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Are Developers just complainers?

I had an  interesting yet bizarre conversation with a CIO the other day.  His opinion is that developers are easy to handle because they complain, but rarely DO anything.

Coming from a PHB I would have dismissed this as one man's poor opinion, but this guy is well respected in the industry and by developers. 

His point was (poorly summarized by me here):
Most developers recognized the negative aspects of technology or policy, and will complain to their brethren or make a token statement.  But they will not stand up and say to a leader, this is a mistake and here is why.  If questioned, we capitulate.

What do you think?  Is this why IT does not have representation on most board of directors?  Is it why we do not have a cohesive voice in politics, even on things we agree on?

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Well, I don't know about you, but in my experience developers tend to do the "don't bother me with business details" thing when confronted with "the big picture".

So, maybe the answer is: yes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

IME developers do say "this is a fucked idea and this is why" but TPTB don't listen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

...unless of course they've learned that their bosses don't listen so they don't bother any more.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I think your just as likely to see PHB behavior in technical people as you are business people. For example, in our organization IT (as opposed to development) is king. Things are done to make IT's life easier, even if it means inconvenience for developers.

The fact that product development is the only part of the organization that is really adding value makes no impression on IT. These are technically knowledgable people. And they're still PHB's.

Collectively, our major problem is that we think we're all smarter than the business people. Sure, we won't come right out and say that, but it's there. "They don't know how to run a computer properly, they can't be as smart as me".

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

people in general complain a lot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

One of the best environments I've worked in was a medium-sized company (under 100 people), and the CEO was extremely approachable and sat in the same open space as everyone else.

If you were to complain to her about something, she'd say, "That's nice.  Now go fix it".  And in general you had the latitude to do so.

I guess it helped that it was the kind of place in which people were *more likely* to complain about something and then go off and fix it due to the above, rather than be quiet due to "if I say something then it's my problem".

Dave Torok
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Look at the relative lack of political action toward H1B and offshoring. And this is for something that involves the bread and butter of several hundred thousand people. The "Programmer's Guild" is a disorganized joke.

YES to answer your question.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

And the following futile comments from "Office Space" come to mind re: how programmers really are:

Peter Gibbons: He's going to ask me to work on Sunday and I'm going to do it, because I'm a pussy, which is why I work at Initech in the first place.

Michael Bolton: Hey, I work at Initech and I don't consider myself a pussy.

Samir: Yes, I am also not a pussy.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I second Philo's opinion ... doesn't matter how sound your reasoning is, or how much you try to explain, certain bosses just will never change their mind once they decide they want to do something :p

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Things are done to make IT's life easier, even if it means inconvenience for developers."

I got a job because of this once.  I was hired into the Market Risk Management group as an "analyst" because IT always had an excuse for why they couldn't do whatever was asked of them.  Because I worked directly for the head of the MRM group, I just coded whatever he wanted, and ignored the IT department whenever possible.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Yes.  But it's not limited to developers, or the computer industry. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

In most occupations, most people will not be effective at obtaining action on valid complaints.

However the big difference is that most other occupations have a longer history and have systems where a small number of their colleagues will be formal reps for them, as part of a union or something similar.

That means that, when teachers, journalists or doctors start to encounter something particularly dumb, management knows they better pay attention, or else. And it means that, if push comes to shove, the workers can indeed push a fair bit.

That's the difference.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

An Australian government agency has been ordered to pay more than $54,000 compensation to an intelligence analyst who was harassed from her job because she took leave to care for her sick child.

Another intelligence analyst said (the manager) berated her about her leave, commented that one of her children "catches everything that goes around", and said her contract would not be renewed if she continued to take carer's leave.

"I had been professionally discredited quite badly by this organisation, and I couldn't stand for that . . . I knew it was happening to other people, and I couldn't go to my grave if I hadn't done something to help myself," the analyst said.

Federal Magistrate Kenneth Raphael said: "These cases are not just about the recovery of damages. They serve an educational purpose."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I have noticed there is a huge chasm between complaining and know how to fix something. This rule applies to almost everything people bitch about.
When someone starts a rant about H1B's, taxes. Iraq, or the state of public education, ask them "What would you do to fix it?” Few people have a good answer.
People complain, it makes them feel better without having to actually think. It is just human nature.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Most Americans don't know what it is like to be an entreprenuer.  In other words, most people are dependent on other people as far as employment goes.  Standing up to your boss can lead to retaliation or even job loss.  That is why most people (not just programmers) only complain but don't do anything else. 

