Author Archive: The Programmer

Too Few Women in Computer Science?

3 Feb 2018 /

Embed from Getty Images

“We have too few women in computer science.” That’s something you hear a lot.

It’s an opinion presented as a fact. I never hear anyone say, “In my opinion, we have too few women in computer science.” Just “we we have too few women in computer science.”

How do we know that? What is the right number? Maybe we have too many women in computer science. How do we know?

I’d love to see more women in computer science btw, I just object to people presuming to know what other people should be doing with their lives . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Teaching Computer Science: When You Need Help, Ask For Help

1 Feb 2018 /

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes.

It’s a mixed class . . . most of the students are taking AP Computer Science Principles, and about 10 kids just recently started a second-semester Visual Basic class.


The VB kids were pretty inquisitive at first but started to get discouraged . . . in my opinion because of the way the material is presented to them via an online curriculum.

The current approach to teaching computer science in American schools, because of the shortage of (I almost said “lack of”) qualified teachers is to use packaged courses delivered to students online.

My observation is students assume that because they’ve been put in front of a computer full of lessons, they’re expected to be able to read and understand the material and complete the assignments on their own with no help.

This is a fatal misconception. The material is too difficult for most people who are not already programmers, so the kids decide pretty quickly that they just don’t have what it takes to learn the stuff.

“Tragedy” is probably too strong a word for what is happening in computer science education, but programming is what I do, I think programming and computational thinking are important and valuable skills, and it makes me sad to see them taught in a way that crushes students’ enthusiasm.


Brief digression: I take piano lessons. My teacher is a musician, a pianist. Music is part of her life, it’s part of who she is, part of how she thinks. How could someone who’s not a musician teach music?

How can someone who’s not a programmer teach computer science?


Because of everything I’ve said above, along with offering technical assistance, I try to encourage kids to stay engaged . . .

UC Santa Barbara

“I’m going to tell you a story,” I said this morning. “First I’ll tell you the moral of the story, then I’ll tell you the story. The moral is: When you need help, ask for help.

“That may seem obvious but I feel like some of you are thinking that you should be working through online lessons with a lot of independence.

“I worked with a class a couple years ago at another school. One of the students there was very quiet but she always asked for help when she needed help. She asked quietly, but she asked.

“And when I gave her an answer, she almost always asked ‘why?’ I don’t mean ‘why why why’ like a 5-year-old, but if she didn’t understand why something was important or why you’d want to do something one way and not another way, she asked why.

“It’s a good question because if the only reason for doing something is because I said to do it, what is she going to do if I’m not there?

“What happened to this girl? She’s now a computer science major at UC Santa Barbara. She was able to do that because she didn’t give up on herself when she didn’t understand something and because, even though she wasn’t the most naturally outgoing person she decided to own her own results and use the resources that were available.”

“You’ve got to own it, kids. When you need help, ask for help. Don’t give up on yourself.”

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Two Reasons For the Low Number of Women in Computer Jobs

15 Jan 2018 /

I saw this chart on LinkedIn with the heading “Chart: Women in tech continue to face uphill battle” and the hashtag #STEMSexism.


The first reason for the low number of women in computer jobs is that we rarely hear about women in computing except in the context of pay gaps, harassment, discrimination, “uphill battles” and #STEMSexism.

It’s self-perpetuating. “Computing is a terrible profession for women in so many ways.” Followed by “Why aren’t there more women in computing?”

You’ve answered your own question. If you think computing is a hostile profession (I do not, btw), why do you want more women to go into it?


The second reason for the low number of women in computer jobs — sometimes the simplest explanations are the best — is that women prefer to do other things.

Men and women are different and make different choices about their lives, as a result of which, women are underrepresented in some professions and overrepresented in others.

Women, for example, are overrepresented in nursing, family counseling, speech pathology, social work, education, to name a few.

Do we hear about a diversity crisis in speech pathology or social work? We don’t, right?

