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We Have Luxurious Jobs but We Are Not Aware of It (gedrap.me)
473 points by gedrap on Feb 27, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments

Yes, working from home is great. It is a luxury. Working at your own pace is also nice.

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.

I'd add that not only are we comparing ourselves to actual people that are the "best and brightest", but also to a mental conglomeration of success stories that somehow feel like they are all done by a single super human even though rationally you know you are thinking of the small individual achievements of thousands or millions of other people.

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.

Exactly what I was thinking the other day. You came to HW, for example, and it seems it is just one very bright person when in fact it is thousands.

Not only that, you are comparing your 'behind the scenes' to the comulative showreel.

So what is the hack that keeps us from constantly taking our luxuries for granted? Just as with the traffic situation, how often do we find ourselves complaining about having to do the laundry or the dishes or vacuuming or even heating up something for dinner -- all fairly small and easy tasks thanks to the help of technology, which took much more time and labor in a previous generation?

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 was given some brilliant advice by an older gentleman once: he said to find 1 or 2 things that enjoy more than most people, to let yourself really enjoy those things, and be modest in all other things - and then you'll really be happy, but be able to give more to those less fortunate. For instance, he loved music, and he splurged to have a high-quality system in his car. And he focused on really enjoying that, cut back in the rest of his life and gave more to charity, and still felt like he was "living the life".

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.

A book that may capture and elaborate on the above (esp. re: modesty) is "How to Want What You Have" by Timothy Miller:


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.

And when one of the things that you enjoy more is the IT/Infra/Dev work that you do?

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.


That sounds like a pretty good approach to it. It might become a bit of a problem if it involves a regular investment, so choice and scale have to depend on means available for that to really work...

Complaining is often a result of comparing our situation to the rest of the environment. When you are sitting in your car in traffic you see that other lane moving faster than you and you get frustrated. When you are at that amazing job you see that other guy two job levels above you with even more perks.

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.

Great comment, thanks!

>So what is the hack that keeps us from constantly taking our luxuries for granted?

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.

Rather, I would say that we normalize to anything. It's awful for sustaining happiness, but pretty good for fighting unhappiness. Think of it this way; our lives are 100x better than those of our ancestors, and yet we aren't much happier. That means the people who lived to be thirty and rubbed sticks together to make fire, were no less happy. That is a powerful thing.

Study Stoicism or Buddhism (if you don't like the religious aspect, it's easy enough to only focus on the philosophical - that's what I do).

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.

Going camping with a tent for a fairly extended period generally works well (and serves as great exercise and a holiday, too). Try to do this low tech though, eg. walking a good distance from your car so you can't use the car battery etc. When you spend 2 hours making a fire and getting some hot soup it gives you a chance to think about how easy it usually is.

I think we'll really need to start treating mindfulness as a fundamental life skill. I've realized only recently how essential it will be to develop in order to get much of anything out of life, given my mindset up to this point. Maybe some cultures are better about this; I certainly don't have the information on which to base generalizations. I have seen an increasing number of resources focused on stress reduction via mindfulness (also see Google Trends), but the potential benefits go beyond just stress.

Awareness, without making comparisons. That should be the key. I can't validate that myself yet though...

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” - Seneca

It's old-fashioned, but give this a try. The hack is simply to write down (typing is OK) five things you're grateful about.

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.

I think this is as good a time as any to share my favorite speech on this topic, This Is Water by David Foster Wallace[1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

In my opinion this is wrong comparison. Simply because there is no physical obstacles that prevents you from doing what you have to do at your work, while in traffic there is plenty, hence the reason you're in traffic.

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".

>So what is the hack that keeps us from constantly taking our luxuries for granted?

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.

I like those things, and I'd add: walking/running/hiking, charity (in the form of time or money), and tacos.

Yesterday, I wrote a sentence that encapsulates very well how we adjust to technological luxuries: "I searched the web for 'singing hemorrhoid' and the first video result is lame."

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.

There's "negative visualization" and "voluntary discomfort", as described here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/02/what-is-stoicism-a...

(I haven't really tried negative visualization, but I suppose I occasionally do some voluntary discomfort.)


This is called relative deprivation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_deprivation) and Malcolm Gladwell's book "David and Goliath" has some interesting examples of its destructive power, such as when bright students enroll in STEM courses in top-tier schools, but end up dropping out from STEM because the amount of students smarter than them discourages them.

I think it comes down to discovering your role... I'm not the best at any one thing I've ever done. I'm generally very good, and tend to have a greater combination of depth and breadth of knowledge than my peers... but any one thing, not nearly the best.

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.

>But working "on the Internet" means you're also comparing yourself to the best, brightest, and driven.

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.

> no amount of explaining will make it go away

Tell that to everyone who comes to terms with it and is at peace or is content and thankful for their situation?

Honest question: how numerous are such people?

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.

No idea, but one thing is that it's probably better to operate under the assumption that you can overcome such irrational tendencies, and have a goal or outlook to grow in that dimension, rather than resigning yourself to "welp, I'm going to act stupid now and there's nothing I can do to improve this".

