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What happened to all the non-programmers? (benkuhn.net)
99 points by irskep on Mar 4, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments



"In fact, just the fact that I’m interested in doing sports for leisure is associated with class, since it’s not something that would be so easy for, say, manual laborers or shift workers."

This statement says a lot about his bubble. Most of the adults I see playing soccer in the Washington, DC, area are most likely working in construction or service trades. Softball can be pretty blue collar, depending on where you are.


Yeah, there's sort of a weird meme among (for lack of a better word) creative class types that anyone who doesn't use a Macbook for work is literally working 120 hrs in a salt mine to support 8 children as a single parent. It's sort of a noble savage stereotype, but in reality "working class" (even just that name is indicative of this idea) people are still people too -- they do things on their time off, some of them are hard-working, some of them are lazy, some of them do a good job at work, some of them suck, some of them are good parents, some of them aren't.


Btw we are working class too, even with those fancy 6 figure salaries...

At least I'm not living of off strutting around in my park telling my gardener what to do while stroking a white cat. I don't have employees in my factory solely working for me generating my income while I twiddle my thumbs. I'm actually sitting on a computer working for money every day, so: working class.


> even with those fancy 6 figure salaries...

And I hate to break to it you Google and Facebook employees, but your salary ain't that great when you factor in cost-of-living. There are many, many thousands of devs across America making much more than you once you account for cost-of-living (and you should).

But between the proven wage suppression, ageism, and now this passing meme that somehow making $100,000 in the most expensive place to live in the U.S. makes you part of the global elite, I have little hope that you all will wake up and demand fair compensation.


Well, it actually makes you part of the global elite, when you're well off in a country where being well off isn't just not starving:

"An American having the average income of the bottom U.S. decile is better-off than 2/3 of world population." (Milanovic 2002, p. 50)

"The top 10% of the U.S. population has an aggregate income equal to income of the poorest 43 percent of people in the world, or differently put, total income of the richest 25 million Americans is equal to total income of almost 2 billion people." (Milanovic 2002, p. 50)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_inequality

If you earn $100K and are single, you're in the 96th percentile. If you're married and only income, you're in the 67th. (http://www.whatsmypercent.com/)

Is it a huge salary? Sure it isn't. Having a bigger income and more savings is always welcome, but don't act like we're in the brink of starvation.

Take home money in our profession is still usually higher even when cost of living in the Bay Area is higher than in most places on Earth. You can eventually move away from the Bay Area with the savings you accumulated there. Of course, if the standard of living you expect is having a three bedroom house, it's going to be hard to attain, but looking at people in comparable urban areas (London, Paris, etc.) the expectation is that you'll live in a tiny apartment, just like in SF.


A few things you're missing: The perks. If my company feeds me and provides transportation stipend my only bills are rent, utils, and fun. Utils are the same as just about anywhere else in my experience. The rent is the only killer.

You're also looking at it the wrong way. Many of us don't plan on staying here. Yes our savings are very small in comparison to cost of living while we're here. It's when we leave that our money becomes very valuable. Knowing the ratio of your savings per month(in the bay area) vs cost of living where you want to be (somewhere cheap) can be very motivating to keep you here (my ratio is 4:1 , so every month I'm here I save enough money to live 4 months at the place I plan to live). It's sacrificing a few years of insane living cost to have a cushion that allows you a comfortable life after the craziness as well as a resume that looks outstanding. There's also the possibility your startup sells, but I can't claim that as a valley only perk because that can obviously happen anywhere, but I think you're a bit more likely to have it happen in the bay area.

You also meet a great deal of people and make a great deal of friends that love the same things you love all the way down to a specific framework (there are no Flask meetups in milwaukee). You also meet lots of people who introduce you to things you never knew you would love, which is often MORE fun.

All that being said, I agree that there are more efficient places to live where you could save more, and there are companies outside of the bay area doing all of the above things, but the luck factor there grows as you get away from the valley because there are fewer positions.


