Blogging Doesn’t Require Talent or Even Passion

Original article:

(Insert pretentious, unnecessary image taking up half of the vertical screen that is irrelevant to the following contents.)

Never before has a skill been mythicized to such an extent. “You don’t need talent to become a good programmer,” they say. “You don’t need passion either,” the same jester squawks. After all — since good programmers lack talent and passion, we have such great innovations such as Google and the World Wide Web! Oh, wait, those people actually had an interest in what they were doing — and the skill to do it. Sorry, that was someone else!

We start the article off with this lovely quote:

You not only need to have talent, you also need to be passionate to be able to become a good programmer.

I’m not sure of whom you are thinking of, but in my humble opinion, talent (of close relation to skill) is required to be good at some skill. And passion should be what drives you to continue pursuing that skill. The two combine to form what should be a healthy career.

It’s worth noting that, in the following, you chose all prominent — not even necessarily well-regarded — Web Developers solely as your examples. I’d also stress that you mention these attributes are required to become a good programmer, specifically — not just a programmer.

It’s as if people who write code had already decided that, “they were going to write code in the future by the time they were kids.” If you lack one or the other, you’re either a fake, or you won’t go far, regardless of which, you’re just not cut out for it. Such deeply entrenched stereotypes are not only completely wrong, they’re also detrimental — a view shared by many successful programmers.

No, I don’t see what passion nor talent has to do with the age at which someone begins. Clearly, someone who begins programming at age 20 could never be passionate or talented! Abandon all hope, all ye who enter!

On “you won’t go far” — would you rather have a composer that was forced to take piano lessons for a decade, or one who actually enjoyed playing and eagerly took lessons? Which one do you think will go further?

Why do you think that this view is completely wrong? It is quite self-evident that someone driven to learn things is going to be better at their field than someone whom is not.

Onto our first Web Developer:

Jacob Kaplan-Moss (Django creator)

The original poster quotes:

The myth of the “genius programmer” is extremely dangerous. On one hand, it sets the entry threshold excessively high, scaring a lot of would-be-programmers away. On the other hand, it also haunts those that are already programmers, because it means that if you don’t “rock” at programming, then basically, you suck. As a result, as a programmer, all of your time needs to be used on learning more programming and work, which in the end has a large impact on the quality of life. … (omitted) …We need to get rid of this kind of attitude. Programming is just a bunch of skills that can be learned, it doesn’t require that much talent, and it’s not shameful to be a mediocre programmer.

Let’s pick this apart:

On one hand, it sets the entry threshold excessively high, scaring a lot of would-be-programmers away.

Right, because it couldn’t just set an end goal for them to be motivated, right? Clearly we need no ideals, no Albert Einsteins, no Eulers — we should all just give up on Mathematics!

On the other hand, it also haunts those that are already programmers, because it means that if you don’t “rock” at programming, then basically, you suck.

Right, because if you’re not in the top 1%, you’re nothing! There is not possibly any median! You’re either with us or against us! Yeah, ‘Murrica!

As a result, as a programmer, all of your time needs to be used on learning more programming and work, which in the end has a large impact on the quality of life.

You know, if they had passion, they might enjoy actually learning more about the thing they’ve chosen to do. They might even realize that one never completely “learns programming”, as one never completely learns mathematics. But you don’t see Donald Knuth whining on the Internet, do you?

Programming is just a bunch of skills that can be learned, it doesn’t require that much talent, and it’s not shameful to be a mediocre programmer.

Sure, programmers should not be shamed for not knowing skills — just not wanting to learn the skills required. After all, what’s the point of becoming a Web Developer if you refuse to learn the basic tools required? Are you just going to parrot the same Stack Overflow code forever?

There is nothing wrong with being mediocre, there is something wrong with not wanting to improve past mediocrity.

And thus the OP follows:

On his Twitter profile, he describes himself as “not a real programmer” to show that he’s had enough of these kinds of misconceptions.

It seems more to me like he’s just reinforcing and internalizing that attitude than really challenging it.

Jacob Thornton (Bootstrap writer)

 Jacob Thornton was previously a programmer at Twitter and now Medium, as well as the creator of Bootstrap, which has achieved over 80,000 stars on Github. His response in the following interview gives another counter-example to this myth:

Special thanks to Jacob for working at Medium, where I am currently struggling to make use of their awful WYSIWYG editor which seemingly does random things instead of what I actually instruct it to do. Congratulations on those 80k “likes”, by the way.

“I had gotten hired for a job that I wasn’t even remotely qualified for. Every day, I could have been fired. I worked so hard, trying to learn more advanced Javascript because I didn’t know what was going on.”

Yeah, I too shudder at the day I will be fired for operating on someone’s pancreas without surgical training.

“The realest moment of my life was when the whole team at this startup gathered around me, asking for an XHR request. I’d never done it, and I only kind of knew what it was. So I started typing and refreshed the browser and nothing happened. I did that a few times. I started freaking out. They were going to figure out I was an impostor. Then I realized that I had forgotten to add ‘.send()’ — I did that and refreshed it and the page showed up, and the team was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ And then they all just went back to their desks.”

Alternatively, you could all just accept that programmers in the modern age do not know everything and that it’s okay to look up concepts and code online, as long as you are learning them. Then, hey — programming, motherfuckers!

This story sounds nothing like the description of how a “genius programmer” performs at work. So, where does the motivation to keep going down this road come from?

I’m pretty sure that “genius programmers” never applied for a job they are most certainly not qualified for, but even if they did — they intended to learn on the job, like Mr. Jacob here (only with less denial).

