Tony Lukasavage

Caffeine. Whiskey. Code. Mostly the last one.

Programmers: Why do we do it?

Every now and again when suffering through a movie my wife has chosen, I manage to find one thing I really like about it. This time the form of torture was “The Kids Are All Right”. Fantastic acting, spectacularly unentertaining story. Anyway, while I was daydreaming about code, I heard this exchange that probably went right over the heads of most viewers. Not the viewers fault, they were probably still reeling from the rough Mark Ruffalo on Julianne Moore action in the prior scene.

Gardener: “I have allergies.” Jules: “Then why are you a gardener?!” Gardener: “Because I love the flowers.”

And then they fly right past that line, but that’s the one good thing I took from this movie. Sometimes the things we love don’t make sense and can downright make us miserable, but it doesn’t make us love them any less.

In my head this philosophy plays so easily into the mind of programmer. There’s so much to dislike about programming:

  • Entire days spent chasing bugs
  • Short deadlines
  • Constantly having skillsets superseded by new technology
  • No appreciation for the work it takes outside other developers
  • The elitist nature of many in the developer community
  • Moronic clients
  • Late nights, long hours in front of a glowing screen
  • The constant inkling that some 14 year Japanese kid already did this better than you
  • The lottery-esque likelihood of independent success

And that’s just a few. I’m sure I’ll hear a few more in the comments.

Then why do we do it? What is there to love about programming? What is it about crafting together mountains of syntax that makes us come back to it every day? I know for most of us there’s a paycheck attached to it, but for plenty of us that’s not the root.

I may be getting too romantic even for my own tastes, but I think its the fact that those who truly love programming see it as an art form. Its not just a technical pursuit, but one that allows the leveraging of one’s unique talent and views. You bring a form of personal expression into your work. You invest yourself physically and mentally in what you do. You suffer and toil, using code as your medium, just as other artists craft with paint or stone. You have a personal association and pride with its creation. The code and its results represent you.

What do you think? Is there really a right-brain satisfaction achieved through a love of programming. Is it more than ones and zeros doing an assigned task? I think so. Otherwise, why bother?