1) This is based on a false premise that the time I'm spending writing comments is taking away from time I'd otherwise spend programming. I don't know about anyone else but I'm one of those programmers who likes to internalize a problem, absorb it and digest it subconsciously while doing other things and then write code. Guess where internet comments fit into this? Additionally, reading and writing on places like HN has contributed immeasurably to my skills as a programmer over the years. Not so much by teaching me specific things but by keeping me in touch with the community and aware of things I wouldn't otherwise be aware of.
2) There are already real points which we are awarded for programming, it's called dollar bills. Ok, you were talking about free open source projects that we wouldn't get paid for. True, no dollars directly there. But these are things you can cite on your CV/portfolio when job hunting or when review time comes around. Dollars.
How much quality programming exists in you per day? 2 - 5 hours?
The occasional 8 - 10 hour quality effort might also exist but it does not happen for me every day. I can try and force the issue but quality degrades.
And like my dad always told me, "Answers will usually come in your dreams."
Now, maybe my GitHub rank would be even higher without my HN rank...
Not that I think you are wrong, but those things might be related :)
That said, there's nobody on that list who has an insignificant number of contributions, either, which is more important. #256 is ~3 commits/day.
- I made some of my best friends through working on projects in the same open source ecosystem.
- I attribute some of my best jobs to having built some reputation from OSS. Would I have gotten through Google interviews if one of the interviewers hadn't been a user and a fan of one of my projects? I'm pretty sure it, and having a long term public track record must have helped some.
- What little internet fame I have (and it is very little) is all purely attributable to coding something, releasing it, and then writing about it.
- I still get a kick out of looking at some old code I've written every now and then (like old Perl Golf entries). Every now and then I'll get to tell a good debugging war story to friends, or swapping stories with them about cool things we've coded lately. Boasting about the cool forum posts... Yeah, not so much.
And Hacker News? I don't think I've have had one business lead (which didn't pan out) as a result of a comment, but haven't interacted with a poster outside of HN otherwise. There's no reason to believe my HN karma will ever matter for anything. I guess it's nice to cross the downvote threshold.
> So suppose this wonderful community has been a great help to you over the years, and you’re trying to figure out how you can help out around the clubhouse.
In other words, what's the most effective way to be charitable and give back to the community?
> The going conversion rate for those to dollars is around infinity:zero.
That's arguable IMO. I'm not saying it's a straightforward payout, but I don't think they're not worthless, either. Hiring managers and recruiters will attempt to look up your profiles (if you haven't provided any), and having a stellar reputation within a community is assuredly not a bad thing. While it may not net you a larger offer, it might serve as a tie-breaker if nothing else (especially if the other candidate has a lot of negatives associated with their online profiles).
What motivates one person over another might be imaginary points or real dollars.
This programming thing is a lot of fun, right? We have been entrusted with the unique responsibility of making pretty much the entire world go round. (There aren’t a lot of industries that don’t need software these days.) And not only that, but we have a lot of fun doing it.
Fun? It can be, sometimes, or at least was for some of us when we started. Making pretty much the entire world go round? No, most of us aren't anywhere close to that. We make happy little sites and apps for rich people to buy jewelry and make fun of their friends and mark posts 'liked' on social networks. I know people who work on the software that runs airplanes, and that's soul-crushing C tweaks and opimization at best. We have a lot of fun doing this? No, I think most people in any reasonable place to comment do this for work, and "fun" is almost always a secondary consideration if it is one at all, at least for the non-independently-wealthy and personal-future-minded.
Yeah, I guess we do need to talk. Because you don't seem to understand what the vast majority of us don't do or what our priorities aren't, let alone that we are pretty much normal people that don't need hyperbole about which comments on which sites matter.
In immortal words of Confucius "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"
Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life? Very petty sentiment from an industry that's swamped with demand.
Between March 2001 and April 2004 roughly 400,000 American jobs in information technology were eliminated. Many of those who had coded Java in obscurity ended up as cab drivers or greeters at Walmart. A personal professional reputation, by contrast, is a bit harder to build than the big salary but also harder to lose. If you don't invest some time in writing (prose, not code), however, you'll never have any reputation outside your immediate circle of colleagues, who themselves may end up working at McDonald's and be unable to help you get an engineering job during a recession.
Not saying our system is perfect, but it's working and besides developers need to let off some steam and just talk about geeky stuff.
By having places where programmers hang out with each other and just chit chat a community arises. Experience, expertise, knowledge, and judgment is shared.
Developers learn many important things this way.
They learn about new technologies, new languages, new tools, they get a sense for new things to study. And new things to build too.
They learn about security vulnerabilities in frameworks and operating systems. Not everyone is signed up for all of the relevant security mailings that impact them, and sometimes there aren't security mailing lists for some products.
They learn about good practices and bad practices. Everything from how to work, how to bill and interact with clients, how to be a good boss, signs of bad bosses, what opportunities are out there in the world, all that stuff.
They learn about interesting and deep problems in programming and computer science and perhaps think about ways to tackle them.
It's easy to discount these things but they are important. As important as fundamental computer science stuff like algorithms, if not more so. Sure, it also comes with a lot of baggage and bloviation and uselessness, but sometimes it can be more difficult to tell the difference between useful and useless than one might think.
That all said, I think it's reasonable to say "Hey, we should think about motivating people to contribute code too!", but both elements can be complimentary.
I will note that I have had many pleasant interactions with people on HN outside of HN itself. Some of these interactions included offers to interview for a position. But this did not happen because of my karma points itself. They happened because of how I conduct myself here.
As others have pointed out, there are many other metrics.
Number of lives you positively affect, for those of us who work in large-scale projects. Dollar bills for those who choose to get paid. Recognition by peers for those who choose to publish papers/reviewed articles.
And to be completely trite, "you get back what you put in". If all HN is to you is a place to collect Internet points, yeah, that's pretty shallow. If you think it's a place where you can have interesting discussions with people with similar interests, it's a completely different kettle of fish. I'm not here for my karma points, I'm here because I occasionally enjoy the discussions. (And I comment because I wait for my compiler ;)
The same goes for musicians. Name the last Daft Punk comment you saw on Reddit? Oh it's not there? Probably because they're too busy spending 6 weeks on the perfect kick drum sound.
As tomphoolery alluded to, maybe the problem is that our society as a whole gives too much credit to how we live our leisure life vs our work life? This isn't a problem related to programming, it's a general critique.
You could easily write the same article from the point of view of a 4.0 GPA college student:
Guys, we need to talk. This whole college thing is awesome. Most of you will only get 4 years of this. Why do we give so much credit to the guy who just won the case race but not the engineer who's developing the next rocket? WHY?!?! We should be studying!
I'm going to keep commenting and coding more than the average person.
Great article though.
At least the person who actually wrote Emscripten got a few Internet points for the effort too.
It's worth remembering though that to some people some things matter more than money. Internet points are a cheapened version of peer recognition, and as such they might matter to some more than they logically should.
Sure, there is. Someone wanted to state his opinion. And as the internet most likely won't get full anytime soon I don't see why that would be bad.
This lowers the bar of entry, increases the points for doing important stuff, and helps people learn. Email me if you want talk more. jonathan.barnes11 @ gmail dot com
... see what I did there?