How To Be A Programmer

There was an interesting little round table discussion at Wednesday’s Fraser Valley Ruby Brigade meeting. What is the greatest knowledge resource for programmers? The answer was a unanimous, resounding “Google”. I did say the discussion was little.

It’s well known that the freelancer’s greatest enemy is self-doubt. Anything less than a Tony Robbins level of enthusiasm can leave you with small wages, dull work and a series of hanger-on, dead-beat clients. I find that the problem of self-doubt in programmers is quite peculiar. Because our field is constantly changing, the result produced by 10 hours a year ago can be done in 5 today. In another 6 months, the task will be able to be completed in seconds. On last year’s digital watch.

Now, some programmers will look at this wonderful ability to look up code on google instead of slogging through a problem via trial and error and think, “my god, my skills are becoming obsolete!”, when really they are just able to do their jobs better. The carpenter was not undone by power tools and the dentist (thank god) was not undone by the pneumatic drill.

The ability to make software work, to ask the next question the user may have is something too nuanced to be left to machines. Software is little more than decisions we’ve already made carried out by a series of tiny blinking lights. Even after 50 years of the electronic computer, there are still many, many decisions that still need to be made.