I worked with a nursing organization for five years. About 90 percent of nurses are women, but in five years I can’t remember a single instance where gender bias was cited as a crisis, a dilemma, a problem, or even something as mild as a cause for concern.

Women being overrepresented in certain professions is not widely considered to be a problem. But if women being underrepresented in computer jobs is a problem, then their overrepresentation in other professions is also a problem.

In fact, it’s the same problem. Because where are the women in computing going to come from?

On the safe assumption that the number of women is constant — that a large number of new women are not going to just appear out of nowhere — the women will have to come from other professions that they seem to prefer, the professions in which they are overrepresented.

Sorry girls, we can’t have so many of you working in healthcare, education and other helping professions because we need to boost the computing numbers.

Or — we could calm down about the computing numbers and leave young women to make their own choices about their own lives.

TL;DR -> Women are capable of making decisions for themselves. For the most part, they choose to do things other than work in computer jobs, which is okay. It’s possible that none of us really knows what is the “right” percentage of women in computing and it’s possible that none of us really knows what other people should be doing with their lives.

Thus spoke The Programmer

Teaching Computer Science: Asking for Help

9 Jan 2018 /

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes.

Cell phone

This morning, in AP Computer Science Principles, the teacher went through an explanation of the hexadecimal number system, then gave an in-class assignment for students to convert their cell phone number to hexadecimal. Not in two parts, 3 digits and 4 digits, but as a 7-digit number.

It seemed pretty obvious from the interaction and the body language and the looks on their faces that a lot of students didn’t get it, but in a class of 25 students, only one student asked for help. Until the teacher finished with that student and asked “Does anyone else need help?” and eight more students immediately raised their hand.

I asked the teacher, “Can I address the class for a minute?”


“First off, doing a 7-digit hex conversion is not easy. I know professional programmers who can’t do it. So I’d expect someone trying to do it for the first time to need some help.

“In fact, if you know any professional programmers, ask them to do a hex conversion on their phone number. Let me know what happens. I guarantee you won’t have to ask too many people before you stump someone.

Snap programming

“None of the material in this class is easy. Snap programming? You might look at it and think ‘There’s a cat and a fish and a duck . . . I’m not understanding it but it looks like a program for 5-year-olds. It’s embarrassing as a high school student to have to ask for help with it. Maybe I’m not very smart.’

“No, Snap is a university-level curriculum from Berkeley. Academically rigorous. I worked through the assignments myself and I found them pretty challenging. I’d expect many of you to find them challenging as well. So you should be asking for help.

“If you need help, waiting for someone to ask if you need help is not going to be a winning strategy. In school, in life or in anything. Because if no one asks, then you need help and you don’t get it.

“There’s probably a natural reluctance to ask questions because what if I’m the only person who doesn’t know the answer? Then I ask a question and look foolish.

“It’s going to be unusual in any class that you’re the only person who doesn’t understand something. If you find that happens to you a lot, you may have a problem. But normally it’s going to be pretty unusual.

“I can tell you in this class, there’s definitely more than one person who finds the material pretty challenging. As I said, I find it pretty challenging myself. It’s not so challenging that I need help with it, but it’s definitely challenging enough that I’d expect most people who are not programmers to need help with it.


“I’m also hearing some people today saying to themselves or to the person next to them, ‘Why do we need to know this?'” That’s actually a very good question. Binary of course is the fundamental language of computers, but why would you need to know hexadecimal? Anyone?”

No hands go up.

“OK, we’ll talk about that in a minute. If it’s not clear to you, in this class or any class, why you’re being asked to learn something, put your hand up and insist on understanding the relevance.

“One final anecdote:

“I worked with an AP class a couple of years ago at another school. About this same timeframe, late first semester, I was in class on a Monday and before the class started, one of the students asked me, ‘How was your weekend?’

“I said, ‘It was okay. How was yours?’

“‘It was great! I played like 47 straight hours of [some video game I can’t remember the name of].’

“And he was one of the worst students in the class, maybe the worst.

“I know he and his parents had met with the principal and the teacher to figure out why he was doing so poorly in computer science. It had to be the school’s fault, right?

