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Accepting of new ideas

"[People with no engineering degree] generally aren't as accepting of new ideas as someone with a degree is." - from a recent thread

This looks like an interesting discussion topic. It smells vaguely true to me. Do others agree? I don't think it is absolutely true, but there is a tendency among certain quarters.

Specifically ,the 'union' mentality of people who are insecure about their own skills. So they slam down the ideas of 'the college boy" in a fit of anti-intellectualism.

Try to institute source code control or bug tracking or get anywhere with the other 10 elements of the Joel Test and you're setting yourself up as a target.

"This is way things have always been done around here and it works for us."

"Maybe they did it that way at the university wher ethey have lots of free time and no deadlines, bit here in the real world we've learned that source code control and bug tracking are too complicated for these small projects we are working on with less than ten developers."

"Don't rock the boat."

"Refactoring? There was a guy who came in here last year with a college degree just like you who tried to do that and he ended up screwing up thousands of lines of perfectly good code. We now have a policy against it. Also none of these so-called  'design patterns' are allowed because we have unique problems that require thinking and design and not just plugging in some pattern from some college textbook."

Dennis Atkins
Friday, July 09, 2004

I think you're observing people who are rewarded by seeing the 95% crap coming from the camp they're against, but have learned to filter out the same 95% problem in their own camp.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Friday, July 09, 2004

I agree it's a tendency, not just regarding engineering, but education in general. More educated people *tend* to accept new ideas more readily.

However, like all generalizations, it becomes a problem if you assume a more educated person will accept new ideas more readily or a less educated one will not. (i.e prejudice) So I'm not sure if the observation is actually useful...

sgf
Friday, July 09, 2004

I don't think the type of degree, or lack of degree, has that much correlation to open-mindedness. I'm pretty biased towards engineers and the engineering disciplines. I'd like to think that engineers deal with facts and data, and avoid emotion and prejudice. But I've worked with quite a few degree-holding engineers who were quite stubborn and set in their ways.

Better predictors may be personality characteristics:
1) laziness - no interest in trying new techniques
2) insecurity - as Dennis hinted, people who are insecure regarding their knowledge/abilities
3) ego - people with large egos who refuse to admit someone else has a better idea. In a sense, this is just #2.

free(malloc(-1))
Friday, July 09, 2004

In my observations in a variety of firms, there is extraordinarily little correlation between a formal CS education and open-mindedness or adherence to best practices, any more than there is to washing ones hands after taking a whiz (although it's easy for me to set up a strawman chariacture - "Those damn anti-intellectual idiots - they're the ones who piss on the toilet seat and don't wash their hands! Gross!").

Indeed, what you're describing sounds more like basic human psychology - people (educated or not) like to keep those around them down like proverbial lobsters in a bucket, so they often undermine or discourage activities that might allow a coworker to shine (because it often is a zero sum employment game - that coworker who had the great idea is the one who just punted you out of the new Super Senior Supreme Tech Commander position). Add the fact that most people, or all backgrounds and stripes, fear change in general, often preferring to do things the way they've been historically done (as change renders our knowledge and abilities less relevant). I've worked at firms filled to the brim with nothing but university degree holders, and I assure that these traits were in plentiful supply.

On the flip side there is the human psychology of people in this profession who want to do the process equivalent of Make Money Fast - they want to toss a lot of buzzwords over the fence and then take credit for the change after others actually make it happen. There _is_ a backlash when a certain trend or terminology becomes a fad, and invariably that guy-who-never-actually-gets-anything-done sends out a division wide email proclaiming "We should do XXX from now on". Invariably they'll get the corporate sanctioned variation of "Go fluck yourself", which they may attribute to the unenlightened, unwashed masses. I fell into that MMF technique for a short while, sure that my awareness of these great new trends alone made me highly valuable and I simply had to advocate them fervently and with a furrowed brought and sense of righteous indignation, but I quickly learned that that is less than useless -- if you want to affect change, you have to do not say (be it setting up a "coding standard" document proposal and calling a meeting to discuss it rather than simply saying "we should have standards", or building a prototype of a bug tracking application and a plan of attack rather than simply proclaiming that there should have a bug tracking app). I've found that yields dramatically less hostility and opposition.

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Hi Dennis Atkins,

It would have been nice if you had mentioned the type of company where those comments were being made.

While instituting source code control and bug tracking can hardly be considered "new ideas", I believe I know where you coming from. Over the years I have observed the type of attitude you wrote about primarily at small consulting firms and small non IT companies where nobody in management seemed to have an I.T. related degree or extensive "in the trenches experience".

