What’s wrong with developers?

by on Oct.18, 2009, under Technical

Here’s an excerpt from a comment I saw on today:

Software types are more analytical, (either as a result or as an cause of them being in their field). As such they see things that Joe Random doesn’t even notice.

When the waitress says “If you need anything else, my name is Betty” Joe Random grunts and takes a bite of his meal. Programmer dude wonders what her name is if he doesn’t need any thing else.

When the reporter says “For CNN, I’m Wolf Blitzer”, programmer dude shouts at the TV demanding to know who the reporter is when he dons his lederhosen and cowboy hat and goes dancing.

Ouch, that hurts to think about, I’ll stop now.

Computer types are so used to thinking about eventualities, undesirable consequences, dangling IF conditions, and protecting against them that they fall into doing so in personal life as well. A simple, carelessly worded question in normal conversation can render them speechless while the gears grind.

Actions or behavior without negative consequences may lead to new discovery, and therefore need not be avoided. Being a little weird may be a calculated strategy to see if those around them are hopelessly hidebound.

Wow, doesn’t that hit the nail on the head?  I particularly like the part about “A simple, carelessly worded question in normal conversation can render them speechless while the gears grind.”  This has happened to me before, and I know lots of other people in my field who have the same problem.

I think this explains well what goes on in my head when people are just thinking “Gosh, he’s quiet.”  Some of my closer friends are saying right now…  Tom’s quiet?  Yes, friends.  Particularly if there is nobody around that I know pretty well!  What’s really happening is I’m (over)analyzing what’s going on and looking for the right response.  The end result, of course, is that I miss the opportunity by the time I figure it out — so I just end up being silent.  Boooo!

Here’s another fun quote from the same thread:

“We socially lazy people are good at programming because we have lots and lots of free time that the regular folks spend being sociable.” 

Ohhh how true does that ring?  I’ve invested a lot more time into being social the last year or so and it’s made a huge difference in my life, but it has certainly not made me a better software developer!  In fact, My boss has been moving me away from the code and toward dealing more with people and projects and architecture instead.

So, there you go.  One more thing to remember: Normalcy is relative.  You may be normal to one group of people, but you may be radically different when dropped in another group.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Laura Jo

    Wow! That gave me great insight about you. It was so well spoken too.

  • Laura Jo

    So much more than technical.

  • Debra Keyser

    I never understood why we try to put boxes around people or try to catergorize “normal”. You are right what is normal to one isn’t necessarily normal to someone else. We have been conditioned thru our upbringing to consider things that are outside of the box as abnormal…and those who think and act outside of the box as “strange”. Not true..normal is different to each individual. Nice topic…

  • Michael Keyser

    I suffer from the same affliction. I remember a certain situation vividly when I started to program. I was trying to grasp the concept of IF & ELSE in Javascript. After about 3 days of fully immersing myself in it, I woke up the next day thinking: “IF I touch the snooze button it will sound again in 7 minutes : ELSE I will get up”

    It annoys me when people ask me very bland or generalized questions. I tell them, “Look, I’m sorry. I just can’t take your question verbatim. I need more details.” Now granted, I won’t always be able to beat details out of people depending on the question, but that desire for more information always lingers in the back of my mind.

    I’ve noticed though, recently, I’ve been more lax with that. I fear it’s because I’m losing my programming “touch.” In fact, I’ve been working on some code tonight to try and get myself back into “it.” I want another project that will tax my creativity like the Process Monitoring System (PMS) did. It branched out into multiple different programming languages and techniques.

    It’s hard for me to get motivated though now that no one is looking to me to code anything; unless it’s for free. I too tend to over-analyze. However, it kind of seemed like you were giving it a negative connotation. I rather enjoy having the skill of being able to simulate code in my head before I finally type it and test it. I also admire the fact that I can apply that critical thinking process to real-life situations too.

    It’s good to balance using that skill all the time though, and not letting it interfere with your social life. For a while, I didn’t really care whether or not I was social, but I thought it was interesting when you pointed out one of my attributes. Being that I can make a decision quickly. I never noticed that myself, until you mentioned it. I don’t know if that means that I’m not invoking my critical thinking process as long or as thoroughly as you. I guess it depends on the person. But I think that’s another interesting observation that shows how some people do notice that they over-analyze.

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