He's just replaced some of the words; the result makes no sense.
I think what he means by success is "money", which might well work for him, but doesn't for many others.
These programmers have given themselves the real freedom zero: the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to work on.
That is what it means to be successful. If you don't decide for yourself how you work, what you work on, and when, you're not a successful person. Perhaps as a statement about the shoddy state of our society, he includes the assumption that one has to be a business owner-- and rich-- to get there (which is not strictly true, as Valve is establishing with the success of open allocation).
How much more dead do you want to the programming world? :-P
It's still bad, though.
I want to know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and why it works or doesn't work.
I don't want to be a rockstar, I want to be confident in my current abilities and in my ability to always learn more.
As an example, here are two two extremes of answers I've heard: "perhaps leading my own team, perhaps even starting my company" and "doing what I love: computers". The first one tells me that the candidate isn't interested in sticking around for long, the other tells me that this person will excel because they are naturally interested in computers and not just chasing the money. The second candidate is still here and doing really well, by the way.
The pattern I've noticed in response to this question is that those who mention something intrinsic related to the job, such as "doing what I love: computers" or "being the best programmer I can possibly be", usually do much, much better. On the other hand, the candidates chasing external rewards tend not to last long.
Surely I'll still be doing what I love, but I hope I grow to take on more responsibility. If I'm not growing in my ability, then I might just be a bad programmer, and I probably don't love it anyway.
If I answer with "perhaps leading my own team", does that mean I don't love computers? (Nope.)
No one gets to be "successful" by updating someone else's idea, though.
http://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html "going through the bug list isn't fun; but rewriting everything from scratch is fun"
2 of the examples he provides are living.
Unless you happen to work for a company/department with awesome, stable practices and quality output I guess.
Software is a pyramid, but it has a competence pyramid and a respect/autonomy pyramid, and they aren't always the same. To the extent that they line up, it has more to do with respect begetting competence (because you get better projects and learn more) than the other way around.
I came up with what I think is a good representation of the competence levels here: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/the-trajector... . The short explanation of it is:
0.5 - 0.9: Rising adders, or people who are learning the ropes and developing the ability to contribute, in minor ways, to software projects. However, they'll perform poorly without structure and mentorship. Most college students are in this range.
1.0 - 1.4: Solid adders, who reliably can create software. They can fix bugs, add features, and solve almost all technical problems, although it might take a lot of time to do it, and the solutions might not jive with the rest of the architecture. Most professional programmers are in this tier.
1.5 - 1.9: Rising multipliers, who make other people more productive, have architectural sense on account of experience, and usually know more than one programming language and framework (and can compare different approaches). At 1.5, we're talking about the 90th percentile of professional programmers.
2.0 - 2.4: Solid multipliers. Very rare: perhaps 1 to 2 percent of professional programmers. These are people you could trust, if needed, to unilaterally lay out the architecture for a technology company. (You'll want to hire specialists at some point, but a 2.0-level generalist can take you into the tens of millions of dollars in revenue.) It takes 10 to 15 years, with very little slack or redundancy in the experience, to get here. Most people never do.
2.5 - 3.0+: Global multipliers. Very few people can even evaluate talent at this level, which usually takes 20+ years to attain. At this level, most programmers have become expert in multiple specialties and developed, at the least, a world-class interdisciplinary knowledge (i.e. they might not be the world leader in X and Y, but there's no one out there who exceeds them on a project that involves both).
The success/respect hierarchy is somewhat different. I'd say it looks like this. Since business people have a huge say in where one actually lands, it diverges from the competence ladder as one goes up. The first number is where one generally needs to be on the 0.0-to-3.0 competence scale and the second is where one is perceived to be, mostly by business types.
Amateur (0.6 / 0.5): knows a few things about computer science, but not yet employable as a professional programmer. You might let this person transition to an engineering role over 12 months if they already work at your company in good standing.
Low worker (0.9 / 0.8): Can program, but with no real autonomy. Given tiny go-for projects with same-day deadlines, in addition to stuff that no one wants to do. Usually gets non-programming grunt work. It's nearly impossible to improve from this low-prole status, because you won't get decent work.