That said, "don't rock the boat" and "this is way things have always been done..." seems to occur just about everywhere (i.e. small web design shops, ISVs, small non IT companies, etc.).

Personally, I don't believe that the lack of a college degree is the real problem or at least it isn't the biggest problem. Imo, the biggest reason this type of behavior occurs in the "real world" is that people and companies can do whatever they please when it comes to computing. I guess what I am trying to say is that when you don't have any type of regulation you should expect to experience a broad range of behavior throughout the industry.  One thing that took me a couple of years to learn is that most companies are f*cked up internally and the only thing that differs is the way in which they are f*cked up.

[Below, is just one of many stories I have that is similar to yours]

I remember when I was still in school and interviewing for my first I.T. job. One of my teachers recommended myself and two others guys for a entry-level job opening at a local tool manufacturing plant (company made stuff like electric drills and saws). I thought my interview went well and was only worried about one of my competitors because I knew he was a good programmer. Well, wouldn't you know it, the company chose to hire the guy who couldn't code his way out of paper bag (I use to let him copy my homework assignments). This dud told me that he thought what got him the job was his answer to the question "Do you comment your code" which was "No, I don't". Note: the question could have been something even more stupid than this - my memory isn't as good as it once was. Apparently, the PM/Director/whatever of this small IT shop believed in seat-of-your-pants type of software development and was looking for someone who was just like him.

One Programmer's Opinion
Saturday, July 10, 2004

I'll second the comment about personality characteristics.  Everyone has a "comfort zone" when it comes to trying new and different.  When it comes to important things, most people prefer to go with what they are comfortable with -- which is what they know, whether it works well or not.  And everyone's comfort level varies in different areas.  The developer down the hall may be an eager beaver when it comes to trying the latest whiz-bang IDE or language or technique... but you can't get him to try a new restaurant for lunch if you offer to buy for him.  Your manager might be unwilling to allow you to do something different because he's afraid it might not work... and then you're behind schedule, and it's his ass that's on the line.  He may know that what you're doing isn't necessarily optimal, but it's "comfortable" to him, and he's reluctant to go outside his comfort zone.  But if he could, he'd go to a new restaurant for lunch every day.

So, that being said, I think the OP's comment that engineers are more accepting of new ideas has some merit.  Engineers are thinkers, we use our heads and are comfortable with ideas and concepts.  So it's more comfortable for us to take in a new idea, roll it around, see how it feels and maybe go with it.  Of course, there are plenty of exceptions.  Like the guy who prefers to use a command window and vi to edit his source code instead of an IDE.  Or the guy who believes Java (and all other "interpreted bytecode" languages) are too slow for real work.

Should be working
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Is this the circle jerk thread?


Saturday, July 10, 2004

> This dud told me that he thought what got him the job was his answer to the question "Do you comment your code" which was "No, I don't".

Heh! Yup.

I'm not so sure about the whole degree thing overall. Thinking about it, the guy I recall who was the worst at this stuff was VP of SE at a company, but he had a degree in Philosophy and had learned programming in MSDOS Basic as a hobby and somehow ended up being VP of this small IT firm. He had learned C but wrote strictly in a 'if (x) goto y' style with no use of while() or for().  His comments were all in UPPER CASE. But aside from him, others I can think of are guys without degrees. I guess the commonality is none of them had had any hardcore classes in the CS or SE fields, hence their insecurity there and being threatened by guys who might actually have useful ideas from more rigorous training. The general type is more interesting that whether they have degrees or not. I do think these guys do a lot of damage and make stuff inefficeint and ineffective for no good reason but their own ignorance. Best to interpret them as damage and route around them but it's better not to have th adamaged goods in the first place.

Disclosure: and of course the usual case where among the best engineer's I've known have no engineering degree is also tue.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, July 10, 2004

So the general idea is that the more secure you are, the more open you will be to new concepts & ways of doing things. The less secure you are - for whatever reason - the less open to new ideas you will be.

Those people who have advanced degrees will tend to be more secure in their capabilities, and will therefore be more likely to accept new ideas. Those without the degrees will always be afraid of what they don’t know and how it will reflect on them that they don’t know it.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Yeah that's the general hypothesis. I think the security is the main thing and the degree thing is a loosely coupled dependent variable at best since there are obviously as many exceptions as examples.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Hmm. Interesting theory. Here's another one.

Once a loser, always a loser.

Perhaps it has less to do with whether or not you attended university so much as whether or not you were the type of person to attend university.

Undisciplined then, undisciplined now. Didn't like authority figures (teachers) then, don't like authority figures (boss) now.

