A Developer Looks in a Mirror

When I go to the supermarket I sometimes think of how much infrastructure and ingenuity has gone into converting the problem of finding my own food in the wild to the problem of walking around a room with a basket. So much intelligence and sweat has gone into getting this stuff into my hands. It’s my sustenance: other people’s work literally sustains me. And what do I do in return?

We call ourselves web developers, software engineers, builders, entrepreneurs, innovators. We’re celebrated, we capture a lot of wealth and attention and talent. We’ve become a vortex on a par with Wall Street for precocious college grads. But we’re not making the self-driving car. We’re not making a smarter pill bottle. Most of what we’re doing, in fact, is putting boxes on a page. Users put words and pictures into one box; we store that stuff in a database; and then out it comes into another box.

In Aeon, a developer reflects on the value of what he does. (Thanks to Katherine, Jon, and The Awl for the pointers, and putting this on our weekend reading list!)

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4 Comments / Post A Comment

aperson (#3,112)

I think it’s unfair to title this post ‘A Developer Looks in a Mirror’ and describe it as ‘a developer reflects on the value of what he does’, as the article is discussing a very specific subset of developers. ‘A web developer working for start ups and VCs reflects on the value of what he does’ would be more accurate.

John von Doe (#1,817)

@aperson Exactly. Who does he think develops the algorithms for and implements “the self-driving car?” Or writes the optimization and design software that can “[make] a smarter pill bottle?” Modern civilization would collapse if its software stopped functioning.

smack (#307)

@aperson Yeah, I think that this is a pretty overblown, own-horn-tooting illustration of a particular subset of web devs. There are TONS of developers out there, and not everyone gets free lunches and high fives every day. It’s a job, that requires particular skills, and experiences may vary widely.

Beaks (#3,488)

I was totally confused by the title of this article because when I see “developer” I think “real estate developer” and assumed for the first part of the pull quote that the supermarket was particularly well designed or something…

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