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"Low Skill" Rhetoric

I think a lot of developers get overly cranked up about management specialists talking out of their asses about "coding" as low skill work.

This stuff goes in cycles, and the perception of programming as monkey work exists because it not only contradicts the real truth but is very useful to the agenda of outsourcers and business managements.

I truly believe that programming is the "Rodney Dangerfield" of brainwork: its status has always been under concerted, deliberate attack.

The reasons for attack are schadenfreude, envy, jealousy, and the ever present desire for "group A presumably in control" to need to get "sticky pants" over their vaunted status over "group B", the doers of actual work.

The point is, only a developer understands the development process. And we "make" the actual product that's eventually sold or used by others. A manager doesn't, can't and never will. A hand waving PHB whose job is to diffuse blame and responsibility for decisions has no conception of performing work that can actually, specifically succeed or fail.

I say ... don't worry about it too much. It's a mind game being used to prevent us from realizing our potential as individuals and as a profession/occupation.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, December 07, 2003

I think you make a dangerous statement when you say that only a developer understands the developement process. I don't see why the person has to be a professional developer. I think that your statement is (or at least sounds, to me) a bit too general: I think the process is best understood by those with some basic software development experience, which would include managers, salespeople, whoever.

I'm always very careful to qualify broad, sweeping statements. After all, there are exceptions to everything (except this).

Mike Swieton
Sunday, December 07, 2003

I agree with you BB -- concentrated and deliberate.

Makes me want to burn down the building to get my red stapler back.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

There is also the constant rhetoric that "IT is a commodity" -- IT is the same no matter who or where you get it from, so just get it from the cheapest source available.

And while all the "low skill" and "commodity" mantra is being shouted, at the same time they require 10 years experience in Java and 5 years of Windows 2000 for job applicants.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yeah Norman! What about that! Great point.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Quality coding required well defined guidelines (such as Sun Java coding convention), a UML tool generated class/interdace templates and good understanding of the design.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Come on, Mike. I dislike broad statements too.
But what do you call 'basic software development experience' ?
In _my_ experience, 'basic software development experience' is the main cause for deadly wrong estimates ("hey, merging these databases shouldn't be that long. After all, they're all columns.").

Before being a professional developer, I had no clue about software development process. Either they are smarter than me, or they have no clue. Or both, probably.

GP
Sunday, December 07, 2003

What's wrong T Norman, taking offense to 10 years of your life being called a commodity?

Full name:
Sunday, December 07, 2003

> I truly believe that programming is the "Rodney Dangerfield" of brainwork:

Really?  Then why can a programmer (w/ varied skills, 5-7 years experience, presentable, eloquent) make $20,000 month as a consultant?  Clearing $200k a year is hardly "getting no respect"

Bella
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Maybe we could ask ourselves if we do not have the same kind of feeling about those who do a job that we do not know or understand.
For instance, what do we think about those who work to provide commodities : water, electricity, phone, roads ? Well, I'm not sure. Maybe we prefer to think that they do not exist.

GP
Sunday, December 07, 2003

People with 10 years experience in Java aren't commodities; they are science fiction time travelers.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 07, 2003

I think that there is one think that only developers seem to understand, and those with a simple grounding in the field cannot grasp.

There is no such thing as a necessary low skill coding job.

Yes Mike, I have qualified this: 'necessary.'

If something is low skilled then the computer can do it.

In the previous thread ... stated that he spent all his time just plumbing together API calls with standard error handlers.  This is low skill work, and a total waste of time.

Yet so many of us coders are carrying out this type of work.  It's a complete waste of time, but it pays the bills and so the practice of 'warm chair attrition is prevelant.

Clever management have dealt with this situation.  They are paying people on the other side of the world much lower wages to keep the chairs warm.

Again and again the directors attempt to squeeze development into the low skill mould, reapplying the patterns that worked so well with manufacturing and other areas.

They are getting it totally wrong.  Developing software is like nothing that has ever gone before.

Ged Byrne
Sunday, December 07, 2003

(For the sake of contradiction, Norman :-)
From http://www.ils.unc.edu/blaze/java/javahist.html :

June 1991
    Gosling starts working on the "Oak" interpreter, which, several years later (following a trademark search), is renamed "Java."