“So I’m trying to wrap my mind around this. You played 47 hours of video games, you have no idea what’s going on in this class, and it’s the teacher’s fault?!

“No, it’s your fault. You put nothing into it so you get nothing out of it, you don’t ask for help, and that’s why you’re failing.

“Moral of the story: Don’t be that guy.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Teaching Computer Science: It’s Not Easy to Teach a Subject in Which You Have No Training

29 Dec 2017 /
Mr. Rex Manihera, a teacher at the Glendowie South Primary School at Auckland

A recent issue of Science has an article on the pipeline for computer science teachers . . .

The first sentence says, “It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training.”

That could be the whole article, really. That’s about all you need to know about the current state of computer science instruction: It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training.

Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and president of the Advocacy Coalition, is quoted as saying, “It’s really hard to convince a computer science professional to give up a job that pays up to three times more to pursue teaching. And I don’t think we should.”

Wilson’s opinion that computer science classes should not be taught by someone who actually knows something about computer science is probably influenced by the fact that is one of the leading providers of training programs and online curricular resources for in-service teachers tasked with teaching computer science.

How would this “train a neophyte” scheme work in other academic areas?

Assuming you could provide a one- or two-week training workshop to prospective teachers, would you:

  • Hire someone who has never played an instrument to teach a music class?
  • Hire someone who has never picked up a drawing pencil to teach an art class?
  • Hire someone who doesn’t speak Spanish to teach a Spanish class?

These all seem like absurd ideas with a very low ceiling on what you could hope to accomplish pedagogically. Why does anyone think it makes sense for computer science? Someone needs to explain that to me.

Putting non-practitioners in the CS classroom also requires, in addition to the teacher training, a second key component: the prefabricated curriculum.

Teachers are not able to design and teach a year-long class on a subject in which they have themselves only a week or two of experience, so and others offer packaged courses delivered to students online.

I’ve had an opportunity to see this in action. I volunteer two mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with the first period computer science class. It’s a mixed class, with most of the students taking AP Computer Science Principles, and a handful of kids taking an introductory programming class in Python.

The AP students are using UTeach, supplemented by the Berkeley BJC curriculum. The Python students are using CodeHS.

The teacher, a converted math teacher, does little to no independent instruction during the class period.

The material is too hard in my opinion for most people who are not programmers to read and understand and to figure out the assignments without a lot of help. Keep in mind that the teacher is also not a programmer.

The first two programming classes I took in college had a ~75 percent drop rate. Programming is hard but it can also be fun and beautiful. I don’t think a teacher who is not a programmer is able to convey that. Minus the beauty and fun, there’s nothing left but the difficulty.

I don’t see most students having what it takes to push themselves through difficult material delivered to them via a computer screen with no human interaction.

They give up and they blame themselves. I’m not smart enough for this. I don’t have what it takes.

It’s discouraging to see this because even kids who are not going to be programmers can learn useful ways of thinking about and solving problems from a computer science class . . .

  • How to break down complex problems into manageable parts
  • How to recognize patterns among and within problems
  • How to recognize important information vs. irrelevant detail
  • How to develop step-by-step solutions to a problem, or rules to follow to solve a problem

It’s a way of thinking that can’t be taught by someone who doesn’t genuinely think that way.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Every Form of Harassment is Okay — Except One

28 Nov 2017 /

How did we decide that sexual harassment is the one category of workplace abuse, incidences of which require national outrage and loss of employment?

Ideally, we would all have the prudence and restraint not to make sexual advances toward people over whose career we hold sway, but it happens.

And yet we’ve all been harassed and ill-used in the workplace in other ways by someone more powerful, someone who negatively impacted our career by embarrassing us, intimidating us, undermining us, lying to us, lying about us, stealing the credit for our work . . . it goes on and on.

Rarely do negative consequences accrue to the harasser.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, for example, was known for being abrasive, dismissive, shouting down colleagues, blaming others when things didn’t work out and occasionally wrapping himself in glory that rightly belonged elsewhere.