> A few things you're missing: The perks. If my company feeds me and provides transportation stipend my only bills are rent, utils, and fun.

It's not a perk if the ultimate effect, if not the intended effect, is that it keeps you at work 60 hours a week. There's something deeply insidious about plying your employees with free food and services and encouraging them to build their social circles entirely out of their co-workers. Who needs work-life balance if work is your life?


I will agree with that in certain cases such as Apple or Google, but the startup world isn't really that way.

If you're working for a startup and just think of yourself as an employee you're doing it wrong. You should think of yourself as an investor, not an employee, because you very likely are in every sense of the word.

This is where the friend thing comes in. You're not building friends at company X, you're meeting other people who happen to be investing in the same thing you do. I've kept great friends from previous companies I've worked at who understand that you're an investor and you must look at the company as an investment and be able to walk away if you don't like where it's going.

It does keep you working 60 hours a week, sure, but that's your investment for the shares your received in your offer letter. You stand to make a large amount of money without any capital put in. Regular 40 hour a week employees never get those shares, so obviously they shouldn't put in 60 hours a week to make the CEO a few extra bucks (however there's a caveat here when it comes to bonuses, and i'd argue THATs the return on investment for google employees).

A clearer example of a difference here is that I've seen developers walk away after 5 months at a job. In a regular employee universe that would be career suicide. Because this is the startup world, you only have to say "I didn't like the direction the company was going..." to other potential employers and so long as you're competent they totally get what you mean, because obviously many startups fail and if you see true disaster coming you would be crazy not to bail.

Often times it's actually these "employee" types that kill the startup. They just ride the funding into however many rounds they can until the ship crashes, then find a new place and continue the dragging.

Sorry for the wall of text, but I came here from a place where the "employee" mentality is king (40 years x 40 hours a week x 401k = retire), because it's the most common thing in America and it took me a very long time to get this (I'm an investor, not an employee). There's also the other factors like most people here REALLY enjoy their jobs and have been doing this on their own time for 60 hours a week already, so doing it for a paycheck is just a really cool side effect.


Its extremely easy to live in the Bay Area comfortably on a 6 figure salary-lots of working poor live here on far less. When engineers complain that their six figure salary isn't keeping up with the cost of living, what they really mean is that they can't afford a 4 bedroom house with a two car garage and lawn in a nice part of MV/PA or Sunnyvale, a new car, vacation and Burning Man every year, expensive hobbies, travel and tons of electronic gadgets. Not that they can't find a decent apartment to live in and are homeless in Sunnyvale.


This really depends on where you are in life. Cost of living calculations tend to not work well with individual preferences and situations. In this case, it depends on how much living space desired.

Generally speaking, the premium a single programmer makes for living in the Silicon Valley makes it worth being there. If said programmer is happy living with roommates, all the more so.

However, the premium must be higher for someone with dependents due to the desire to have more living space.


> However, the premium must be higher for someone with dependents due to the desire to have more living space

It has virtually nothing to do living space and everything to do with schools. To live in an area with decent schools, you pay a huge rent for even small homes or apartments.

But I give you credit, you're the only one who responded who even considered the cost of dependents, which makes a massive difference.


This was not the point i was making.

Btw I hate to destroy your little made up world where all your stereotypes and what you think are a reality, but I don't live in the U.S., my company has under 10 employees and is self founded...

P.S.: Ofc there are a myriad of definitions of 'working class', but personally I believe 'middle class' is just an invention to make people who earn slightly more while being used for their surplus feel slightly better. And it's working pretty well.


In the US, we distinguish between the "working class" and the "professional class", with programmers falling into the latter group.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_middle_class#The_prof...


In the UK it's basically if you work for wages and/or in low skilled or manual labour.


Working for wages is not enough to qualify: doctor, university professor, airline pilot, solicitor... All traditionally firmly middle class professions despite working for a living.


Traditionally, middle class has always meant that you own your own business.

A hot dog vendor who owns their own cart is middle class. A doctor who works for a hospital is not. It has nothing to do with income or prestige.


