But working "on the Internet" means you're also comparing yourself to the best, brightest, and driven. Then it seems like you're achieving maybe 10% of what you seemingly could be, because you're setting your own goals based on what you see out there.
It's like getting stuck in traffic. You can point out that I'm sitting in climate-controlled car, listening to a podcast, drinking coffee, having a better time than 99% of humans throughout history. It's true. I know it's true. And I'm still frustrated that I can't go faster, and I rock in my seat every time I move ahead a little as if trying to propel the car forward. It's irrational, that's the point, no amount of explaining will make it go away.
In the face of that kind of comparison, it's hard not to a bit down occasionally, even though you know the reality does not match the perception.
Yes, it's true that the complaining pushes us to find ways to make our lives even easier. But in the meantime, why are we unable to sustain our enjoyment for what we've got? If we could just change our thinking on this and begin to appreciate the amazing place we've reached on a more regular basis, imagine how much happier we'd all be. But what's the hack to do that?
I've done the same thing. I love watching a good movie at the end of the day, and I love visiting my home town. So I bought myself a nice TV, I take regular trips back home, and I feel like I have it made all the time. I drive a very modest vehicle and live in a very modest place, but I really appreciate how I live now and try to focus the rest of my resources on others.
The typical "western" approach to happiness is: "I have X but I want Y, therefore, to be happy I need to achieve Y." This book reverses the equation: "I have X but want Y, therefore, to be happy I need to learn to want X." That idea may sound radically counterintuitive on first hearing, but it's reflected in many of the world's spiritual traditions.
What's especially great about it is that it approaches the subject from a rational, scientific viewpoint, so if you find yourself turned off by the spiritual side of buddhism or whatnot, the book will be welcome.
Also, music is a good call generally - the ability to play an instrument will repay itself many times over a lifetime.
Them you should deserve a very nice home office, with all the monitors, computing power that you would want, and, of course, a remote job to enjoy all that! ;)
There's a great book called Living High and Letting Die by Peter Unger which relates to this subject. Essentially, the argument is we here in the first world have a moral obligation to continue onward and upward as long as we benefit those in the third world.
We have to first recognize our privilege or luxury before we are able to see how we can use it to help those people in the third world.
If you only surround yourself with an environment where you don't quite measure up then your baseline gets set two high. You need to recalibrate.
I recalibrate by doing Charity work. And I don't mean just writing a check. I roll up my sleeves and actually engage with people in less fortunate circumstances. Work in a soup kitchen or a food pantry. Volunteer to repair or rebuild someones house when they can't afford to or a tragedy has struck.
It exposes you to people who haven't had the breaks that you had and also helps raise the standard of living for someone less fortunate or lucky and that helps keep your baseline from getting to high.
There is no hack. Humans are wired to seek novelty. Novelty by definition wears off. The best thing I've found is to try to seek novelty in creating rather than consuming, but our very nature ensures contentedness is an elusive goal.
Many people attempt to attain contentedness through religion. I'm religious myself, but I think that man was made to create, and to improve the world, so being content with the status quo isn't really something I've tried to work on.
That being said, I think that it is important to attempt to be thankful for what you have while still working towards the future.
There's a surprising amount of overlap between the two. I always liked Buddhism conceptually, but it never really clicked with me. Stoicism on the other hand feels quite natural. Maybe it's a anglo-centric thing.
At the root of both philosophies is the realization of impermanence of all things. Recognizing (and really feeling) this impermanence goes a long way to helping you to mindfully appreciate what you have.
To give you the flavour of what I mean, some Stoic practices include:
- negative visualisation: imagine what it will be like when thing/person X is no longer in your life (which is inevitable). This, somewhat counter-intuitively, brings you into the present and helps you enjoy what you have.
- periodic self deprivation: go a week without your smartphone, or hot showers. This does two things: it teaches you that you can survive without something you're attached to, and also lets you appreciate it. In some ways the essence of Buddhism and Stoicism is "appreciation without attachment".
Stoicism is very practical - Epictetus, Seneca etc basically set you homework. The foundational principle is that there are 2 classes of things: those completely within your control, and everything else. Happiness, freedom and living a good life come focusing your energy on the first class, and being indifferent to the second. The "homework" is about helping you practically interact with the world from that perspective.
edit: for further reading, I'd recommend Irvine's A Guide To The Good Life. Although I find reading Epictetus and Seneca much more enlightening, Irvine is a nice on-ramp.
Awareness, without making comparisons. That should be the key. I can't validate that myself yet though...
For example, related to your job, you may work with technology that is fun or hot in the market, or better than what you were doing 5 or 10 years ago. Your co-workers no doubt have at least some positive qualities, so write "I am grateful that my co-workers have a good sense of humor," for example.
You may be fortunate to be making as much money as you are, or working in the conditions you have.
This is especially good for things that are an important part of your life, but which you may feel frustration or anxiety toward, such as your job, your relationships, the initiatives or projects you're working on, etc. But even for things that are a downright negative, such as sickness, you can still be grateful. For example, a sickness might have given you perspective on the important things in life, or helped you behave in a healthier manner.
Try writing down five things to be grateful about every day, and maybe again if you're feeling strong negative emotions about the subject, and see if your overall emotional posture toward the subject improves over a period of two weeks.
Such comparison alone distorts the view and paves the way to start to think that your minds lazy thoughts ("virtual obstacles") is actually something real, something you can't control.
In my personal experience, the moment you stop thinking about how hard it is to concentrate on a task and you start doing it, is the very moment when all those lazy thoughts disappears and you're back on empty "autobahn".
Meditation, traveling to developing countries, constantly reminding yourself how much you enjoy little things like music, coffee, talking to friends etc. Works for me at least.
Nothing like going without a hot shower or first world plumbing for several weeks can make you appreciate all the little luxuries we enjoy.
When I re-read it, I realized that being alive in 2014 is unbelievably awesome.
Then the conversation went straight into "Four Yorkshiremen".
A: In my day, we were grateful for just one singing hemorrhoid video.
B: And we had to download it from Usenet binaries.
C: In RealMedia format.
Me: And part 51 of 117 was missing.
A: And we had to use bauds.
Me: I had a demibaud modem.
C: Luxury! We had to make our own punchcards and send'm through the mail.
B: At least you had mail. We stapled our punchcards to passing hobos and hoped they made it somewhere with a router.
