someone wants to pay us to play and to pursue whatever interest strikes our fancy at the moment. And, at least for me, that's probably not happening in this lifetime.

In order to make a decent living creating things, three requirements have to be met:

1) The product has to be valuable enough to a reasonably large number of people

2) You have to be reasonably good at what you do (this isn't a given at all)

3) Very likely, you have to be reasonably good at marketing (and, if we're really serious about the "doing what you love" thing, love marketing)

Even if you really love doing something creative, without the above, you better love it more than eating if you're going to try doing it for a living.

Do something you love is referring to creative passions. Find something creative you love to do and make it your profession.

Again, this is roughly equivalent to "let them eat cake." Creative professions are famously unremunerative.

I'm sorry if this is offensive, but try expanding your horizons.

I love music, and I decided that I spent too much of my life staring at a screen, so I took up the guitar. I am terrible at it, but the feeling you get beating a hard boss on xbox is only a pale shadow of the feeling I get when I am playing music (even badly). And the feeling I get when playing music by myself is only a pale shadow of what I feel when I get together with some friends and some beers, and we play music together.

I love eating, and I found I was spending too much money at fancy restaurants, so I decided to learn how to cook. Cooking dinner during the week after a long day of work is bullshit, but going out on the weekend to a farmers market, getting amazing ingredients, coming home and making something that is wonderful is an amazing feeling. Even more then that, sharing it with your wife, or the rest of your family is even better. Watching people you care about close their eyes with pleasure after taking their first bite of the food you put your heart into is really wonderful, and hard to beat.

Last thing is programming. I am really good at programming, and spend a lot of time perfecting my craft. Several years ago I found I no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make a good UI to save my life, I didn't enjoy the software I made. So I decided to change that. The first time I solved a problem for someone with software, and did it in a way that left them amazed and delighted, I felt better then all those years banging around with frameworks and sql statements. It was even a small rush either, it was something that was downright addictive. Nowadays I call myself a front-end developer, and I love collaborating with good designers to bring great software to life. But it isn't about twiddling bits for me, it is to make parts of other peoples lives that were kind of rough and not pleasant more joyful.

Creating is hands down the most fulfilling way I can use my time, to the point that consuming is only something I do now if I am too beat from doing creative things. I like to pretend I'm a gamer, but I can't really play a game for more then a few hours now without feeling bored and unfulfilled. I love to read, but nowadays the most time I have for fiction is to wind down before sleep, or in audiobook form on my way to do something else. I used to spend so much time and gain so much enjoyment out of those activities, but actually taking the time to get ok in a few creative disciplines, and the years I spent enjoying those things seem pale by comparison.

The adage should really be "Do what you love AND excel at". If the conversation you had with your wife about books you read was very interesting, you could film it, sell it (or more likely ads around it) and make it your job.

While some passions are easier to monetize then others if you are in the top 100 people that do it, there is a good chance someone will pay you for it.

He said he loves hanging out with his wife. He didn't say he loves blogging or being a voyeurism target.

"Make a living doing something you love."

That is ideal, but it is not always feasible. There are some things nobody likes doing, but somebody's got to do them. I'm fortunate that I like programming and that people will pay me to do it, but not everyone is so lucky.

If someone loves making lots of money, and those things "nobody" loves pay good money because the supply of people willing to do them is low, then those people who LOVE to make money will do them...

EDIT: It all comes down to balancing and finding what you truly LOVE. If being a janitor paid $300 an hour because supposedly nobody would do it otherwise... I'd do it knowing, thinking, and planning with what I love in mind... saving up money so I could do/have what I love! My time! Sometimes you have to put in short term pain for a long term gain...

I like the following advice "Work at the job you do not actively hate", this might be paraphrasing Buffett. Very few are lucky that their most enjoyable pastime that they are good at is also the highest paid.

As it has been noted, for most of humanity some sort of purely consuming task seems most enjoyable these days.

I would much rather play strategy video games or chess, but there is a very limited market for good players. Also, it has been noted playing anything for money actually changes your enjoyment of that task. Corollary - if you are the best at something in the world - you can create your own profession.

Programming is something that I enjoy, but it is not something i want to do 24/7. However, it is well rewarded.

How much does playing video games pay these days?

Like anything: quite well, if you are good at it.

If you're the best in the world at anything there's an audience, sure. But don't pretend it's available to anyone who's passionate about it. I'm passionate about casually playing various games with my fiance while drinking a beer. Who's going to pay for that?