GP
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Bored, this is certainly true.

Consider also how many projects depend on the manager getting detailed information and reports from a senior developer, generally called the team lead.

Usually the manager in this situation will be paid much more than the developers, including the bonuses for delivering, and will get the praise and rewards for the job.

In actual fact, the role of many project managers is better seen as that of a co-ordinator for the experts, rather than manager.

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

If anyone still has doubts what open source is about, Eric Raymond in his blog celebrates the effect of offshoring on reducing the pay for programmers:

"But in keeping with tradition here at Armed and Dangerous, I'm going to skip the easy, soft arguments and cut straight to the most important and contentious one of all — falling salaries are good for you."

http://esr.ibiblio.org

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Bored, one area where I disagree with you is your claim that it doesn't matter. It DOES matter.

Even the term coder is a loaded one that developers should avoid using.

It doesn't take long before politicians accept the view that development is just a routine job, and let lawyers and accountants make decisions about development policy. For example, accountants spent the '90's telling business magazines they were better IT managers than geeks. And now they have those jobs.

A part of the open source movement is that it puts lawyers into positions of control in development inside organisations.

A lot of the agititation about "security professionals" nowadays represents attempts by accounting firms to legitimise a lack of technical expertise for the role. In other words, to have accountants take these roles. Meanwhile the difficult work will be done by low-paid "coders."

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Ok, I think I agree with your post Ged (I am having a hard time nowadays telling who I agree and disagree with it's all become so complicated maybe someone could make a chart of everyone's position if only we ourselves knew what they were) but I want to comment on this common wisdom:

"They are paying people on the other side of the world much lower wages to keep the chairs warm."

I think the overseas guys are doing more than keeping chairs warm! If that's all it is, I will take on all of those chair warming jobs and do it from home and I will only charge 1/3 what the overseas fellows are asking!

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

> Eric Raymond ... celebrates ... reducing the pay for programmers

Doesn't Raymond get paid money from somebody? How does he pay his rent?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

But peculiarly you may run into some skepticism that you will work efficiently or unsupervised at home whereas if you were several thousand miles away (and employed by a company to simply be), then this becomes simply a management and contractual issue that can be solved.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, December 07, 2003

BB wrote, "I say ... don't worry about it too much. It's a mind game being used to prevent us from realizing our potential as individuals and as a profession/occupation. "

The above statement is about the only sentence from your post that I strongly disagree with. That statement is analogous to a what a senior manager might have said to his reports in the 1980s/1990s, "Don't worry about all of the downsizing and outsourcing that is currently happening throughout the industry you folks possess valuable business domain knowledge that cannot easily be replaced."

One Programmer's Opinion
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"A part of the open source movement is that it puts lawyers into positions of control in development inside organisations."

OK, this looks like good material analyst, I'm biting... tell me more about your theory.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yeah Simon I know, but I'm not proposing I work efficiently at all. I wasn't planning to do any work at all. I understand the position to be that of 'seat warmer' which I can do for 1/3 the cost of an overseas seat warmer. Planning on multitasking that job with some freelance work for the Nielson Ratings Corporation and maybe do some literature reviews of contemporary nude portraiture. If any 'mindless typing' is required, I have a contact that can get be some rhesus monkeys to bang away at the keyboard in a foreign language known only to them.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Ha! That's a good one, OPO.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

> Clearing $200k a year is hardly "getting no respect"

How much does Rodney Dangerfield get paid? :)

Does anyone know if we can contact these people and ask them to expain their "low skill" quote? Maybe Joel could interview them and ask them to justify their position.

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Ged is right on.  I just posted this on the previous thread before I got to this thread:

There is really no such thing as "low-skill" coding, only bad coding.  A program may always be written to perform a rote programming task. This is the essence of programming.  If a programmer is not constantly boosting his own productivity (by coding) he can hardly be said to be a programmer. 

A "low-skill" coding job can by definition be eliminated by a skilled programmer.

Paul Mansour
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"It's a mind game being used to prevent us from realizing our potential as individuals and as a profession/occupation."

