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Why do Coders Write So Much ?

Coders fill up books, message boards, chat rooms and anything else within spitting distance with text, opinions, analyses, facts, blather, rants, raves, and general jawboning. 

You don't see this sort of logorrhea from accountants, mechanical engineers, doctors, actors, bankers, or even writers.  What gives?  Some brain damage from the ink the computer printouts or the radiation from the computer?
Warren Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I've though about this because I find myself doing it.  I think it is because subconciously I want to cover every base so a simply reply can grow into a four paragraph beast.

... With practice, I can get it down to three sentances :-)
Cory R. King
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
To survive you need to prove that you are smart and get things done.  Lots of text proves you can get things done.  The content proves you are smart.
Bill Rushmore Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"logorrhea"

ROTFL. This should make into Merriam-Webster...
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
They spend too much time before their computers.
Roman Werpachowski Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Give educated people with a common background,  the tools to communicate and they tend to do so.

Technically curious (not just coders) were early adopters of technology.  They learned how to effectively share information.  The old bulletin board where as an admin you could post a question, suddenly gave you access to information from other experienced people with a common understanding, background, and environment.  Think Chinatown or little Italy.  We had Techtown. (you were expecting Nerdvana weren't you :) )

The second part comes from the feeling that developers never did get the respect they were promised.  In the 60s and 70s they were the other white collar.  The people that senior executives used to get information out of data.  The promise of being just like executives never panned out.  They seemed to get the gold and developers get the shaft. This created a group with a common background of missed opportunity - something to complain about that people in the same line could understand.

Blogs however I think are different.  They have almost a one-way communication.  I look at these more like a diary.  Someone can write about the good and horrible things that happen.  Unlike a diary they can get feedback and yet remain anonymous (at least to a point).  Unfortunately, this has led some people to speak a little too much and find their job at risk or gone.

As more people become aware/comfortable with the communication mediums we see "quilting" forums and "blood hound" forums and blogs about politics, taxes, and hateful spouses.

Whether that is good is a little too deep for me.  You may want to try the philosophers forum.
MSHack
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"You don't see this sort of logorrhea from accountants, mechanical engineers, doctors, actors, bankers, or even writers. "

Prove it!
Noob
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"You don't see this sort of logorrhea from accountants..."

You don't?  What is the basis for this statement?

Do a Google search on "blog accountant" and you'll get such entries as "Accountants Who Blog", "The Accounting Blog", etc., etc.

Do software developers do it more?  Maybe.  How would you quantify it?  I read stuff (websites, newsgroups, mail lists) related to software development and electronics.  Does it make any sense to extrapolate my experience as representative of the entire population?


Note to Berislav: if logorrhea isn't in your copy of Merriam-Webster, it's defective.  Get a replacement.
argon Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Larry Lard Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Coders write blogs because they like to sit in front of a computers. And their profession is exactly that, writing.
HS Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I think coding and writing are very similar tasks.  I have started writing fiction, and I found that I enjoy it immensely.  I joined a local writing workshop and it's the best decision I've made for my mental state in a long time.  It's more work than coding, and even harder, but much more satisfying.  There are rules that should be adhered to (grammar, etc.), like programming, yet I have no one else's requirements to meet but my own.  It's quite liberating, and I've been a genuinely happier person since I started.

However, I have no interest in setting up a blog, so this might be tangential to the point. :)
DK
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Developing software gives us all a unique perspective into the human condition, which we like to share?
Steve Hirsch Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"You don't see this sort of logorrhea from accountants, mechanical engineers, doctors, actors, bankers, or even writers. "

Maybe on the Internet you don't (to the same extent)...but what about all the trade mags, newsletters, books, etc.

Maybe not actors they prefer to blather on and on in the more immediate spotlight.
Mark Flory Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Mark,

You are confusing actors with celebrities.
Rick Tang Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
> Developing software gives us all a unique perspective
> into the human condition

No, I don't think so.

On another point, programmers only began to write in public when blogs appeared.
HS Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I think young people write more because they are more used to technology.