(I haven't really tried negative visualization, but I suppose I occasionally do some voluntary discomfort.)
That's a hard lesson to learn, and accept... I think my goal in life is to accept my circumstance with contentment, whatever that is at any given time.
This reminds me of something that happened to me a few years ago. My spouse and I bought a condo in a very expensive area of a big city. We realized we were very lucky to have stock options that were worth real money to sell and pay for a downpayment on the place. I felt a little like we were "cheaters" or "fakers" because the other people in the building seemed so successful. It felt like we hadn't "earned" the money since it was pretty much luck getting the options at the right time.
The guy above us in his 50s had his own business - some lighting stores or something. The lady next to us was about our age (late 30's at the time) and was an event planner and had done the work for some famous awards show recently. The couple below us were retired, and the husband had been a highly-paid salesman. etc.
A few months in, we learn that the guy above us doesn't actually own his condo. It's owned by a trust set up by his family. The lady next door co-owns it with her father who paid for most it. The couple downstairs actually did own theirs the "normal" way, but they seemed like the only ones in the building. It was really eye-opening. We were no less successful or lucky than the other people in the building. Most of them had "cheated" in some way, too, and comparing ourselves to them in that way was pointless. Did I work any less hard than the lighting guy or the event planner? Hell no! Did they "earn" their condos any more than me? Not at all. They were no more or less successful than us or anyone else in the building, it just looked that way at first.
Tell that to everyone who comes to terms with it and is at peace or is content and thankful for their situation?
On that note, is being content a skill most can learn with effort or does it have significant biological prerequisites (genetics, prenatal environment, etc)?
I'd appreciate links to studies on the matter.
Still IT is a breeze, having grown up on a farm I feel lazy even when I do a sixty hour week. Having worked in low end jobs as an adult when times were bad I have great respect for those who do and never really feel at home amongst those who never have.
Still, working at home is awesome, but no matter how many others tell me that my job or similar is challenging all I have to do is look outside see the garbage man, see the lawn people, see people building house, and not think - damn I got it good.
First world problems is a meme on reddit that fits us well
Software developers are just getting the kind of relative pay and conditions improvements that a much larger number of people took for granted in the 60s and 70s. It's everyone else who is fucked.
We enrich "business guys" with connections to billion dollar exits while we ourselves make middle-class or slightly upper-middle class wages. Meanwhile anyone willing to take out the loans to put themselves through Dental school will eventually make more than we do and if they have the motivation to open up their own practice, much more than we do.
Even if you are the sole earner in your household, it is still unlikely that you make less than $62,500. If you do make less than that, ask for a raise. If you don't make less than that, or your combined household income is more than that, you are a member of the upper class, and you should try and remember your privilege. (Hey, life's not so bad.)
> A software developer might be able to do these things in
> California, but only barely, unless they have a very cushy
> arrangement or they've ridden an exit for a startup.
They might not have the glut of "hot" startups that Silicon Valley does, but they have much more reasonable cost of living.
What you get as a developer in the bay area is way better than other US cities.
I've lived in a couple of those places over the course of a decade and a half, and I can tell you that while the cost of living is lower there, so also is the pay. Significantly lower.
You figure in the relative scarcity of jobs, and you're looking at making a lot less, limited carrier mobility, and real stress when layoffs invariably roll around.
Sure, I can't buy a house here, but I certainly make a lot more than I spend and I stock that extra away. This creates something many people don't have: options.
Being picky about jobs.
Starting something on your own.
Buying a house with cash somewhere else if you decide to move.
These are hard to replace outside of this bubble many of us live in.
But when I poke at other markets, with very few exceptions the pay differential for web developers is so steep and the choices are so few it's startling. (And I'm also frequently reminded how much of the rest of the United States is still populated by Microsoft shops rather than living in OSX/Unix-land like I do.) This is why I ended up moving out here in the first place a decade ago from the Tampa Bay area -- I was a Unix-head in a land of very few opportunities, and to my dismay, that really hasn't changed very much.
It's hard not to notice that a lot of the HN crowd that takes mobility for granted are people who co-founded their own startups and/or work at companies with a strong telecommuting culture. I think that's awesome, but finding such roles is not as easy -- even out here -- as I think people who've found them sometimes believe. (And I say that as someone who's primarily worked from home since 2011.)
Boston is even worse, the available real estate is all older and smaller and nearly as expensive as SF. I'd say feature for feature your money probably goes further in SF than in Boston.
The suburbs also have developer jobs.
But we shouldn't have to be flexible with an hour commute on a train while at the same time being told we live a life of luxury and are over paid. It appears to me the cognitive dissonance going on here similar to the SF people who say "It's not so bad, I found a studio for 2k/month in Oakland!"
If we were truly overpaid and in such demand we wouldn't live in crappy studios or be priced out of the neighborhoods we work in.
The point is, you have the luxury of being able to make those choices. What about the people who sweep the floors in your office? What about the people who work at the trendy cafe where you eat lunch?
I guess it's a Chicago thing.
Personally, I've done both the entrepreneur and employee route, and I created and kept a whole lot more money as an employee. I may go back to being an entrepreneur in the future - I'm certainly a lot more skilled than the last time I tried it - but the experience of founding my own startup and working 5 years in a big company has taught me a whole lot about the value that other job functions create, like sales, design, management, finance, capital, etc. It's really easy to look at your output as a software developer and say "I built the thing that makes my company hundreds of millions of dollars, and I only get to see hundreds of thousands of it", without realizing that none of that hundreds of millions in value would've been created without marketing to understand what people want, product design to understand how to supply it, UX to make it usable, sales to let people know about it, management to make all these functions work together, or finance to pay for it.
Or you know, you'll get an inflated idea of how much you "actually" created, just because you get to tell people what to do, and belittle their contributions because, after all you are in charge.
Developers sometimes get big heads because there is so much dead weight in the corporate world pulling paychecks for bullshit. I get that we build stuff that creates real tangible value. But just as people sometimes misunderstand the challenge of our work and the value that we bring to the table, it's easy to dismiss business-oriented entrepreneurs as just being privileged or having inside connections—all of which may be true, but until you have the stones to go put everything on the line and found your own company you don't have a leg to stand in terms of proclaiming who is bringing what value. Without the founder, nothing happens, period.