I agree with this statement. Outsourcing keeps you scared and despite what "Must be a Manager" said in the "Well, this is it" thread, fear causes you to make bad decisions.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

In response to the many assertions that dispute my original contention that "it doesn't matter". Maybe I should have refined that statement as follows: if it really bothers you, you should get out of the field, because "putting down programming" is embedded in history.

I meant that trashing of programming has *always* existed. Programming has *only* been respected and defined as mission-critical in a tiny minority of cases and times in recent history.

I've observed programming put down as a career choice and as an engineering-related discipline since the late 70's. I've lived with it in Fortune 500 product development labs, in DOD development groups, and in small company software development. And for at least as long I've observed programmers themselves put down on a personal level as overfocused, trivial, annoying, so- smart- they're- f*cking- stupid wankoffs.

The putdowns historically come from everywhere: electrical engineers who feel that their hardware knowledge is a vast superset of programming skill; line managers who genuinely believe that they are closer to God and more moral, and we developers, less so; executives who delight in seeing us as overly bright and malleable cretins; marketing types who have that shallow jock urge to haze us like a college prank; etc.

I would say, basically:

Nobody outside programming REALLY knows or understands what you do. They may think they know but they don't grok it. They can observe what you produce, they can attempt to quantify the intellectual activity, but they will always fail unless they are one of us.

Nor can anyone outside programming bottle up programing as a "process" except within very, very rough parameters.

Programming has generally been an invisible occupation. Most people in other walks of life have no clue what you do.

The recent attention given in the business press to defining us down as useful simpleton morons came about mainly because the need for our services in our society has greatly expanded in the last 10 years, so much so that we are now highly visible as a cost center of the economy. We are now worth commenting on. Prior to that, we were not well regarded either, but we also weren't front page news.

That's all. And some of you guys live up to these "idiot savant" labels by microanalyzing some of these statements to death and arguing for the sake of arguing. The broader message is that this stuff is practically inevitable, so either lobby for change (off of any programmer's BBS, IE in meatspace), get out of the field, or develop a thicker skin. 

YES, I sure as hell wish that what I did for a living generated more respect than it does. But I also know that this disrespect is the ocean that we fish swim in. It can't be changed by individual efforts.

The point is simple - treating programmers like irrelevant idiots has always been done, and is the default condition of our field. 

Bored Bystander
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"Nobody outside programming REALLY knows or understands what you do."

Which is why software project management is so difficult (aka "high skill"?). It's pretty hard to manage something you don't understand.

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, December 07, 2003

I think its because many dont see the amount of problem solving involved. Only the programmers are involved at the level where this is really visible.
When the "outsiders" look at the specs and the results it always looks obvious how it should be done.
It never occurs to them that it looks obvious because someone  made 1000 good design decisions.

Eric DeBois
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Walter, not sure what you're saying when you say software project management is so difficult (aka "high skill"?). Not sure if you're suggesting it is, or it isn't.

In general terms, what we're in the middle of is a cultural war.

Project management is generally defined to be a "high skill" role - even though it requires much less expertise and learning than development - simply because most project managers get into the role other than through development.

Thus, for them to maintain their cultural role of power within the organisation, they have to maintain that it's a more important role.

The second main reason is that project managers by definition are more involved with the communicating regarding projects. They write the reports, go to the board meetings, generally serve on professional committees more. Thus their views acquire more weight, regardless of whether they're right.

Dennis, re open source pushing lawyers, my point is that any significant use of open source gear in products or internal systems involves a lot of licence checking and sometimes getting special copyright approvals and so on, and lawyers do all this. It can lead to a situation where the project is driven by lawyers. By comparison, I have never seen that situation in a normal software development environment.

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

analyst:

I wouldn't take Eric Raymod too seriously. He's just a self important blowhard who wants more than his 15 minutes of fame. I think a lot of people think of him as a bit of a nut, after all he's resorted to making threats of violence towards someone who he disagreed with on a mailing list!

In other words, don't take what he says as speaking for open source, because I don't think many people really believe he does.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, December 07, 2003

ESR is merely speaking what he observes.  Anyone who thinks that they're job is somehow more special or ought to be protected needs to reread the ESR post.

If you think you're immune to Walmartization, then:
1. You're writing code and servicing clients at a rate that demands a higher price.
2. You're dellusional.