Indeed. There are streamers on twitch.tv who make $500+/day playing video games.

"It's just 8 hours a day. 5 days a week. Roughly 25% of your life."

That's only if you're lucky. At least in America, 10 or more hours a day is quite common. In the tech field, some weekend work is also not unheard of. In some companies and industries (like game development, startups, finance, not to mention insane shifts that nurses and doctors are forced to work), death marches and sweatshops where you work 14 to 16 hour days for months on end is the (pathological) norm.

The above doesn't even count the times where you bring the work home with you, nor how the crap you have to deal with at work affects the rest of your life emotionally and the (usually detrimental) effect it has on your health.

You do get compensated somewhat financially for this. But how much is your health and emotional well-being really worth?

Consider this next time some company sends out a pitch for a ninja or rockstar that loves to work in an "exciting", "fast-paced" environment.

Oh, absolutely. The extra work we all put in has to be from love and passion, not bullying and pressure. I've experienced burnout before and I hear alarm bells any time I see 'fast-paced', 'exciting', 'ninja', 'rockstar', or any other term that implies chronically-high cortisol levels.

This. A thousand times this.

We spend too much time at it to call it "just a job". Sure, I've been there ... close to burning out, hating going to work, wanting nothing to do with co-workers. But this is my life, and it's the only one I got. Life is to short to have a job that is "just a job".

Many probably can't just walk out of their "just a job" right now - they have obligations to their boss, they have to feed their family, etc. But the goal should be to work to change it, and make their jobs more than "just a job".

So if someone doesn't love their job enough to spend MORE than 37.5% of their waking hours at it, the solution is to find a job they'll love THAAAAAT MUCH?

No, obviously the solution is to minimize the time spent working, either way.

"Only when we are free from working to live, will we be free to live to work."

Do you take drugs to prevent sleep? Because sleep is stealing a huge amount of your life too.

It's fair to say that I love sleep :)

Indeed, very few people in our industry don't appreciate a daily hit (or two) of caffeine.

I avoid caffeine, but mostly because of other issues...

Sleep is pleasant.

What are you now pursuing or starting now?

I'm not entirely sure yet :)

I was going to write my own response, but zacharyvoase has already written it.

I thought this was going to be another one of those 'Internet Manifestos.'

I was very pleasantly surprised. This is something I am definitely behind, even though for me it isn't just a job. I love programming, but for years my programming at home has languished because my programming at work is a soul-sucking endeavor that leads me to have a sinking feeling every time I look at the Komodo icon on my home PC.

I think the core problem here is not about an us versus them when it comes to the guys who go home to their wife and kids and the guys that go home to their git and vim. It's more about the fact that both groups probably spend too much time away from their homes, and right now the programming scene is incredibly fractured. Programmers are certainly not a homogenous group. Off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen different flavors of programmer, all with their own innate perceptions about things both programming related and not.

What we really need is a coming together of the programmers-by-trade and the programmers-at-heart to declare war on all of the silly little stereotypes that have created a workplace unfairness in IT in the last fifteen to twenty years. You need a communion of individuals to create a semi-fraternal organization that looks like a union on the outside but inside is a diverse collective of brilliant minds.

It wont be easy, but many smart people (and a very few ridiculously articulate people) have been passively advocating for it in the last ten years or so, and I think that as the post-dotcom generation starts to move into their 30s we'll see a drastic change in the employee relationship within the next five to ten years.

"You need a communion of individuals to create a semi-fraternal organization that looks like a union on the outside but inside is a diverse collective of brilliant minds."

It's very sad that decades of right-wing propaganda has made "union" a dirty word.

This is especially true in the technology field, which is so infested with libertarians that you'd feel the need to qualify your suggestion for the formation of what is essentially a union by saying that it only "looks like a union on the outside".

Why not just come out and call it a union? Why couldn't a real union have "a diverse collective of brilliant minds" on the "inside"?

A union is just an organization of professionals who try to collectively improve their working conditions and compensation. There's absolutely nothing wrong with or shameful about this.

The time for a technology workers' union has been long overdue in the US. We shouldn't feel ashamed to suggest its formation or to call it what it is.

It's very sad that decades of right-wing propaganda has made libertarians think that a trade union is anything other than a rightful exercise of the Freedom of Association.

Funny thing is that I prefer to go home @ 5 as well... but when I do get home I often read books about programming, catch up on articles and papers, or work on some amusing side-project.

Often I'll learn some maths, experiment with some new approaches to solving problems, or watch screen casts to learn how other people approach the craft.

