Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Social aspects of "world class" developers?

The 'world class' thread intrigued me because someone posted in a bulleted list of attributes there that "the best" helped others on web based coding discussion boards.

Most developers I personally know have no interest in participating in professional tech related newsgroups, or in fact, have no interest in even socializing with other software people. But I'm in a backwater with little technology culture so maybe my sample is skewed down in quality.

Myself - perhaps I am or am not world class. I'd be satisfied with 'continent class'. :-) I've posted help to others on occasion in response to questions on newsgroups and other places, and I do see the same names appearing all the time on those places as gurus. But even though my schedule is flexible, I've found that it's just no *fun* re-reading repetitive beginner questions, and very often you aren't even thanked for or get any acknowledgement for a tip that works.
Basically, I see participation in web discussion as an extremely "low leverage' way to network. It doesn't seem to have any conceivable payback unless you were to literally live in front of a computer for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. More power to those who can motivate themselves to a high level of effort in this direction but it ain't me.

So, what does anyone here think - are the "best" more  socially oriented than their less illustrious peers, or is it a wash?

And perhaps the greater social tendencies of some leads to a greater sense that the person *is* better - better personal PR, in other words.

Just curious what others thought of this.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 13, 2003

My specific experiances answering questions people ask is when I'm looking for help, too.  Whenever I'm learning something, I tend to ask questions on forums. While I'm reading them, I tend to answer questions I already know the answer to. Once I learn enough that I have no more questions, I tend to visit the forum less and less and answer questions less and less.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I agree I post/read most when I'm learning something. I don't know about people who spend 12 hours a day reading/posting to a computer being more socially oriented though!

Robin Debreuil
Thursday, March 13, 2003

As Joel said, great programmers "Are smart, and get things done". I can't imagine that spending 12 hours a day reading/posting to a message board is either smart or indicative of getting things done... unless your company is paying you for that... which I highly doubt.

HeyCoolAid!
Thursday, March 13, 2003

So that means if I post this I'm not a "world class" developer, damn!

John Ridout
Thursday, March 13, 2003

No, but smart and gets things done does include contributing to CS theory (i.e. certain usenet groups and other scholarly discussion forums, but prolly not here ;) ) and being a resource to the fellow engineers.

In school, I loved helping people out because then I'd be sure that I understood something, if I could explain it to somebody else.

flamebait sr.
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Well, the question quickly devolved into discussion of online participation. My bad, I should have phrased things differently. ;-)

On the entirely self-serving aspect of board participation, I've occasionally heard urban folklore about developers getting contracts or landing jobs because they were discovered on a newsgroup or discussion board.

Flamebait made an excellent point about contributing to CS theory via board discussion and I think that's a social positive that any professional would want to consider.  "Professional collaborate with peers" ought to be a principle of practice in any profession.

On the other hand - my opinion only-  discussion boards can enourage beginner laziness because the temptation exists to post a question rather than try to search the message base for similar cases in answered questions. I think that's where I get my reluctance to spend a lot of time on boards - the content in a given topic gets very repetitive. The more complex "second order" or conceptual questions that would be fun to discuss don't tend to get asked that often.


On collaboration - I've found that the people that I *don't* want to be associated with in this industry have a "cliqeuy" attitude and go out of their way to *not* help anyone, either in person or online.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 13, 2003

"The 'world class' thread intrigued me because someone posted in a bulleted list of attributes there that "the best" helped others on web based coding discussion boards. "

Hi Bored Bystander,

Sounds like you are referring to the post I made in the "world class" thread. I doubt that most developers who spend a lot of time posting helpful messages on discussion boards do it simply to network, although, I too have heard a few stories where someone was offered a job because of thier online activities.

Some people DO get paid to answer questions in discussion forums, however, I believe most probably do it for the following reasons:

* He/she has no social life or enjoys the type of social life that an online community offers them. 

* He/she is marketing something (ever visit the Extreme Programming newsgroup on Usenet?).

* He/she is a book author or article writer looking for the next hot topic to write about.

* The board might serve as a meeting place. Developer might have formed several offline relationships at a recent industry conference. I haven't visited DevX's newsgroup for quite some time, but when I did do so, I always noticed that the same VB MVPs were always there ready to answer a question or point someone in the right direction.

* They enjoy helping others learn to do something they have already mastered.  Sometimes a developer is looking for an ego boost and sometimes a developer does it for more altruistic reasons (loves to solve problems using a particular programming language).

One Programmer's Opinion
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Carmack's own wife described him as "Spock like".
Most questions on this board are gossip and not technically interesting. If you want to interact with world class developers go to where world class developers hang out.


Thursday, March 13, 2003

> If you want to interact with world class developers go to
>where world class developers hang out.

The proxy at work denies ./, so I guess Im stuck here.

Patrik
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Bored,

I think its as easy as some people get along and some dont get along.

Sometime you come across a working partner that elevates your own skills, so that 1+1 is not 2, but more like 4.So that 2 'continent class' developers can elevate themselves to 'world class' by working together.