The real problem is that its pretty hard to tell which is which until its too late.

Do you think that even Microsoft is immune to Walmartization? http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product_listing.gsp?path=0%3A3944%3A3951%3A41937%3A86796%3A96356&dept=3944&cat=96356&sb=61&bti=0

hoser
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Well, just to be clear I objected to your "don't worry" statement. 

BB wrote, "putting down programming is embedded in history."

Yes, but imo the reasons why haven't been consistent over time. 

The following is just a few simplified reasons why I think many corporate executives held a low opinion of their programmers (in-house and contractors) a few decades ago.

When I first got into the business of business software development, the mainframe ruled the world.  During that era, most paid programmers that I knew spent all day writing source code according to a specification.  There was a strict job hierarchy in place just about everywhere that went something like this:

* Programmer (from junior to senior)
* Systems Analyst
* Project manager

Programmers weren't respected all that much in the business community during this era because:

* Programmers were at the bottom of the corporate software development food chain and many of them had little prior programming experience before joining the organization.

* Most programmers did only one thing all day long -- they only wrote source code and mostly according to some pre-made spec. They didn't touch the hardware or the OS, they typically only knew one programming language, they typically only knew about one DBMS, they rarely participated in database creation, and much of the programming work being done was pretty much the same at just about every corporation (IT department) that employed programmers.

* The systems analyst (and sometimes the PM as well) did most if not all of the abstract project work.  He/she typically exerted a significant influence over the organization in which he/she worked.  Note: most analysts at the time were ex mainframe programmers and many could still write source code just as well as the programmers.

* Core software systems (purchasing, payroll, etc.) were the primary products being built (ERP was still in its infancy) inside most corporations.  This type of project work typically required a whole slew of specialists (computer operators, DBAs, programmers, systems analysts, project managers). Why am I mentioning this fact?  Because this along with the fact that most senior techies had previously done the same type of work as those lower in the food chain were currently doing made it relatively easy to determine which programmers were good at their job and which weren't. More importantly if a programmer suddenly quit or became ill -- in many instances -- an analyst or a PM could step in and finish coding any incomplete applications.

One Programmer's Opinion
Sunday, December 07, 2003

analyst:  you're fucking oblivious.

1. What was the last project, for profit or not, that used open source code?  If you can name one, what level of legal involvement was required?

Our company produces for profit software built on open source software.  The legal counsel we hire, at an hourly rate, has the sole responsibility of fending off patent claims from proprietary software companies and building our IP base.  We have never spent 1 cent on open source IP conflicts.

Open source is simple: you modify it, you submit it.  It really is that simple.  There are companies that seem to have a problem dealing with this reality, in which case copyright holders, the opensource authors, will assert their rights.

2. Have you ever partnered with Microsoft to redistribute their OS as part of a product?  How about VxWorks, OS/9, pSOS or any other embedded OS company for which you redistribute the OS as part of the product.  It requires a team of Jersey lawyers wearing Armani to get a favorable deal.

Your statements demonstrate the fact that you've never been part of a team which had to obtain closed source redistribution rights.  You have no clue.

hoser
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"ESR is merely speaking what he observes.  Anyone who thinks that they're job is somehow more special or ought to be protected needs to reread the ESR post."

That's not what I specifically take issue with (although I happen to disagree with ESR's politics and hence his conclusions about the free market being so wonderous, that's beside the point here).

What I object to is analyst's characterisation as ESR's post shows why open source is so dangerous. Primarily because I don't feel that ESR is in any position to speak for open source. I'm not even sure any one person could be, due to the nature of the beast.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Corporate accounting, medical diagnostics (it's cheaper to scan here, analyze there) , financial analysis etc...are all being moved offshore. Apparently they require little skill.

Hey, corporate governance can't be that hard. You just need a few bad-asses "on location" and the rest could be anywhere.

And if the CXO's are abroad, they'll export (import) even more unskilled jobs.

I think I'll go back to being a musician. But I'll practice my Eastern scales.

doobius
Monday, December 08, 2003

hoser

> Your statements demonstrate the fact that you've never been part of a team which had to obtain closed source redistribution rights ...