I don't do it because I'm some corporate shill. I just really love programming.

I also have a wife, a child on the way, and my life seems pretty balanced to me.

I just look at overtime and think: well I only have so many minutes left to live, what's in it for me if I do this? Sometimes the answer is just money because that's probably what I needed at that moment... more often than not in recent years I don't bother unless there's equity on the line (which has never been on the table anyway). If my employers ever had a problem with it I just moved on. Things got tight but they never hit rock bottom.

It's all just about priorities and sticking up for yourself.

You would get payed if you stayed longer? Here (Portugal) it's common practice for every kind of dev to work overtime with no extra pay, it's seen as a trait of the job and it's not just when there's a huge deadline, because there always is.

I have worked in places where overtime was just a part of the job and I didn't last in such places for very long.

I have at times had to suffer such treatment because I needed the paycheck even if I wasn't getting paid extra for the extra hours.

However there was still the choice to leave such a job and deal with the consequences.

On one occasion I wasn't even given the choice. It was expected and I didn't live up to those expectations. I wasn't that upset in the end because even though money was tight for a while I still made it through and got another job within a couple of weeks. I was much happier in the new position and most of the people I knew who worked for that company eventually left anyway.

At some companies I would get paid for the extra time or at least would be given paid time off later on. I just had to ask. Otherwise I would just go home at my normal time.

These days I probably wouldn't even work over time if you paid me extra. I only work overtime if I made a promise to deliver something by a certain date (and I rarely make those promises unless I'm certain) or if I have some stake in the company. That's largely because I'm in a position where I'm not living paycheck to paycheck anymore and don't need to work for my employers if I don't want to.

Admittedly if you're just starting out or this kind of "overtime culture," is pervasive everywhere ymmv.

I think your end point is a key point. If you are in a situation to do so, skip the BMW/big house etc and shoot for more financial independence - by that I mean just having some savings to make you comfortable as a first step. It will vastly change your ability to say 'no', 'I quit', or 'Im going home because its late'

Same in the US. I have never heard of software developers (who work as full-time employees) earning overtime pay. I'm not sure if contractors who bill hours are eligible for overtime pay.

at a prior job, all the entry-level (less than two or three years experience & not in management roles, iirc) programmers were rather suddenly made overtime eligible (due i think to legal action in some other state). handy given that it was rare for any of us to work less than 50 hours a week....

> I don't do it because I'm some corporate shill. I just really love programming.

Exactly. Before I ever got a job programming I couldn't leave it alone. I simply had to do it. I enjoy my other interests and spending time with my family, but I'm also drawn to reading, playing, building in code. There's endless fascination there for me.

I do have some pity for people for whom it's "just a job." To spend approximately 1/2 your adult waking life doing something that merely enables you to pursue other interests and pay the bills. Poor saps. I suppose not everyone can get work doing something they find compellingly fascinating, but I wish everyone could.

I think the learning programming thing falls under "personal creative projects", and I am with you 100%.

Yes, the article seems to assume that "personal creative projects" need to be something unrelated to software development. But why do they need to be? If a carpenter builds his kids a tree house in his spare time, isn't that a personal creative project even if he employs the same skills that he uses in his day job?

I don't classify myself as a 501 developer. I'm probably the opposite that they're rallying against. But I don't dismiss 501ers. Two things strike me from the manifesto.

Since I've become a parent, I've noticed 5:00 has become more important to me. We put our kids down to bed around 8:00, so I only have a few hours of quality time with them each day.

Secondly, there are just things you won't learn on the job. And that doesn't mean it's a bad job. My new shiny is currently Haskell. I shouldn't get huffy if my work doesn't allow me to time to explore it. It'd be nice, but I'm not entitled to it. And further, it doesn't mean I should start hunting for a "better job". So in my opinion, 501ers are left with three alternatives:

1) They only learn/play/explore things that apply directly to their 9-5 job. Or are limited to whatever time their work allows for exploration.

2) They find a job that aligns with their interests.

3) They make an business case to the company to incorporate the technology. (However this is best done after you have a level of experience with it)

People could argue which of those are better. But if you're someone like me and like to play with a large number of technologies, sometimes removing the job out of the equation is much easier...and maybe even more fun.

Anyone that is not a parent yet will never understand and will never value such quality time.

... and I'm guessing that's the majority HN readers.

There's only 24 hours in a day, no more no less.

