programming in the
twenty-first century

It's not about technology for its own sake. It's about being able to implement your ideas.

The Background Noise Was Louder than I Realized

A few years ago I started cutting back on the number of technology and programming sites I read. It was never a great number, and now it's only a handful. This had nothing to with being burned out on technology and programming; it was about being burned out on reading about technology and programming. Perhaps surprisingly, becoming less immersed in the online tech world has made me more motivated to build things.

Here's some of what I no longer bother with:

Tired old points of contention that make no difference no matter who says what (e.g., static vs. dynamic typing).

Analyses of why this new product is going to be the end of a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Why some programming language sucks.

Overly long, detailed reviews of incrementally improved hardware and operating system releases. (I like iOS 6 just fine, but from a user's point of view it's iOS 5 with a few tweaks and small additions that will be discovered through normal use.)

Performance comparisons of just about anything: systems, GPUs, CPUs, SSDs. The quick summary is that they're all 5-15% faster than last year's infinitely fast stuff.

All of these things are noise. They're below the threshold of what matters. Imagine you started hanging out with people who were all, legitimately, writing books. They each have their own work styles and organization methods and issues with finding time to write efficiently. As a software designer, you might see some ways to help them overcome small frustrations with their tools or maybe even find an opportunity for a new kind of writing app. But I can guarantee that GPU numbers and programming language missteps and the horrors of dynamic typing will have no relevance to any of what you observe.

I do still read some tech (and non-tech) blogs, even ones that sometimes violate the above rules. If the author is sharing his or her direct, non-obvious experience or has an unusual way of seeing the world, then I'll happily subscribe. Being much more selective has kept me excited and optimistic and aware of possibilities instead of living down below in a world of endless detail and indecision and craning my neck to see what's going on above the surface.

(As a footnote, a great way to avoid the usual aggregation sites is to subscribe to the PDF or real paper edition of Hacker News Monthly. Read it cover to cover one Saturday morning with a good coffee instead of desperately refreshing your browser every day of the week. Disclosure: I've gotten free copies of the PDF version for a while now, because I've had a few articles reprinted in it.)

permalink November 3, 2012



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I'm James Hague, a recovering programmer who has been designing video games since the 1980s. Programming Without Being Obsessed With Programming and Organizational Skills Beat Algorithmic Wizardry are good starting points. For the older stuff, try the 2012 Retrospective.

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