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    Wow, the comment from Tom West’s daughter!

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      I think there is a different class of programmer like those in The Soul of a New Machine & Halt and Catch Fire… the idealists/dreamers? Those who build things w soul, value accomplishments & being a part of something bigger than themselves. I feel like we’ve lost some of that.


      We are all monkeys bashing keyboards. There is no special engineer with magical internal motivation. What one monkey can do so can another

      Right. I don’t believe in the idea that there are a few peculiar people capable of understanding math, and the rest of the world is normal. Math is a human discovery, and it’s no more complicated than humans can understand. I had a calculus book once that said, ‘What one fool can do, another can.’ What we’ve been able to work out about nature may look abstract and threatening to someone who hasn’t studied it, but it was fools who did it, and in the next generation, all the fools will understand it. There’s a tendency to pomposity in all this, to make it deep and profound.

      – Richard Feynman, Omni 1979

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        A science is any discipline in which the fool of this generation can go beyond the point reached by the genius of the last generation.

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          Oh that’s also a good one. I’m going to add that to my list of quotes. Any worthwhile references for Max Gluckman to follow up on that you know of?

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            Doesn’t that imply that one is a genius only after it went beyond a certain limit point?

            Or was this being, who will then go beyond the point reached by the previous generation, already a genius but on its way to being discovered?

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            This is a question of philosophy. It’s not that some people are special, and others aren’t, but more that some people give a damn about things others can’t be bothered to care about.

            Materialistic values don’t have much to say here.

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              Over time I’ve learned that any philosophy that glorifies the past or draws artificial distinctions between people based on some “non-material” magic is really just lazy thinking. That’s the problem with the article and the tweets, it’s lazy nostalgia with a nice dose of elitism. Honestly, the way the article is written it should have remained private.

              If I was going to pick something that I dislike about programming culture it would be this kind of nostalgia and elitism. As an empiricial discipline we need to do better than this.

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            This book also had a profound effect on me early on; even as I continued to recommend it to people, I often wondered if that influence was good or bad. Either way, it’s incredibly compelling. For anyone looking for more, Showstopper by G. Pascal Zachary, the book about Windows NT’s development, is not Great like Soul of a New Machine, but has many similarities and gave me some of the same feeling (plus perhaps, more understanding of how NT turned out as it did).

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              Well this book generates different feelings to different people. My considerably smaller writeup

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                The book describes a disfunctional team. I have never understood why people speak so highly of it (I guess books about heroes spell much better, and also Kiddler was not in a position to know otherwise).

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                  Have you actually read it? Honestly, I don’t think anyone would read the book and come away with the conclusion that the team was dysfunctional – and no one on the actual team seems to have come away with that conclusion either. I think it’s also a mistake to claim that the book is about “heroes”; yes, it’s an epic tale involving heroic effort, but Kidder stops short of lionizing the protagonists – he paints them in full, flaws and all.

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                    I really enjoyed the book, but it’s definitely a tale of abuse and bad management.

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                      How do you figure?

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                        From the Wikipedia page of the book:

                        “Tom West practices the “Mushroom Theory of Management” – “keeping them in the dark, feeding them shit, and watch them grow.” That is, isolating the design team from outside influences and, instead, using the fear of the unknown to motivate the team.”

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                          I don’t think that the Wikipedia page is really doing the book justice. The “Mushroom Theory of Management” is something that is mentioned in passing, not a mantra of West’s. None of this is to lionize West – he’s a complicated figure, and Kidder paints a suitable nuanced picture – but (both from the book and from anecdotes of those who served on the Eagle team), West used trust much more than fear, especially when one considers the milieu of computer engineering in the 1970s!

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                      I really need to re-read this…. I read it in high school and it made a big impression.

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                        Great idea - time for a reread!

                        I remember enjoying the book but kind of upset that it talked so much about hardware and hardware design, giving the short shrift to the software guys.

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                          A small bit from this book, plus two other vignettes, form the motivating prologue to Bruno Latour’s Science in Action (it’s online in Google Books).

                          I always say this, but still, this book itself a fascinating read on how science & technology progress (and allocate resource) as one series of “black boxes” on top of another.

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                            I was kinda sad we didn’t get Fountainhead instead.