Of course, coders, young or old, are used to technology.
Rick Tang Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"only began to write in public when blogs appeared. "

You are kidding right?  How about back when BBS were the internet?
MSHack
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I write faster than I can speak. I type faster than I write by hand. Add the fact that I can... preview what I write (or code) whereas I can't take back what I say, writing becomes the most optimal way for me to communicate.

I suspect that a secondary reason is that "actual coding" is usually a solitary task (excluding extreme programming). Jobs that need more than one pair of hands, encourage verbal communication instead of written communication.
TheDavid
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
The blogging culture is fairly new. Ten or more years ago programmers tended to only write formally for magazine articles and books.

The chat/forum culture has been part of programmer culture since the mid 1980s and the popularity of the national BBSes like Compuserve. I tend to agree that when the tools to communicate electronically became available, developers flocked to them and were early adopters.

What is relatively new is that blogging gives anyone a tool to communicate formally and publish articles themselves.

Today, I think there's way too much "formal" writing around the software development industry. We're glutted with bloggers, and I think a lot of them are wasting their time and effort because it's just bloody difficult to find a uniquely new angle on a well-worn set of subjects.

I think what surprises me the most about programmer bloggorhea is that virtually no programmer I have ever worked with in meatspace cared to write, even at the level of commenting their code. In my past corporate life I was branded the town fool many times for asking about documentation. When you could squeeze writing out of someone you got pure shit - either sloppy grammar, bad spelling, and/or incredibly poor organization. Now all of a sudden you have hoards of budding H. L. Menckens and Steinbecks. So maybe the human race has mutated. :)

The best time (strategically speaking) to enter this arena was before the high profile bloggers like Scoble, Spolsky, etc. made their names. Now "everyone" is trying to do it.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Coding and writing share certain similarities. Both are performed by people who believe they can make a meaningful difference in the world merely by pounding keyboards. Sometimes these people are correct on both counts; more often they are correct on neither.
Rob Brueckner Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Coders write so much because the essence of their craft is the conversion of natural language descriptions (inherently incomplete, vague, context-ridden, and full of unstated assumptions) into precise computer-executable (usually after translation by a compiler or interpreter) descriptions.

The typical analogy is that a computer algorithm is like a recipe.  But that's not true at all -- the amount of unstated context and hidden knowledge in your typical recipe is vast.

"Boil an egg for 3 minutes" lacks specificity.  A closer approximation would be...

obtain a clean pot of approximately 1 quart liquid capacity.

fill between 1/2 and 2/3 full with clean tap water of any temperature.

place on stove burner turned to "high".  cover with lid matching pot.

wait until water boils.  (insert clear instructions for recognizing a boil here)

using pot holder or other heat protective device, remove pot lid.

place raw egg in boiling water using spoon or ladle.

re-cover pot with lid using pot holder or other protective device.

... and so on.


In my experience, most programming errors and problems (especially product design problems) are the result of insufficient attention to gathering and converting requirements from the real world into the computer.  Someone says something like "we need a system that will take this data and add it all up" and a programmer somewhere thinks that is a complete specification and writes code to do it.

All that writing is an effort to get the real desired result quantified and specified (to some degree) before it's codified in computer language.  Because no matter how many times you say "it's only ones and zeroes", once it's in code nobody wants to change it very much.

Agile is changing this, thank goodness.
Evan Robinson Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I think the real question is, why isn't everyone doing the same?
Absconditus
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
The alchemy of turning the analog into the digital is endlessly fascinating!
Steve Hirsch Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Easy answer -> coders seek attention, but in a semi-anonymous format due to their social awkwardness.

EOD.
Mister Fancypants Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
What's unusual isn't that they write so much, it's the content of that writing. Most programmers' blogs are about coding and technology. However, if you look at blogs that aren't written by programmers, they tend to be mostly about people's lives outside work.

People have always written when there was an easy outlet: look at the popularity of Usenet (well, before the web anyway). The difference is that Usenet was divided into thousands of subject areas, so even if you were a programmer, it was easy to find non-technical topics to discuss. In the absence of this kind of structure, I think you're seeing the coders talking about their default thought: technology.