Did this torpedo his career? Hardly. He’s an American icon.

(In other Pixar news, John Lasseter likes to hug people. He’s now a pariah.)

Bill Gates never hesitated to tell people how dumb they were and how stupid their ideas were. In spite of this, Gates also managed to have a good career.

You can fill in your own additional examples. There are plenty to choose from.

Like sexual harassment, the options for dealing with other forms of workplace harassment are 1) report it; 2) quit; 3) decide that you need or want the job enough to remain silent and take what’s dished out.

I’ve usually taken option 1 or 2. Maybe I would have had a better career with more frequent exercise of option 3 . . . false pleasantries toward people I didn’t like, faux respect toward people I didn’t respect . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Tech Gender Bias: Men Not as Concerned

24 Oct 2017 /

According to LinkedIn:

Despite a string of revelations that women in tech face considerable headwinds — from persistent gender-based pay gaps (per Bloomberg), to limited VC funding for female-led startups (per Fortune), to sexual harassment (per The New York Times) — just 29% of men say that discrimination is a major problem in the industry, according to data from Pew. In fact, some 32% of men claim that it’s not a problem at all.

Everything I read about gender discrimination in tech starts out by assuming it’s a real problem and that all reasonable people agree that it’s a real problem.

Even the supposedly objective LinkedIn blurb above tells us that 29% of men “say” that discrimination is a major problem, while 32% of men “claim” that it’s not a problem at all, “despite a string of revelations blah blah blah . . .”

I’ve worked in tech for 30 years . . . I say it’s not a problem but I’m open to an evidence-based argument that I’m wrong. (NB: “If you can’t see it, then you’re part of the problem” is not an evidence-based argument.)


Some possible evidence for gender discrimination:


Just look at the numbers. It’s a male-dominated industry.

Agreed, but that’s not prima facie evidence of discrimination.

I worked with a nursing organization for five years. Nursing, you may have noticed, is a female-dominated profession. During that time, I never heard one person mention gender bias in nursing. Never. In five years.

Most schoolteachers are women, most therapists are women, most social workers, most MFC counselors . . . I could go on with this but I think we both get the point: Have you ever heard anything about gender bias in any female-dominated profession? I haven’t.

Gender imbalance is not evidence of discrimination. Men and women are different and they choose to do different things. More women choose to be nurses and social workers and more men choose to be programmers.

Limited VC funding for female-led startups

VCs would love to fund more female-led startups, but again, men and women choose to do different things and more men choose to do startups.

Note that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of women starting small businesses, but more men choose to pitch VC-funded startups.

Gender-based pay gaps

Gender-based pay gaps are not specific to the tech industry.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is not specific to the tech industry.

Online harassment

If you think online harassment is limited to women, you haven’t spent much time online. Standards of discourse are nonexistent. Civility is almost nonexistent.

Jump on Twitter for a few minutes and see how people talk to each other.

I’ve been interacting with people on the web for a couple of decades . . . some of the things people have said to me . . . it’s beyond upsetting . . . you can feel the blood draining out of your face as you’re reading it. It’s not limited to women.

Women are passed over for raises, promotions, plum projects, etc.

Yes . . . so are men. What’s your hypothesis? Men are passed over because they’re undeserving, while women are passed over just because they’re women?


TL;DR -> Women are capable of making decisions for themselves. For the most part, they choose to do things other than work in tech and do startups. So what?

Thus spoke The Programmer

Tech Gender Bias: Men Not as Concerned

22 Oct 2017 /

According to LinkedIn:

Despite a string of revelations that women in tech face considerable headwinds — from persistent gender-based pay gaps (per Bloomberg), to limited VC funding for female-led startups (per Fortune), to sexual harassment (per The New York Times) — just 29% of men say that discrimination is a major problem in the industry, according to data from Pew. In fact, some 32% of men claim that it’s not a problem at all.

Here’s why I claim that it’s not a problem: Women are capable of making decisions for themselves. For the most part, they choose to do things other than work in tech and do startups. So what? (Pay gaps and harassment are not tech-specific, obviously.)