Mid worker (1.2 / 1.0): Average professional programmer. This is where the "5:01 engineers" who carry out their assigned work but don't make extra efforts to learn more will usually end up.
High worker (1.5 / 1.2): Above-average programmer. Usually has a title like "Senior Software Engineer". Capable of working with high levels of autonomy; usually trusted to work with low (but nonzero) levels. Still involves no influence over tools, product direction, or architecture. This is a frustrating level, because your actual competence is 1.5-2.0+ (top 10%) but you're still treated like a 1.3-ish Java jockey.
X Who Programs (?? / 1.5): Engineer who develops a credibility that is independent of software and thereby improves his software career. Data science (X = statistics) is one way to do this. Another is to become a PM, a startup founder, or a financial quant. This step has little to do with engineering per se. It's what you do when you realize that leveling up as an engineer isn't possible unless you get the highest quality of work, and that you need an engineering-independent credibility in order to convince bosses that you're capable of high-quality software work.
Manager-equivalent (?? / 2.0): To get to this level and beyond, it's no longer necessary to improve as a software engineer-- it will help, in the long run, to be competent, but it's not required-- because you can shut down people who know better than you. You don't need to be at 2.0 or higher, but executives will assume that you are. At this level, management considers you to be one of the best programmers in the company, but adopts you as "one of us". Your title is usually something like "Staff Software Engineer" or "Principal Architect". You've probably reached something that looks like "Freedom Zero": you're considered too valuable to fire, so you can work on whatever you want. However, there are still soft social pressures to suit the needs of management, and if you ignore those, while you won't be fired, you'll be out of "the club".
Executive-equivalent (?? / 2.5): Very rare. There might be five thousand 2.5+ software engineers in the world, and there are about few hundred people (with some overlap, and some discrepancy on both sides) who can reliably make themselves be perceived as 2.5+. Your title is now ultra-prestigious, like "<Company> Fellow". Millions of dollars are routinely bet on your ambitions. Your name is frequently substituted into Chuck Norris jokes. You answer directly to the CTO and have the right to direct as much of the engineering organization as you wish. It's like being the VP/Eng, but with an added benefit, which is that you have an excuse (you're still an engineer) to code if you want to.
Years of experience is one of the larger generalizations we make in our industry. One that is almost always worthless because it has negative connotations on both ends, while given little to no idea of what value lies in the middle. The only time it can be useful is as a barrier to entry to new graduates.
I started writing code at a young age, got a CS degree, and after graduating my first 3 months I was more productive than some people I have worked with with 5 years experience. I created something that a significant fraction of people I have worked with would have been unable to think of. However, I had just been writing code not reading it. After working on many projects both short and long term, I would cringe if I had to maintain the code I wrote back then.
Comments are a probably the perfect example where you need to be bitten by a stale comment a few times to really understand what's important.
I only included such criteria for the 2.0 and 2.5 level, which characterize the top 1-2 percent (or less) of programmers. I should add that while I've never seen people reach 2.0+ without programming for 10 years (even if they weren't holding a professional-level job during all that time; they might have started at 14) I am not saying it can't happen. But 2.0+ engineers are uncommon and it has to be very rare for someone to get there without the Gladwellian "10,000 hours".
If you're looking to hire 2.0+ engineers, you're not using HR-isms. You don't pay attention to the standard HR bullshit about "must have Ph.D." or "must have 5 years of experience". You're often trying to fill the roles through referrals, because those people aren't on the job market for very long, and they tend to have very high requirements with regard to the jobs they take. You don't find these people using an HR checklist and filtering thousands of off-the-street CVs.
Most people aren't trying to hire 2.0+, because the work that a 2.0+ engineer will find interesting is uncommon and few companies even have use for that high a level of work.
I've been programming for 6 years, and have been aggressively managing my career in the direction of optimizing for learning, sometimes quitting jobs solely on account of boredom, and other times "stealing an education" from jobs, and I'm only 1.7-1.8. The 2.0's are rare and I've never met one under 30 (although it's certainly possible).