Elite workers are still workers. The people who receive most of the wealth created by workers are capitalists, not workers. There's a fairly strong ideology dedicated to preserving that state, with a name that makes that orientation quite clear.
There are "well-paid" software jobs there, if one adheres strictly to a comparison of salaries with the median. However the quantity of software jobs is lower, the type of software job is generally slanted toward the "crappy" end of the spectrum (software developers are an expense, and therefore to be treated as enemies to the mission of the company), and the pay is just not even in the same ballpark as the Bay area, even if it is (relatively) good.
Then there are other factors, such as quality of life, public services and other things that make it easier or even pleasant to raise a family. In Florida all these things, in my opinion, are seriously lacking or underwhelming. Coupled with the high level of job insecurity there, I didn't have to think too long or hard to decide to move my family from there to the Bay area.
100k in the bay area is just middle class, no upper qualification. Very unlikely to afford a home within 25 minutes of work unless they're in the south bay.
You need 200k total household income before a mortgage on a $1.3mm house (starter home cost in most neighborhoods) is realistic.
There is a 10x difference in the cost of a home in SF and Austin (where I just moved to from SF) and a 20x difference between SF and where my father lives in Ohio.
There is not a 20x difference in income between developers and the 30-60k US median. The medianites live out in the sticks where their mortgage is $150-600 a month.
Only in SF do you have people complaining that they are "middle class" because they can't afford a single family home (already a luxury in major US cities) in a ritzy neighborhood and have to suffer through a >25 min commute.
Houses in SF on the edge of the ritzy neighborhoods cost $700k. But that's not living the american dream right
This model is extremely rough and inaccurate, but is a step in the right direction. The main problem it has is to assume that there has to be only 3 classes, which is arbitrary and does not describe the actual lives of real people. A second, related defect is that it does not recognize the existence of a small group of very vulnerable people below the "working poor".
For these reasons, I think it is best to model this clustering classification using a log-normal distribution, with at least five classes (Underclass < Working poor < Middle class < Upper-middle class < Upper class). Still, the "upper class" category lumps together the merely wealthy (smallish business owners, the most successful professionals) with the extremely rich, and all possibilities in-between.
It also lumps in the high-income earners with the high-net worth people (the ones everyone thinks of when they say "rich").
Additionally, tying class tightly to income is nonsense, because it ignores people with significant wealth but little income and ignores the different socioeconomic climates across the US.
I would argue that wealth is a better measure of class than income anyway. There is an inflection point on the wealth curve, which (when you cross it) all you need to is not screw up really badly, and you will be wealthy for the rest of your life.
And dont you need a First from a good university to stand a good chance of high paying job in SV?
What does this even mean? Median 33%? Median is 50% How can it have a range? Are you saying the 33th percentile household income in the US ranges from 30k to 62.5k depending on the state?
(Or so. I understand the data)
They are also the 2nd and 4th sextiles, on either side of the median, which is the 3rd sextile, and approximately the same as the 33rd and 66th percentiles, or the 333rd and 666th permille.
Income is not a normal distribution, so the two numbers don't tell much of a story by themselves. Usually, the statistics are shown as quintiles, plus median, 95th percentile, and maybe also 99th percentile and 999th permille, depending on whether the statistics presenter wants the audience to gasp or not.
Every technology startup that blows up have people with engineering backgrounds in positions of senior management. Across levels of seniority, engineers often make as much or more money as their non-technical counterparts. If you want to stay at the individual contributor level as an engineer that is, of course, totally fine, but you should compare yourself to other IC's in the organization without technical skills. I think you will find yourself to be very well positioned financially.
Non-payers are part of their expected business, maybe someone fresh out of school who never talked to another practicing dentist might get surprised by this.
They hire people to chase down non paying clients and they still turn a hefty profit.
Yes, dentistry is a luxury
Your blithe comment implies that this is reasonable, I strongly disagree.
In any case, we're not talking about something irrefutable, like a law of physics. Income inequality has been on the rise in the US since the 70's and is, possibly, one of the causes contributing to the shrinking of the middle class.
I am not advocating that anyone gets anything for free, rather that the majority of the employed receive equitable pay. The current distribution, were a nearly obscene amount is squeezed towards the top of the organization, is unsustainable and, I would argue, unhealthy for the economy.
Again, to reiterate, I am not arguing that the managers should no longer be paid or that they should make less than those they manage. I'm simply pointing out that, at present, the top tiers of management are making far too much and this effects the income of everyone further down the ladder.
Real wages are below their early 70s peak by about 14% right now.
By my calculation that puts an average programmer in a considerably better position than most people would have been seeing even in the early 70s.
We have luxurious jobs.
That's not to say we don't earn it, just that any suggestion that we're not well off both relative to the average and relative to any point in history doesn't stack up.
The US and Australia pay far more. I basically had to go contract when I got back here so that I could match the money.
I live in Glasgow. Our sysadmin moved to Australia (Sydney) - close to tripled his salary but dropped his standard of living because of higher costs out there. I hear that a lot from people moving out there - great salaries, costs a fortune to live.
Houses are pokey and weird over here after that...
And considering the value developers bring to companies, and comparing our salaries to other positions, developers in general are underpaid. It's perfectly reasonable to demand more perks.
But I guess this is why we have a lower class: to keep the worker bees on their toes. "See how good you have it? You could end up like one of them."
And really, not all developers are mentally taxed for 8 hours a day. Some might do routine tasks for 2 or hours and then browse HN for the remaining 6, or just go right home. The labor market for developers is no where near efficient in this regard.
But really, if a high salary and benefits and perks aren't a luxury job, then what is a luxury job exactly?
There are some people in this world that are working in their job because of circumstances beyond their control. Just look at the folks in North Korea or most parts of Africa.
Those of us who have "luxurious" jobs did have a choice, those other folks don't.
I'm saying that software developer lifestyles only look good because of the terribly poor conditions many other people work in, both in developed economies and in more obviously poverty-stricken places. We're lucky not to be those people, but to me "luxury" implies either greed or wastefulness - that as software developers we're getting some kind of unreasonably good deal from the world. I don't think we are. I think more people should get the kind of deal that software developers do.
Sure, in relative terms you can say that developers are lucky. But I'm not sure it makes much sense to say "you're lucky that you don't live in poverty", because we should consider modestly affluent lifestyles to be the norm and poverty to be the aberration that needs to be explained.
