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Monday, June 18, 2012

When your "rank" is NaN

There is programming, and there are programmers.

Imagine this in another field. Right now, I can go grab my art supplies, pour out some acrylic paint, dip a brush in it, and start applying it to a canvas. At that point, I'm painting, but I really am not a painter. It's just not what I do. I haven't done it enough to have any real knowledge of how you should get things done in that world.

If you were to hypothetically rank a bunch of painters, you would not include me on that list. My "score" wouldn't even be a number. It would make more sense as NULL and thus not worth including. That's okay, because that's not my thing, and I don't care about "rank" anyway.

Perhaps the same can be said to apply to programming. Instead of trying to somehow come up with a "sorting hat" which would try to encompass the entire spectrum of people who (try to) write programs, it might be better to realize that there is a whole group which should not even be analyzed. They use the same tools and create programs just like other people, but it's not the same thing.

Let them have their fun. There is no reason to antagonize people who are just poking around with stuff for a hobby. They can run around and burn cycles doing silly things and have a good time. It's just like when I decide to mess around with my paints. I'm not trying to create anything in particular. If it happens to look nice to someone, that's more of a surprise than anything else. It usually isn't intentional.

So, if you can get on board with this distinction, then a whole bunch of the hype machine which exists in the realm of programming starts making more sense. The next time you see a bunch of people who write programs having some kind of electronic member-waving contest over semicolons, angle brackets, or whatever the kerfuffle-of-the-month might be, remember this. After all, it's not like they're doing anything useful.

It's just performance art.