Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The Most Egotistical Game"

Welcome to Programming. Here's your tools of the trade: computer, IDE, library of books and your blog. What does the blog have to do with creating software, you ask.....let's talk.

First off, the idea for this post came from a recent article at Ruby Inside "How to Get A Job at a Top Ruby Shop". I really enjoy the site and find many good articles there. After I read it, I had a feeling that people who are trying hard (but maybe not in all the "right" places it seems) are getting left out. Because I'm currently a student and a job is important to find for me, I decided to share my opinion. Twice even. Go read it.

Here's my take on what was said in the article: Programming, especially within the Ruby community, has become more than just writing good code. It has become a game of expanding your "sphere of public influence".

Is this really what is important? I obviously understand that communication skills are important because I'm playing the game right now writing on my blog, but is the time I'm spending developing these blog ideas, writing them, and publicizing them really worth it? What else could I be doing with my time that would be more beneficial towards my progress as a highly skilled developer than writing? More importantly, where do you find the time to do it?

To do something well and get a return out of it, you must spend solid amounts of time on it. For instance, this blog: for my writing to do any good, I've got to get it in front of the faces of other people. I've got to publish it on my Facebook status, make a few well-timed tweets about it, and find some places (like the Ruby Inside site) to publicize it. I spend on average 2 hours a day reading through tweets and blogs in hopes of learning something amazing and telling people about how amazing I am. On new post days, this time goes up significantly. We'll call it ten hours because math is easier to follow that way.

So, ten hours a week of my time is spent on social media. Let's say I charge $50 bucks an hour to do a website for someone and that is how much my time is worth doing anything "professional". Therefore, it costs me $500 bucks every week to try to get my name out there and voice listened to. Let's say that I've been doing this for 4 months steadily in preparation for graduation and impressing top shops with my communication skills. That means I've spent around $8,000 on blogging and tweeting. Can I really expect to get a return of $8,000?

Did you say you spend more than 10 hours a week on social media? Oh dear....break out the calculator....

I'm going to have to stop here for now and see if I can get some comments about this last part. This is what is really interesting to me to find out before I discuss more of my thoughts. I'm going to start tweeting this and finding relevant places to talk about it and see what kind of return I get.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Do you really work every hour of the work day? If not, it's hard to claim that blogging really costs you $50/hour.

    How much do you spend on publicity? How much should you spend on improving your name? That's one of the real values that your blog brings you ... assuming you write well and about topics that will draw potential customers.

    Good luck!

  3. pate is right. You aren't "on" all the time. Blogging/tweeting/podcasting are great ways to learn because they are ways to hold conversations with others. That process of interacting with others can make you better. The path to becoming a better programmer covers more ground than just writing code.

    And yes, you can get an $8,000 return on your 4 month investment. You may not get it right at the 4th month, but being involved and active has a strange way of paying off in the end.

  4. pate: I don't work every hour of the day, but there has to be some weight given to everything we do. I understand the value in blogging and trying to reach new people with which to communicate. I put that price tag on it because it's that valuable to me when trying to figure out what the best way to proceed with my day. My days are quite busy between two jobs and school and I have to have some way to prioritize. There is no way to be on all the time, nor do I want to. I value time off way too much. Throwing more of me at something tired and worn down is much less productive than using my time refreshed and focused.

    As far as writing well, I do my best which is all I can do. This form of communicating is new to me and I'm always experimenting. I've found that I enjoy writing almost as much as reading because I like communicating with others. Hopefully you've enjoyed what you read here. I take great pride in knowing that it was at least arousing enough to make you post a comment :). Thank you, pate.

    blowmage: Conversations are the best way to learn and explore ideas. I agree with you that there's more to code. However, I think the biggest problem I have is that I feel as if the weight of blogging is too great. Anyone can blog; anyone can tweet some sound byte. Just because they're popular doesn't qualify them as a solid programmer to me. The article presented itself to me as that writing was the holy grail of skills for a programmer and that is where my disagreement came from. I agree that there is that much value in blogging when executed well (probably much more than the $8000 figure I gave). Thank you, blowmage.

    I hope there's more comments. This almost sets a new record for the blog :)

  5. The one thing I've learned since developing an interest in Ruby (on Rails), and now developing in Ruby (on Rails and Merb) is that one should not force it.

    I also found it difficult to work on Open Source projects due to a lack of time. But I'm contributing in other areas (for example running a Ruby on Rails group at LinkedIn, attending local Ruby meetups, etc).

    Just hang in there, and good luck!


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