I would not read the same thing into that word, which may be a regional thing? To me luxury and comfort are not the same as excess.
It's context dependant too. My 2003 Accord is a luxury, despite being far less nice and older than what I could afford, because I really have no need for it. Everything I need is within easy walking or transit distance, so even that car is a luxury for me.
I don't agree with that definition of "luxury", and I think there are many others who also do not. Luxury is about comfort and choice, not greed and wastefulness.
the state of great comfort and extravagant living.
"he lived a life of luxury"
synonyms: opulence, luxuriousness, sumptuousness, grandeur, magnificence, splendor, lavishness, the lap of luxury, a bed of roses, (the land of) milk and honey
This says that luxury is about great comfort, something beyond the ordinary. The aristocrats of Downton Abbey live in luxury, the average software developer does not.
No, that's the point of this article. The average developer does live in great comfort--beyond the ordinary--both in absolute terms worldwide (you have clean water and electricity), and relative terms within developed nations (you posess a well-paid skill that is in high demand and affords a flexible career).
Maybe this is just a cultural difference thing here. When I hear "luxury" I hear something like "extravagance" or "indulgence". Luxury is something you don't need and shouldn't feel entitled to. I think most people do need good jobs, respectful working conditions, good housing and time with their friends and family. I don't consider those to be luxuries, and I don't think that there's anything extravagant about those things. To me, this just highlights how truly awful it is that most people do not have these things.
I do disagree with your characterizing "luxury" solely in terms of consumption. To me, somebody who lives an ascetic lifestyle while saving the wages of their good job still has "luxuries" that others lack: economic security, having the freedom to quit their job if they want, etc.
That is a very interesting statement. I wish I could agree with you, but neither history nor the current state of the world support the idea that affluence is "normal."
Or how I can "just take off" whenever I need to go to the doctor, or for one of my sons' doctor's appointments or events at school.
I've never known what it was like to not have this flexibility. I expect this flexibility, and will not work for an employer that will not give me this flexibility.
And these expectations only increase as I get further into my career or change jobs. I'm even considering taking a contracting position making 80% less and working 80% less, so I can spend 20% doing my own (productive) thing. What other profession allows this?
So yes, I definitely think I personally take this for granted, and feel in a way I'm spoiled, or at the very least desensitized to the fact that a large majority have it way more difficult than I do. I do try to keep this in mind, though, but it is hard in the day-to-day grind.
So thanks for the reality check.
Generations before us have fought so that we, as people, wouldn't have to endure the working conditions of coal miners forever.
When I graduated from high school, I started my own little (tutoring) company, and did software from after that, so I never had the experience of a "normal", hourly job, like retail or coal mining or whatever.
Recently I had an opportunity to do a job like that and the mood struck me to try it out for like a month. I realized something huge about our jobs versus a lot of other jobs:
I make more than $100/hr sitting in my pajamas, and I'm totally blessed. But I work my fucking ass off. My brain is fully engaged, and when I charge you $125 for an hour of my time, you got more than that value, because I was working, firing on all cylinders.
What I realized in this other job was that even though I worked like 10 hours, it felt like I didn't do much because... I didn't. My coworkers and I, we did some stuff, chatted, laughed a bit, did another bit or piece, took lunch, etc. We spent a lot of time just socializing, having down time, not thinking too hard.
I also noticed that there wasn't really room to do "better". The nature of the job sort of set a cap on how productive you could be during a given time period, so the culture just grew around that. Think of a gas station attendant sitting around watching TV most of the day, the night audit at the hotel, or the guy flipping burgers when it's not lunch time.
That's when I really got the distinction between $10-20/hr work and $100+ -- we, collectively do difficult, mentally taxing work that requires long hours of intense focus, and a dedication to craftmanship that most other jobs just don't require. And we do that job under mostly under unreasonably tight deadlines, often for employers that don't understand what we're doing and therefore undermine us in many ways.
Yes, it's luxury in many ways. But it's also a coal mine of its own sort.
- Have you tried being a commercial dishwasher? I have. That's 8 straight hours of monotonous, yet highly demanding work attention-wise. $9/hr.
- Have you been a line cook? I have. That's 8 straight hours of monotonous, physical work plus a pretty painful burn at least once a day. $10/hr.
Okay, fine I take your point that programming requires heavy dedication to skill. Have you ever worked in accounting? My fiancee works as an accountant and is constantly pushed to work over 70 hrs per week and her job is extremely demanding. (She's the only one at her company that can figure out certain processes, hence the long hours and pressure. She currently is doing the work of 4 people.) $20/ hr.
I'm sorry, but calling your $100/hr occupation as a programmer a "coal mine of its own sort" is beyond absurd, and downright foolish.
A freelancer, especially if they're working out of a shared office space, has overheads - rent, utilities, etc. What I bill and what I take home are very different, and even more so for my employee.
A couple of those jobs you listed would have the employees heading home and free to unwind. I run a small business and I am never free of it. The calls and the emails and the pressure and the queue of issues never stops. I envy those that go home and can throw away an evening watching a movie or TV guilt-free.
At one point while travelling, I worked as a barman in the UK earning under $10/hr. I could do one hour of freelance work in the morning and make more then than in the 10-12 hour shift I did that afternoon. But I had never been a barman before, had about 10 minutes of training before I started, and didn't really do anything particularly taxing. It was draining being on your feet all day, but it was very simple work. Almost anyone could do it and thus the wage on offer was low.
Programming is monotonous, socially isolating, and probably leads to a higher risk of things like heart disease and diabetes from all the time we spend sitting around. These aspects of it shouldn't be neglected because a dishwasher or a line cook makes less money for more immediate physical risk.
"Okay, fine I take your point that programming requires heavy dedication to skill. Have you ever worked in accounting? My fiancee works as an accountant and is constantly pushed to work over 70 hrs per week and her job is extremely demanding. (She's the only one at her company that can figure out certain processes, hence the long hours and pressure. She currently is doing the work of 4 people.) $20/ hr."
This is replying to an anecdote with yet another anecdote, which I don't think is terribly helpful. As a sincere suggestion, has she tried negotiating for a raise? Seems like their reliance on her as a single point of failure should make for a good negotiating position.
First of all : you don't know that.
Second of all : there are rigors to therapy, and every profession, that aren't obvious from the outside. The same holds true for programming.
