I'm all about encouragement, but if we treat them differently because of age, we are just sheltering them from the real world (the Internet hardly counts there, I know). The Internet may not be the safest place to be taught how to accept criticism, but it is a lot easier to take (and more productive) when the attacks aren't personal and instead directed at an app.
How about because it's not that simple? Being a teenager is fraught with insecurity, loneliness and the perception of being misunderstood. Lots of their maturity is still cooking.
The teen years are also very formative. So if we can take an extra moment to give them the right nudge early in their trajectory, the final outcome of that tiny investment of time could be huge.
If things about a shared project are crappy, that's worth mentioning, of course. That can and should be done in a way that's constructive and encouraging, though.
I don't like the idea of a community that's too self-important to indulge the ambitious fragility of youth.
I find it enormously fulfilling to mentor younger programmers and have luckily had many chances to do so. But my personal development always suffered at those places compared to the places where I was working mostly with those near my level or above it.
An online community can't serve two masters, it is either mainly for peer discussion (and elitist) or it is mainly beginner friendly. Beginner friendly often wins out because: "won't somebody please think of the children" is a discussion ender.
So, to set up some obvious strawmen, you're ok with child labour? Or child soldiers? You're against laws preventing children from working more than x hours a week, or the age of consent?
Of course we treat them differently because of age. They haven't had the time or the exposure to "toughen" them up - and (based on my own life), at that age they're quite possibly shy, insecure, nervous and unsure of their place in the world. So yes, of course they get treated differently.
I'm not proposing an unquestioning "Wow, you're totally the best" attitude. But I am saying that one doesn't shit all over a kid just because one can.
It'd be great if people could ignore age, sex, etc. It'd be great if people could just provide constructive criticism. (Of course, if someone is suggesting something dumb ("I'm going to run this exploit scanner against my school network.") we need firm words to explain just how serious the effects on their future might be.
I agree that mentioning age in the title does drag the threads off-topic. But part of that is people being jerks to anyone who mentions their age.
"I'm 14; I made X" means "I'm 14. emacs is about twice my age. The Matrix was released when I was born. And Fight Club. And Sixth Sense. And Star Wars. (No, not the ancient Star Wars, Star Wars Episode I the Phantom Menace.)"
It means "I'm 14. OS X was released a couple of years after I was born." or "Windows 95 was obsoleted a couple of years after I was born." or "You've heard all those programming jokes about cars and programming languages or planes and programming languages and you've read all those papers about GOTO considered harmful and watched as people incremented their programming languages or moved to new platforms or introduced new ideas." or "You talk about 8 bit gaming or 16 bit gaming. I was born when the SNES was made obsolete. N64 had already been out a few years when I was born." or "Ubuntu got a first release when I was about 6."
There's just so much that kids don't know.
I find the younger ones pick up new ideas faster than some other generations, and can get more 'experience' than I can in a shorter amount of time. This is why I find it hard to want to treat them like kids, they are smart and intelligent, and often faster than me. I have no right to tell them otherwise by playing down to them. The best adults in my life were the ones who treated me as equal and respected me.
In my experience as a teacher, I would say that the most success I've had with teenagers was when I was able to show them that I trusted them to do a good job, and that I acknowledged that they could function on a higher level than a child. That doesn't mean I treated them the same as adults, because they're not. Let me give you an example:
When I was in high school, I was among the best young musicians in my state. I was twice ranked principal in the All State Orchestra, and I ended up going to one of the top music schools in the country. I won awards and scholarships and was praised by all, yada yada.
And yet, when I listen to recordings of myself play from that time, I am struck by two things -- one, that I was amazingly self assured, and two, that I sounded terrible. I couldn't hold a candle to any pro in any orchestra you could name. When you're a teenager, you suck at everything that is worth doing. You also suck at recognizing that fact, and are hormonally hard wired to not be able to examine your weaknesses. There are exceptions to the rule, always, but anyone in any kind of advisory capacity to a young person needs to recognize that and treat them accordingly. The last thing a kid who loves doing something needs is to be shown that they suck. Once they have a bit more skin in the game, the self examination can start.
A 50-year-old just starting out as a developer has already established to themselves that they can survive in the world as an adult; they have a history of successes (and failures, put into perspective over time...) that provide a base to their ego when they're criticized.
A teenager has no context, yet -- no way to assess their own value; a minor success may make them feel like they've conquered the world, but it's fragile. If you tell them it's shit, and they haven't actually done anything worthwhile, they'll may well also accept that completely and be devastated.
I run across teenagers who are surprisingly grounded now & again, but I know I certainly didn't feel like I had solid footing (and could navigate unkind criticism without being seriously hurt) until after I was out of college... and learned I could actually cut it in the real world.
These kids probably need to be encouraged to continue to put their work out there more than they need to be taught how to take criticism. When they reach a certain level of maturity, they'll be ready for blunt feedback and they'll stop identifying themselves as young developers.
The choice HN is trying to make is whether it's the kind of place where developing developers can reach out for help that is catered to their level. Of course they can come here to get the same kind of advice everyone else gets.
Is it worth it for HN to be the kind of place where young developers can feel welcome in their own skin? Is it worth it for us as a community in the long run to foster the talents of those that might be in our place in a decade or two?
I'm not saying that we should give these kids undue praise for work that is clearly still at a student level. But maybe we can find a middle ground and help show them the next steps they should take in their development. If they don't identify themselves as young developers, we won't be able to help guide them.
Indeed. Why don't we just thrust 14 year olds into the worst sort of soul-sucking office job for a year or so. That'll give 'em a good taste of the "real world".