On his Twitter profile, he describes himself as a “computer loser.” His most upvoted Twitter post is him describing himself as the “worst engineer at the company, but third coolest”. This kind of attitude is completely opposite to what is expected of the stereotypical programmer.

Yep, nobody is expected to exhibit humorous self-deprecation! Programmers just write logic, right? They’re smart! They’re geniuses, by God!

I might also introduce you to the Dunning-Kruger effect, as well as the Imposter syndrome — both of which may be cases in these kinds of situations

Rasmus Lerdorf (Creator of PHP)

Oh boy, it’s the creator of our favorite programming language — PHP. Let’s see what he has to say, shall we?

Rasmus Lerdorf’s remarks have often sparked controversy

I cannot possibly imagine why. Alright, deep breath:

* I actually hate programming, but I love solving problems.
* There are people who actually like programming. I don’t understand why they like programming.
* I’m not a real programmer. I throw together things until it works then I move on. The real programmers will say “Yeah it works but you’re leaking memory everywhere. Perhaps we should fix that.” I’ll just restart Apache every 10 requests.
  • Damn, it’s a shame programming isn’t half problem solving then. If you really had a problem with the other half (the mechanics of programming), why not invent a programming language that eases your burdens? Oh, wait…
  • They probably like programming because they’re passionate about it, and… you know… enjoy it.
  • Why would anyone figure out why their dam is leaking or their abdomen is bleeding, just throw a bandage on it. It appears to work just fine.

OP, if you think this is a good attitude to have as opposed to “programmers require passion/talent”, I have to wonder what you think of other professions. If that guy at McDonald’s that makes your burgers drops your buns on the floor that has not been mopped for weeks only to pick it up and throw it on your overcooked processed hamburger while dreaming about the meaning of existence, do you not fight for his right to not have to be a genius burger-flipper? Power to the people!

From his words, it’s hard to see how much passion he has for computers. Like Jacob Kaplan-Moss and Jacob Thornton, who didn’t feel the need to clarify on myths toward programming, he might as well call himself a programmer wannabe.

He just said he hates programming and does not enjoy it, so yeah. Sigh.

David Heinemeier Hansson (Creator of Rails)

Speaking of restarting Apache every 10 minutes, DHH being the genius programmer he is actually did this and had no problem with it:

(15:11:12) DHH: before fastthread we had ~400 restarts/day
(15:11:22) DHH: now we have perhaps 10

Zed Shaw has this to say about it:

Notice how it took me a few seconds to reply. This one single statement basically means that we all got duped. The main Rails application that DHH created required restarting ~400 times/day. That’s a production application that can’t stay up for more than 4 minutes on average.
Let me put this into perspective for you: I’ve ran servers that needed to be restarted once in a year. They were written in PHP, Python, Java, C, C++, you name it. Hell, I’ve got this blog on a server I’ve restarted maybe 10–20 times the whole year.
Now, DHH tells me that he’s got 400 restarts a mother fucking day. That’s 1 restart about ever 4 minutes bitches. These restarts went away after I exposed bugs in the GC and Threads which Mentalguy fixed with fastthread (like a Ninja, Mentalguy is awesome).
If anyone had known Rails was that unstable they would have laughed in his face. Think about it further, this means that the creator of Rails in his flagship products could not keep them running for longer than 4 minutes on average.
Repeat that to yourself. “He couldn’t keep his own servers running for longer than 4 minutes on average.”
Assuming his statements are true (which we may never know) he basically duped us all.

Now, you may not agree with Zed, either in philosophy or in the same way you like Kanye West’s music but hate his smug face, but he has a damn good point here.

Anyway, DHH:

[…] I was absolutely not convinced that I was going to be a programmer when I was working with PHP and Java.

Because Ruby is so much different, of course…


A self introduction that looks nothing like that of a “computer genius.” In the end what he fell in love with wasn’t the computer itself, but the elegance of Ruby, the language. If Ruby hadn’t been invented, DHH might be doing something completely different right now.

I don’t know, he at least has passion enough to realize his tools suck, and to pursue a greater or more elegant solution, even if — spoilers — his solution isn’t much better. That’s closer to a genius programmer than Rasmus is, unfortunately.

So what if he were doing something different? We wouldn’t have Rails. I guarantee you a dozen more would have sprung up in the meantime, like a spellbinding Hydra.

From the above, we’ve demonstrated that there are countless articles out there that all reject the myth of the stereotypical programmer.

You posted 3 of them, all from prominent Web Developers exclusively. I don’t even know what your idea of a stereotypical programmer is, because it’s certainly not mine. Almost as if programmers were people and people were diverse, huh?

If programmers all really had so much talent and passion, then why are these jokes so popular amongst programmers?

I’m not sure about you, but I both (a) enjoy humor, and (b) pray that when I construct a house, a bug in God’s perl does not allow a natural disaster to destroy it in an instant.

* Someone will always tell you you’re doing it wrong
* Someone will always tell you you’re not a real coder
* Worrying about “geek cred” will slowly kill you

Good life advice. (I also hate when people tell me that I’m not a real electrician when I haphazardly climb power line poles when I’ve perhaps inhaled too many bath salts.)

This article was no doubt written to challenge the stereotypes people have toward programming, those pointless myths of what it takes to be a programmer.

I’m sorry but you’ve done nothing to rebuke such claimed stereotypes, and if anything you’ve only enforced them.


No, it does not take a genius to become a programmer. It only requires dedication and the ability to learn. Why do you need a behemoth of a Medium article to say that? (Oh wait…)

Now I just feel like blogging about Ryan Dahl.