Yes I do think this is illustrative that there are many highly skilled and heavily demanding jobs that make considerably less.
> Programming is monotonous, socially isolating, and probably leads to a higher risk of things like heart disease and diabetes from all the time we spend sitting around.
And how is this unique to programming? Sounds a lot like a call center position I once held. $12 an hour.
Seriously, nobody is arguing that programming isn't grueling, but a little perspective and respect for people who are MUCH worse off seems warranted.
An accountant working 70 hrs a week at $20/hr will take $1400 a week. A start up guy will take $0 if it things go sour. That is the difference. Do you wish to settle for $1400/week without risks or take a risk and make $100 million working 3-4 years? Note if things go bad for the entrepreneur(and that's the most common case) the accountant is still significantly richer than the start up guy.
If you look at it that, way the accountant is having it way easier than the start up guy. A lot of predictability in results, measurable productivity, guaranteed pay etc.
Apply that definition and you see why programming is actually "coal mine of its own sort".
Oh and by the way, if you think working 8 hours a day as a cook or dishwasher is a lot LOL don't move anywhere where there is any job competition at all you will be instantly fired.
Except you won't die from sitting home in your pajamas.
You will, however, be very to die for a multitude of reasons in a coal mine.
I'm a programmer. Yes, my brain is engaged constantly. But that's fun to me. It's not like I rue the day I became a programmer and I had to perform the terrible labor of sitting around with friends/acquaintances, sip free coffee, and make web apps. However, if you're in a sweatshop, forced to work many hours a day and likely suffer a variety injuries, you aren't doing as well.
I own a GeekDesk and swear by it. Standing sometimes while coding makes a difference!
To be fair, it seems all standing desks are insanely priced.
You could always put your own desktop on the frame. (It's a very good frame.)
And at a supervisory/professional level in the UK, coal mining deputy's can earn £80-£100k PA (twice what the average dev in London gets paid)- the going rate for a single 12 hour shift at the weekend is £2k
I was one a course (on TUPE a really acne bit of uk employment law) and 3 of the other attendees where from the mining industry and shared some figures with us.
Not sure this is true. Working alone from home in a sedentary job probably raises his risk for diabetes, heart disease, and depression and related diseases; and contributes to an earlier death.
I don't have any data as to whether the average life expectancy of a programmer is less than the average life expectancy of a coal miner. Do you?
edit: Certainly no one's making the claim that a sedentary lifestyle doesn't have its own risks - but being a programmer working from home doesn't insist you live a sedentary lifestyle, however, the risks involved with being a coal miner aren't optional.
As it does to me. But the idea that coal-mining jobs are dangerous is probably due to stuff you read, or the recent media coverage of trapped miners in Chile (well, a few years ago). Anecdotally, I also hear of a lot of people in desk jobs just dropping dead of heart attacks at relatively young ages (mid-60s), so I'm trying not to be influenced by that either.
I'm trying to keep a completely open mind. I do not know for sure what the risks of my job are, but I shouldn't assume that it's definitely in the low-risk region, because doing so would be unscientific. It could be that being a programmer is one of the jobs that leads to higher life expectancies, and if that were proven statistically, that would be great.
Also, you have to distinguish between a job being dangerous, and leading to a lower life expectancy. It could be true that the average miner needs to be on guard against life threatening situations 100% of the time, but could have a higher life expectancy than the average programmer who sits around all day and doesn't have any immediate dangers, but often dies earlier due to a myocardial infarction from all the Cheetos, soda, and pizza he consumed.
The fixes might be simple; maybe stand up and walk for three minutes every three hours. Maybe use a standing desk standing up for a couple of hours a day. Not that both of these may be necessary, but not sufficient by themselves.
These may be simple habits to adopt but then the problem is, will your employer accept that you get a BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ'ing standing desk, or that you go up to "get a glass of water" very frequently (of course really to move about some)? I don't know, but it might be more of a social problem than a habit/technical one.
I won't argue that it's not far safer than a lot of other jobs, but there are definitely health risks to having a sedentary job if you don't work on mitigating them on your off hours. Also, stress.
I'm not saying the work is not sometimes mentally taxing - it is. But so are other jobs. CPAs trying to juggle way too much info days before tax day - and tax day doesn't move - you can't push that back - the pressure mounts and there's nothing you can do about it. MANY software projects get pushed back days/weeks just because of any number of factors (some big, some trivial).
And... it's not mentally taxing to some people. There are things I sweat in development that other people do with their eyes closed. And vice versa - I've cleaned up projects in a few days that a small team of people "fired on all cylinders" to get done (and failed).
As I replied elsewhere effort and value are pretty disconnected.
Comparing coal mining to working in your pajamas for $125/hr. Jesus.
I've been thinking about this a bit lately... What can we build to help people make the most of these spare cycles? Duolingo is perfect for this. What else could people produce/learn in spare time on their phone?
Or set up a course and learn math etc.
Sadly, many bosses don't want this. They want a body at work and to look like they're working even if there's nothing to do.
Go work a physically taxing job for a couple weeks then come back and say that.
i.e., not making a direct comparison about the physicality of the work...
I remember reading about a guy who gave up the freelance web game to become a lumberjack and loved it. Physically hard, but easy to switch off and relax at the end of the day. I think it was on HN a few years back when I first joined.
No, I don't. I might. But what you value your time at is different from the value I can derive from using your time.
He presumably sells to people who value his time that highly and doesn't sell do people who think his price is unworkable, so it is almost tautologically true.
He(?) seems to justify the $125 "because I was working, firing on all cylinders".
I don't care what your effort is. I don't particularly care if it takes you all your effort, or if you can do it in your sleep. The justification is the value delivered, not the effort expended.
He probably does sell to those sorts of people, but again, I doubt they care what effort he's putting in to it. And again, the written justification was "I'm firing on all cylinders". Some people firing on all cylinders manage to pull in $10/hr. Others pull in $10k/day firing on all cylinders. Your effort doesn't matter to someone - what value they can derive from your deliverable is all that matters.
Software programmers and Engineers work an inmense amount to build things that are commercially unsuccessful. In fact, most projects are botched completely, let alone those that run at a loss, before you get the big wins.
There is a definite disproportion of price/value across all professions, and programmers are today in the spectrum where the expectations are rather low. 20 years from now, we could have so many engineers that there wont be much advantage in comparison with accountants, operations managers, sales or retail etc.