You can experiment with this very easily for yourself by asking yourself what problems you have right this moment. It turns out you never have problems when you have the time to ask yourself that question. The book The Power of Now is well worth reading. Most importantly, Tolle doesn't ask you to "believe" or have faith in what he says, just that you try it. And it works :)

but do most people actually do the comparison, even once? Working on the internet also imparts a lot of anonymity. Your just one of thousands of people doing a similar job, maybe clients just assume this is what to expect, or like how many other things in the world are handled, its good enough to not expend further effort in finding better.

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

No, we do not have luxurious jobs. Other people have really really shitty jobs.

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.

I agree with the sentiment, but I think your facts are a bit off and reflect HN insularity. The median 33% household income ("middle class") in the US is $30,000 to $62,500 (household).

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.)

By any reasonable definition, being well-off means being able to take out a mortgage on a house, afford occasional vacations to other parts of the world, invest in the stock market, support a family, put your kids through college, give to different charities, save for retirement, all in addition to helping family members in need, which one would do under any circumstances. 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. Those at the median household income in the US (or anywhere else) are being shafted. The economy is broken.

  > 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.
You can live in an affordable part of the state...there is a California outside of LA and the Bay.

I agree, and took it one step further. Even though I grew up in LA and am co-founder of an SF-based startup, I don't live there anymore. I choose to live in Chicago for a higher quality of life and lower cost of living. My attitude is thus: I'll move back to SF when I'm rich, but when I'm rich, I won't need to move back to SF.

Hint: Don't live in California. There are plenty of well-paid software jobs in places like Boston, Chicago, Northern Virginia, Atlanta, Florida, Austin, etc.

They might not have the glut of "hot" startups that Silicon Valley does, but they have much more reasonable cost of living.

Another perspective:

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.

Options like:

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.

Sadly, this seems to be the case. I waffle a lot about whether I want to stay in the Bay Area, given the combination of currently being underemployed, the ridiculous cost of living and how much I'd need to make just in order to maintain the status quo, let alone finally live without a roommate.

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.)

So clearly you should get a remote job at a company in SF, and live elsewhere. :)

As a software developer with several years in Boston and DC each, I can tell you 100k does not allow for a mortgage on a SFH within a 20 minute commute to work in either place, which is basically the american dream.

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.

DC fucking blows on top of it. At least in other places, you have to be smart to make 6 figures. Here, every idiot that rides their desk long enough gets 6 figures and therefore you have to pay huge sums of money for a single family home within 90 minutes of DC.

You can certainly do this in Chicago. Especially if you're flexible on the commute time and can handle an hour on the train.

The suburbs also have developer jobs.

That's true anywhere right?

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.

Look, unless you're a billionaire (and really, even then) life comes with tradeoffs. If you want to live in a super-expensive area, you're going to get a smaller/crappier place. If you're willing to put up with a longer commute, you'll get more for money in terms of housing.

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'm scratching my head a bit that anyone would balk at an hour long train ride. I did it for years. You can read, work on a some project, or just relax.

I guess it's a Chicago thing.

What I was alluding to with my comment was that software developers create a tremendous amount of wealth while seeing little of it. That is as true outside SV as it is inside.

I'd encourage you to set up shop as an entrepreneur, consultant, or ISV. Then you will a.) get to keep all of the wealth you create (well, minus taxes - damn you Uncle Sam) and b.) get a true idea of how much wealth you actually create.

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.

>I'd encourage you to set up shop as an entrepreneur, consultant, or ISV. Then you will a.) get to keep all of the wealth you create (well, minus taxes - damn you Uncle Sam) and b.) get a true idea of how much wealth you actually create.

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.

When I start my own company I will definitely take credit for the business I build. For the past 15 years I have been paid to build things for other people, I have been praised and I have been well paid, but I certainly don't claim credit for the creation of the companies that employed me. Even as a co-founder in my current position, there is a huge difference between coming on in a paid position and taking the risk to build something from nothing.

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.

Usually if you do that too much, they'll leave, your startup will tank, and (in a possibly painful dose of cold reality), you will find out exactly how much you actually created.

> What I was alluding to with my comment was that software developers create a tremendous amount of wealth while seeing little of it.

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.

We're not elite workers though, in terms of compensation.

True, and that's a fair point, but it's basically true of all employees anywhere in a capitalist economy. Even much-reviled Wall Street traders who receive million-dollar bonuses do so while bringing in many multiples of that in revenue for their firm.

However you don't see the politicians or those traders employers banging the drum to dilute the trader pool with foreign workers on extremely employer friendly worker visas.

I've lived and worked in two places you mention (Florida, Chicago, although very briefly in the latter).

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.

I live in San Diego. I don't make any more than your average programmer around here (very low six figures.) I can do all of those things, and in a nice area.

This is highly location dependent and programmers are often located in expensive cities.

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.

$1.3MM will get you a VERY nice home in some of the more exclusive neighborhoods in SF (Noe Valley).

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

$700k is still freakin' crazy.

Sorry, but splitting "classes" in thirds is just ridiculous. The way the economy works is by concentrating wealth, so any class definition based on clustering according to income/net-worth cannot be linear. A logarithmic scale would make much more sense, by example: Poor:= 0-50%, Middle class:= 51%-75%, Upper class:=76-100%???

