Daniel Lemire's blog

, 9 min read

Is programming as cool as basketball?

11 thoughts on “Is programming as cool as basketball?”

  1. Frank Carrano says:

    “Yes, it is easy to become a programmer …” vs. “Programming is not something you pick up on the side.” Your first statement weakens your argument. I like your concluding paragraph

  2. @Frank

    Good point. I have since edited my post. What I mean by “easy to become a programmer” is that anyone can pick up programming in his bedroom with a cheap computer… anywhere in the world. There is no need to attend a fancy university or pass government tests.

  3. Dominic Amann says:

    I think making programming cool starts very young, with making technology cool, and not just as tools to use, but the inner workings, and the makings of technology.

    Mechano and Lego were very important to me growing up, and probably had some influence on my pursuit of an engineering career. This new type of game (Robot Turtles) may have a similar influence on the minds of the young in the realm of programming.

  4. Agreed; this reminded me of Norvig’s “Teach yourself programming in ten years” – http://norvig.com/21-days.html

    On the other hand… I would love it if I could talk to my family and explain to them why a particular fragment is a beautiful work of art. My wife tolerates my enthusiasm, but I can see that she’d be equally fine if I talked Chinese 🙂

  5. Ned says:

    I really like all your posts. Good job!!
    I think that using “people that never coded for a living” as a way to persuade kids to consider learn to code is not a bad idea.
    I participated in the Code.org / Hour of Code workshops with my kids in their school. My expectation introducing my kids to coding is that they understands that coding is not a secret black magic that they need to fear rather than expecting they become a top coder in the future.

  6. @Marcel

    When it comes down to it, I am sure that basketball looks pretty boring. Most people would hate to sit and watch what basketball players do all day long. I suppose they lift weights, run around, practice, study strategies… blah… A lot of packaging effort goes into turning a game into a spectacle.

    Similarly, I am sure practicing medicine is not all that exciting compared to programming. TV shows make it sound like doctors cure rare diseases several times a day but I am sure the bulk of it is just routine (it has to be).

    So I think it is all in the packaging. Lots of programmers could be rockstars if only we put effort into promoting what they do. The sad fact is that we often don’t know who wrote this crazy software we are using.

  7. @Ned

    Right. It is a good message to send, that programming is someone you can learn no matter who you are.

    But what I am worried about are all the ambitious and smart kids who will think that programming is nothing but a trivial technical activity that anyone can master.

    Compare this with basketball… kids know that they can learn quickly… but they also know that to be a top player, they have to work very hard. The two messages are important if you want to recruit the very best.

  8. Daniel says:

    It is nobody’s purpose to attain top talent whatsoever. The untold goal is to make the “skill of coding” a commodity. big corporations do not want many a top programmer whom they cannot afford to fire. Instead, they want droves of standard-skilled, replaceable candidates, most desirably many candidates for a single job opening, so that 1. salaries and benefits can go down, 2.the risk of workforce fleeing away would be minimised. That is standard corporate reasoning in every and any industry, nothing new here. Just needs to be recognized.

  9. @Daniel

    Of course, companies want cheap and replaceable labor. And the amazing thing is that they are failing. Despite 30 years of “software engineering” aiming to turn programmers into replaceable machines… great software still overwhelmingly comes from top coders.

    And it is not looking good for those who want to make talent irrelevant… because the minute some kind of programming becomes a commodity, someone automates it away.

  10. Ha-ha, at least one non-medical profession that can earn you a living in this new world.

  11. Alan says:

    Much discussion both by advocates and skeptics, fails to distinguish learning to code as a valuable life skill for people (across all careers) versus learning to be a professional software developer. The comments in this thread assume that the target is the latter, but there are strong reasons to value the former (though I would argue that simple math/stat literacy is a much more urgent gap to attack, for many people in our communities).