"Is this why IT does not have representation on most board of directors?"

No.  I doubt most CIOs have a technical background. 

Climbing the corporate ladder (especially all the way to the top) is all about being good at politics and getting other people to do the dirty work that will make you look good.  It is much easier for a sales or marketing manager to rise to the top of the ladder because their position allows them to do both.  For example, they can demonstrate results that are easy for anyone to understand (i.e. either sales increased 20% this year or they didn't).

"Is it why we do not have a cohesive voice in politics, even on things we agree on?"

We don't have a cohesive voice in politics because:

* We work in a fragmented industry.  Issues that concern a gaming or embedded programmer might be irrelevant to me.

* Most of us don't join professional organizations.  Those that currently exist are unable to attract enough programmers because of industry fragmentation.

* We don't have union representation and most programmers don't seem to have any interest in joining a union.

To have a voice in American politics you must have money and be willing to spend it.

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Democracy is about making your voice heard. Most programmers are never exposed to the ridiculously simple mechanisms by which this occurs.

It starts with the telephone and the letter, and builds from there.

As I mentioned, most other occupations are old enough to have at least some people who know the ropes for all this. But programmers are learning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Democracy is about making your voice heard."

Yes, and money talks the loudest.  In fact, it completely dominates all other voices.  :-)

"Most programmers are never exposed to the ridiculously simple mechanisms by which this occurs. It starts with the telephone and the letter, and builds from there."

Many people including myself have already written letters to our Congressman on the H-1B issue.  All I got was one canned response letter.  That said, I agree that political activism has start somewhere.

"As I mentioned, most other occupations are old enough to have at least some people who know the ropes for all this. But programmers are learning."

No, programmers are not learning.  Politicians only care about two things: receiving money and losing their job.

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

What amazes me is that so many of you are complaining about H1B's but nobody complains about the real scam which is the abuse of L1s.

Of the 315,000 L1s issued last year the majority were almost certainly fraudulent. And the immorality of allowing your fellow workers to be so brutally exploited by the employers while they take your jobs should be disgusting any ot you who have any decency.

And on this one you will actually have the Indian programmers behind you. Force employers using L1s to pay an average US management wage (for L1s were introduced for management) and the undercutting would go away in the blink of an eye.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Per one law firm's web site: "The L-1 visa enables an overseas company to transfer key managers and personnel to run a  US based subsidiary or affiliate."

Good call, Stephen. And I knew about this already. But as a US programmer I throw my hands up in dispair.  Even if programmers weren't so "pencil-necky" and elitist about joining even valid causes, it would be an incredible uphill battle to overcome the public apathy, the populist egalitarian bias against the overly intelligent, and the war chest behind offshoring in all its guises.  (you're English, right? The US popular culture has always held the smartest kid in the class in real contempt...)

After watching various people try to do stuff on this for the last 5 years and seeing almost no traction, I would say we're screwed...

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I fear you are too negative. Progress is being made, including at the highest levels. Of course it's a hard fight; there are billions of dollars at stake.

Stand up for your ( our ) rights and don't be scared.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I haven't yet seen a computing union I'd want to join.  They all quote fear-inspring statistics and seem aimed at motivating rather than educating.  That just doesn't fly with programmers, sorry to say.  What does fly are sites with obvious bias, but aren't going to peer-pressure you into positions you don't agree with.

For example, a site like Slashdot is popular for all the interesting news, but the maintainers claim about half of the unique visitors never even glanced at the comments. 

Another reason developers don't complain is because many of the good ones either concentrate in decent companies or just stay away from corporations.  What good and self assured developer wants to be an unloved "cost center" at some guy's broke-ass company?  So the status of developers declines, as the only good developers left are the self doubting ones.

Even deeper to the point, developers don't deal with fucked up people all day like everyone else.  They deal with fucked up computers.  The enfant terribles who give you a piece of their mind are the commando-types who leave the company when they think their work is done, or become management and have their own fights to deal with.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Thursday, September 11, 2003

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