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.

> 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").

agreed, you can only do so much when modeling a complex system with a single variable distribution.

That is not how "class" is defined. Social class is based on socioeconomic power, influence, and security. Generally, the upper class is the top 1% or 2% of incomes or net worths, and the lower/working class is far larger than the lower 33%.

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.

The median household income is $55,000, with a median of 1.5 earners at that level. So, it seems to me quite likely an earner makes less than $62,000. Also, the median personal income is about $30,000, although this includes everyone older than 15.



You arbitrarily picked the midle tertile. There is a much bigger difference in lifestyle between the 33rd and 67th percentile or the 90th percentile and the 99th percentile than there is between the 67th percentile and the 90th percentile.

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.

Yep, at about 2 million dollars you could go to a small friendly town buy a house there and have an income close to the median (and have your assets track with inflation) assuming you can get a 5-6% return on investment, not at all unachievable on 'safe' long term investments. This is all without doing a single hour of work after hitting that point.

Software engineers are concentrated in major metropolitan areas, often high cost ones (e.g. the SF bay area), so comparisons to the national median income are not necessarily accurate.

You would need to compare it to other professions lawyers/medical doctors and other types of engineers - and I woudl bet that the median for those working in the tech industry's is lower than MD's and lawyers

So is the average level of education of people working in the tech industry and the barriers of entry.

A Ceng/PE has the same requirements as a MD or lawyer arguably more so in the case of lawyers - but a Ceng or PE will earn less than a MD or lawyer for the same level of experience

And dont you need a First from a good university to stand a good chance of high paying job in SV?

Despite the name, "middle class" does not mean "around median income." This is more apparent in countries like India and Brazil, but it's increasingly true in the US. "Upper class" definitely does not mean "top third by income."


> The median 33% household income ("middle class") in the US is $30,000 to $62,500 (household).

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?

This means that the 33% of Americans that are "in the middle" (between the 33% with less income and the 33% with most) are in the range of 30K to 62K

(Or so. I understand the data)

That is definitely what the GP thread meant, but the terminology was wrong. They wanted "percentile" median specifically refers to the 50th percentile. You could also use "tertile" (e.g. "The second tertile has income between 30k and 65k) which refers specifically to spliting into thirds.

$30k is the 1st tercile. $62k is the 2nd tercile.

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.

Many (or most) of the great technology companies have technical founders that benefit tremendously from a successful exist. Equating "business guys" with "the man" who get all the benefit and engineers as the poor labor is misguided and ignores basic facts.

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.

Engineers who work for technology companies are in the extreme minority. The average engineer works for a non-technology company doing work that management views as an expense, not a revenue generator, coding up features that sales people who make twice as much as them promised to a client months ago.

You think dentistry is a luxury? Half the time is chasing down nonpying clients, the other half is doing disgusting physical labor.

You think _Dentists_ chase down non paying clients? Ha ha!

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

I think that a dentist spending half of his time doing collections probably needs to learn how to contract things out.

97% of people want to work. Like to code. That's what they want to do. And they expect the other 3% to organize these jobs for them. Because they don't know/can't/aren't interested in organizing these jobs on their own. It really boils down to: do you want to be a craftsman or wealthy man. Because if you want to be in the 3% organizing jobs for others, you won't have any time to do coding. It's very easy to end up in the mental trap of: "I just want to code" expecting to see the prize for all the hard work. But the prize always goes to the job "organizer" or creator and not to the one doing it. Never forget that.

And without the 97% of people doing the actual work, the "organizer" wouldn't have a job either. Sure, presently management is making a grossly disproportionate amount of the profit but that doesn't make it right. This lack of balance is one of the looming economic crises facing the US.

Your blithe comment implies that this is reasonable, I strongly disagree.

It's about making the trade with your eyes open. I am a "just wants to code" type, which is fine, because in the organization we have guys who just want to sell, and guys who just want to make presentations, and guys (presumably) who just want to do the squillion other tasks that make a large organization tick over. I don't feel exploited at all.

Please keep in mind that any of the 97% could be a job organizer too. It's a choice. I strongly disagree with children dying of cancer. But that's just the way this world works. People have this thing in their psyche were they want a "parent" to provide them money, shelter, security in exchange for their obedience (disguised as "work"). Getting rid of this childish mentality is good for you.

I believe that your cancer analogy is weak, in this instance. It may not have been your intent to be insulting, but I find it challenging to read your response without feeling insulted. Casting my response as "childish" strikes me as unreasonable, as well as linking me with the people "who have this thing in their psyche". These are not issues I have.

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.[0]

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.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United...

For me maybe it is a little bit like law of physics. There are rich and there are poor. There are healthy, there are sick. The world is a cruel place that's just not fair no matter how you slice it. Maybe death is great equalizer - makes us all equal in the end. There is no way to fight it, that's by "design" (i.e. 'law of physics'). Accepting this world as it is and living happy regardless, for me, that's the border between the world of adults and the world of children. I prefer to insult you (even though I didn't want to) than to be disrespectful (in the sense of not saying openly what I really believe in, don't want to be dishonest).

