EuroPython2011 – The Myth of the Genius Programmer

“I got my degree in engineer in the Open Source world, writing code that the other people ridiculed. They were really kind about it, but basically, I got tons and tons of feedback from really smart people, because I was really trying and kept improving.”

I definitely needed some encouragement today and I totally HAD TO hear words like those, so I watched the video of Brian Fitzpatrick‘s EuroPython2011 talk on the Myth of the Genius Programmer. That myth is a bad, bad, bad. It’s when you think you need to shut yourself into a cave and only get out when you have a programming masterpiece to show to the world. It’s when you stop sharing, stop asking for feedback, stop learning. It’s when you’re never feeling good enough, no matter what you do. It’s a bad bad thing. And it happens to all of us.

As you imagine, a part of me is still in that genius myth cave, scared to death of making mistakes or appearing silly or inadequate. Yes, I have since become a Junior programmer, am no longer an Intern, and I’m writing a lot of code and learning a lot from others, but I could do more. I’ll need to do more, and waste less time on fear. Waste much less time on fear.

The funniest and the saddest thing is that I already felt behind with my tech knowledge, even when I was a kid. All the other kids appeared to know everything and I would get discouraged, and not want to compete at all. Well, no more of that. Now I REALLY have no time for that crap.

For more details, watch the video or click “Continue reading” for some more quotes and musings. And look up Brian Fitzpatrick too (Google, Subversion, The Apache Software Foundation member, data liberation enthusiast, etc.), he’s done some pretty interesting stuff along the way. The talk covers different issues, from advice, to case studies, to the important issue of timing when it comes to releasing your projects. I’m focusing on the productivity and motivational stuff, which I need the most right now.

 “Failure is an option, as long as you are not failing the same thing over and over again.”

Now that is something that to think about when taking ten deep breaths and hoping for the best. And the nice thing is that only a small amount of what we worry about actually turns out to be real, relevant or that bad. And worrying doesn’t help concentrate anyway.

 “Lose the ego. Go for a collective project ego instead.”

“Individually you are out to build a better piece of software. ”

Ego is a tough beast. Superego is even worse. You know, the little useless critic who tries to convince you that doing nothing at all is better than doing something not good enough for some crazy criteria? Surprise surprise… doing is always better.

And no important piece of software used by many people is done by one person alone.

 “Practice is sort of a form of safely failing.”

Doing, again.

 “One of the most interesting things about the people I know who I find most influential is that they have a certain quality and it’s that they are not afraid to be influenced.”

BTW coding is team sport. Well, it SHOULD be.

 “Repeated vulnerability is actually perceived as a strength, in a long run. It’s not that bad. The inability to be vulnerable, however, destroys the ability to collaborate or compromise.”

Does it mean that you shouldn’t strive for excellence? No. Does this mean that you don’t need to express the cool unique part of you that feels so genius. No. So what’s the catch? Watch the video, especially the great conclusion he comes to at around 26 minutes.


About apprenticecoder

My blog is about me learning to program, and trying to narrate it in interesting ways. I love to learn and to learn through creativity. For example I like computers, but even more I like to see what computers can do for people. That's why I find web programming and scripting especially exciting. I was born in Split, Croatia, went to college in Bologna, Italy and now live in Milan. I like reading, especially non-fiction (lately). I'd like to read more poetry. I find architecture inspiring. Museums as well. Some more then others. Interfaces. Lifestyle magazines with interesting points of view. Semantic web. Strolls in nature. The sea.
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