Misconceptions of an eager mind

Developers are often driven by their desire to make a difference in the world through their work; and with that enjoy a life of substantial purpose. Money, fame and recognition are mere consequences of doing good and helping people. What a perfect way to end our story there; but like many occasions in someone’s lifetime, the “happy end” is just the beginning…

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If you’re that type of developer, you already know what to do:

  • Learn your tech and be good at it.
  • Have a vision that fulfills real needs.
  • Network and collaborate.

Each one of those bullet points is a multitude of diverse disciplines that can be further analyzed and there is extensive literature that can fill “libraries” — pun intended.

Inline with this literature, the tech industry is blooming with new discussion groups, conferences and meetups, surfacing at an increasing rate. On par, there’s a continuous interest from startups in providing collaborative services, time tracking and performance monitoring tools. We are getting better in teaching and tooling for our application development but does that make us better application developers?

Stop Listening

There are many people in the tech industry that don’t create or manage anything, but are very vocal about all popular affairs. You may have heard them been given titles like “mentor”, “advocate” or “evangelist”. Evangelism as a method of broadcasting ideas comes from religion. The definition says:

“to espouse on ones beliefs, convincing through trust rather than real arguments”

This is mostly consistent with the role tech evangelists have. They aim to build trust through recognized brands and draw people into using selected products. Admittedly, their main concern is to promote their employer’s interests. Under that light it’s obvious that being opinionated is not a choice, it’s a mandatory trait for the job.

Consequently, advertising becomes a tool reserved only for the “selected” few that are completely aligned with specific interests, marginalizing every other available solution, regardless of actual worth. To say this is biased is not only unnecessary but also ignorant of how large corporations work.

There’s a common practice in the commercial world where the supply of goods can dictate the creation of trends. Companies have been doing this for centuries. Probably an interesting example of this practice was the introduction of diamonds in our culture. Before the 20th century there was no tradition of a diamond engagement ring. The trend was created solely through advertising to make the mineral a consumable. Moreover, when small diamonds became readily available the advertising was “tweaked” to make small diamonds fashionable…

We listen to tech evangelists promote new trends every day and we feel this is news but their sole existence is to promote new products for commercial gain. If you pay attention to this constant bombardment you might believe the tech world is an ever-changing industry, when in fact technological advancements are made in leaps and don’t come all that often.

Stop Following

Since advertising is biased, it seems obvious how measuring success through popularity is one of the most broken concepts in our time. Yet we still vastly respect popular frameworks, popular personalities, popular products. We respect them so much that we become followers and their advocates in our own right.

The truth is that no one owns the future and we’re all discovering it as we go. Anyone being put on a pedestal feels compelled to stay one step ahead of the curve which can result in them being exposed by committing to assumptions and predictions that will not be realized. This fear breeds arrogance as a natural side-effect. And when status preservation is pinnacle undermining others becomes a useful strategy.

More concerning than the character alteration of “trend setters” is that this creates a toxic environment that cripples innovation, by not allowing people to express a unique opinion, unless they are “bona fide”. The effect on the quality of the community is obvious and although everyone is eager to show & tell, in most cases it’s just self-promotion and tribalism.

Our priorities change when we focus on what’s popular and important aspects of application development like architecture take the back seat. This allows schizophrenic behaviors to appear like being concerned about performance while allowing spaghetti code and library mashups. Proving yet again that you can write bad code in any language, using any interface.

Stop Waiting

Spend enough time in a hardware store and the clerk will be pleased to tell you about some new technological contraption you can’t live without. Accumulating tools is not going to make you a better professional. The basic tools are often the ones you will ever use the most. Thus it’s pointless to seek out the “right tools” for the job. There are only existing tools that have been invented and better tools that haven’t been invented. If you wait for the “best” tools, you might be waiting indefinitely.

There are no right conditions either. You just do what you want, now. In fact, you can achieve the same result with many different ways, with no real “better” way. Many tools come with the implied subtext of the “right” way to complete a task but in reality there is only an “optimal” way, which varies based on personal goals. Your goals may be any of the following, all valid to pursue:

  • Best readability
  • Less computations
  • Least dependencies
  • Best fit with existing architecture

If you are looking for someone else to make decisions for your application, they’ll make the decisions that suit them.

Throttling Ambition

The real problem in all of this is not the false literature, the empty promises or the tech star system. Most of this is common sense and a necessary evil in some ways of our society. The real issue here is the effect on innovation.

From a corporation perspective, innovation needs to be controlled so it can be harnessed. To control innovation you need to control the developers that generate it. The “pc” way to do this is by controlling their ambition. Hence, developers are allowed to be ambitious but not too ambitious.

Lets follow this downward spiral. To control ambition you first need to control the mind. To control the mind you need to create the illusion that you have the power to control the mind. To create that illusion you have to pretend you obtain unique powers and knowledge, secrets that are valuable and immensely desirable... Developers that fall for this mythology switch lanes from “supply” to “demand”, turning the table on themselves.

This pile of wrong stands in the way of true, pure innovation. Open source is fighting tooth and nail trying to overcome this manifestation of unnecessary obstacles, placed solely so innovation can be controlled. Imagine how much creativity has already gone to waste and how much more good would this world enjoy if that wasn’t the case?

It’s great to be altruistic and aim to do good in this world. We are all ephemeral and this mindset offers truly one of the best ways to passage through life. But you’d be misguided if you believed that everyone that wants to help you is actually helping you. In fact, there’s one truth that will forever be silenced: You don’t need any help to do good.

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