This unfortunately reverberates with what happens at my workplace. Small company of 14, undeniably true re office manager/customer relations/ceo.

97% of people like to code??? What??? Unless you mean 97% of developers - in which case, yeah, I should hope so. But even if you meant 97% of the tech industry? This industry is full of people who want to "design apps" or "manage developers" or some other such nonsense (obviously, those are real things - but there are plenty of people claiming they want to do them that have no idea what they actually entail)

I think the point was that 97% of people want to do their job, whatever it is, and the remaining 3% have to match those people with the ones paying the money for the job to get done.

An experienced software developer earns perhaps double the national average wage in the UK, depending on where they are in the country (it may be considerably more than double, it is never less than comfortably above the average).

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.

Pay in the UK is awful for a lot of middle-earning jobs like ours.

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.

That much is true - the cost of living is enormous. But the standard of living is pretty enormous too.

Houses are pokey and weird over here after that...

The fact that we have careers decent enough that we are not dehumanized on a daily basis or expected to work in depressing, unhealthy, sometimes dangerous conditions for just enough pay to scrape by should not be seen as luxury; it should be the norm.

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."

Everyone's underpaid because employers need to make a profit on you. If you bring a million in sales, and turn around and demand a million, then the company hasn't made anything. How much profit a company should be making on its developers is a different story.

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?

Maybe in the industrialized world. Your frame is too small. Zoom out a bit. Put the entire 7B of us in the picture. Now, do you have a luxurious job? The answer is yes.

This is semantics. The point is, relatively speaking, our jobs offer good conditions to the average circumstances.

Yeah, you're right. But "luxurious" has connotations that go beyond "good conditions". It's not a luxury to be treated with dignity and respect, paid decently and allowed to make time for your family. That should be normal, and the real problem is that it isn't normal for enough people.

Splitting semantic hairs, but I would argue this is a luxury, and I'm not aware of any time in recorded history where it wasn't.

True enough, but I don't think that should be the horizon. It's worth looking at the system in which we exist, and why the other jobs are so shitty. That goes way beyond semantics.

I am not sure if you are trolling or not. Maybe I have read your comment incorrectly.

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 not trolling.

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.

> to me "luxury" implies either greed or wastefulness

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.

To me, luxury and comfort are two separate things. Comfort is not having to worry about the things that you need. Luxury is having things that you don't need. Comfort is having one or two new reliable and safe cars for your family. Luxury is also having that convertible sports-car for the weekends.

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.

> 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 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.

Google[1] reckons that "luxury" is:

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.

[1]: https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=cr&ei=rmQPU_OnKaW_ygOph4GAD...

> 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).

I agree to disagree about this. To me, luxury is "opulence, luxuriousness, sumptuousness, grandeur, magnificence, splendor, lavishness, the lap of luxury, a bed of roses", and I don't associate those with typical developers. "Luxuriousness" is really a measure of consumption anyway, rather than income, so it would entirely depend on how people spend their money rather than how much they earn or receive. A big house, fast cars and yachts are luxury items even if you had to borrow money to buy them. Having a good job is not a luxury because people with good jobs can still live ascetically.

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.

Fair enough. I'm fully on board with you that more people should have access to the advantages we do.

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.

> we should consider modestly affluent lifestyles to be the norm

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."

My wife, whose dad is a coal miner and works harder in one day than I've had to my entire career, cannot figure out why I'm able to work from home whenever I want, and why my boss isn't firing me because I often sleep in and don't get online or make it into the office until maybe an hour after my "normal" hours.

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.

I would also expect those things from an employer, and hope that my kids and grand kids have it even better than me on that front.

Generations before us have fought so that we, as people, wouldn't have to endure the working conditions of coal miners forever.

Do you mean 80% less or 80% of what you currently make? You make good points either way, just curious.

Oh, sorry, 80% of what I currently make. Big difference. :)

There are definitely amazing, luxurious aspects of programming. Something came into view for me recently though, that I never realized before:

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.

Hmm, so you took one job and feel like that is enough of a basis for making conclusions?

- 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.

I think you're contrasting hourly payments for a freelancer (unless OP is getting $100/hr for 40 hours/week, 48 weeks/year) and the accountant getting paid regardless of workload in a full-time role. And in a very particular environment (overworked, etc).

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.

He is a programmer at $100/hr who has to tax his brain a lot in near-total isolation. The aspects of how this is bad for you may be different from those of a dishwasher or a line cook. Some therapists charge more than $100/hr for just listening to people's mental problems for an hour and suggesting new ways of thinking about stuff. But we don't see said therapists telling each other, "Oh, our jobs are so cushy and luxurious. Try being a line cook!"

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.

> But we don't see said therapists telling each other, "Oh, our jobs are so cushy and luxurious. Try being a line cook!"

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.

> This is replying to an anecdote with yet another anecdote, which I don't think is terribly helpful.

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.

The concept of 'works X hours on job Y so deserves Z' is totally bogus. You have to reveal how much Y is in demand, what kind of risks are involved and what kind of predictability exists in in the results doing Y.

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".