It is a priviledged position, albeit not as priviledged as lawyers or bankers (whose salary can vastly outpace their value).
Classical service jobs dont have that luxury: you serve x burguers, u sell x products, you build y chairs.
The amount of office drones I see messing around with giant Excel sheets for hours doing the same task day in day out that could easily be automated by a simple application is astounding.
Why do you say that?
I think you may be thinking too much in the short-term. I was actually wondering what programmers in their mid-20s today are going to be doing when they're, say, 70. How many programmers in their 70s do we have today? Very little, because computing was in its infancy 50 years ago. With every generation, more and more are being exposed to computing/programming at an early age.
You also have to remember that there are tinkerers in not just the computing field. Think about the weekend woodworkers, car guys, model aircraft enthusiasts; could many of them be tinkering with software if they were exposed and educated in it at the right age? I say yes. On the macro scale, we are only at the dawn of computing and the internet, and there are going to be MANY more people working on it in the future.
but it actually doesn't really matter - you choose to be a programmer, so you choose to put yourself into a role that requires such accountability. i'm sure you are quite qualified to be a barista, but would you get satisfaction? doubt it.
Luxury is what these people are living: http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/
We would all do well to remember that the first 85 people on that list have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people in the world:
That is luxury – a lifestyle only attainable by an infinitesimally small number of people, and one that they protect with the might of laws they author, politicians they buy, and force they command. It's important to keep sight of where the upper limits of wealth are, lest you get confused about your class or with whom you have the most in common.
Of course, nobody I know works in a mine. But my job is still generally a bit nicer in most ways than that of all of my friends outside of technology. I realized this when it occurred to me that I worked half as much as my friend who is a physician in residency and yet I actually am paid more. That's kind of ridiculous, isn't it? Of course, he'll get a big pay bump when he finishes residency--but that'll be several years from now, and if things keep going the way they are, my pay will jump up a lot as well.
So let me rephrase that: seasoned developers in Silicon Valley are paid as much or more than licensed family physicians. To find the doctors who beat us squarely in pay, you have to start looking at the radiologists and the surgeons.
A few years ago, I was the math equivalent of the aimless college poet who tugged at his heart for guidance but felt nothing. The poet is now working for nearly minimum wage and I'm now making more than my parents combined. Let's face it: I lucked out. Not as much as Mark Zuckerberg and other billionaires, but relative to most people--definitely.
Poets choose to be poets knowing that they will most likely never be on stable financial ground. That is not unlucky, it's simply a hardship they've chosen to accept in pursuit of something they'd rather attain than wealth and ease of life.
I chose to major in math without the expectation of ever having some great financial payoff for the choice. I was so ignorant of money at the time that when I made that decision I probably would have considered $40k a huge salary. I was interested in programming when I was 12 and didn't have the slightest care in the world about money.
I feel pretty lucky that interests that I've cultivated since a young age happened to turn into a high-paying comfortable career. I easily could have been like most of my friends and instead had interests that fulfilled me intellectually but didn't pay much at all.
And I am not talking about a really poor country on the third world, but Europe.
As usual, we perceive as rich anyone "an income step above us" that can mean they'll go on holidays to a private island, that they'll go on holidays to Aruba, they'll go on holidays to a rural house, or that they simply go on holidays, period, depending on your income.
I think we focused too much on the "hyper rich" billionaires. A couples of steps down from that is also luxury...
The people running the show can't have everybody thinking 'wow i'm getting fucked' because then the show is over. they need a buffer; people who think they have it really well off because they look at how hard the people below them have it.
when the people at the very bottom start to complain about their situation and say they're being screwed by the rich, the people who _think_ they have it well take offense because think they're being blamed. so they fight back.
Wait... maybe it was Trotsky? Goddamned communists are so difficult to keep straight.
Having lived and traveled in developing nations, I am perfectly happy to call what I have "luxury". Which is exactly what most of the world would call it: http://gumption.org/1993/memo/landmarks/global_income.html
What I think is often missing from these discussions though, is that working a low paying job in New York City, for example, also affords considerable luxury compared to much of the developing world. That hypothetical person working that low paying job might not feel that s/he is living in luxury -- without some agreement on what constitutes basic comfort, it's quite difficult to define luxury.
The problem, which I think you've identified well, is that even the idea of basic comfort shifts as the economic landscape shifts. When the idea of basic needs shifts, the idea of wealth shifts with it.
In general, I think it's good for those of us living in privileged areas to recognize our blessings. I also think comparisons made to the developing world tend to oversimplify the problems of inequality present here as well.
Also, not to single this comment out on the middle class thing, but I've seen a few comments here which are equating middle class with median income. Middle class is a social construct. It's not well defined.
Does anyone know where to get the raw wealth data for something like this? It might be interesting to know for example, if you have a net worth of $1, that you might have more wealth than the poorest 500 million combined (or whatever).
I can use the prying eyes of my peers to guilt me into getting work done, sometimes. I also much prefer to be able to stand up, walk over to someones desk, and discuss a problem (or some newly discovered exoplanet, or the price of bitcoins, ...). Picking up a phone, sending an instant message or email just isn't the same thing.
However, I'm very much aware about what a luxurious situation I'm in. I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, get to do a job I love (most of the time), and get paid plenty. Compared to most places in the world, this place 50 years ago or even to other professions in the same country, I'm a lucky bastard.
Doesn't mean I sometimes have a hard time concentrating, or would like to be doing something other than the work assigned to me though, but I think that's normal and would happen to anyone in any situation. First world problems, eh?
What makes many people in this community vapid isn't that they're uncompassionate towards people who have it harder, it's that they musn't realize how well off they really are. It's not your fault that most of us don't have the perspective that some of us do, but the lack of it is very real.
I've been called an asshole many a time by young privileged employees that complain about the free food, that we have certain core working hours, that yes, you need to be at the team standup on time, and in presentations you should pay attention to the presenter and out of respect put down your device(s). Before someone picks those examples apart, if you are about to, you're missing the point. Relatively speaking chances are you have absolutely nothing to whine about in your work. Nothing.
The problem with playing this game is that there are always bigger fish, and there are always smaller fish. Do back-breaking work 8 hours a day? At least it's not 10. Do it for 12 hours a day? At least you have a job. Don't have a job? At least you're alive in America. Not from America? Etc.
