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Discussion on: The Most Important Non-Programming Skills for Programmers

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Giacomo Tesio • Edited

I agree with most of what you say here and I really liked the section about Inclusiveness.

The game you describe is fantastic, I think I'll use it! maybe with a final reconciliation phase where people out are permitted to go back in the circle, because without trust in a possible forgive, fear can beat any will to include.

There are other sections and considerations that I liked (the last paragraph on Collaboration shows scars that I know very well ;-) and others that I've found a little... cliché, but overall the article is good.

I have however a couple of serious objections.

On the "soft skill" naming

I don't think you got why people call these as "soft" skills for programmers.

There are two main reasons:

  • they are human virtues (with the exception of "Problem Solving") that are not important to programmers in a team more than they are to citizens in a Democracy
  • on the other hand, giving them the status of soft programmer's skills they give employers and managers an excuse to lower the wage of people who lack some of them (nobody is perfect!) without facing the criticism they don't really hire for them (or even have such virtues themselves).

On "Empathy"

Seen from an Italian, the focus on "Empathy" in IT both naive and very US-centric.

For example, if you were Italian, I could comment here "Balle." (which is a Italian equivalent to "Bullshit."), without being accused to be harsh, un-emphatic or sexist.

These days US developers seem very focused to impose everybody certain workspace-like "Code of Conducts" that are designed to help managers in their work of controlling the workers, but they don't consider how their mindset might clash with the rest of the world.

The world is huge, and what an Italian feels like empathic might looks as intrusive to an American. OTOH what an American feels like empathic would be felt as hypocrite by an Italian.

So much that when I read a tirade about empathy in IT, my first reaction is to ask myself: "What the author is trying to cover?"

In this case, many of the things you think should be addressed through empathy are instead Ethical issues.

That is: we always follow an Ethics in our work.

Often (especially in the Silicon Valley) it is the Ethics of Capitalism, completely focused on making money (and please the Government, whoever it represent), but people following it prefer to argue that Ethics is not relevant to programming at all (except when talking about the need of delegating Ethics to AI).

Other people follow different Ethics.

But the problem with Ethics is that it drives Politics, and people are scared by the complexity of Politics (which require caring about the Polis, about a lot of other people lives, and thus optimizing for multidimensional goals instead of simply maximizing profit).

Thus they resort to surrogates (such as empathy) to solve the problems that the lack of a richer Ethics and a serious responsibility of developers for the Political effects of their software would pose.

On Community Participation

You state:

The community is so important for programming -- conferences, blog posts, social media, and meetups are important for learning and growing. Also, open source software and the communities that surround them are the lifeblood of this industry.

Now, I agree that community (that is from Common, which derives from the latin cum - munis, co-obliged, mutually bound) is very important to our species. Aristotle used to say that humans are "social animals" for a reason.

BUT what you are talking about is not really community, but marketing.

It's not by chance that you talk in term of Open Source instead of Free Software!

Hackers' communities don't do much conferences and workshops, we don't care about "social media" (that we often dismiss for their anti-social behaviours on a scale, see the lack of Ethics discussed above), because we don't give a shit about our perception from outside: we just follow our Curiosity.

In conclusion

Thanks for sharing your perspective, I really appreciated it.

That's why, as a hacker and a European, I felt obliged to share a different one that might help you understand why some people are not conforming to your expectations.

The world outside the States is huge, varied and wonderful! ;-)