On Not Being a Programer

This post is very much in my vein of "tycho talks about what its like to be a geek that doesn't really programmer," posts. Because I don't really fancy myself much of a programmer, I often have a hard time explaining the kinds of things that I do out side of saying "I write fiction," or "I work with web developers," or "I help people with websites," or "I write blogs about technology," which while factual in the strictest sense, is not a particularly honest capture of "what I do." Or what I think of as my secret superpower.

"Secret superpower?" you ask? Well, we all have something that we kickass at, some skill set that makes us valuable at our jobs. It's not a fixed thing, of course, it can change as we learn and grow, not to mention as our responsibilities change. But it's there.

At various points, I've counted "leading kickass meetings," and "knitting kickass sweaters," and "doing kickass research," as my superpower, but these days I think it's probably "translating geek talk into more general purpose information. So I write blog posts about technology, and I edit notes that other people write, and I write documentations and training documents. Right? Pretty useful superpower? I think so, and it seems like other people think so as well.

And more than just success doing the kind of work that I find myself doing right now, my ongoing academic projects tap into a similar superpower. I'm trying, on some level, to figure out what--if anything--is so unique about open source development practices, and how do these practices effect the way that the rest of us interact with technology. Or something that stems from that.

In the strictest sense possible, I don't need to be able to be a programmer to kickass writer/editor/academic/consultant but given the frequency with which I find myself in a circle with a bunch of other programmers I often have the sense that I don't belong.

Maybe this is just impostor syndrome-type stuff and I'll get over it as I get my barring. But here's the counter example:

There are times when I really feel like a programmer. I have this incredibly geeky, (and as near as I can tell, reasonably original,) way of downloading my email, that is amazingly useful and powerful. Built on-top of existing tools, I totally hacked it together myself with like 13-26 lines of shell script.

And, while I don't do it very much, I do end up building some small number of Wordpress websites every year, and by now I've realized that from that I know enough PHP and Wordpress-isms to not be a complete idiot.

And maybe the taste of knowing what it's like to program, to write code that works, is why not being a programmer (superpower or not) is something that I'm sensitive about. Who knows?

Onward and Upward!

comments powered by Disqus