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Programmer psychology issues

Does anyone else have the problem that when they write software, they become very good at specifiying things, but feel like they've lost touch with what's obvious?  When you're communicating to the machine, it's like nothing is obvious or taken for granted; you have to follow the line of details.  Whenever I read anything from programmer friends, when they've been programming a bit, they start repetitively talking about the details of trivial things.  When away from the Machine for a while, they become more lively...  It's as if the mind has stopped dealing with the blinding details, and latched onto the deeper core.

Is this only a problem when you use S&M languages...? ;)

anon
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

It depends on the type of person I think. I, being the nerd I am, do lost of computer shit as a hobby (and starting to do some professionally). I just think in a certain manner most of the time. I tend to be in techie-mode a lot. This girl pulled out a makeup kit the other day, one of those little round ones with the mirror in it. Anyway, the first thing I thought of was the AC adapter for an iBook 8-}. I don't know, I think when you think in a certain manner, it shows through a lot.

But then maybe I'm just a crackbaby.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, June 11, 2002


heh.  I have read that some lawyers can't enjoy "leisure reading" because they are used to reading every document extremely s-l-o-w-l-y and scanning for loopholes.  Could be a similar thing ... there's probably something there, but I don't think we've quite hit on it yet.

Matt H.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

I can relate to that. After periods of intense coding I behave differently towards the people I meet. I diddnt realize it until my gf told me. I (apparently) become alot less talkative and more observant. She kind of likes it -says I come across as mysterious.
I go into some kind of debugging mode, trying to figure out what s going on in peoples heads (it doesnt work). These spells doesnt last for more than a day or so but they are pretty distinct.
But I might be a sensitive person. Once after playing doom for two days straight I caught myself walking sideways around a corner down at the mall thinking "shotgun range"

Eric DeBois
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

This is quite interesting. A few programmers I've worked with are insanely analytical of other people. Their minds work in a very logical way, and they tend to deconstruct the way other people talk, act and think in an incredibly pedantic and tediously rational way. If someone doesnt do the most logical thing or sends an email that doesnt contain perfect english, then scorn is heaped upon them. I assume this is just a bitter combination of their logical and intellectual prowess combined with a poor understanding and respect of people who dont think in the same way.

At times I wonder if they are being slowly turned into machies by too much coding. Mostly though, I pity them.

anon
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

>Their minds work in a very logical way, and
>they tend to deconstruct the way other people
>talk, act and think in an incredibly pedantic
>and tediously rational way.

I do that. I can be really boring -- I think it's fun to analyze everything, and programming all day reinforces the habit.
There may be a bright side -- it becomes easier to see through stupid illogical nonsense.

PC
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

One of the techies I work with was staring at me yesterday, when I asked him what he was doing, he said "I'm performing a jedi mind trick", strange but I think he meant it.
I later found out he had just done an all-nighter at work.

Tony
Tuesday, June 11, 2002

yes. programming does affect moods.  turn into a zombie! at least, that's what i call it: zombie mode.

zombie mode is about being "in zone" (http://www.reciprocality.org).

zombie mode is about being worn out.

zombie mode is about being mentally tired, socially unacceptable.

zombie mode just sucks, and is the reason why someday i am going to have to quit. before i burn out!

Daren Thomas
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Well, personally I dislike the assumption that a logical and critical and quick to judge other people type person is somehow less than human... or the alternative assumption that wimps and people directed by or primarily concerned by "feelings" is somehow more human.  If to be human is to be closer to our ape cousins, we might as well all be apes and get it over with. 

Joe AA.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

There is no question that, when working on particularly difficult problems, I'll enter what my wife calls "Tech Mode". Personally, I don't find this to be a matter of analyzing people or being rude, it is more that I'll spend only half my "cycles" paying attention to the people around me (even if talking with them).  The remaining cycles, of course, are still silently turning over the problem I'm facing.  With most people, this isn't even an issue (how many cycles do you need to comment on the weather?).  In deeper conversations, though, it can be embarrasing:  "Where were we?" or  "Um, uh, yes, of course" (to myself: "I hope that was the right answer...").