“Playing fußball in the pub with our friends over playing fußball in the office with our team leader”

Talk about a false dichotomy. I evade this problem by being friends with the people I work with.

Overall, I think there are some good distinctions made here. And there is a good point to the thing: “To us it is just a job, but we still do it well.” I almost feel like the page should lead with that. That this isn't an indication that this approach is better than the other approach, simply that it's… Different.

Maybe I don't have a family nearby right now. Maybe I am at a point in my life where I can have free snacks and free time, where I can have sustainable pace AND muscle-man heroics AND still enjoy life outside of work. But that's beside the point of the page. The point here is to understand that not everyone has that perspective, and that it's important to respect those that leave their work at the office and dedicate more time to all the other things than you do (if you're one not one of the “501 developers”).

Just because you've made your coworkers part of your extended social life doesn't mean there's no dichotomy between "socializing at work" and "socializing with friends".

It's not that false a dichotomy. I once started a job with a team I thought were awesome people... when I interviewed.

Once there I realized that none of them were all that social with each other, and I didn't want to be outside-of-work friends with most of them, either.

Work: same people every day (nice though they may be).

Everywhere else: everyone else.

  If you:
  Write a technical blog
  Contribute to open source projects
  Attend user groups in your spare time
  Mostly only read books about coding and productivity
  Push to GitHub while sitting on the toilet
  Are committed to maximum awesomeness at all times, or would have us believe it
Much of this applies to me, and applies to me because I love programming. If you don't love programming, I am unlikely to ever respect you as a programmer. Doubly so if you confuse loving programming with being at the beck and call of a given employer, or confuse loving programming with what hours you spend in the workplace.

The 5:01 article it links to is insightful, though.

+1. We pity you because you contribute to open source projects? I pity you for not having found a job you love. In my experience, the people who work on open source are the ones who innovate, create cool cutting-edge products. And then the 5:01 guys come in and maintain the code. Who is to be pitied?

That sarcastic tone is so weird that it's clear there's more to this than working hours. I think it's about dead corporate culture, bad managers, and dysfunctional teams where people don't agree.

The more interesting part is the second half, in the smaller print where the author addresses his teammates. He uses words like "respect", but what he's saying feels contemptuous and passive-aggressive. That's the real tell here. Well, that and the suggestion that he doesn't believe in what he's working on. No wonder he feels like checking out every day.

Does it matter what time someone leaves? Only if people feel it does. What matters is that a team be aligned. If there's disharmony, work it out. If you can't work it out, change the team. Writing a "manifesto" is not working it out (though it might start a real conversation).

Personally, I want teammates who are passionate about doing great work. Come and go whenever works for you. But passion doesn't get turned off like a light switch at the same time every day.

Contributing to open source projects, attending user groups in my spare time, and mostly reading books about coding and productivity do NOT mean that I allow my employment to penetrate deeply into my personal life. I allow my interests and my passions to penetrate deeply into my personal life. If you don't have the good fortune to be paid for your passions, don't put down those who do as corporate shills.

I also make plenty of time for family and fun. Maybe it's all of those productivity books.

There's a gulf between a stereotypical "day job" developer and someone for whom programming is a core part of their self image, but in real life there's more of a subtle gradient.

People who write technical blogs, go to user groups, or endlessly read programming books seem to be in the "not us" group, but I know of day job developers who do (some/all of) those things. Drawing lines in the sand doesn't seem useful when, I think, the issue behind this seems to be "don't look down on us day job developers." :-)

You're right (I'm probably in the gradient somewhere), but I don't think that bit of the manifesto is the crux. There are lots of people in many vocations who contribute to their field without given up massive amounts of their spare time. Some folks choose to give up their time, and, as the manifesto says, more power to them.

The bigger takeaway for me from the manifesto is the first half--that my job is my job. I enjoy my co-workers, but, truthfully, I enjoy my family and friends more. And that should be okay.

This is excellent, and I'm fully behind it. Some of the best coworkers I've ever had were 5:01'ers - they got things done on time because they had to, and they didn't burn out.

Just don't break the build at 4:59. That's all I ask.

I suspect that many people who work long hours may be spending time on non-work diversions. HN? ;)

People who leave at 5:01 may prioritize their time better.

Some of these things relate to employers, and some of them relate to programming and craft. I'm all for keeping a sustainable pace on your project, and not letting your employer's priorities continually override yours. But some of this sounds too much like a defense of those whose dedication to learning stops at the office door.