If you find it worthwhile to socialize with somebody you will be able to, if not your body language will say "no way", and you probably can not fake it :)

Patrik
Thursday, March 13, 2003

>> Most questions on this board are gossip and not technically interesting. If you want to interact with world class developers go to where world class developers hang out.

So where *do* world class developers hang out online? I've gathered that there are forums for particular niches like game development where gurus hold forth. What about other segments of the IT world?

Actually, I have gotten the impression that some "world class" or at least "major political jurisdiction class" developers do hang out here. Yes, the discussions here usually aren't specific nuts and bolts; but they help me (and I presume others) to understand how software  is done in other environments and they illuminate worklife aspects that don't get discussed much in a language or tech specific fora. I'd call this about the most "serious" board on the web dedicated to SW developers.

>>> If you want to interact with world class developers go to
>>>where world class developers hang out.
>> The proxy at work denies ./, so I guess Im stuck here.

LOL! You can't be serious. /. is the equivalent of a few diamonds and flecks of platinum floating around in a swimming pool (or perhaps worse).

IE, there are some really insightful commentaries over there but the drift of the discussion topics is usually toward games, free software, and politics interfering with free speech/MP3s/free whatever.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Bored,

No I wasnt serious, lame attempt at humor :)

Patrik
Friday, March 14, 2003

"discussion boards can enourage beginner laziness"

wadayamean "Beginner", where all lazy pros here dude.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, March 14, 2003

Yes I've got work occasionally because of contributions online.

That isn't why I contribute particularly but when it happens its pleasant.

Simon Lucy
Friday, March 14, 2003

"A guru has the expertise of a specialist and recognizes that programming is only 15 percent communicating with the computer, that it's 85 percent communicating with people."

Heck, if I only could remember where this quote is from ...

- Roland
Friday, March 14, 2003

HeyCoolAid!, some of us are actually working while posting; multitasking. As I write the sentence I am solving world hunger.

trollbooth
Friday, March 14, 2003

Sometimes a guru will come out of the woodwork and reveal that he has been lingering, was is the case with Bruce Perens and his posts on /.

I would consider him world class and yet he still posts to "useless" messageboards and finds time to interact with others in the community.

trollbooth
Friday, March 14, 2003

I didn't mean that one should *never* post to message boards, and I agree that social interaction is a great way to keep up on all the new stuff going on (that we should all keep up with). I just meant that it's probably hard to be a guru if most of your working hours are spent posting messages. Moderation is usually a good thing. ;)

HeyCoolAid!
Friday, March 14, 2003

"On the entirely self-serving aspect of board participation, I've occasionally heard urban folklore about developers getting contracts or landing jobs because they were discovered on a newsgroup or discussion board."

It is not just urban folklore...

My friend got involved on some newsgroup five years ago (while living in Serbia). Somebody from South African software company saw his posts, contacted him directly and, after phone interview and small test project he packed up things and moved there...

Srdjan
Friday, March 14, 2003

The world class people I know variously hang out in:

London pubs.

Our own mailing lists.

Pubs outside London.

Actually, there's a whole huge hell of a lot of trying not to be involved in IT at all because almost all of the industry is so damn stupid it's boring. It's just tiresome to spend all day, every day watching people making mistakes they could avoid if they weren't so arrogant as to open a book once in a while.

I'm going to punch the next person who suggests that stopping coding in C++ and using C# is somehow going to solve our code productivity problems, because they're caused by having poor developers, poor processes, poor tools, no budgets and a flail-about-until-we-get-an-answer-by-accident approach to business analysis.

Bored. Yes. All the decent developers are BORED.

We walk into jobs, we sit down, and within five minutes we have a heavy heart as once again we hear the same crap. "Oh, we can't do it /properly/ because we've always done it this broken way..."  "Oh no, you can't use any advanced techniques because then beginner developers won't be able to understand it..."

<sigh>

The other common social aspect is sitting around, well filled with alcohol, going "What have they done to my industry??? And how do I leave it???"

Basically all the world class people are hiding under rocks from the hordes of wankers who've invaded what once used to be fun.

That's why really world class geeks have self-destructive hobbies like alcoholism, sky-diving or role-playing.

Katie Lucas
Monday, March 17, 2003

Katie,

Consider that in among the hordes there may be a few people who, while bright, are having trouble getting started.  One way to make a small yet significant difference in the state of the industry is to look for these people and give them tips: Books to read, habits to instill, new languages to learn, and in general recommendations they can follow to become better programmers.

Degrees don't do it; I just spoke with someone in the same boat I'm in, a medical student who majored in CS but didn't learn anything.  Books?  The average computer book is $50 a pop, and a lot of them are crap.

Mentoring is most promising, but I haven't run into anyone yet who's a knowledgeable developer and wants to take a personal interest in helping someone else who wants to learn.  I'm not talking about hours of time and detailed line-by-line code review; rather something along the lines of "Go master this, feel free to ask me a few questions here and there on the parts you don't get, and come back for another assignment when you've got that one down."  Guidance is what a lot of us are looking for.

Who knows?  It might cure your boredom and your frustration.

Kyralessa
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home