You're right. We develop original software that uses our original R&D.

analyst
Monday, December 08, 2003

"That's all. And some of you guys live up to these "idiot savant" labels by microanalyzing some of these statements to death and arguing for the sake of arguing"

Fair enough.  But lighten up; we're allowed to vent.  :)

it_ranter
Monday, December 08, 2003

Dennis,

I'm not saying that the outsourced IT Workers are sitting there doing nothing.  I'm saying that they are sitting there doing low skill unecessary work.  Just like here, any initial enthusiasm will be killed of before long and they will be just spinning out payable hours rather than quality code.

It seems to me that the working from home approach is the best one available.  Bella has already mentioned how much more respect, and pay, consultants get.

After serving your term in the land of cubicles, you set off on your own in the far more productive world of small businesses.

Ged Byrne
Monday, December 08, 2003

Personally I've never described myself as a 'coder', someone that writes 'code', or as a 'techie' (and belaboured those that tried to call me or colleagues that).  I've avoided narrow descriptions for as long as I've laboured in this particular vineyard.

If you allow yourself to be pigeonholed don't be surprised if people use you to store rolled up pieces of paper.  Out sourcing development whether its locally or across the world is not new.  What is new is not that the work now being outsourced is low grade but that it is lowly paid.

This engenders all sorts of fears, and I'd have more sympathy with those in the software industry if they understood the lack of alternatives that those had call centre jobs now have that their jobs are now being done and being reasonably done in India.

Bleating about how no one understands programming, no one understands the process that manages it (absurdly untrue for the most part), isn't going to win any case.

If you want people to understand your problems and issues explain them in terms that they're going to be understood.  If you believe you have ignorant or clueless management enable them to have a clue or make them look good in the process.  If you can't achieve that then look to your own communication skills.

What comes to mind when people complain that no one understands the complexity of what they do is that they themselves are frightened of that complexity and frightened of having to justify it, perhaps because they don't comprehend it themselves.

Its a plain truth, if you perform your work in a dim and secret way but the work that you're given is perceived as being understood and the work you produce is perceived as being understood then the work you perform in achieving that is going to be assumed as simple as both those two ends.

People that have written software in the past have liked the impression of performing magic, they've got off on doing that which isn't understood and of keeping secret that knowledge and binding it up in language which is opaque and ritualised. 

So, if some of the products of that magic seem simplistic, even tawdry don't be surprised that the audience believes it was all done with mirrors, sleight of hand and that all that was required was a suspension of disbelief on their part and tedious practice on yours.

Simon Lucy
Monday, December 08, 2003

Simon Lucy, thanks for contributing worthwhile observations to the thread.

I think one other aspect that your post reminded me of that makes sense is this:

There is no apparent connection in most people's minds between "value" (to business, to society) and work done by programmers.

An example: I developed a *big* website for my church, have invested about 200 hours in research, implementation work, photography, scanning and workup of content, etc and the impression I've gotten is that the administration in the church views it as some grunt trivial twiddly hobby crap that I did in a few spare hours. (I am considering taking it down for that reason.) Visitors to the site regularly email me lauding the appearance and content, but my "customer" is absolutely clueless and appears to place no value on the product.

There is also another issue: most development ("coding") work IS very low-value-added because management is inept at gathering requirements, decomposing req's into specs, and defining deliverables. I would say that most of the projects I've worked on as a contractor (have been commissioned to do) have been thrown away because they were of no business value or were ill-considered. An example is a large desktop application I developed over several years for one client, who has not been able to sell more than a few dozen copies, because their continual changes in scope pushed the delivery out so far that any market window was long past. They probably invested $2-300K in this gold plated, overly complex turkey.

Basically, I'm saying that very few organizations even know how to extract economic value from programming. (I think stats on failed projects or projects that are mothballed bear this out.)

So maybe outsourcing is saying that the work truly isn't economically important in most cases. Not our fault but the fault of those who commission and manage the work in the first place.

Bored Bystander
Monday, December 08, 2003

It sounds like the problem with respect for "coders" is the low barrier of entry.  The only solution to raise the barriers and start licencing.  Why not?  I consider our profession at least on par with engineers.