I respect those people for the time they spend with their families and loved ones, and wish them the best, but I don't much enjoy working with them. I love what I do, and if you do too, I expect to see some evidence that you enjoy it in your spare time. Particularly for consultants or independent contractors, I find the notion that all of your professional learning should be on your client's dime to be ethically troublesome at best.

> But some of this sounds too much like a defense of those whose dedication to learning stops at the office door.

I don't think it's fair to characterize it that way, there are other things to learn about outside of programming. I spend a lot of time learning about biology, sociology, economics, philosophy, etc. I spend time learning more about friends and partners. I spend time learning about myself. Yours is exactly the mentality that the article is addressing, the one that does not see value in or respect any activity not directly related to coding. What's troublesome to me is that some people focus so narrowly on technical proficiency that I wonder how they have the time to develop the perspective to know where to apply those skills.

I love and enjoy learning about all of those things as well. I also play acoustic guitar, bake a mean baguette, and play the occasional videogame.

I also enjoy learning about code. One need not crowd out all the others.

Yours is exactly the mentality that the article is addressing, the one that does not see value in or respect any activity not directly related to coding.

I certainly don't see that in what bguthrie wrote.

"In return, you must recognize that the success of the projects on which we work together depends largely upon the degree to which you treat us with respect, both as skilled professionals and as a diversity of autonomous living people."

It's probably this part.

bguthrie didn't write that.

I think we need more of this. In the context of employment (meaning you are not a 'true' owner), I genuinely have a hard time understanding why so many are so good at sabotaging themselves. Its as if we need a primer in worker economics before going into the workforce.

Obviously simple rule... the more you work for a flat rate (salary) the more you lower your pay. Second simple rule... the more you work for a flat rate (salary) the larger the opportunity cost. There are probably better things you could be doing for yourself after 5 - things like oh I don't know... have friends, family, start a business (that potentially does NOT have a salary cap), learn new skills, etc. etc.

I see this attitude pop up all the time where there are groups of folks who feel that everyone that is an employee who works normal hours should be thrown out of the profession. From my perspective, this is an unfortunately toxic attitude in that it degrades everyone as a whole and collectively detracts from our value.

I'm at the beginning of my career. I moved to a different country because I couldn't find a job I liked in my own country. I really like programming and I started doing it in my spare time in high school and I still do it in my spare time.

But, I wholeheartedly agree with this article. I need to go home at 5 in order to keep liking programming. Sometimes I go home to program on a pet project or to learn something new in the weekends. Most of the time I try to do that, but life gets in the way. In a good way. My gf wants to go out or I find some new hobby or I want to go running or just stroll around in the beautiful city I live in. I have problems that I want to solve in my life. I think about stuff and read about stuff. I want to learn to build things with my hands, ride a horse, play two musical instruments, paint etc.

I'm not an insect. I don't want to tell people I'm a programmer and have nothing else to talk about (like some of the people I know in this industry). I want to have friends who aren't programmers. In fact I usually appreciate these friends' company a lot more. Because we talk about being human, not about being programmers.

I'm really lucky to have a boss and colleagues who are like this, too. Some of them are really bright people. Most of us have a big number of programming books we've read. Just because I go home early it doesn't mean I'm not passionate about my craft. I am and I constantly invest in getting better, but I hope I'm not doing it at the expense of being a real human being and having meaningful relationships with the people around me.

It's amazing to see the number of counter-arguments to this manifesto on HN after a year ago everyone was praising things like the 4-hour work week and getting more done in less time. Has that failed? Did it instead turn out that we can be productive sitting on a chair for 12 hours a day?

Or maybe the people who really are passionate about programming are just programming right now, because they want to quench their thirst for programming in the 8 hours they have today and then get on with other pursuits. And I should go do that now.

What city do you live in?

During our latest "crunch project", we worked pretty crazy hours to ship on time. One guy in the team works 6 hour days, and continued doing so all the way, with a few exceptions.

As the rest of us turned to Zombies he remained calm, focused and sharp. Without him, we wouldn't have shipped as well as we did.

Did this cause friction on your team? Or did everyone feel good about the arrangement?

I really thought there would have been more friction. Of course everybody was affected by the tight schedule and initially bad their reservations about one of us not pulling his weight in hours, but as time passed we were all going to him for advice, asking him to review our code.

However, the people in management/business made some sweeping remarks about our team "not working as hard as the other teams" in passing. Makes me think that the further away from the code and actual productivity you are, the more important hours and arbitrary productivity measures become.