The basal level of respect for me as a professional with skills and preferences distinct from those of my peers is typically not present from the recruiter shotgunning spam all over the network.
He father struggled after layoffs to find work in his profession, with long gaps between jobs. I realized how blessed I was to be in this line of work and stopped complaining, even about the copy/paste emails.
That said, there are different levels of competency in each profession, and recruiters are just as prone to rookie mistakes and lazy work as coders are. I have the luxury of working only with good recruiters and can filter the rest easily.
I've also lived through relatively scarce times (2002) when it was hard to get a recruiter to return my calls. I can imagine that many recruiters and firms went under and know people involved in software who had to scramble to find work (myself included). That does help me appreciate the 90% of my career that work has been plentiful.
I will go somewhere else (rent a room/desk if needed) and I'll work there.
Going from "work mode" to "home mode" is very important
"Living in the bubble of Hacker News does distort the perspective. We tend to ignore how luxurious our jobs are. We shouldn’t forget that there is life outside our communities."
Oh this applies to many more things than jobs.
It is important when working from home to have a "work area" which is only for work and nothing else. When you work from your bed you get in trouble.
I'm pretty aware of it.
The days that make you wish you were doing something else.
I'm sure you've had "tough days"
I just believe, due to the problem-solving behavior of engineers/techs/programmers, we tend to tunnel-vision instead of looking at the big picture.
If the big picture is going wrong, it's a problem. Now, a lot of bad days add up to a bad big picture, but if you're planning right, and you have a bit of luck, a few bad days will eventually get washed away, no matter the project.
That was kind of sad that they would rather sit around waiting for a low payed job instead of investing some efford for a brighter future.
I understand that not everybody is able do learn the stuff we do but many people just don't want to.
I wouldn't call that luxurious job though. It's just that good programmers are hard to find, thus salaries go up. It's the same in all jobs that require specific skills that are relatively hard to learn. Doctors, lawyers, even skilled construction workers make a ton if they're good at their craft.
And programming is not that easy when you think about it. I keep learning new stuff every day in addition to paid hours. When I get stuck at smth, I keep working on my head during night or weekend. I feel responsible for my code quality and try to make it as good as possible by going extra mile. My GF (who earns 6x less) comes from work and relaxes till her next shift. When I finish work, that means I don't stare at screen, but I still keep it in my head.
I know bad programmers who make shitty wage for shitty code. I wouldn't call their jobs luxurious in any way. I feel sorry for for people in other fields whose skills are undervalued though.
P.S. Greetings from Vilnius
He was more right than he knew -- maybe a couple years after he told me that, the business whose revenues he tripled decided they didn't like him, fired him, and he has been looking for work and underemployed ever since. He used to have a yacht, now he works at a chain hardware store.
More importantly, engineers earn a fraction of the value they create for employers.
It's the lawyers we should all be scoffing at...
to me, it's really just a childish and transparent way of bragging. even reasonable people slip into these modes when they are faced with an abundance of opportunity, most of which they don't want or feel are beneath them.
oh my god it's just like, so annoying, you know? faux outrage
But yeah, faux outrage.
i think you're proving my point more than refuting it.
People sit on park benches to enjoy public space without being bothered by random strangers. It doesn't have to be a pimp that spams you. It could be a construction foreman asking you to fill sandbags at his worksite, or a cab dispatcher wanting you to drive around town collecting fares. Complaining about people that annoy you with offers for work that you don't want is complaining that they don't actually care what you want, not just complaining that you have so many opportunities available.
But even my current employer doesn't care what I want, or even that I am an actual human being that still exists on this planet for the 128 hours a week that are not recorded on my time card. So it isn't just the recruiters. My complaint, such as it is, is that I resent the dehumanization of my industry and the diminishing levels of respect I see for people that have the same valuable skill as I do from the people that do not.
Basically, I'm complaining that nerds are not popular. I can see how that complaint would be easily dismissed, even by the nerds.
For your own amusement, try responding to one or two, and see what happens.
It isn't quite so posh when you discover that the job opportunities constantly streaming into your inbox don't actually exist.
There are hundreds of millions of people living on under $2 per day. And yes, that is adjusted for purchasing power.
Yes, "First World Problems", etc. But you have to realize that your problems are actually problems. Just because other people have worse problems doesn't mean you should just suck it up and "take it like a man.
If you're feeling like you just don't want to work today, and that feeling perpetuates for more than a day or two, then you need to do something different than what you're currently doing. We used to call it "in a rut", now we recognize that it's a symptom of depression. And however mild it may be, you wouldn't wait until cancer or a chest cold were really bad until you tried to treat it.
What you need to do differently to treat your mind is going to be unique to you. Maybe it's exercising more, maybe it's sleeping more, maybe it's eating better, maybe it's just getting a hug from someone you love. Just remember, engineer, first fix yourself.
I have three kids, a stay at home wife, make a considerable salary and have a job I absolutely love and excel at.
But I am still fundamentally subsisting; my living expenses are just covered by what I make and am not able to save a considerable amount. This scares the bejesus out of me because all my kids are young: I have lots of expenses coming up related to providing well for them.
The most important thought I have daily, which was reinforced by the subtext of this article, is that education is the most important thing I can give to my kids.
When there are people who are "struggling to find a minimum wage job for years" to me, that means that they lack the education or skills to have a job that pays more and is in more demand. This is a failing of many parties - but it's the base of the issue.
I want my kids to be able to do whatever it is they want, but to have the skills to actually make that decision for themselves.
So, I am profoundly a aware of my position, am thankful for it and am working to ensure that I provide my children an even better life than my already great one.
For a bit of inspiration: I started the process with about $47k in debt. This included student loans, auto loans, and credit cards. After 19 months of working on "baby step #2," I've reduced that debt to $10k, and I expect to have it fully paid by August of this year. I used to feel as you do, about the fragility of my situation, and I now feel much much better, since my monthly expenses have reduced by about $700 (due to no longer needing to service that debt), and soon I'll feel better still, as I accumulate an emergency fund of 6 months' living expenses.
Obviously, I can't know your personal situation or your specific challenges, so take this advice from a stranger on the internet for what it's worth. If you can benefit from it though, you will feel so much better about your situation.
