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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Write Like John Carmack

John Carmack, one of the world's most legendary software developers, made a Facebook post about a recent code retreat he went on. And you know what I liked about it? It read like a Facebook post. It was not overly polished. It was not written especially for any target demographic, it read like a note to friends.

Despite largely going over my head, it was a delightful read.

As a change of pace from my current Oculus work, I wanted to write some from-scratch-in-C++ neural network implementations, and I wanted to do it with a strictly base OpenBSD system. Someone remarked that is a pretty random pairing, but it worked out ok.

John Carmack is a legend in our field, but I believe this level of informality is possible for mortals like you and me. It is a healthy way to share. Impostor syndrome makes sharing raw stories about what you are up to a rather daunting task. That's okay. It's exactly how I have felt for most of my career. But if the courage strikes you, I'd definitely suggest the exercise of sharing as if it were a few non-judgmental friends.

All I can say on the non-judgmental front is that if you do share on, we'll work hard to keep assholes from ruining your day. But this is not a plug for our community, just a note about where me and my team will personally try to help.

I'm not aware of much of Carmack's personal life and this isn't an endorsement of anything beyond taking queues from his writing style. Informality pushes our industry forward. Both pragmatism and wild dreaming are birthed from natural dialog, not necessarily from glossy presentations.

One last note: There is plenty of room for polish in your work, and everyone is free to take the approach of their choice, including never blogging at all! But if it never occurred to you to jot off a note to software friends like this, consider simply riffing off a note to friends that maybe nobody will ever read.

For what it's worth, I don't find Twitter ideal because the environment is such a popularity contest. Its form-factor constraints are also not necessarily conducive to free-flowing expression. I use Twitter plenty, but not necessarily for this purpose, as others do.

Happy coding. ❤️

Top comments (3)

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David James • Edited

Well said Ben! When I finished my Node Automation article, I was reluctant to share it anywhere but here. But when a work colleague said they enjoyed the 'casual' writing style of it, I figured Id share it on Facebook even though it might go over some peoples heads. The response was very positive.

I'm looking forward to improving my work where possible and keeping it fun to digest.

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Ben Halpern


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Steve Ziegler

Totally agree. That's the beauty of blogging. People expect casual and it's a major mental relief to be able to write that way. It's always easier to write a blog post than a proposal or white paper. Plus, you can use a lot of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!