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Al Chen
Al Chen

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Review of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

I recently finished Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World and was really impressed with how Clive covered the history of coding culture. I first learned about Coders after reading this guest post on Tim Ferriss' blog. I put my favorite quotes from the book in this Coda doc.

Coders quotes Coda doc

Coders quotes in Coda

It's all about efficiency

One takeaway I got from the book was the need coders have for efficiency. Clive writes about this quite a bit in various other articles, but one thing the book drove home is when coders get out of the flow. I think this applies to anyone who does deep work and is more or less in the zone. Nothing is worse than when you are in the middle of something in the weeds and someone asks you a question that pulls you out of that context.

Women were the original coders

I found this part of the book really fascinating since I didn't understand the gender dynamics of women and men engineers from the 60s and 70s. Back in the day, men were more focused on the bare metal, and considered software beneath them. What's more manlier than building a physical machine, right? This opened the door to women pouring into software jobs and women grokked the machines better than men did since they had to know how the physical machine would build and compile their code.

You either have scale or a lifestyle business

I think the book shined some light on the dichotomy of building something for the joy of building and building something to reach millions of people. Some people believe that if you build software and release it to through the Interwebs, it should get used by millions of people. Otherwise, it's not worth working on at all. Those who believe in this perspective would also say that anything besides massive scale means you have a "lifestyle business." I firmly believe that we should build things for the sake of experimentation, fleeting interests, and whim. Most projects you work on shouldn't see the light of day but the process is what keeps me coming back to banging my head on the keyboard until I get some code to run without bugs.

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