We're talking about the UK here, I've never heard that definition in the UK and any definition of middle class that excludes doctors in the UK seems way out of line with how the term is generally used in my experience.


Wages vs salary


Huh?

I have worked in a vast multitude of jobs, some manual, some temp office, some salaried, some self-employed, some company director.

Never in the UK have I ever heard of people making a distinction between a Wage and a Salary. They're the same thing.

Middle class means something completely different than the definition you're defending. Skilled office workers are firmly in the UK middle class (despite my Thatcher hating friend's assertion that he's not). It might be argued that unskilled office workers, like call centres, are now working class jobs.


the distinction, in american english, is that a wage is a per-hour thing, whereas a salary is paid for a period of employment (usually a fortnight or a month), independent of the time you actually spent working within that period.


But we weren't talking about America, we were talking about the UK.


@mattnewport

Wages vs. salaried worker i.e. being paid weekly, possibly cash in hand for hours worked vs. a regular fixed monthly bank payment based on an annual salary.


By far the biggest thing that surprised me after entering into the CS field 3 years ago is that being a programming just like a white collar version of being an electrician or plummer.

Looking at the from the outside it seems like a career with a lot more power there really is.


"Just". What is "just" about being an electrician? Is it less than being a more conventional white collar worker, like some kind of administrator or manager?


I meant "just like," not "just" in the sense you mean.


I'll admit I jumped the gun on that one.


np


If your definition of working class is anyone who works for a living, then you are using a very unconventional definition. Using conventional definitions, the "middle class" consists entirely of people who work for a living. The factor distinguishing them from the working class being that they have significant disposable income.


>Btw we are working class too, even with those fancy 6 figure salaries...

No, we're not. We're the down trodden, continually squeezed middle or upper middle class depending on the cost of living where you are.


You're working class if you are renting your labor out to a capital owner to produce your income.

You're middle class if you are applying your own labor to capital you own to produce your income.

You're capitalist class if you are renting other people's labor to apply to capital you own to produce your income.

(These aren't discrete categories; they might be better read with "if you are" replaced with "to the extent you are".)


Depends on the individual and how they accrue their income. Someone with a six figure income, which includes investment income and income from selling their time, would fall under middle class but someone who makes that six figures from working alone would qualify as working class. It is not the amount that matters here, it is how that amount is generated.


That's not what working class means, though.


In the dichotomy between workers and capitalists it does. Though I doubt that's what was meant.


Marxist.org has this definition (https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/p/e.htm):

Petty-bourgeois

...

2) Also refers to the growing group of workers whose function is management of the bourgeois apparatus. These workers do not produce commodities, but instead manage the production, distribution, and/or exchange of commodities and/or services owned by their bourgeois employers.

While these workers are a part of the working class because they receive a wage and their livelihood is dependent on that wage, they are separated from working class consciousness because they have day-to-day control, but not ownership, over the means of production, distribution, and exchange.


That describes managers, maybe programmers writing internal software if you're really stretching it. Thanks for the definition though.


The working poor holding down two jobs are definitely doing that.

Most blue-collar & white-collar middle class are working less than the average startup. Recall way way back before startups were what everyone and their brother wanted to do after graduating, the premise was 'if instead of holding this easy job, I worked my ass off to my full potential, I could cash out at 35 and retire'. Admitting that startups were a huge amount of work, but something you did for a few years only, was part of the narrative.

Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast. - Paul Graham

http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html


To make themselves feel better about working 120 hrs a week in front of a screen?


The use of the description "manual laborers or shift workers" leads me to believe this is a lot more about the upper middle class to wealthy under 35 group ending up in tech related occupations than anything else. Time to go grab a data set and R-Studio.


A much longer post with a similar gist is "I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup"[1] by Scott Alexander (I recommend the whole blog actually):

> According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.

> And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle. It’s not because I’m deliberately avoiding them; I’m pretty live-and-let-live politically, I wouldn’t ostracize someone just for some weird beliefs. And yet, even though I probably know about a hundred fifty people, I am pretty confident that not one of them is creationist.

