Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rock stars and programmers

On his more recent post, Hitting the high notes, Joel Spolsky is wrong. There are some things with which I agree. But there are other with which I disagree with a passion. For example:

Is software really about artistic high notes? "Maybe some stuff is," you say, "but I work on accounts receivable user interfaces for the medical waste industry." Fair enough. This is a conversation about software companies, shrinkwrap software, where the company's success or failure is directly a result of the quality of their code.

So, if you don't work making Office's next version or 3DsMax or McAffee Antivirus; or any other software anyone can buy off the shelf the quality of your code means much less. And there, among other points of view, is where Mr. Spolsky is dead wrong.

He keeps at it:

Sadly, this doesn't really apply in non-product software development. Internal, in-house software is rarely important enough to justify hiring rock stars. Nobody hires Dolly Parton to sing at weddings. That's why the most satisfying careers, if you're a software developer, are at actual software companies, not doing IT for some bank.

I absolutely negate this vision about software development. It may be super-cool at parties to say "I'm the guy who coded MS Excel" or "I made WinZip". Heck, who knows, maybe in some parties if could get you the hoties. That that shouldn't be the main reason why one wants to be a programmer. If one wants to be famous there are more easy ways, don't you agree?

Ours, like policemen, should be a calling of service. And never, ever, loose track of the final user. If the work we do at a bank, a government agency, or a video-store makes the people working at that bank, government agency or video-store perform their jobs more efficiently, more quickly or simply better, we've achieved. That should be our goal when it comes to create software, and not being famous on forums, blogospheres, mailing lists and the rest of the crap that only geeks care about.

By the way, two of the bloggers I've sindicated have also answered Mr. Spolsky, and way better than me. Scott Reynolds and Phil Haaack.

PS.- Of course Mr. Spolsky keeps talking crap on his post, at least from where I stand, because of the excessive admiration he has for that beautiful piece of crap called iPod. Mr. Spolsky:

Or look at the iPod. You can't change the battery. So when the battery dies, too bad. Get a new iPod. Actually, Apple will replace it if you send it back to the factory, but that costs $65.95. Wowza.

Why can't you change the battery?

My theory is that it's because Apple didn't want to mar the otherwise perfectly smooth, seamless surface of their beautiful, sexy iPod with one of those ghastly battery covers you see on other cheapo consumer crap, with the little latches that are always breaking and the seams that fill up with pocket lint and all that general yuckiness. The iPod is the most seamless piece of consumer electronics I have ever seen. It's beautiful. It feels beautiful, like a smooth river stone. One battery latch can blow the whole river stone effect.

Apple made a decision based on style, in fact, iPod is full of decisions that are based on style. And style is not something that 100 programmers at Microsoft or 200 industrial designers at the inaptly-named Creative are going to be able to achieve, because they don't have Jonathan Ive, and there aren't a heck of a lot of Jonathan Ives floating around.

With demonstrates that Joel Spolsky is another member of that sad army of idiots which prefer style over substance. I can imagine Mr. Spolsky buying a very, very beautiful and sexy car that cannot be refueled once you finish the factory loaded full deposit; all thanks to a really good (but maybe not very intelligent) designer who has decided that a latch accessing the fuel deposit from the frame would be very ugly and would utterly ruin the car's sexy design. Please.


  • I agree with you and I love the car analaogy. I responded to it last night as well after reading Scott's post on it:

    By Blogger Andy, at 2:47 PM  

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