Thus spoke The Programmer.

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

13 Oct 2017 /

Although I can’t claim never to have said these things myself, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say either a) “It was working fine 10 minutes ago,” or b) “It works okay on my machine,” I would be comfortably retired by now.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

To Young Women Considering a Career in Technology

30 Aug 2017 /

You’ve probably read a lot of articles about how sexist and awful the culture is for women in technology.

I think if anything deters young women from technology careers, it’s this glut of articles saying how sexist and awful the culture is.

Young female technologist

I’ve worked in software development for 30 years. In my experience — and feel free to discount this because I’m not a woman — the culture is not tough for women. If anything, men give women the benefit of the doubt because they’d like to have more women around.

As Holden Caulfield used to say, “I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they’re only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something.”

Yes, I have seen bad things happen to women in tech, but I’ve seen bad things happen to men and I’ve had bad things happen to me. I’m also aware of bad things happening to women in other professions. We’ve all had our ups and downs.

How to explain this? Bad things happen to women because they’re women and bad things happen to men because — what? We deserve it?

You’ve probably also read a lot of articles about a “diversity chasm” in tech, usually written by women who work in tech and can’t understand why every young woman in America is not making the same career choices they themselves have made.

Women, like any group, are under-represented in some professions (like tech) and over-represented in other professions — education and health services, for example.

Is a software engineering career objectively better than being a nurse or a teacher or a therapist or any of the careers that women seem to prefer?

I’m happy to admit that I don’t know what the “right” male-female ratio is for any given profession and that I don’t know what other people should be doing with their lives.

Programming has been a pretty good career for me — I like to build things and I like to solve hard problems — but I’ve spent most of my life alone in a room or cubicle staring at a computer screen. It’s not for everyone. There are pros and cons like any other job.

I don’t have a daughter but my son never took an interest in programming and I never pushed him to do so. He graduated college with a degree in business. I have no reason to think his life will be less fulfilling because he’s not working in a technology job.


  • Don’t pursue a technology career because someone else thinks you should.
  • Don’t pursue a technology career to make some point about gender roles in society.
  • Don’t be scared off by inaccurate (IMO) generalizations about anti-female culture.
  • Follow your heart.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: The Google Memo

8 Aug 2017 /

The now-famous Google memo was first published by Gizmodo under the headline Here’s The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally at Google.

If you’re interested in the topic, you should read the memo yourself, otherwise you’re going to get a terribly slanted second-hand judgment, e.g., “anti-diversity screed.” I’ve read it and I don’t think it’s “anti-diversity” and it’s definitely not what I’d call a screed.

I’ve seen that word — screed — used by multiple sources. That’s one way of dismissing and declining to engage with an opinion you don’t like: give it a label like “screed,” suggesting that the author is angry and irrational and not fit to have a discussion with.

In my reading though, I found the original memo to be academic and clinical, much less screed-like than the responses I’ve seen.

As usual (in my experience), the most intolerant people in the mix are the ones presenting themselves as champions of tolerance, diversity, acceptance and mutual respect. They love people of all genders, skin color, hair color, eye color, etc., but they have no tolerance at all for anyone who doesn’t think exactly the way they do.

If you have an opinion that doesn’t fit the preferred narrative, you are harmful and stupid, you shouldn’t be allowed to hold a job and you shouldn’t feel safe in giving voice to your opinions.

The argument against expressing an opinion like the author of the Google memo is, as I understand it, that it’s considered hostile and unwelcoming to women who might want to work in the field of technology.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in firing the memo author: “The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.”

If it’s hurtful to judge people based on their “gender,” why isn’t it hurtful to say that the percentage of males working in technology is unacceptably high and should be reduced? (I know nobody says it that way. They say “increase the percentage of women” but it’s the same thing.)

Why isn’t it hurtful to implement policies to reduce the percentage of males working in technology? Why isn’t it hurtful to hire “diversity” personnel whose job it is to reduce the percentage of males in technology?.