It's fascinating how healthy teams find the right balance in unpredictable ways. The principal thing is that they be allowed to do it. Managers who operate on the assumption that they're supposed to decide matters so often intervene to wreck them. It seems strange, but it's simple cognitive dissonance. It's psychologically difficult for middle managers who add no value not to interfere, because that would mean admitting that they add no value. So in order to prove they deserve their authority, they interfere and cause harm. That's not true of everybody in such positions, of course. The smarter ones understand that mostly what they need to do is nothing, just let people work - sort of like the new-age Buddhist saying, "Don't just do something, stand there!" But it's true enough in bulk that that whole organizational form is irrational. It is gradually being replaced.

In any case, you've provided a nice example of how issues like working hours are subsumed by team dynamics. That's where action is.

Something rings a bit off to me about this. Just because you aren't willing to grind yourself into the dirt working 70 hour weeks on someone else's project doesn't mean that you must lack an amazing passion for a craft that could be an enormous part of your life and your identity.

By the same token, working long hours doesn't intensify your accrual of experience, skill, or talent, nor does it automatically make you a better or more passionate developer.

Passion is passion. Craft is craft. Whether you spend 1 hour a day doing it or 17.

Nah, I don't buy it. Especially the last bits. I write a technical blog because it is your duty to educate nontechnical users about what you know. The old fable of teaching a man how to catch fish comes to mind. This is never a bad thing, and it makes your job easier!

Contributing to open source projects, user groups, reading books on coding and productivity? How CAN these be pitiable things? I personally think this is a step before being brogrammers, which I loathe.

Let's face it. Being a coder in this brave new world is akin to being a magus in the old times. You know things, you incantate words and verbs only which you and a chosen few understood and you create something out of nether, only real in your mind's eye. And if you deal with information, as they did, you have to convey it. This is something inherent to this craft. You encounter problems with something, you log it; you solve it, you log it. When you share it, many of the people who trod the path will solve the problem, sans the time you spent, and do more. When they encounter something and log it, you will know more. This is a balancing act, nothing more nothing less.

It may be just a job for you, but for me it is an act of creation and more than a job.

I've posted this here before, but I think it bears restating.

If you work as a software engineer in California and have a salary of less than about 81K, you are entitled to overtime pay.

See the law here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=lab... (section 515.5), with 2011 and 2012 numbers here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlsr/ComputerSoftware.pdf

I am not a lawyer, so do your own research please. But the gist is, if you want developers who will work lots of free overtime, you have to pay them as such.

> Our personal creative projects over commercial products the world doesn't need

This invalidates the whole manifesto. Why are you working?

I think it's bad to polarize things like this - being a 501 developer vs not having a life. Balance is key, and you should work on things that matter to you. Don't blame the world.

A lot of people in the comments here miss the context: this was written by Microsoft ecosystem developers.

Some of the items on the list specifically target Microsoft MVPs and Regional Directors, the shots at "snacks" and "T-shirts" aim at Microsoft community events, and the rest target standard corporate development dysfunction.

If there's one positive takeaway from this post, it's the bit of the end that warns you to treat your 501 teammates well.

I don't really want to work with people who are unmotivated and just "Do their time and go". I've done it; I've worked in crappy jobs. Those jobs were, e.g., cashier at fast food joint. Or stocker at department store. Everyone wanted to leave. No one wanted to be there.

I am not really up to dealing with the harsh cynicism and assumptions of uselessness of our work with someone who leaves as soon as possible. Doesn't mean I don't like going home early. I do... But if your goal is to clock in at 8:30 and exit at 5:01, just to do the bare minimum, I can't jibe with that. I've worked with people like that... and I don't want to do it again.

Regards, pity, etc.

The problem with this logic is you're automatically assuming everyone who clocks in at 8:30 and out at 5:01 is doing the bare minimum and not pulling their own weight. What if a 5:01er pulled their weight & prioritized their time well enough to get the job done? I'm in the 9-5 because I have a family I'm starting; work should never be consume my life.

Pity? I pity you. Sad, Sad life when work is all you've got.

I totally agree but to play devil's advocate why does motivation have to correspond with working late into the night? In fact I'd argue that a motivated team should be able to get their 'share' done in less than 8 hours a day.

You're assuming I mean working late into the night. :-)

I would say that a motivated person is okay with staying 5-20 minutes late occasionally when trying to get something done that they care about.

Actually, bare minimum would be clocking in at 9AM and leaving at 5PM. I'm not sure where you're getting 8:30AM.