Either that or it's because coders are sitting around lonely in front of their computers while everyone else is out having a good time.
lw Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I think because there are lots of new innovations in our field constantly.  How often are there new and exciting accounting methods?  Sure there are new things in mechanical engineering, but i'm not sure as many drastic changes in as short of a time.  Plus its much easier for a programmer to program as a hobby then an engineer perform their interests as a hobby (can you build a bridge or engine in your garage without any money?).  And most accountants do that because its a day job, not an enjoyable hobby.

I think there is also a much lower bar for being a programmer.  Quite a few people have played with Access or HTML and suddenly are "coders", and drawn into our world.  Very few people will pick up a little accounting or civil engineering on the side and run with it.  Yes, Art Wilkins i know people build cars, etc in their spare time... i'm saying for the most part ;)
Phil Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Blogging looks just like real work.

Many other jobs are much more distinguishable.
slacker Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
IMO, the vast majority of technical blogs are a boring rehash of the obvious.

It's great that everyone has the means to start a blog, but in reality, only a handful are worth reading. Most are just crap.

In the old days, people who had nothing to offer but crap sat in the corner and kept quiet. Now they have a blog.
MBJ Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Heh - harsh. I was being nice about it but MBJ hit the nail on the head. :)

Before I choose to write anything formally that I'd care to post on a blog or publish as an article, I just ask myself two things: has this been said before? And do I have a unique angle that justifies a rehash?

Those two preconditions form a pretty steep gradient to climb to decide to write an article. They are conditions to meet so that you don't bore the ass off of everyone else.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
Accounting is boring. People don't get into the accounting profession for the love of it. How many people do you know were doing accounting projects in their spare time even as a kid? There are lots of programmers that love to program, they would program in there spare time even without getting paid for it. So, it is just a matter of interest levels.
CIFChamp
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"..... With practice, I can get it down to three sentances :-) .."

You mean, with REFACTORING, you can get it down to 3 sentences ?
<g>
Mr. Analogy {uISV} Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
+1 Mr. Analogy

We like to create.  It turns out that an effective way to create is to write code.  Another effective way is to write prose.  Either way, you are writing something that many people can (hopefully) get enjoyment or use out of. 

Also, because our field is evolving so quickly, it is necessary to have a powerful information dissemination tool.  Furthermore, because we are doing what we love, instead of what our job is (we are lucky in that repsect in my mind) we are constantly interested in learning more about it.  We want to share our knowledge in the hopes of attaining more ourselves.  This field is only really 50-60 years old.  It changes drastically every five years.  To keep up with that you have to be able to learn, use and pass on information effectively.

Although often blogs are not the best, there are those rare occasions when someone is writing a blog because they did something cool.  Joel started a programmer friendly company, that is cool.  I want to read about it.  I read an article about a guy who made a difference engine out of legos.  That's cool, and I want to read about it.  Furthermore, it gets you a bit of fame.  When someone does something cool, then I want to hear about it, read about it, and think about it. 

Also, there is the Adsense money.
Joshua Volz Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"Also, there is the Adsense money."

Nail on the head.

Many see blogs as a source of additional income.

Here's a first rate blog.
http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/

How many ads do you see?

That's not to say people should not use blogs as a means of income, simply that far too many bloggers see blogs as nothing more than a source of income.
MBJ Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
+1 for everyone who said to show some real evidence that coders write more than other groups. For example someone could just as easily complain that seemingly everyone out there who plays poker goes on and on about it on their blogs, message boards, etc. You could substitute the word "coders" for numerous other terms and the original post would be of the same low value.
cbmc64 Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
"Lots of text proves you can get things done."

Nobody was ever accused of being productive while posting on JoS.
MarkTAW
Thursday, February 16, 2006
 
 
I read somewhere recently that there are more blogs today than there were people with Internet access ten years ago.
Larry Lard Send private email
Friday, February 17, 2006
 
 
Approx. 188 paragraphs, 13,304 characters and 2,720 words. Still don't know why. Maybe that's why.
Meta-meta Send private email
Friday, February 17, 2006
 
 
I think you have a misconception that coders write a lot because you frequent places like JoS, slashdot, etc. 

For example, do a search for financial articles and you'll find there's a LOT more of those than there are stuff written by coders.

Really, coders don't write much at all considering how many of us there are.  People in other industries produce a lot more written junk than we do.
Moobar
Monday, February 20, 2006
 
 

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