Sunday, July 11, 2010

Status 1/3: Economics and status in programming work, rabbit-duck edition

Summary: Programing work can be seen from two angles. The "economic" angle is that programming aims to produce software. The "status" angle is that in any big bureaucracy, the internal dynamics make status the primary aim.

Economic view

Alistair Cockburn defined software development as a co-operative game of invention and communication. The primary goal is to deliver useful, working software. The secondary goal is to prepare for the next game.

In this naive view, programming is just one type of work which aims to deliver customers something they are ready to pay for in order to keep the organization afloat.

A good software developer should know technology and economics and to have earlier experience about similar software.

This view is in line with transhumanist ideology, where technological progress is a driving force which enables new and better things, when people get more tools to implement their will and can afford more and more slack.

Status view

The status view emphasizes hierarchy and influence inside a bureaucracy. The primary game is how to gain influence through office politics.

From status view, programmers have two millstones in their neck. They are at the lowest level of their hierarchy. Secondly, they have a bad reputation for not being experts in gaining Roissy-style psychosocial dominance by talking.

In status view, shipping working software is irrelevant, unless failure to do so threatens the very existence of the organization. The only relevant question is if your back is covered if something goes wrong.

A good developer should know marketing, be extroverted and slightly narcist.

Technical knowledge is important only to the extent that you don't lose your face. Technical knowledge has a half-life while social skills don't. Therefore technical ways to solve problems are inferior to other ways. People who know too much technology are losers who play the wrong game.

The four post-Marxist social classes

Half Sigma divided people into 4 social classes. The two higher classes are the college graduate class and the value transference class. Here, the economic view uses the values of the college graduate class and the status view uses the ideals of the value transference class.

This post was about the conflict between economic and status-based worldviews. The video is about the conflict betwen scientific and religious worldviews. In both cases, reality can be interpreted in two equally justified ways.

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