Depending on which groups you’re in, you’re either not allowed to be discouraged by anything or you’re entitled to be demoralized by absolutely everything.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Related link: Where are the additional women in technology supposed to come from?


Irony alert

“By ‘diverse mix of voices,’ we mean non-white females. Look at the picture. Oh, you thought it meant a diversity of opinions?! Well, in that case, you’re fired.”


TL;DR from Google memo

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

Where Are the Additional Women in Technology Supposed to Come From?

29 Jul 2017 /

The jobs report for May contained discouraging news: continuing low labor-force participation, now below 63 percent overall. About 20 million men between the prime working ages of 20 and 65 had no paid work in 2015, and seven million men have stopped looking altogether.

In the meantime, the jobs most in demand — like nursing and nurse assistants, home health care aides, occupational therapists or physical therapists — sit open. The health care sector had the largest gap between vacancies and hires of any sector in April, for example.

We hear a lot about a shortage of women in technology jobs but we don’t hear about a shortage of men in traditionally female jobs.

It’s really two sides of the same problem. Unless a lot of women suddenly appear out of nowhere, the only way to get more women into professions where they’re currently under-represented — like technology — is to get them out of professions like health care, which they seem to prefer but in which they are significantly over-represented.

In theory, nursing should appeal to men because the pay is good and it’s seen as a profession with a defined skill set.

But the NYT cites a study from UMass Amherst, showing that not only will most unemployed men resist taking a “feminine” job, but that those men who might have been willing to consider it encountered resistance from their wives, who urged them to keep looking.

So much for diversity . . .

Speaking of which, here is a screenshot of the current board of directors of a nursing organization that I used to work with.

Nursing is a white female dominated profession, much more so than technology is a white male dominated profession, but I worked with this organization for about five years and never heard word one about a lack of diversity in nursing.

It’s hard to imagine an organization in 2017 having a 15-member all-white, all-male board of directors without drawing a lot of negative attention but all-white, all-female is okay.

I see a tremendous number of proposals for “empowering” women to get into technical professions that they may just not be interested in, but if the number of women in technology is considered problematic, then the number of women in nursing (and other over-represented professions) has to be considered equally problematic.

Where else are the additional women in technology supposed to come from?

Thus spoke The Programmer.

10 Reasons Why Failure is Good, Except When It’s Bad

11 Jul 2017 /
 Sharon Christa McAuliffe,  Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka. Image credit: NASA

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka. Image credit: NASA

Once upon a time there was a startup, and the president of this startup, like a lot of people in the early part of the 21st century, celebrated failure — as a learning tool and as a precursor to success.

He encouraged employees to celebrate failures on the company Slack channel, using the hashtag #fail.

Legend has it that the president called one employee on the carpet for suggesting on the Slack channel that it doesn’t make sense to celebrate failure without factoring in the cost of failure.

That is simply a truism, is it not? Obviously the value of failure can be swamped out by the cost, e.g.,

Blew up 7 astronauts but learned that O-rings don’t function in sub-freezing temperatures. #fail

You can think of other examples yourself. You can probably also think of people and/or companies for whom failure was merely a precursor to more failure.

Working for startups is risky, but the president of this startup told all the employees that he would give them a six-month heads-up if the company were ever on track to run out of money.

Then one day, due to the failure to retain a key client, the staff was cut to around 15 people (there were close to 100 at one time) with zero notice and a one week’s severance check.

You could make a case that the “six-month” promise didn’t apply because the company didn’t actually “run out of money,” but most people felt that the spirit of the promise, if not the letter, had been violated.

Was this a failure to be celebrated? It probably depends from which side of the exit door you’re looking at it. Sometimes a pivot looks a lot like an implosion.

Was it celebrated with a #fail hashtag in the company Slack channel? I don’t know.

Lost our key client. Laid off all developers but kept the company chef. #fail

This is a fable and like all fables it has a moral: Failure is good, except when it’s bad.