1: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything...


Thank you for sharing. This was a great read. Remind me of the time at lunch when one of my co-workers proudly claimed "Straight men always kill transgendered people."


I think this happens in many professions. My wife became a lawyer and now we have a million lawyer friends. This is not so fun at parties.


What's the collective noun for a party of lawyers?


I believe that's called a 'firm'.


Cesspool


I propose: A quibble


first-parters


... You are simply a nerd/geek/techie surrounded by likeminded people. Nothing wrong with that.

I am a programmer that has met most of his friends in bars, raves and other music related places. Guess what? All of my friends are musicians or DJs.

What happened to all the non-musicians?! ... Well, I am simply not going to meet them in the backstage of a show.

I was under the impression that this is general knowledge, no need to make a blog post about it.

Go meet people outside your work circle if you are tired of talking with techies.


That being said, most of my co-workers are avid hockey players. We have a team that is mainly programmers, a few designers and some managers.

No need to base all your hobbies around chess, you will still be a good programmer if you have hobbies that make you sweat!


This is why I love New York. There are so many industries here (media, fashion, finance, etc) that tech is just part of a larger pool of people (who often cross over between different industries).


I've found that people in big cities can get pretty provincial in their thinking at times. At least with NYC, this kind of isolated thinking doesn't cut you off from too much of the rest of the world.

I live near D.C. and it's hard to fathom that people have lives that aren't in some way connected to the Federal Government or Government Contracting.


The internet makes it easier than ever to only hang out with people exactly like you. E.g. making friends at meetups for interest-specific sites like HN. Class and location are also an issue. It may be that 10% of folks with college degrees in San Francisco are programmers, but I bet among among single 20-35 year olds who have enough disposable income to frequent certain sorts of places, it's much higher.


> I bet among among single 20-35 year olds who have enough disposable income to frequent certain sorts of places, it's much higher.

I think people tend to just gravitate toward doing the best things they can, as limited by time, cost, taste, and social access. It's the same reason sleep away camps on the east coast were/are disproportionately jewish -- you're drawing from the subset of parents with enough money to send their kids, but who aren't allowed to play golf or whatever, and share the same set of post-holocaust gemeinschaft ideals.


I feel this problem is especially significant in San Francisco. Having lived in several other cities, I can say that, at least for me, this was never a major issue before living in SF. Meeting other programmers and people in tech out in the real world used to be a pleasant surprise. Now it's just a given.

Coffee shops, climbing gyms, museum nights, hiking meet ups, hanging out in the park, etc etc... I, like apparently every other person in tech, enjoy these things. I do miss the diversity of thoughts and lifestyles to be found in other cities. Not that SF doesn't have such diversity, it's just that I never before had to make an effort to find it outside my normal activities.


Well SF is clearly saturated with people working in the tech industry. As we're seeing more and more on HN, there's a huge amount of people in the tech industry who are in it for reasons that do not include a passion for technology, writing code or developing things.

So you've a huge amount of people fairly dissatisfied with what they're doing 40+ hours a week, in an area full of similar people, and who have the disposable income and time to look for more in life outside of those 40+ hours.

So it's not surprising more cultural/outdoor/etc. things are flooded with people from the tech industry in SF, I suppose, where elsewhere they would be both less people in the industry and those that are would be slightly better geographically dispersed.


> Well SF is clearly saturated with people working in the tech industry.

It sounds like you didn't read the article. (Ctrl-F "It turns out")


It's social groups. Want to meet people different from yourself? Study jiu jitsu or ballroom dancing.

For better or worse, I noticed at a recent friends catch-up that almost everyone was in advertising technology.


Come to LA. Everyone is in entertainment, and I never meet other technical folks.


I'm in DTLA, everyone is in fashion, film, photography, or works in the service industry attempting to get into the former. I can count on one hand how many devs I know in my neighborhood. I am surrounded by way more lawyers.

But that is okay, and I actually prefer it. Else my life would be completely monotone.