Keith Wright
Monday, December 08, 2003

I partially agree that the theoretically "unlimited" supply of software developers has always created an image problem in our field. Anyone can (and does) write software.

But I've always wondered: how would you enforce licensing of software developers? Would you make it illegal to sell software that was written by non-licensed developers? And how would you prohibit internal development by unlicensed developers? Would checking be performed by a branch of OSHA or the INS or some new "gumimental" body?

Scene: developer being dragged out of his cubicle by INS shock troops, with mouse and keyboard in sweaty grasp, rasping: "Born ... in East LA.... Born... in East LA..."... orchestra music rising...

Bored Bystander
Monday, December 08, 2003

ooo...well the traditional way for craftsmen was apprenticeships  - often referred to as being "time-served".  A fixed period (typically 5 years) working under a senior professional, learning the business.

An alternative would be (non-vendor specific) qualifications put together by a Professional Institute or Guild.

A cynic writes
Monday, December 08, 2003

Disclaimer: I must not know anything about software processes because I no longer write code for profit.

As a manager, I see too many programmers thinking like coders. They want someone to do all the thinking for them, all they have to do is put it the form of code.

This happens most frequently when trying to find/fix difficult bugs or performance issues. The "coder" says, well, it can't be my bug because it works on my dev machine. And, I can't fix it until you can give me a reproducible case, etc.

The best programmers will review their code for possible errors and/or provide an instrumented version to the customer or otherwise use inititive to solve the problem.

If you want for programmers to be respected, they have to start thinking about the customer and not about code/technology.

(I have to say that vast majority of US/UK based programmers that I've worked with are excellent while the record for those based elsewhere is not so good)

pdq
Monday, December 08, 2003

"Its a plain truth, if ... the work that you're given is perceived as being understood and the work you produce is perceived as being understood then the work you perform in achieving that is going to be assumed as simple as both those two ends."

Simon, this is an interesting idea. Do you think the solution then is to write software with a cryptic UI and impossible-to-memorize set of commands? Software that works this way is indeed considered more high-level and expensive than software which is easy to use.

Tony Chang
Monday, December 08, 2003

>It sounds like the problem with respect for "coders" is the low barrier of entry.  The only solution to raise the barriers and start licencing.  Why not?  I consider our profession at least on par with engineers

In my corner of Europe, most programmers are engineers (or have at least 4 years of higher education).
We may be more respected than in the US (but I cannot know for sure, since I've never been there), still it 's somehow considered a "junior" job, not something very serious...

Pakter
Monday, December 08, 2003

"Simon, this is an interesting idea. Do you think the solution then is to write software with a cryptic UI and impossible-to-memorize set of commands? Software that works this way is indeed considered more high-level and expensive than software which is easy to use."

I don't think he was advocating that so much as he was saying that a developer should never pass up an opportunity to expound at great length the technical difficulties he is currently working on overcoming, laced with heavy jargon and liberal comments to the effect of "and if you had hired a lesser programmer, you would have had no hope of getting this done".

(of course, do this only in front of management.  My experience with techies who do this in front of other techies is that they're inexperienced and/or deliberately making things more difficult than they need to be).

Alyosha`
Monday, December 08, 2003

Ummm.  Well in all seriousness I was trying to say don't use vague and jargon ridden language but explain the process and the problems simply, without being patronising.

And don't just be a coder.

Simon Lucy
Monday, December 08, 2003

I know how to solve the problem. We'll have code-off's and rank programmers like they do Chess Champions.

Of course, once a computer beats the champion programmer, we're all doomed.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, December 08, 2003

> I know how to solve the problem. We'll have code-off's and rank programmers like they do Chess Champions.

Do a few comparisons.

In medical and law school, and architecture, journalism, flight school and just about everything else, lecturers impart respect for the older, more established practitioners of those occupations.

This is usually for a good reason: the more established practitioners are good.

In development, this doesn't happen. In fact, it's the opposite if anything.

JM
Monday, December 08, 2003

There are old programmers and bold programmers, but no old, bold programmers?

pdq
Monday, December 08, 2003

This whole thing reminds me of another topic all together.  In the world of winter mountain sports there is a rivalry between partitioners of the different disciplines.  Granted this is at the weekend worrier level.  There are alpine skiers, snowboarders, and then elitist telemark skiers. 

