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We Are A Service Industry

May 2015 - Grand Rapids

Why We Code

I got into programming because I liked messing with computers and thought it would be a more-reliable career than writing fiction, which was my passion.

This is probably the most-common reason people are encouraged to try programming as a career: it pays well and we enjoy messing with computers.

It was a good fit for me. I enjoy learning new languages, new techniques, new ways of thinking about programming.

More importantly, I enjoy solving problems with code.

Who We Code For

But whose problems? Not mine. Most of my difficulties have already been solved by other people’s programs.

I solve other people’s problems. Put more dramatically, I give people superpowers.

If one of my account managers needs to change the data for a thousand items at once, it is simply not possible given the UI for our third-party system. It would take too long, be too vulnerable to human error, and it would be boring.

But I can write a program that gives them power beyond that of ordinary mortals. The ability to make sweeping changes they couldn’t imagine before. The ability to remake their world in a way that matters.

We Are A Service Industry

Some coders hate their users. “If the darned users would just stay out of the system, everything would be fine!”

Bug tickets, feature requests and questions, questions, questions… Users are a distraction from building that perfect ivory-tower application that makes all other coders bow down before our awesomeness.

Perfect. And perfectly irrelevant.

A program that doesn’t make our users’ lives better doesn’t deserve to be written. A program that confuses our users or doesn’t allow them to achieve their goals is a bad program, no matter how many patterns and architectures and brilliant hacks are under the hood.

Kathy Sierra talks about making our users more badass. To do that, we start by taking the focus away from ourselves and what we want to write, so we can concentrate on what our users need and how they think.


I haven’t blogged here much recently, mainly because I’ve been writing guest blogs for Codenewbies: a website, forum and podcast from Saron Yitbarek with service firmly in the forefront of its attention.

If you’re new to the coding world, CodeNewbie wants to give you superpowers. If you’re more experienced – even just a little – CodeNewbie is an opportunity.

Join the Twitterchat. Post an answer on the forums. Write a blog post. Be a friendly voice from out of the darkness. Take this chance to be helpful to people you’ve never met, to ease the struggle of someone on the path to their dreams of programming.

Ask yourself that all-important question: how can I be of service?