My opinion tends toward the idea that professionals, by definition, participate in continuing education. This can be sponsored by an employer, but it seems that in the software industry it is more often than not up to the individual.

On the other hand, I also have passions that extend outside the realm of software development. I'm not sure that this makes me any less passionate about my profession - and in many ways likely enhances my 'personal brand'. For those who are consumed entirely by software engineering - more power to them.

This reminds me of Scott Adams "New Company Model OA5 Out at 5pm" model from the last chapter of his "Dilbert Principle" http://www.amazon.com/The-Dilbert-Principle-Cubicles-Eye-Aff... on-line at http://mdsalunkhe.tripod.com/dilbert.htm

   Out at Five

   I developed a conceptual model for a perfect company.      
   The primary objective of this company is to make employees as effective 
   as possible. The best products usually come from the most effective employees, 
   so employee effectiveness is the most fundamental of the fundamentals.

   The goal of the hypothetical company is to get the best work out of 
   the employees and make sure they leave work by five o’ clock. Finishing by 
   five o’clock is so central to everything that follows that I named the 
   company OA5 (Out at five) to reinforce the point. 

   If you let his part of the concept slip, the rest of it falls apart.

   The goal of OA5 is to guarantee that the employee who leaves at 5 PM 
   has done a full share of work and everybody realizes it.  For that to 
   happen an OA5 company has to do things differently than an ordinary company.
also discussed in http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3309820 and submitted as http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=140712 four years ago

I thought this manifesto was going to be about "HTTP 501 Not Implemented" developers, a new take on You ain't gonna need it. :)

This is conflating so many unrelated things. Leaving work at 5:01 is great - leaving work whenever you need to is great. But spending your life working at "just a job" is a waste. If you're only doing your job to make money you're doing yourself a disservice.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” —L.P. Jack.

Via Frank Chimero: http://blog.frankchimero.com/post/17609912323

Sensible people get paid for playing. That is The Art of Life.

-- Alan Watts

Why are so many people making this an either - or?

Yes, I love programming.

Yes, I (mostly) treat work as 501 even though I (usally) love the work I'm doing, but I'm not owned by any company.

Yes, I decide over a job similar to "love" precisely because it takes so much time of everyone's live and I spend more time in the office with my coworkers than I spend with my friends, family and spouses.

And I still want to see something else but my editor (and I do really like my editor :) - art, books, parties, the city I live in - which I also chose by "love" which is why I wouldn't move for a job to a city I do not like - other cities, good food and other people.

So, I look hard to find a workplace I like to do work I love doing which fits into "having a life outside".

And exactly that enables me to have a choice EVERY DAY wether I want to do some hacking privately or have a nice dinner with friends.

But for many life decisions I'm on the side of the 501 manifesto's spirit: I wouldn't leave my family/spouse for a programming job at $glorious_company, I wouldn't move into some boring smalltown and leave all my friends and the opportunities of my favorite city behind just to do programming at XYZ.

This doesn't keep me from having two thinkgeek shirts TOGETHER with 20 others, going to a nerd conference here and there AND take two hours off to go into this cool art exhibit which is at the nerdy_conference_town right now, read a programming book once in a while on top of the pile of other books I read.

I totally accept that I'll never become a rockstar in programming with this life-style - but I might have hung out and gotten drunk with real rockstars on some of the parties I had time to attend or even played some rock because I had time to be part of a rockband. ;) (God, I hate the rockstar metaphor a lot.. :)

In the end it's about looking down on my life and thinking "it's a good life" - and that changes from decade to decade anyways. What I considered a good life with 22 isn't anymore what I consider a good life now - and yet I wouldn't change a thing of my 22-year-old life.

Threatening with "there's a risk that we'll piss all over your fireworks" falsifies "Not being a dick over being a rockstar".

I really liked the manifesto items, but after that the whole thing gets a passive aggressive tone. That is unfortunate.

So now we need a European localized version called the 601 Developer Manifesto.

I've been programming a couple dozen years for a dozen companies, with side projects too. Some of that time I've been a 501 developer, and some of that time not. I think my natural tendency is to go beyond 501, and I'm happiest when the company environment positively reinforces that tendency. When the company seems to be indifferent to me going beyond (there can be a lot of reasons for this), then I fall back to being a 501 developer as a coping mechanism.

My major problem with 501 developers is that it's hard to tell those that say "it's just a job, but I take pride in my craft and do it well" from those that say "It's just a job. period." without pride and love for the craft. It's fine to leave by 5:01 or even 4:59 and I actually urge my coworkers to do so, but it's not fine to leave by 501 when you dropped the ball at 4:59 and leave the rest of the team to clean your mess.