Resemblance to persons or companies living or dead would be a coincidence.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Learn to Code

24 Jan 2017 /

I’m a programmer . . .

Job searches for me go like this: I’m old, I have to compete with people half my age, but I’ve worked in Orange County since forever so I know some people, and I can write good code in interviews, which the majority of programmers who show up for interviews can’t.

I was out of work on January 5. It’s now January 24. I have three job offers and picked the one I like best.

Moral of the story: Learn to code, kids . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Accoutrements at the New Office

9 Dec 2015 /
3-star ball

The new office comes with a chef, who seems to see himself like one of those celebrity chefs with the quirky personalities.

Not to put a damper on the fun but I like my chefs to be unobstrusive. I just want a bite to eat. I don’t want to manage a new interaction with an eccentric reality show wannabe.

Just dish up the grub, man.


We also have a ping-pong table now, which triggers a lengthy discussion of the intricacies of table tennis equipment, conducted for some reason in the midst of a group of people trying to get some work done.

Three-star balls? I got your three-star balls right here . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

What Can Be Done About Gender Diversity in Computing?

6 Oct 2015 /

That is the question posed in, among other places, the October 2015 issue of Communications of the ACM.

Since gender is no longer a biological imperative connected to one’s physical anatomy, there’s now a simple answer to this. Men (and women, but that’s not relevant to this question) can identify as either gender, independent of reproductive organs and chromosomes, and a thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness and validity of every person’s experiences of self requires a societal stamp of approval.

Google or Facebook or any organization that wants to improve its gender diversity metrics can offer some modest incentive (could be financial, could be you use the women’s locker room at the company gym … use your imagination!) for workers to identify as female. Have a 50 percent female workforce by Friday!

Now that I’ve written this down I’m thinking that maybe I should be starting up a diversity consulting firm rather than giving the idea away for nothing. Room for expansion: Racial identity is fluid now as well (see here and here).

Thus spoke The Programmer.

My Name is Fido

3 Oct 2015 /

From an actual email:


My name is Fido and I’m an IT recruiter at TechDigital Corporation. We are currently hiring a .Net Developer/Software Engineer preferrably [sic] with experience in the Financial domain for a W2 or C2C Contract for one of our direct clients in Green Bay, WI.

Fido Xavier

  1. I live in California. Are there no software engineers in Wisconsin or anywhere between California and Wisconsin?
  2. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Profiles in Management: The Jackass Whisperer

11 Sep 2015 /

Nothing good comes from two people talking about a third person who isn’t there. If your boss is allowing people to talk to him or her about team members who are not present, you have a problem. If you are the boss and you’re doing this, knock it off.

Who is worse: the person who wants to talk about you behind your back or the person who encourages them to do it?

The good boss is loyal. You can count on him going to bat for you, even if he privately disagrees with your view and even if defending you is not necessarily the best thing for him. He is never two-faced.

The bad boss, perhaps while boasting of his uncompromising integrity, thinks only about what’s best for himself. Watch your back.

Thus spoke The Programmer.


The Ceiling Seems Very Low

10 Sep 2015 /

I don’t know if this is good news or bad news. It would help to know what “trains” means but I read the article and it doesn’t say. Reporters need to be more inquisitive.

Can someone with no knowledge of computer science or programming be “trained” to teach computer science or programming? What would that entail? How long would it take?

Can someone who’s never played an instrument or listened to a piece of music be “trained” to teach a music class?

Can someone who’s never picked up a drawing pencil or visited a museum be “trained” to teach an art class?

Can someone who doesn’t speak Spanish be “trained” to teach a Spanish class?

The ceiling on any of these approaches seems very low compared to hiring actual programmers, musicians, artists and Spanish speakers . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

I Think We Are Kidding Ourselves

7 Sep 2015 /

More people have ascended bodily into heaven than shipped great software on time.Jim McCarthy


On the other hand, the number of people on LinkedIn claiming to have a demonstrated ability to lead software projects to successful completion, on time and on budget, as well as the number of companies seeking to hire such people, is infinite.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

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