I dunno, I like hanging out with tech people.


Me too, and I'm conflicted about it. I'm well aware that I'm bringing my own preconceptions to the situation, but I continually find it harder to engage people outside of technology.

People outside of tech may be more diverse in appearance, but in perspectives, interests and awareness, people working in technology (in my social sphere) tend to be less conformist and more open minded. This may simply be a regression to the mean - but if it is, it's still supporting my conception.


Exactly. I find tech people to be, on average, more rational and share more of my interests. It makes conversations much more enjoyable. As someone who isn't a great conversator, trying to come up with small chat with a lawyer or an accountant is rather stressful. Talking about programming languages, video games, or comic books is much easier.


>Talking about programming languages, video games, or comic books is much easier.

IMHO, it's more than just a lack of topics for small talk: it's the size of the talk in general. The people I meet outside of tech tend to be less well read and less open to new experiences.


Don't try things that "sound fun". Things that sound fun are either things that you've done before, things your friends do, or things you think you'll be good at.

Instead do things that kind of scare you even though they shouldn't. If you're afraid to fly, take a Cessna flying lesson. If you're afraid to speak in public, join toastmasters.

The author mentions football as out of the question. I think football is exactly what the author needs. Start with touch or flag football if you're really terrified of brain damage. In reality, friendly games of tackle football are unlikely to cause a concussion, and even if they did, the real damage from concussions is when you get one and keep playing.

When you think about it, it becomes obvious: you meet people different than yourself by doing things which you wouldn't normally do. Oh, and you get to conquer irrational fear, improve yourself, have awesome adventures, etc, while you're at it.


It's quite likely that many of his choices regarding non-programming hobbies have been highly influenced by programmers/tech people around him in the workplace or outside it.

He also likely has developed biases, not on socioeconomic grounds but through his own experiences and influences, regarding certain things in society. Football, for example, he probably consciously or subconsciously regards as being something for "jocks" or the people he didn't get along with in school (presumption here).

Ultimate frisbee, however, is probably something he regards as being in-line with that with which those that influence him partake in, or that which he imagines his peers (mainly techies) would approve of.

It's an ok article from the point of it being a look at someone's personal experience, but it's certainly more reflective of his experience and the bubble he lives in than a commentary on society.


Perhaps I can help:

> I have plenty of social circles that are (at least nominally) totally different from my work: contra dancers, people interested in effective altruism, folk musicians, friends from college, and so on. And yet I keep finding myself in the middle of a programmer monoculture. Why?

1. These are contact circles in some online social network, perhaps, and not actual social circles?

2. Programmers are the only people who don't have anything better to do than to go to gatherings with other programmers. Non-programmers aren't there because they are otherwise engaged. Or, perhaps, let me put it from this angle: any time some get together is announced, most of the people who have that spot free in the calendar are geeks. "What, Saturday night at 9? You bet I will be there! I'm super social! ... Hey, why is everyone here a programmer?"


I've never lived in SF but this is a reason why people sometimes mention how they prefer to live elsewhere. I've lived in Los Angeles and New York and I feel a nice sense of diversity in interests and backgrounds [of all forms] and I like it. And the tech communities aren't too small either.


A person who looks around at the people he's socializing with, then apparently immediately grabs a computer, downloads a statistical data set and begins to analyze it in R wonders why he's surrounded by other programmers?


Exactly. As ridiculous as it sounds, that's an act worthy of ostracism in the small town where my wife grew up (and I lived for a while).

Living in a small town and working (remotely) in tech was an eye-opening experience. There wasn't another programmer within 100 miles. I learned that not only had I previously surrounded myself with a very homogenous group, but that the way I think and act most of the time simply isn't compatible with the way a lot of average Americans think and act. I don't say that to be prideful - it was a struggle. I simply approached situations and thought about things differently than most of the farming community around me.

Now, (and I'm a touch ashamed to say it), my social circle has become homogenous almost consciously. I just couldn't handle it anymore. Being the outcast "nerd" gets really old.

