Tuesday 24 April 2012

Enough with the passion!

They should have shown more passion, thus spoke the commentator and the various studio heads nodded in agreement. A simple diagnosis adopted by the press because passion is something we all understand, but since when did simple and the truth become such easy bedfellows? I’m pretty sure England’s failure to win the World Cup in my lifetime isn’t down to a lack of enthusiasm. Likewise I don’t think those who succeeded did so because they wanted it more.

These truths are self-evident, yet we persist in this nonsense. Popular culture - for example, cookery competitions - place a passion for what you’re doing ahead of knowing what you’re doing. Worse, far worse, this silliness has infiltrated our work. This is not to denigrate enthusiasm; it’s to challenge the idea that enthusiasm is a pre-requisite to doing good work. I don’t mean ‘good’ in its technical sense, more that definition alluding to professionalism and a strong ethic; sometimes I love my work, sometimes it drives me to despair, always I give my best. The notion we’ll only ever work on what interests us is absurd, so why suggest otherwise, and what use is someone who saves their best for those projects using the latest technology? I’ve worked with a developer who lived and breathed ‘the craft’ - I imagined shelves at home lined with books about coding, and their work when using the newest framework was often brilliant, but we also had a number of legacy applications, you can guess the rest.

Contributing to open source projects, writing a technical blog and all that other stuff is cool, doing anything you enjoy is really cool, but as in any way of life, when we start to think of what makes us happy and productive as the template for others, we should take a step back. Hence my appreciation for the tongue-in-cheek 501 developer manifesto, it’s a long overdue correction to those who have looked pejoratively at others with a different method. Yes, it’s a little bit rude and some humourless types have taken exception, but if you’re going to ‘pity’ anyone you ‘pity’ those on the pedestal because ... that’s how a joke works.