So, for the same reason college graduates get preferential treatment in hiring - you know they at least had the discipline & determination & a certain amount of "believing in the system" to finish college, and that's precisely what you want them for now - you can depend on people who went to college to be dependable, and people who rejected the authoritarian schooling system as soon as they were legally able to choose to do so continue to do so in subtle ways now.

Or something like that, you get the idea.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 10, 2004

"you can depend on people who went to college to be dependable, and people who rejected the authoritarian schooling system as soon as they were legally able to choose to do so continue to do so in subtle ways now."

This is absolute nonsense. Of the few non-degreed developers out there, I would wager most are so because lucrative employment opportunities were present at the same time as higher education was, and they opted to take the employment route. If you really, truly believe that university, running from September to May, often with about 4 hours of class a day, many absolutely notorious as 4 years of partying, represents more authority than an employer, you are just simply nuts. You're just perpetuating the same old ridiculous "I'm jealous because Bob has no CS degree and he's my boss" bullshit.

.
Saturday, July 10, 2004

I now understand the ridiculous perception-altering self-justification on here, so let me do it from the opposite perspective.

"Self-trained programmers who skipped university are dedicated to the profession, and were responsible and intelligent enough to enter the real world at a younger age. Self-trained programmers started a regiment of lifelong learning young, and to this day are the pioneers of advanced software development techniques, and are more likely to be open minded to new ideas just as they were to a new career path years ago.

Degree holders are 9 to 5ers that do this for the paycheque and because it was the cool new thing the guidance counsellor was talking about back when they were in high school. Their immaturity and inability to try new thing caused them to choose to hide from the real world for 4 years. Degree holders entered the profession with the belief that they could listen to profs for a couple of hours each day, do some token homework, and they would be set for life. Degree holders feel no need to advance their skills or to remain up to date, and remain defiant and fearful of new technologies or trends because it wasn't what they learned during their 4 years in the ivory tower"

Wow this works great. Degree holders suck!

.
Saturday, July 10, 2004

I suspect the closed mind mentality has more to do with having never been exposed to alternatives; the old cliche that if all you have is a hammer you treat everything like a nail.

Most college curriculums require distribution courses, survey courses, etc.  Expose the student to things they normally wouldn't investigate.  I took programming courses in lisp, SNOBOL, assembler, etc. Never used them since, but they did open my mind a bit.

Tom H
Saturday, July 10, 2004

I didn't realize that you could get an engineering degree by spending only four hours a day. Assuming that that is true, engineers really are lazy.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, July 10, 2004

"If you really, truly believe that university... [etc. etc.] ...bullshit."

And there you go, a CLASSIC example of someone who actively rebells against the university system, and staunchly defends his position to the point of being OFFENDED by someone presenting an idea counter to his own.

Case closed.

PS Hey dude, lighten up. I'll tell you a little secret. I'm a college dropout & have no intention of going back to get my degree.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 10, 2004

"And there you go, a CLASSIC example of someone who actively rebells against the university system, and staunchly defends his position to the point of being OFFENDED by someone presenting an idea counter to his own."

Err, if you missed the sarcasm, it was a manufactured, absurd, bigoted counterpoint to your statement. It wasn't presented legitimately but to contrast ridiculous stereotypes.

.
Saturday, July 10, 2004

This could go on all day.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Salad cream.  There, now let's talk about something worthwhile.

Kalani
Saturday, July 10, 2004

You know, I missed the whole salad cream thing. I still have no idea what that's all about.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, July 11, 2004

He's referring to the little known fact that Adolf Hitler was a huge advocate of Salad Creme -- it was the entire reason he wanted to invade Britain. The fact that Salad Creme contains pig gelatin as a thickening agent made it unkosher. This led to Hitler's deep seated hatred of the Jews.

Tony Chang
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Mark,

Salad cream is to JoS threads as '\0' is to "heyhey!".

Kalani
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Kalani,

I must confess, I am most confounded by the significance of your posting.

Please elaborate.

Raj
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Kalani was referencing "The Terminator", can't you C that?

It stars Arnold Schwartzanegger, whose father was a salad-creme loving Nazi in Austria.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Dennis,

I still do not understand. I humbly request you enlighten me.

Raj
Sunday, July 11, 2004

Dearest Raj,

It is my esteemed opinion that you dwell beneath the edifice which connects from one end of an expanse to the other in order to facilitate the safe crossing thereof.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, July 12, 2004

Dennis,

I am confused, what have I done to deserve such treatment?

Raj
Monday, July 12, 2004

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