I love technology and the Internet. I want to live in the future. If you don't want to come with me, that's fine, but I'm not going to stay with you. I can't pretend to give a shit anymore about who has the biggest truck or who shot the biggest deer, and yes, I do care about whether my president is intelligent. I like acknowledging soccer as something more than "a Mexican sport" and not dismissing Tesla as something "for tree huggers." Does that make me "classist" of some sort? Maybe. But I'd just rather not put up with it.

There's a longer essay I could write about how it feels like learning to program made me an introvert, but that's a different topic altogether.


Interestingly, I also work remotely from a rural farming area and have found that the farming community is a lot like the tech community. They, like you, love the future and technology. Robotics is huge in agriculture right now. Tractors that drive themselves, cows that can milk themselves, how software can be used to improve the bottom line, etc. are hot topics, and come up frequently among my farming friends. In my eyes, if there is any competition, it isn't who has the biggest truck, it is who makes the most effective use of modern technology.

In addition to being a developer, I also farm. Maybe I have a different perspective than you by being able to speak their language? It makes a big difference, in my opinion. I also enjoy being around programmers for the same reason. I find you can get into much deeper discussions more quickly when you have a shared background.


It's possible that austenallred can't relate well to farmers. It's also possible that he's like me in that he lived in a small town that had very few (or no) farmers.

I've lived in The Sticks, surrounded by farmers.[0] I've also lived in small towns that contain no more than a couple of farmers. I'm not claiming that every small town lacks farmers, but I do know that some of them do.

[0] It's hard to say that you're surrounded by people when your second-closest neighbor is a ten minute drive away, but that's the nature of back-country.


It was definitely a farming community; almost the entire town either farmed alfalfa for the biggest farm in town (my father-in-law's, incidentally), or had very small dairy farms. You either had a very small farm/ranch, herded sheep, or were a "sprinkler boy." It was/is definitely on the "dying" side of the innovation curve, though somehow those types hold on seemingly indefinitely on almost nothing (which I certainly respect). Certainly no robotics, no one would even know what "software" is. A couple people had iPads; they called them "machines."

I guess not all small towns are identical :)


At times, I forget how to read. Sorry about that.

The phenomenon of zombie towns is one that mystifies me.


austenallred stated it was a farming community, but you are right that not all small communities are farming communities.


Oh, geez. Some times I forget how to read. Sorry. :(


> cows that can milk themselves

What


Perhaps stated more accurately as: Choose when to milk themselves. A robot does the actual act of milking. With context of robotics already setup, I made assumptions based on that when making that statement. If I said that around farmers, they'd know exactly what I was talking about. I guess that goes back to being able to speak the language of the people you are interacting with.

But if you're looking for more general information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_milking


We used to assume that robots would have hands and feet and walk among us to do the number of boring jobs we wished someone else would do for us. What happened is that we started to carry them around (smartphones), or in this case, get animals to walk to the stationary robot so it can do the job it was designed for. We live now in the future, minus robotic hands and feet.


Nothing wrong with not wanting to hang out or be around stupid people ("average Americans" as you put it). And yes, calling soccer a "Mexican sport", Tesla "something for tree huggers", and wanting a stupid president are exactly what makes one stupid and insufferable. I totally relate to your situation at the time. Unfortunately, it's not limited to small towns.


Your small town experience roughly equates to the environment I grew up in, except my small town had programmers, and I wasn't one of them. My technology angst only increased when visiting my mom's relatives, who still live in the sticks.

I visited some over a year ago. Both my aunt and uncle had laptops which you could tell were heavily used. They had satellite internet (again, really out there). I didn't, but I almost wanted to say something along the lines of "Thanks for finally understanding what I've been doing and talking about for the past 20 years."


You can analyze data and use R and not be a programmer. Less than half of the students in my advanced stats classes at college which used R were CS majors. Granted, for me, knowing how to program made things a lot less frustrating.

Spreadsheet programs are built for analysis without deep programming knowledge too.


I'd say that by virtue of using R, regardless of your major, you are a programmer.