You're confusing "start-up programming" with "programming," I probably that seems to be endemic on Hacker News.

He's pointing out the risk factor, a severely (and deliberately?) overlooked aspect of the "income inequality" rhetoric. Consistency of income has it's own significant non-monetary value. There's more to benefits of a job than just the paycheck, such as not worrying month-to-month whether you're going to make your mortgage/rent payment vs getting evicted. Many lower-paying jobs remain consistent regardless of whether you're sweating hard for 8 hours or watching TV for hours waiting for a customer to show up & need you for 10 seconds; that vs higher-paying jobs which are deeply connected to the actual value of every second of productivity ... everyone would like the profitability of the latter, but the assurance of income of the former can make it the better choice (given common circumstances).

Sure, but he implies that the "start-up guy" reflects "programmers" in general, and it really doesn't. There are a lot of programming careers that are as reliable as anything is in this day and age. The kind of programmer who moves to San Francisco to work 90-hour weeks for peanuts in hopes of becoming a billionaire at 25 is wildly overrepresented on Hacker News. He really doesn't represent the average code monkey just trying to put in his 40 hours and get home to his family.

I worked as a dish washer and then line cook for several years. It is true, that is way 'harder' work than programming. It was actually money (or, lack of money) and a work related injury that made me make myself a hirable coder. It's hard to say if my world view changed or if it's normal for people who do this work to become this way, but that first year was so hard that it fucked with me. Brain is different. I guess the trade off is ok though so it's cool ( not poor, homeless, in prison, or hungry :D ).

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.

> Yes, it's luxury in many ways. But it's also a coal mine of its own sort.

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.

Many of my friends and family are coal miners. I worked at one for a summer. There are fatalities, but the frequency with which they happen is so small that driving to the mine is more dangerous than the actual job. With heavy machinery doing 95% of work in modern mines, and having worked in one, I can tell you that the constant grind of producing code is much harder than sitting in haul truck or laying explosives. On top of that, most programmers don't stop working when they go home. With the constant flood of new technology and best practices, it takes a lot of effort to even stay relevant. Coal miners don't go home and read about creating cheaper explosives or more efficient haul trucks (ok maybe some do, not many). Mining outside of US, is certainly a different story.

Sedentary jobs have sedentary risks: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/even-with-e...

I own a GeekDesk and swear by it. Standing sometimes while coding makes a difference!

I was interested in these, but, zomg, it's hard to take the company seriously with that faux-hawk dude on the front page.

It's hard to take them seriously when they appear to be selling a block of press board on a couple of metal stands for $1000.

To be fair, it seems all standing desks are insanely priced.

For what it's worth, it's a well-made desk, although I too was a little miffed that I had to drill directly into the pressboard wood during assembly.

You could always put your own desktop on the frame. (It's a very good frame.)

I don't see a faux hawk dude on the front page. I'm getting a professional woman in a pantsuit. If I refresh, I see who you're talking about when it loads another picture. I think it's meant to illustrate that they're not just professional desks, they can be great for (college folks/rockstar ninja startup founders/punk-rock songwriters).

Actually in the developed world mining deaths are a lot lower than they used to be - fishermen have some of the most dangerous jobs

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.

> Except you won't die from sitting home in your pajamas.

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?

I don't have any of that data either, but to suggest that the life as a programmer working from home is as dangerous as the life of a career coal miner seems a bit absurd to me.

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.

> to suggest that the life as a programmer working from home is as dangerous as the life of a career coal miner seems a bit absurd to me.

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.

I think the major difference, which I mention in my edit, is the risks that we're suggesting are dangerous to a programmer aren't a direct result of the occupation. In the general case, I don't believe that anything about being a programmer stops someone from exercising on a regular basis (edit: or maintaining a healthy diet).

There have been articles and studies relatively recently about the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle, and how that in some ways can not simply be "cancelled out" by a reasonable diet and exercise regime. In other words, even though you might exercise a lot, it might not negate all the health risks of sitting on your ass for around 8 hours a day. The exercise is beneficial, but you can not use it to "make up for" being inactive a lot.

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.

>Except you won't die from sitting home in your pajamas.

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.

"hours of intense focus"? really? Most software developers I know - highly paid ones - rarely put in more than 4 hours at stretch ever. The 'pomodoro' technique popular a few years ago focused on getting people to work for 25 minutes at a stretch.

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.

What kind of job was it, retail? Even that job is probably a luxury compared to, say, manufacturing. I don't think you'd have that much down time if you were working in a factory. You wouldn't be thinking a lot, since it's repetitive manual labor, but I'm sure you'd be pretty tired at the end of the day (physically, not mentally).

It depends very much on the job. I'm currently working from home and loving it, but I know far too much about jobs that suck. Factory work can look very much like Lucy from I Love Lucy working at the chocolate factory, for example. It may not be very mentally engaging, but 12 hours (or more) of that are enough to wear down anybody, especially when you get busy seasons with no weekends.

That's what I was thinking. Mentally taxing work is usually more rewarding at the end of the day than physically taxing work.

Austin used to be such a chill place, now we've got these bros...

Comparing coal mining to working in your pajamas for $125/hr. Jesus.

