Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why programming?

Why is programming fun? What delights may its practitioner expect as his reward?

First is the sheer joy of making things. As the child delights in his mud pie, so the adult enjoys building things, especially things of his own design. I think this delight must be an image of God's delight in making things, a delight shown in the distinctness and newness of each leaf and each snowflake.

Second is the pleasure of making things that are useful to other people. Deep within, we want others to use our work and to find it helpful. In this respect the programming system is not essentially different from the child's first clay pencil holder "for Daddy's office"

Third is the fascination of fashioning complex puzzle-like objects of interlocking moving parts and watching them work in subtle cycles, playing out the consequences of principles built in from the beginning. The programmed computer has all the fascination of the pinball machine or the jukebox mechanism, carried to the ultimate.

Fourth is the joy of always learning, which springs from nonrepeating nature of the task. In one way or another the problem is ever new, and its solver learns something: sometimes practical, sometimes theoretical, and sometimes both.

Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.

-- Chapter 1: The Tar Pit (from The Mythical Man-Month by Federik P. Brooks, Jr.)

This is where I found out my reasoning for sticking around in this industry and doing what I am doing. Its a delightful and inspiring read from a software developer's point of view, however it is also an excellent guide on how to motivate a software development team. If you can satisfy your team members from all four aspects mentioned in this post, literally your developer will even work for you for free, just look at what's going on in the open source community. Check out this post "What can we learn from the Open Source community?" for more info on how to motivate a software team.