Often the telemarkers will put down snowboarding because it is "easy." Tellingly, I don't know any telemark skier who is a decent snowboarder.  In fact one friend of mine who often puts down snowboarders said she didn't like snowboarding because of the fewer degrees of freedom that come from having both feet attached to one board.  I hated to reminder her that was vital component to the sport.  Not being able to get over that would make you a pretty bad snowboarder, even if the sport was "easy."

My feeling it is easy to misjudge or inadvertently put down something you do not understand.  Since not one person quoted in this topic has the slightest experience with large software projects, I suspect they are suffering from the same misjudgment. 

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Monday, December 08, 2003

"As a manager, I see too many programmers thinking like coders. They want someone to do all the thinking for them, all they have to do is put it the form of code."

Well, there's your problem -- management at your place is dragging the bottom of the barrell for minimally skilled applicants, rather than getting people who know what they are doing. Fire whoever the bozo is that does your hiring and find someone who knows how to attract, identify and hire competant developers.

Tony Chang
Monday, December 08, 2003

"In the world of winter mountain sports there is a rivalry between partitioners of the different disciplines.  Granted this is at the weekend worrier level."

Coincidentally, I had been kind of worrying about how I should partition my new disk for a Linux system I am setting up when I decided to read JoS as an excuse to not get to the the task.  Oh well, back to work.

Z
Monday, December 08, 2003

I don't really understand programmers or their managers that well.  I have no comment on that.

But I do understand tele guys. They are all wannabe mountain cavemen who descended from the east coast leisure class aristocracy in Vermont. $450 norwegian sweaters, a frayed "choat lacrosse" baseball hat, and a 1988s volvo diesel wagon. Sneering at anyone who didn't attend Bates or Swarthmore and who doesn't recognize the superiority of the free heel.

I'll let those financial analysts have Mad River Glen. For me, I'm perfectly content with long lines at Mammoth, filled with hot southern california asian chicks. Damn.

_
Monday, December 08, 2003

What are 'tele guys'??

Tony Chang
Monday, December 08, 2003

telemark skiers. i like to riff offtopic.

_
Monday, December 08, 2003

Guess my point is that tele skiers see snowboarding as easy, yet they can't snowboard.  Same with the economists who wrote this article. 

"I have no idea how to write software atol, hence it must be menial and we should outsource it at our nearest convenience."

Sounds like a Monty Python skit to me. 

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The guys may be dicks and not know anything about software development, I agree.

However, your argument is wrong too. You don't need to be able to write software to be able to critique it, much like you don't have to be a director to be a movie critic.

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

So now director is a low skill occupation as well as compared to the high skill movie critic. Sigh

You don't get it I guess
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

According to most movie critics - yes.

Let's call it how it is  -  people are self-serving.  All people.  This forum is unlikely to come to a conclusion that they're right,  just as they were unlikely to come to the conclusion that economists and managers are in a "low-skill" occupation.

Just remember *everyone* is the centre of their own pocket universe.

A cynic writes
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

"So now director is a low skill occupation as well as compared to the high skill movie critic. Sigh"

No, that's not what I said. I said that a movie critic can be qualified to critique a director's work, and a manager can be qualified to critique a programmer's work.

There are of course many examples where they are also not qualified too. ;)

I said nothing about the role of director being low skill.

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I suspect that the offshore coders would get certified/licensed in much greater numbers than US coders.

Maybe the authors perception of coding skill is based on the misconception that offshore programmers (or workers in general) are unskilled. ("If they can do it, it can't be that hard")

Extensive first hand experience as part of US/Indian teams including time in Mumbai says otherwise.

doobius
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I think the reason it was described as "low skill" is simply that it doesn't show up on the radar of the typical management executive who would be talking to a New York Times journalist.

Developers work somewhere on another level. They never discuss their work with senior management because senior management don't understand. There are no easily accessible artificacts of the intellectual process.

analyst
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Curious that certain jobs are allegedly low-skilled and yet upper management would never consider doing them themselves.

They can type, they just choose not to. They can translate, they just choose not to. Equally, they could program, they just choose not to.

I'm sure.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

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