Also note: with 3 kids, there is likely no place in the US where it is cheaper to send your kids to a mediocre private school than to just move to a better school district (unless you live in a rural area where your commute would severely be affected). That's one thing that I would most like to change at a policy level, but it's something that in the short-term will affect decisions you make.
Unless, of course, you're stuck underwater in a house that you'd lose lots of money on if you sold it.
I'm not sure I agree. There are plenty of "low-skill", reasonably high paying jobs. The problem is that when you're in a cycle of having no money, you spend all your time managing what money you can get ahold of and trying to get quick cash influxes to keep the bills paid. You don't have the resources to sit back and plan a more stable path for yourself.
Its too bad all students aren't required to perform 'real work' as part of their education.
For instance, at the moment I spend ~40 hrs in the office and ~40hrs in grad school and on side projects. As a result, I have very little time available for leisure or even meaningful relationships. My extra-work effort is driven in part by a fear of skill obsolescence, and competition with my peers - who are among the best in the world at what they do.
At times I wonder if my priorities are a little backwards, but at times I feel so driven I'm not sure I could truly relax even if I wanted to.
He's done construction work all of his life, and self-employed construction for as long as I've been alive. Growing up, I often worked for him during the summers after school was out. I've done all manner of construction work under him, concrete work, plumbing, roofing, decks, fences, you name it.
He claims now that he had me doing all that so that I'd want to go to college and get a desk job, and maybe he's telling the truth. There have been some things I remember fondly about those days, but overall, there's no comparison. We have it a lot easier.
I have coworkers who not only didn't do that, they didn't work anywhere else professionally before coming to their jobs at our cushy employer. They're kind of double-screwed: they don't know how sweet this job is vs other jobs doing similar work, and they don't know how much they should be getting paid for it. So they have good jobs, that they bitch about, for which they get paid half or 60% of what they should be getting. (The pay isn't why they bitch, they don't even know they're getting underpaid.)
I can understand wanting to share your newly found sense of perspective with everyone else, but I'd like to suggest balancing it a bit with the following excerpt from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
To Trin Tragula's horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.
That doesn't change the fact that I can't find a job in another sector just because I know programming.
That fact is IT actually saves a lot of money to the extent that effect is proportional to the sum of innovation.
It's true that it's an easier life to know programming nowadays, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have a better life if you're a programmer, hired or not.
I think programmers should not complain about anything or their job if they chose to swallow the blue pill and work a programming job they don't like, coding for a project they don't like.
I think you can complain if you got at least ideas for solutions that have not been tried. If you don't, and you work a job you don't like, then don't complain, because you're part of the problem.
Programming is not always about making a project work. Programming is mostly about innovation and making new useful things and improving old things.
I don't understand why most of the IT landscape is still email and http and html, technologies that have been created at the very beginning.
I think most jobs are luxurious jobs, but that's because the government is more effective than in other places. If you do programming but you don't like what you do, maybe it's because the work you're being given is just shitty. Maybe it's better than doing a shit job, but sitting doing something you don't like is as much turning people crazy than anything else.
If you are a software dev, designer, etc, in almost any part of the world where you can read this, you are massively lucky.
Nevermind the whole "You have internet access and can develop software for a living? Welcome to the top 50% in the world", etc; there are people in your area barely scraping by; if your only metric is others in the same economic bracket, get out more.
One of my hobbies is a martial art. Many of the students there are in much poorer straights than myself. One in particular, a young adult nearly out of high school, and already working, rides 10 miles each way to work and the martial arts school on his bike, because he can't afford public transportation. He lives paycheck to paycheck, and has to work out special payment arrangements with the instructor because of it. I don't really care if his day job is 'easier' than mine (I did it once; it wasn't for me, but whose to say it isn't for him); he has to stress how to cover bills, how to get to work when not feeling great and facing a 10 mile bike ride there and back, etc. I can call in and WFH because I have the sniffles. Or drive, because I have a car, and the funds to keep up insurance, gas, repairs, etc.
If you enjoy coding, and you get paid enough for it to cover your bills and stash some away, you are massively, massively lucky. Is it as good a break as it could, or should (were this a utopia) be? No. But compared to the unfairness many others face, you should be reveling in it, while trying to affect change not just for yourself but those who are in harder circumstances.
And you think that programmers don't? I work as a badly underpaid php developer and have slept on a couch in a ~35m² single-room apartment for the last few years. I handed in my resignation this week, because this job causes depressions that make me borderline suicidal. I'll have to live off of state welfare, if I can get it, if I don't then I'll be homeless, but I just can't take this shit anymore, so I'm taking the plunge and hope for the best.
For every well-paid and -treated programmer there are a whole bunch of underpaid and ill-treated ones. Besides, what's so wrong about not wanting to work? You as someone with a good grip on what technology can do should see that we could've started to automate the production of things needed for basic survival (food, shelter, energy…) decades, if not even longer, ago.
As far as I can tell, programmers have far greater chances to end up with depression or burnout than most other jobs, so please don't act like it's all sunshine and unicorn farts for all of us.
I worked from home for quite a while, and the simple idea of getting rewarded for not achieving anything made me feel guilty and inadequate. I also happened to work in kitchens from a very young age for a few years, with ridiculous hours and pay as one would imagine, yet I often consider getting back to it. There's a particular sense of satisfaction in cooking that I've never found in programming.
All jobs come with their upsides and downsides, and all professions have people who get paid too much or not enough. I don't think you can lump in personalities and activities together like that.
I realize my tone might come through as a bit harsh, and I'm sorry if it does. I'm just a bit tired of the lazy well-off programmer stereotype, it undermines a lot of us in several ways.
After high-school I had a bunch of temporary jobs working with builders, carpenters, etc in Hungary for less than £10 / day. I was happy because it paid my day-to-day expenses.
Then I moved to London where I took a minimal wage "biorobot " job in a factory for £5.5 / hour. I sincerely thought I have a great, well paid job. I was happy
Then I applied for a startup as the first coder there, got hired and I'm still with them after 6 years. I don't even know exactly how much I make on a hourly basis, but I don't really care. I'm happy
It is all just perspective. You can be the happiest person on a very low salary, or be depressed and cranky about your job even if you make millions.
I do think programmers deserve high salaries, and luxury like working from home. Why? Because our profession is extremely unique. Every single day we have the potential to solve a problem which never been solved before.