"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."

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?

There are a million things they could do. Gamify things and help science - http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23635094

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.

"But it's also a coal mine of its own sort."

Go work a physically taxing job for a couple weeks then come back and say that.

"...of its own sort."

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.

"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."

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.

Unless pmichaud is contracting for you, you don't seem to fall into the precondition of "when I charge you $125 for an hour of my 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.

"presumably" - didn't really come across in his post.

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.

You're right. If he's doing his job right, you should be getting MORE than ($125 * # hrs) in value in return.

See my post above. But it's really only partially his(?) job. I can 'do my job' right, but if the other party fails to derive value from what I deliver (incompetence, whatever), then it wasn't worth it to them, regardless of how well I did or how much effort I put in. PART (a big part) of my job is to qualify people up front to make sure I'm as unlikely as possible to be wasting each party's time.

Try cheffing. Up to 16 hours a day at a high-end place with only a 5 minute breakfast break, 5 minute supper break. Mind's constantly working. Certainly not solving world hunger, but creativity and concentration are required all the time. Shit job if you don't really care much about food, and even if you do, the job itself is still not that great.

It is interesting that in some places there are mandatory break times, where I grew up you had to have a half hour break per 8 hour shift or something like that, even with these laws, those working conditions still persist. Some employers might not even be aware of them. I worked for one that was super not-breaking-the-law type and one that was who-the-hell-has-time-to-research-that-shit? type. Both in food prep and service.

Don't confound price with value!

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.

I don't really see us getting many more IT/CS engineers anytime soon. The amount of businesses that actually need a programmer / tech person on staff keeps increasing while the amount of engineers out there stays relatively the same. That's why we can charge so much for our hours. It's a seller's market. Even if the country decided to make programming part of the elementary school curriculum it wouldn't necessarily translate into more engineers because computer science & IT people tend to be nerds/geeks who like to tinker in their free time and as a percentage of the population they stay relatively the same from year to year. If anything the kind of programming curriculum that most programmers dream of might actually create more of a demand for them because finally everyone who's not a programmer will realize the potential value of having a good programmer on staff.

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.

>computer science & IT people tend to be nerds/geeks who like to tinker in their free time and as a percentage of the population they stay relatively the same from year to year

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.

You related to Tom Perkins?

Absolutely yes. I always have to be really polite to my friends who don't have technical jobs. Programmers have to offer up complicated things, that have to hold up when tested. A lot of jobs are mostly talking, or moving things around, or just whatever. Look at family physicians. I've seen them just look up stuff on Wikipedia on their netbooks, that everybody sort of knows anyway. Anything more demanding, they write down the name of a specialist. I used to have a customer service job that was like that, but I only made $14 (1998) an hour.

FWIW those people "talking" or "whatever" are quite likely creating some of the business opportunities for your code to sit in and make you the money. The number of times when coding=(lots of)money without some of the "whatever" involved is fairly rare.

I'm just saying, few jobs have analogs to "accountability to logic", "accountability to the compiler", "accountability to the unit tests" and so on. Surgeons have it. Engineers have it. Even people who do sales have it. But you know there are a lot of service, middle-management, and executive jobs where no rubber meeting road really occurs.

yes, and there are a lot of programmer jobs where the same is true as well - maybe as a percentage it's less than in a sales role, but it still exists.

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.

Let's be careful with that term, "luxury". You're a well-paid and comparatively comfortable wage slave, but just because you don't have to labor in a mine or a burger joint doesn't mean you are experiencing luxury.

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: http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/01/23/the-85-rich...

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.

Luxury is relative, is it not? Working in a posh office with a very comfortable salary, very lenient management, and extensive benefits straight out of college is a hell of a lot nicer than laboring in a mine in your 40s, struggling to put food on the table, having no advancement opportunities whatsoever, and rather than getting health care benefits actually suffering health-wise due to the intensity of the labor.

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.

I don't know if you lucked out. You chose a market-friendly position which you are mentally equipped to do. You might have lucked out in being born in America and being in a stable enough financial position to pursue that career - but after that, it is as much careful planning and work as it is anything else.

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.

> Poets choose to be poets knowing that they will most likely never be on stable financial ground.

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.

It is true that luxury is relative, but, from an external point of view, when I was a kid, I remembered commenting with people how everyone in American movies seemed to be rich, even when depicted as "low middle class" (huge houses, a couple of cars, tons of clothes, toys, etc) We are not talking about having an helicopter, but my family bought our first car when I had 15 years, and live in a relative small flat for 4 people. My father had a well paid job in IT industry and we considered ourselves middle class.

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 point parent is making, i think, is this:

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.

Lenin had something to say on this very subject... which I can unfortunately only paraphrase – something to the effect of, "The working class can never truly trust the middle class, because while the middle class will sympathize with the aspirations of working class people, they will betray them when their own comfort level is threatened".

Wait... maybe it was Trotsky? Goddamned communists are so difficult to keep straight.

One of the interesting things that has happened with the increase in inequality is the ability for more people to say, "No, I'm not rich. that guy is rich." Because as inequality rises, the people you compare yourselves to are much further away than they used to be. That's how people making 10x the median income can, with a straight face, declare themselves to be "middle class". Inequality itself is used to justify other inequality.

