Why Programmers Get To Be Fearless

Yesterday, I was really lucky to hear a talk by Jim Greer, the Co-founder of “Youtube for games” site Kongregate, which was acquired by GameStop. One of the things that really stood out to me in the talk was when Jim Greer talked about how programmers get to be fearless…

If you’re building a house, for example, one mistake can lead to very horrible consequences. If you don’t set up the beams correctly, the whole house might fall! That is why construction follows the fearful waterfall project management methodology. There is just no room for mistake.

In contrast, it is completely ok to make mistakes in most software development because you can easily reverse to an earlier version of the software if what you’re testing isn’t completely working. That makes web development a lot more interactive and fun and, most importantly, fearless, all things that drive innovation.

As a side note, this made me think of a post I read on Hacker News this morning. A developer’s boss asked to add a “person to blame” field to the bug report. This is really bad management, since it will create an unnecessary fear for developers. This Hacker News response perfectly summed up why fearlessness is better than fear in software development:

“The more blame you try to place the fewer commits you’re going to get (and the ones you do get will be larger and full of “defensive code”). Less commits, less often will make the problem worse, not better because the merges will be larger and more painful, and more subtle systemic errors will become the norm.

This is one of those solutions that causes more of the problem its trying to solve. Management will love it.” ~ by noonespecial

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