To Code or Not To Code – That is the (stupid) question

There’s a lot talk this week around Jeff Atwood’s post on CodingHorror where he asks the populace at large to not learn to code.  I’m not sure of what to think of the numerous responses and comments on the web.  Perhaps it’s a matter of people being too caught up in their craft.  Perhaps it’s simply vogue to disagree with Jeff Atwood.  Regardless, 90% of the responses are missing Jeff Atwood’s point.

When all you have is a hammer . . .

You don’t have to look around and see that multiple systems are horribly broken: education, healthcare, government just to name a few.  Entrepreneurs everywhere are and should be chomping at the bit to fix these problems.  There’s a hell of business to be made on solving these problems successfully and safely.  Code is not the way.

These industries have no shortage code.  Government has more code than they know what to do with.  So does healthcare.  Much of it is probably bad.  Simply throwing more code at it shouldn’t be the answer, especially if it’s bad code.  Jeff Atwood makes the point that the world doesn’t need more bad code by bad coders.  He’s right.

What these industries need and what Jeff is really advocating is solutions.  Code should be the last thing we’re all thinking about when we’re trying to solve the enormous problems plaguing them.  Code will most certainly be a part of the solution, but only a means to that solution once the important decisions have been handled elsewhere.  Code itself is not the solution anymore than a hammer and nails are the solution to housing problems.

Code if you want to . . .

Code if you want to learn to code.  Code if you really want a deep understanding of how computer programs work.  But if you’re going to delve in learn it well and learn it right.  Don’t learn “just enough to be dangerous” as the adage goes.  If you’re an entrepreneur, learn to find and craft solutions.  Solutions are always more than just code.  Once you have a good solution to horrible problem there will be no shortage of great coders to work with you and take care of the hammers and nails.


Posted on May 16, 2012, in Opinion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think people are missing Atwood’s point because he’s terrible at making it. While I can get behind sentiments like “good solutions are more important than code” and “the world doesn’t need more bad code by bad coders”, both of these points are irrelevant to the issue of why or why not people should learn to code.

    Finding good solutions to problems is better than throwing more (code|money|people|bureaucracy) at the problem, sure. But that’s true of any industry. And as for the whole “bad code” argument, no one starts off as a great coder. And anyone’s bitter coding frustrations (particularly Jeff Atwood’s) should not serve as everyone else’s personal development compass 😉

  2. The argument for people learning to code has largely been couched in “industry x would be so much better if its leaders understood code”. Only if your industry strongly involves code is that even remotely true. Bloomberg is not going to be a better mayor by learning to code. Obama won’t be a better president. GM won’t make better cars, healthcare won’t cost less, bartenders won’t make better drinks. Atwood is attacking the notion that world would be a better place if everyone knew how to code. It wouldn’t, not even remotely.

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