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

I agree with you that what we have is luxury compared to much of the world. Like you, I've seen this first-hand.

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.

When expenses exceed income, misery: when income exceeds expenses, bliss.

>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

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).

Thanks for the link. I've only spent a little time, but I downloaded several of the data sets there, and they don't appear to have what I'm looking for. Lots of data income, etc., but nothing on wealth and what they do have on income is coarse grained (based on quintiles).

There's always a bigger fish. But most billionaires seem capable of owning sports teams and single handedly funding large scale philanthropy, so there's some point before then that it stops being just luxury. I don't find this kind of envy you're expressing to be useful, however.

Comparative comfort _is_ luxury, compared to that which most of the people on the planet experience as their daily lives.

I have the option to work from home, but I dislike doing so, specifically because it makes it easy for me to slack and procrastinate, and because I dislike bringing my work into my home environment.

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?

Yes, this. I've had jobs where I worked in the freezing rain, etc. etc. The people cutting your grass are likely better than you. I'll just come out and say it, they are, because their life SUCKS and they get up every day and just do it. They have heart. Many people in our community have a disgusting sense of superiority and entitlement. You just don't understand unless you've been there.

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.

> 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.

It's called gratefulness, and we have none of it.

As much as I agree with the fact that we should all be grateful for our amazing jobs, gratefulness is not the same thing as "not allowed to complain."

What does this "gratefulness" encompass? How should a "grateful" person express "gratefulness" to be worthy of your approval?

I never complain about recruiters. The fact that I'm being contacted spontaneously is completely a positive for me, and it gives me some confidence that if I were to look for a job again, my skills are in demand enough that I will never starve.

I've always found it a little off-putting when people complain about this. I get that it's probably annoying, and good for them for being in demand. But it still comes off as a humblebrag.

Can't a man walk down the street without being offered a job?

It's more akin to the "job offers" that a woman might get when walking down the wrong sort of street.

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.

the problem is if you think about it for longer than a minute you realize the recruiters are simply doing keyword searches and blind spamming as many people as possible.

Early on in my career, I put my resume out to look for another job after a layoff. Recruiters nearly called me around the clock. I expressed frustration after the third call in a row in front of my wife. She reminded me what a blessing it was to have so many people trying to get me work and so many opportunities available, most which would give me a raise.

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.

About working from home: I won't do it again, unless needed

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.

>I will go somewhere else (rent a room/desk if needed) and I'll work there.

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 sitting at home with no commute, listening to music out of my computer speakers, in a house that's heated to my liking and I'm wearing sweatpants. For lunch I'll be baking a hot, fresh meal. At some point this afternoon I'll probably take a short nap to refresh myself.

I'm pretty aware of it.

I had a bad commute this morning, because I stubbed my toe on the way to the computer room. Also, I'm not wearing any pants.

The Oatmeal pretty much summed up 6pm of every weeknight of my life (I'm a stay-at-home developer, my wife is a medical resident) http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things

1000x thanks for linking this. Hadn't seen it yet.

It's important to be reminded of this every so often. It definitely helps to get through "tougher days" if you're able to have a little perspective on how great things actually are, or how much worse they could be.

I always wonder what people mean by "tough days."

The days you don't feel like getting out of bed. The days everything in your project goes wrong. The days you think your idea is actually worthless and you're a fraud. The days you dread your investors asking for a status update. The days Murphy's Law is a bitch. The days you have a bug that just makes no sense. The days your client is being an ass and you have no desire to deal with them. The days your boss is in a bad mood. The days that one douchey coworker just keeps getting in your face.

The days that make you wish you were doing something else.

I'm sure you've had "tough days"

Oh, you mean 'most days'. Now I get it.

Oh yeah, I've had them - I wasn't being patronizing.

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.

I think Spolsky's description[1] of working at the bakery explains best how it works for me. My bad days don't seem to be anything catastrophic going wrong, just a multitude of tiny frustrations. Basically the opposite for the good days.

[1] http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000057....

Those other people, the OP is talking about, I know many of them. Many of my friends are unemployed. But even though I tried really hard to convince those of whom I thought had the head to do it, to start a IT education, or at least start learning to code at home while they have no job yet. Still I wasn't able to convince anyone. They all said that it is too hard and not something they are interested in.

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.

Hooray to good current days!

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

Speaking to my father once, he told me "Man, you got the tiger by the tail." I try not to forget it. I don't always succeed at that.

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.

Why compare yourself to unsuccessful people? there are always plenty of them. Almost anyone who can read & do maths can say "i'm smarter than 50% of Earth population" so..

Only 50% of people can say that

It's basic economics. A lot of people can mine coal or cook a burger. Not a lot of people can write or design software. The demand outweighs the supply and hence, leverage exists for those smart enough to take advantage of it.

More importantly, engineers earn a fraction of the value they create for employers.

It's the lawyers we should all be scoffing at...

technology workers complaining about recruiters is analogous to young, attractive people complaining about people hitting on them constantly. it sets off the same b.s. detectors in my brain.