My wife swears I can be as bad as the classic image of the husband reading a newspaper and "yessing" his wife without hearing what she says.  Only I don't have a newspaper - just a glazed expression and a half-smile.

Mark Brittingham
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Do you really have the impression that programmers are more rational and less emotional than other people? I do not agree. Actually, most of the programmers I know, including myself of course, can be breathtakingly emotional, especially, but not only, when it comes to their line of work.
Being able to analyse and solve logical problems does not necessarily lead to more rationality in other areas of life, I guess.

We are not all the Mr. Spock type and personally I would not want to be either. I agree that programmers tend to look at parts of the world differently, maybe more analytically, sometimes. This is neither good nor bad, it just comes with the job. I guess, something similar happens in other jobs, too (the point with the lawers not able to read a text without looking for trapdoors was a good one, hairdressers tend to judge people by their hairstyle, English teachers pay a lot of attention to the way a person verbally expresses him- or herself and so on).

BTW, working in teams helps against the zombie syndrome I guess.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Thinking further about it, sometimes you just need to be a bit anti-social to get the job done, I mean, you need to think, and sometimes think hard, and sometime produce a lot of code fairly quickly because your backside is on the line and its what you get paid to do. Being social and chatting and not being zoned could leave you with a bad resume. Of course some people can get the job done without building a wall around them, sometimes though, I need the wall or its not going to happen.

Tony
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Tony: True. I need a wall... It's something I need any time I'm doing any serious work. I can crank out code if I know exactly what I'm, doing, but if I am required to figure anything out, anything much more than 'fill-in-the-blank'/'code-by-number' already designed systems, I need to tune out *everything*.

But the flip side is, I can flip back real easily. I mean, if I'm coding during the day, I won't act differently when I'm out with my friends at night.

Of course, that just means I'm acting odd *all* of the time 8-}

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

> sometimes though, I need the wall or its not going to happen.

Yeah, I totally agree with that. Even though I really like working in a team better and like going to the extreme of pair programming best, getting into the zone as a team is rather rare. If it happens it is a great experience, though, because it makes you feel like a genius without the loneliness that comes with that feeling normally :-) But getting into the zone (and therefore into a state when you work very efficiently) is easier in isolation. I find it harder to motivate myself and get started when I work on my own, though. (Instead I browse the web and post stuff to Joel's forum, for example ;-) )

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Wired had an interesting article back in December that discussed a mild form of autism, called Asperger's syndrome, that's becoming prevalent in geek world:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

and some discussion on slashdot:
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/12/17/013243&mode=nested&tid=99 

Steve Hallman
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Don't forget the self-selection in disciplines.  I think that analyzing and writing code exercises your analytical muscles.  But people who are inclined to be analytical in that way, will tend to go into this kind of work.  That's why a lot of us are like that--it's a mode we're comfortable in, and we tend to think that way even more naturally when it's a large part of our work,  We get into a groove we like.

Byron Alley
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Thinking even more about it...

Sometimes when I'm  trying to work, I get really cranky when people try to talk to me, I find myself barely listening to what they are saying and every nerve ending in my body is willing them away from me.  Do other people get stressed when this happens to them, or do you cope OK?

Tony
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

When I'm in the zone and someone interrupts me I generally turn and face them while staying in the zone. I  don't listen to what they say, using "yes dear" responses while continuing on with my project in my mind, sooner or later they realise this and go away.  If it's my boss she just looks at me with "the look" until I snap out of it (which usually takes several minutes) and even then I'm only partially with her depending on the amount of time I was "away".  It must drive ppl crazy.

After being "away" a particularly long time (8+ hours) it can take me an hour or more to come back, with everything around me having a wierd surreal/hazy feeling to it, which I kinda like... who need drugs :)

...todays message was brought to you by the Letter J.

Jack lives over there -->
Thursday, June 13, 2002

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