The author of the article seems to mainly be concerned with being in a really homogenous social group according to job title.

You're right that everyone who programs is a programmer, but 'programmer' in the article means someone for whom programmer is their job title.


I bet they people in his social circle would have the same argument.


I'm a programmer and I hate doing this kind of statistics analysis. Not my cup of tea.


I am not, nor have I ever been, a CS major. Yet I am a programmer.


I think you're kind of missing the point. There are not nearly as many MBA, liberal art, lawyer, etc people on here as techies and programmers.


Same here, but my experience is that I only know other programmers through work. I'm sure that's as much of my own fault as anything but I still wish I had more people in my circle who I could talk to about work and my technical interests.


A lot of the programmers at my company have never even heard of R.


Yes, a programmer is wondering why he's only surrounded by other programmers. That's the premise of the article.


This is one reason I joined a philanthropic group (like the Elks, Rotary, etc). Membership tends to be very diverse, both in age and in occupation.


Could some non-programmers be masquerading as programmers? A little more observation and less R could reveal this. It is also quite possible to play flag football without risking your brain. If I were in SF and weighed 150 I would definitely look into sailing.


It seems obvious to me to bring up "correlation does not imply causation". Just because a lot of programmers like X, doesn't mean that they like X because of programming.

With that said, I dont really understand confusion with social groups forming of similar people. I understand a desire...even a need...for diversity, but people who like X are naturally going to want to be with other people who like X. Seems pretty natural.


My social group mainly involves other physics graduate students. I however don't fit with them usually, so I started going to instagram meetups. It seems like people with a passing interest in photography are much more diverse than the types that go to graduate school in physics.


I'm calling nerd.

A lot of us have monomaniacal interests. A programmer who works all day programming and spends his free time programming other things and writing blogs about programming and posting on forums about programming is going to meet a lot of programmers. Cows in a cow pasture are going to spend a lot of time with other cows.

If you ratchet down your monomania just a little it's very easy to meet non-programmers. Join a Latin reading group and you meet a lot of classicists. Join a beekeeping meet-up and you meet a lot of beekeepers. Join a weekly board game group and you meet lots of gamers.

I'm willing to believe programmers are prone to monomania.


This reminds me of "How to become a hacker" from Eric S. Raymond. There is a part in that essay where he talks about common hobbies for hackers and after a few examples he concludes:

> "Why these things in particular is not completely clear, but they're connected with a mix of left- and right-brain skills that seems to be important; hackers need to be able to both reason logically and step outside the apparent logic of a problem at a moment's notice."

Link: http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html


When I play softball is what feels like the only time I meet someone who isn't a programmer here. I briefly took swing dancing lessons with my SO and it was 90% programmers, maybe more.


I'm pretty sure that's the go-to activity to meet women for a male programmer.


Yeah I think so as well. Most of the women were programmers as well.


None of my friends are programmers and hardly anyone I meet at parties understands what I do or what my job is. I live in NYC.

I chalk it up to being late to the game and hardly going to any meetups.


The best thing about my current job is interacting with non-techies. I have been under-socialized after 6 year of engineering schools and 5 years at a pure tech company.


This subject is one that interests me a lot.

As I've mentioned before (in fact, I created this account to post about it a few weeks ago), I'm MtF transgender, and it's been my observation and the observation of the trans communities I participate in that a disproportionately high percentage of MtF trans people work in the tech industry and/or are tech hobbyists. The "MtF computer geek" is in fact one of the most prevalent -- and in my experience, one of the most true -- stereotypes of trans people I've seen.

I'm reminded of the old Russian meme, where one person wanders into an anime IRC channel and asks "Hello, is this an anime channel?", followed by "How do I patch KDE2 under FreeBSD?". It became a popular meme because it's true: anime fans tend to be computer geeks. I've also seen this same exact joke posted in trans communities, by the way...

(Oh, and lest I forget, a huge chunk of the trans community is into anime, too.)

There is something about certain characteristics that heavily draws people to the tech industry.

