September 22, 2020 4:09 PM

Time Spent Programming Is Often Time Well Spent


Was the time I spent writing my RSS scripts more than the time I would now spend thinking about the "best" RSS aggregator and reader? Doesn't matter. I enjoyed writing the scripts. I learned new things and got satisfaction out of seeing them run correctly. I get nothing like that out of comparing apps and services.

I concur so strongly not only because he writes about RSS, which I'm on record as supporting and using. I enjoy rolling my own simple software in almost any domain. Simple has a lot of advantages. Under my control has a lot of advantages. But the biggest advantage echoes what Dr. Drang says: Programming is often more fun than the alternative uses of my time.

I program because I like to, and because I can.

Posted by Eugene Wallingford | Permalink | Categories: Personal, Software Development

September 18, 2020 2:50 PM

If You Want to Create Greatness, Encourage Everyone

I read two passages in the last few days that echo one another. First, I read this from Wallace Shawn, in a Paris Review interview:

But my God, without writers, humanity might be trapped in a swamp of idiotic, unchanging provincial clichés. Yes, there are writers who merely reinforce people's complacency, but a writer like Rachel Carson inspired the activism of millions, and writers like Lady Murasaki, Milton, and Joyce have reordered people's brains! And for any writers to exist at all, there must surely be a tradition of writing. Maybe in order for one valuable writer to exist, there must be a hundred others who aren't valuable at all, but it isn't possible at any given moment for anyone to be sure who the valuable one is.

Then, in his response to Marc Andreessen's "It's Time to Build", Tanner Greer writes:

To consistently create brilliant poets, you need a society awash in mediocre, even tawdry poetry. Brilliant minds will find their way towards poem writing when poem writing and poem reading is the thing that people do.

I once blogged briefly about The Art of Fear tells the story of an artist sketching hundreds of roosters, which laid the foundation for creating a single sketch for his client. For us as individuals, this means that "talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work." As Richard Gabriel often says, "Talent determines only how fast you get good, not how good you get". Volume creates the conditions under which quality can appear.

Shawn and Greer remind us that the same dynamic applies at the scale of a culture. A community that produces many writers has a better chance to produce great writers. When the community values writers, it increases the chances that someone will do the work necessary to becoming a writer. The best way to produce a lot of writers is to have a tradition that welcomes, even encourages, all members of the community to write, even if they aren't great.

The same applies to other forms of achievement, too. In particular, I think it applies to programming.

Posted by Eugene Wallingford | Permalink | Categories: Software Development, Teaching and Learning