For me, the LTE/4G base station running on a PC that he did is mindblowingly amazing: http://bellard.org/lte/
Arrogance is generally a hindrance to learning. If you already know the "best" way to do something, your less likely to learn a better one. If someone shows you a better way of doing a thing, you're much more likely to take it as a challenge (someone is showing you that you don't know everything) and get defensive about it, instead of being receptive to improvement.
If you take a generous view of those around you, you're much more likely to be able to learn from them. If you are kind, people are much more likely to give you assistance. If you are willing to teach, you end up learning more, as having to explain things also forces you to clarify your own thoughts.
And it's not just a uni-directional relationship. The more secure you are in your own accomplishments, the less feel the emotional need to tear down others. The more you can honestly see that you've been helped in your intellectual endeavors (through advice, teaching, resources, etc.), the more you feel motivated to give back.
Being kind and humble isn't the only path to accomplishing great things, of course, but I've seen enough examples of it to conclude it's a very viable path. And it has the added benefit that if you don't quite make it to greatness (most of use won't), you won't have a whole bunch of people thinking that you're an egotistical jerk.
It is a very viable path and on top of this, they naturally create little coves of open-hack spaces where like-minded geeks hang out :) I was lucky enough to have met a few and spent time in their company. They were all very accessible, if not shy at times. Visibly detached from the career path concerns and fully immersed into technology, building and tinkering.
On the opposite side, I had a misfortune to meet less talented types, yet with egos only matched by the senior management. They fervently protected their turf and enjoyed dispensing condescending remarks.
I will never forget as a junior dev, I was trying to understand how a piece of the system works and in my search came up to a stellar DBA asking about a stored procedure of interest. After a couple of minutes of witty pokes at my expense, he concluded: "Listen, you don't need to know this. It's not your concern. Go away."
Well, eventually, I got access to the guarded secrets and figured it out :)
There are a lot of those kind of people, from all walks of life. They're just not on HN.
I am sure there are more such people. Can you please point to some that you know of?. It is inspiring to read bios/accomplishments of such super productive programmers.
It's hard to think of many others who are as unequivocally good-natured as Woz...accomplished or not.
Ricardo Quesada: https://github.com/ricardoquesada
- Cocos2D for iPhone (more used 2D game engine)
- Cocos2D for Python
- SqueakNOS: http://wiki.squeak.org/squeak/5727
- Driver for an obscure wireless Lucene device (new protocol reverse engineering)
- TEG (Tenes Empanadas Graciela)
- Batalla Naval
For example, I hate it when people spend a long time deciding where to eat. It drives me crazy. So if it goes on for more than 5 minutes, I'll say "I'm going to (insert restaurant here.) Anyone who wants to join me should come" and leave. Some people love this, some think I'm an arrogant prick, and most are just happy they don't have to wait 45 minutes to eat.
So really, you should ask why people think you're a jackass. I know some people hate my tendency to unilaterally make lunch decisions, but I have no intention of changing it.
I mean, if thousands of people know you, 3 thinking you are a jackass isn't bad.
That's a nice one, have to remember that :-)