If you're trans? If you like anime? If you play sports like Ultimate and rock climbing? You're probably a techie.

Honestly, I've noticed that for many of these (e.g. anime, Ultimate), the inverse is true as well, and if being trans wasn't hard-wired and such a tiny, tiny minority of the population (most estimates I've heard are around 0.3%), I'd bet a huge amount of techies would be trans.

I think of all the theories OP proposed, the most likely one is that "programmer culture" is a distinct subculture much like e.g., "academic culture".

Of course, there are a few reasons for that. If you look at ESR's "A Portrait of J. Random Hacker" (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/appendixb.html), he absolutely nails a personality type that goes into some of this. The section on sports, for example, goes into how hackers are drawn to sports that focus on self-discipline and technical ability.

Another is that tech stuff is looked down upon by society. Mainstream society sees us as weirdos to be shunned. You know who else societies see that way? Anime fans. Trans people. By and large, all three communities are very accepting of cultural differences. For example, techies will happily accept trans people into their communities because they know what it's like to be marginalized. And I think LGBT people are more likely to hang out with communities focused on marginalized hobbies than other minorities, because of how we're perceived. Racial and ethnic minorities are set apart because of how they look and sound. LGBT people, on the other hand, are set apart because of what we do, and "set apart for what we do" is also a good description of how techies and anime fans are separated from mainstream culture.


I've noticed a similar thing in the furry community (also has a lot of geek MtF people, and GSM people in general). It seems like every other person is in IT. Even the non-IT people are more focused on the technical aspects of their hobbies and professions than most people.


Its interesting how the mix of tech and being trans works-being trans is being part of an extremely marginalized group, but someone making six figures and is trans also has a ton of class privilege. Clearly trans people working in tech in the Bay Area (which I have experience being around) aren't the average trans people.


For the record, I'm not talking about "rich" people in the Bay Area.

I live in Texas, and the trans communities I associate with are online with membership scattered all over the place. I've probably ran into more fellow Texans than people in the Bay Area, actually (I even once tried to create an online community specifically for trans Texans because there were so many of us, but it never took off).

Actually, a common thread I've seen among trans people is that many of them are tech hobbyists who wish they could be professionals but are unemployed and living with their parents (usually a product of the depression that so often goes hand in hand with gender dysphoria). And the younger members of the communities tend to be college students.

(As for me, I'm employed but not making anywhere near six figures. Hell, until two months ago, I made under $50k, and I'm 30 years old)


>Find someone that’s not using a Mac/iOS device and strike up a conversation.

This is good advice if you're looking to meet people with different perspectives.


It would be the opposite for me. Everyone around me uses Windows and Android. The people with a different perspective are the ones with an Apple logo.


What environment/industry do you find yourself in where that is the case? Apple has over 30% of the smartphone market share in the US, and even more in many fields/groups.


The northeastern edge of metro Atlanta.


I could deduce that much from your homepage. I was more interested in the sort of environment (university, enterprise, Starbucks, etc.) you're basing this off.


I wonder how the statistics will look if you filter based on individuals background. Programmers I know do not live in the city they were born or studied in, which could be the cause of a distinctly different social circles than for those who stated with the community they were born in.


Sounds awful. I don't intentionally push away colleagues, but most of them are too "nerdy" for me, or just have interests I find dull, etc. I don't really like being in a big group of developers, for so many reasons.


I purposefully do not gather techies as friends. While I share some similar interests, I don't want my life to become a mirror of the people I work with. I feel enriched by my diverse friendship base.


I'm a sys admin and security researcher and I'm not a programmer by any stretch of the word. Nor do I have a CS related college degree. I'm an anomaly in the tech world. ;)


The answer is that they're all hanging out with people who do the same thing they do too. This situation isn't unique to programmers.


Move to New York.


(not on HN)


And techies wonder why San Franciscans are pissed off about gentrification and their disappearing culture.


Sure. I would imagine most of those San Franciscans would prefer for the tech crowd to keep amongst themselves though...




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