Why can't the mess be cleaned up the next day?

And, honestly, just how often does do people in your team drop the ball right before leaving for the day? Every day? Every other day? Every week even?

If someone's dropping the ball so frequently, perhaps they're either in the wrong job or need some serious training and mentorship from more capable members of the team.

And if it doesn't happen particularly often, what are you complaining about?

perfect, exactly. this kind of "501ers drop the ball and repeatedly let down their colleagues" is just the kind of chuckleheaded received wisdom that the ninja coders have been putting about for too long. we should all challenge it.

Personally programming defines me. It is a discipline that can only be mastered through dedication and time. I go through the entire day thinking about programming, I go to sleep thinking about programming. Just because I do it as a job as well does not take away from that. I realize that I am extremely lucky to be so passionate about what I do but it isn't stopping you to do what you want to do...go do it.

Look, the people you are "pitying" are the people you depend on: we make your operating systems, your languages, your frameworks, your tools; we invent the things you use; we create your social networks; we abstract away the things you find too hard; we built the very internet you're using to mock us. Do not fuck with us, for without us, you would be a clerk in a dusty room writing out invoices with a pen.

Why are you assuming "501 developers" don't do any of the things you list? I think the point is that you can have balance in your life and be a good & passionate coder.

Because they say so in the manifesto. They feel pity and respect for people that build an open source project. Without Open Source: No MacOS in it's current form, no php (facebook), no ruby (twitter), no linux (google), no apache (large parts of the web). Granted, there are paid OS-developers nowadays, but most is still for fun and passion and not paid for.

Which is precisely why open-source programmers have to be 501'ers. If we stayed late every night at our paid jobs, how would we ever do our unpaid jobs?

You can have balance in your life and be a good coder. I think balance and passion are mutually exclusive, though,

I don't think balance and passion are mutually exclusive. That would be conflating passion and obsession.

Look, the people you are "pitying" are the people you depend on: we make your operating systems, your languages, your frameworks, your tools; we invent the things you use; we create your social networks; we abstract away the things you find too hard; we built the very internet you're using to mock us.

Wrong. Absolutely wrong. The opposite, in fact, is true.

For every programmer working overtime at his paid job as a Ruby on Rails rock-star producing an advertisement-backed web application, there need to be several more clocking out of their paid jobs at 5:01PM to go home and write open-source operating systems, languages, frameworks, and tools without being paid.

Because most of the time, the essential infrastructure all the paid businesses rely is created by unpaid volunteers working off the clock (or at least it started that way!), or even better: researchers.

This is encouraging developers to leave their jobs at 5 and possibly use their time to build open source, creative projects. I highly doubt people pounding away long hours at their jobs writing commercial software are the ones also contributing to these clerk-to-programmer tools.

In my opinion, people who love programming and spend they free time programming as a 'hobby' are normally a lot better developers with a thirst to better themselves. I see this at work. Plenty of our devs program as a job, but those who have a genuine interest in programming are capable of a lot more.

Now if only there were some 501 designers to make that page easier on the eyes.

Just in case there are people who have not seen this: http://agilemanifesto.org/.

I'm trying to leave work right now, by 5:01pm, but I can't because I'm arguing with you on the internet.

Why not making it a GitHub project? ;)

'I'd fix it, but I'm going home now.' -- Maybe I'm indoctrinated by commercial interest but I simply can not support this concept.

Thanks for posting this.

I was hoping this was about programmers in Arkansas (area code 501).


Does anybody really look down on employees who leave work at the time that they agreed to leave work when they took the job? I can't imagine this being a problem, although I can see the desire for employees who value the work more than they value keeping to a strict schedule. An interesting problem would often keep me working late, and I would feel guilty for billing the company for unauthorized overtime when I could have left on time. I've never encountered an expectation for employees to routinely stay later than 5:00, or by the same logic, an expectation for employees to come in a long while earlier than their starting time.

In the USA this is a big issue, because computer programmers aren't entitled to overtime pay.

Well said :)

A timely post. I am a paying customer of Yahoo (yeah, I know), and they are badly broken today. It looks like the folks who got laid off are razing the landscape behind them (or pissing on the fireworks, to use the OP's metaphor). I pity their plight, but their actions, if my guess is correct, sure have me fucked at the moment. I can't reach anybody at all.

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