Subject: Re: becoming a better programmer
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 22 Sep 2002 03:28:45 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* synthespian <>
| I wish there were more people like that at c.l.l.  I remember the days when
| Kent Pitmann used to help newbies (and everyone else) here...Now he just
| quit posting at c.l.l. Sad...

  While lamenting any development is anyone's prerogative, have you given any
  consideration to what you can do make newbies less arrogant?

| Nowdays, the web isn't only populated by experts.  Some regret that.

  What has changed is more than its composition and it is not restricted to
  the Net.  The amount of knowledge that a person needs to acquire from the
  grand total in society before he can make a useful contribution to advance
  it is at serious odds with the massive glorification of youth.  As marketing
  found itself unable to expand without encroaching upon our childhood, the
  intense drive to capture the minds of the youngest among us has tended to
  make people believe that 30 years of experience can be replaced by the young
  looks of rank novices.  This is made worse by the management schools that
  make it possible for people who have yet to grow enough facial hair to need
  to shave daily not only to show off their insufficient beard growth as "hip"
  but to fill "leadership" positions where they feel threatened by anyone
  significantly older than themselves and where the inability to /lead/ is
  replaced by their simple skills at /managing/.

  I believe it takes all kinds to make a working world, but what I find among
  the modern novices is that they do not feel the same way about the experts --
  they want an expert-free world where their ignorance is not painful, where
  their inexperience is not used against them, where they get all the jokes,
  where nobody uses literary references that elude them, where every one of
  their ideas is accepted by their peers as just as novel as they think it is,
  where they can make mistakes without being corrected by people who do know
  better, where they can reap all the benefits early in life instead of having
  to work for 40 years first.  It is not that getting everything early in life
  is bad, it is more that you get so disillusioned when you have got everything
  and you still have to live 50 years with bleak prospects since you helped
  establish and encouraged the cultue that eschewes people of your age.  It is
  not that it is bad to find new programming languages cooler than older ones,
  it is more that you find that being good at what you do is punished and you
  keep reverting to a novice when the next new language comes around.  It is
  not that is bad to make a relative ton of money when you are fresh out of
  highschool, it is more that the relative ton is much bigger when you are 40
  and you find yourself losing the competition with the youngsters who still
  live with their parents and have no obligations or mortgages or children or
  pension saving plans.

| Others understand that this is just how life is, and that newbies will not
| remain in that condition, and that one day, they might make substantial
| contributions.

  Some actually understand that you cannot just kill people when grow old.

  The effort spent at the new must continue to be rewarding to the old.  When
  it is not, the new teach the new, and you get a virtual absence of vertical
  communication, leading to lack of continuity and horizontal bands that move
  through the population over time, each self-sufficient and unwilling to help
  other age groups.  Ignorance of the past becomes a virtue and experience a
  liability in societies that form like this.  In some movie (I believe it was
  «The Straight Story»), some old guy is asked by a younger: "What is the worst
  part of growing old?" and answers "Remember when you were young."  The
  problem with glorifying youth is that they do not have the knowledge to make
  an informed choice.  So, too, with the ignorant-friendly Net -- of course the
  ignorants think it's great, what else can they compare with -- of course many
  experts think it sucks, they actually have something to compare it with.

  People who want to learn are, however, always welcome.  People who respect
  knowledge, know what it costs to acquire it.  People who do not know its
  costs will generally not respect it, either.  It is sometimes illuminating to
  take a child to a library with more than a million books.  Some feel humbled
  and overwhelmed by what they could not possibly deal with that day, but some
  understand right there that they will never run out of exciting books to read.

Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.