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.

Yeah, but I think the problem with cut-and-paste recruiter spam is that it's not really an opportunity. Most of the "offers" I get don't match my skillset and would not result in a job even if I pursued them. They simply increase the noise in the channel and don't add any value to anyone.

the problem with going to bars is that everyone who hits on me is not really my type. most of the 'offers' i get are from fatties and uglies or losers, and would not result in a relationship even even if i decided to sleep with them. these people simply increase the noise at the bar and don't add value to anyone.

oh my god it's just like, so annoying, you know? faux outrage

Ok, that's almost there. Now instead of sitting at a bar, sit at a public park while reading a book. And instead of being propositioned by ugly people, let's say that they are pimps, each trying to get you to stand on their street corner. Also, you have a big, fat wedding ring, and a huge sign around your neck saying "NO PIMPS". Also, you don't know this, since you ignore them as much as you can, but the pimps' customers all have herpaidsyphichlamorrhea. And they live in Antarctica. And they won't pay you market price.

But yeah, faux outrage.

are you seriously comparing receiving emails and voicemails from shitty recruiters to the pimping of prostitutes ...

i think you're proving my point more than refuting it.

No. I was pointing out how the previous analogy was flawed. People expect to talk to strangers at bars, particularly about a specific purpose.

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.

This is further compounded by the likelihood that the jobs advertised may be sham postings that are only being spammed out to you to fulfill legal requirements for restricted visas held by imported workers.

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.

these are all symptoms of an industry that finds its workers in high demand, which is the root of the issue we're discussing. people are complaining about being in demand.

So how are we supposed to get to "the future", where people aren't wage slaves any more but instead are free to pursue their real dreams and ambitions, if those of us fortunate enough to make some headway should feel ashamed for having done so? Give me a break.

You took the words right out of my mouth. Thanks for posting this.

You significantly understate the luxury which we enjoy, as even the millions of people searching for minimum wage jobs enjoy extreme luxury.

There are hundreds of millions of people living on under $2 per day. And yes, that is adjusted for purchasing power.


It's this sort of thinking that prevents people from getting help when they let their health slide and get depressed (notice that I didn't say it's this sort of thinking that causes depression. Depression is a disease.)

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.

No, I am keenly, almost obsessively aware of how lucky I am and how fragile my situation can be.

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.

I addressed that fragility in my own life by following most of Dave Ramsey's advice. If you're in debt and you're not budgeting strictly, I humbly suggest that you pick up one of his books and start today.

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.

Take care.

I have three kids as well, and have some small hope to offer (assuming your kids are young): once the kids are at elementary school age, the financial situation gets a bit easier. After school activities typically cost less than preschool, and your wife may be able to get part-time work at that point.

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.

"...cheaper...to just move to a better school district..."

Unless, of course, you're stuck underwater in a house that you'd lose lots of money on if you sold it.

Yeah, if you have a negative net-worth, you're in trouble.

> 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.

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.

Why does your wife not work? Lack of daycare in your area? Lack of work opportunities for her in your area?

She does work. She has three children to raise.

Why does she have to raise them alone?

After your second kid, it should have been quite clear to you that you would not be able to have a third kid and save as much as you should. Why did you choose to have the 3rd kid?

Before I got paid to compute, I drove a forklift and unloaded floor-loaded ocean containers in 150F heat. I'm acutely aware that I'm spoiled to all hell.

Its too bad all students aren't required to perform 'real work' as part of their education.

I consider myself very fortunate, despite having a very strict [e.g. practically nonexistent] work-from-home allowance. It's not something I take lightly, for better and worse.

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.

My dad likes to remind me of how much better my job is than what I could be doing.

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.

Yeah, that perspective is crucial, I think. When I was a teenager I worked at TJ Maxx for gas money. Retail/customer service type work can be and often is humiliating and somewhat dehumanizing, and of course it pays jack.

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.)

It's commendable to want to be grateful for what we have and not take it for granted, but it should never be used as an argument against wanting to improve our lot.

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.

60 hour work week to meet a marketing deadline. No thanks. If I could get a 1/3 for a job that has no requirement of producing something and fixed hours. That way I can code for myself.


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.

Even reading some of these comments is a bit nauseating.

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.

"Even more people are getting their butts of the beds every morning, going to the job they hate, just to support the basic needs."

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.

Of course we already have this sort of stuff largely automated; I meant in a way that doesn't just make profit for a small minority of the population.

From the sound of it, it's not so much a luxury problem but rather one of integrity... If you feel like the comfort of your home or your lack of motivation somehow make your job "luxurious", I'm sorry to say that the problem is in all likelihood mostly with you and not the profession. I would probably call that apathy and/or privilege.

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.

Some of us are actually aware of this. It's good to point out what the world is like to people who may not have first hand knowledge, but then they're still not getting any by reading this article. I'd have liked to see the author encourage others to travel, perhaps, whether geographically or economically. It's difficult to have empathy with fellow humans without actual contact.

I'm fortunate enough to been able to do both manual labor and office work (coding) too, so I think I'm less critical about my job compared to someone who got a decent one straight out from uni.

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.

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