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    While I agree with the reasoning in the article and think the approach suggested makes sense, I also think it misses the wider picture and is only likely to result in small gains. The real issue with modern tech is not technical it is political, and there is not technical solution to this problem.

    The solution proposed here may get adopted and result in marginal gains if and only if some corporate executives decide it could make their company more profitable.

    The real issue with tech as I see it is the participation of for profit corporations. The goals of for profit corporations are not aligned with those of the human race in general, or individual humans in particular, unless those humans are shareholders. They put non-technical people in charge of development projects because those people have the capital everyone needs to get the job done. They prefer opaque proprietary protocols and interfaces because it enables them to entrap their users and gives them a chance to build monopolies. The create broken by design systems like DRM to protect profits. They turn a blind eye to bad behaviour like spam, clickbaiting, trolling and scamming whenever these are sources of profit for them. They hide their source from scrutiny which might otherwise discourage bad behaviour and discover security issues. They work programmers too hard for too long hours, while browbeating them and breaking their spirit until they no longer take pride in their work. Their focus is always short term. Worst of all, they discourage the population at large from understanding how their devices work, preferring instead to dumb all human interfaces down and make people dependant on ‘tech support’. Their interest is not in building a good base of software for enabling human beings to live full and happy lives with everyday technology, their goal is to siphon resources out of society and use it to grow out of control and ultimately take over everything. Like a malignant tumour.

    I know a lot of programmers don’t like talking about this aspect of things but I think it is important. It may seem off topic but if your read the three introductory paragraphs of the article again I think you will see that what I am talking about is probably a major factor in the problems the author is trying to solve.

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      We see the same problems in open source projects, free software, and government tech. I bet if you peeked into Soviet software companies you’d see the same problems, too. Blaming capitalism is the lazy way out.

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        This is too conflationary of a dismissal. Look again at the list of problems:

        • Non-technical leaders giving top-down orders
        • Building and publishing proprietary interfaces
        • Designing DRM
        • Giving reputation to bad actors as long as it is profitable
        • Building private code repositories and refusing to share knowledge
        • Forcing programmers to work long hours
        • Blocking right-to-repair and right-of-first-sale

        Your reply is that this also happens in the open-source world, which is a corporate bastardization of Free Software; and that it happened in the USSR, a time and place where a government pretended to be “communist” but still had shops, jobs, wages, and a wealthy upper class. Yes, I imagine that these capitalist and corporatist patterns are recurring in many contexts. No, it is wrong to lump them all together with Free Software.

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          Looking at the list of problems:

          • Not in the article.
          • Not in the article.
          • Not in the article.
          • Not in the article.
          • Not in the article.
          • Arguable?
          • Not in the article.

          That’s why it’s the lazy way out. It doesn’t engage with the article at all. You just have to say “it’s capitalism’s fault” and watch the upvotes roll in.

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            Just because anti-capitalist/corporate sentiment is popular doesn’t make it lazy or disingenuous. Putting the argument in a cultural/political context is a perfectly valid way of engaging with it. Pointing out that they come up with their own examples that are not in the article, as if that’s a bad thing, is a weird way to make a counterargument, given that the article is concerned with “ways we keep screwing up tech.” Giving corporations too much control over its direction seems like a pretty big way we’ve screwed up tech so far.

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              Software development suffers during demand imbalance. In a market situation with fierce life or death competition, people work insane hours and abandon practice just to get things out the door. In markets where companies make money/survive no matter what they do, practice (and code) atrophy. No one cares. The latter case has effects that are remarkably similar among government projects, non-profits, and large institutions like banks and insurance companies with little competition.

              You can blame Capitalism, but the truth is people and projects need purpose and incentive; just not too much. There’s a sweet spot. It is like having a good exercise routine. Without it you atrophy; with too much, you destroy yourself.

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                I largely agree with that point. And I’d be naive to argue that capitalism alone is the cause of all problems in the tech industry, which is why I didn’t. At the same time, I think that capitalism, at least as it exists in the United States today, offers pretty bad incentives for teams and individuals most of the time. Professionals in the computing field have it better than most in that they have large monetary incentives. But above about $75K, as Kahneman and Deaton found, more income has little effect on one’s evaluation of own’s own life. Beyond that, you still have the problem that the interests of working people, including programmers, mostly don’t align with oligarchs’ interests. I’m not alone in the experience that even at a substantial salary, it’s pretty hard to feel incentivized to deliver value, ultimately, to those who own vastly more wealth. Not what I would call a sweet spot.

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                  It would probably be good for you to talk to programmers in Sweden (if you haven’t). Less capitalistic, much more socialist. A lot of big employers and relatively fewer startups. They have problems too. And that’s the thing. All systems have problems. It’s just a matter of tradeoffs. It’s nice that there’s enough diversity in the world to be able to see them.

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              (You should know that I wrote and deleted about seven paragraphs while attempting to engage with the article seriously, including this one.)

              Let’s take the article’s concluding suggestion seriously; let’s have a top-ten list of ways that “the technology industry” is “screwing up creating tech”. I would put at number one, at the very top: The technology industry’s primary mode of software creation is providing services for profit, and this damages the entire ecosystem. What ten behaviors would you put above this one? The only two contenders I can think of are closely related: Building patent pools and using work-for-hire provisions to take copyrights from employees.

              It’s not capitalism’s fault that self-described “experts” are having trouble giving useful advice.

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                Is there an “industry” that doesn’t exist for profit?

                I think needless churn, overcomplication, harmful treatment of developers, harmful treatment of users, and wasteful use of energy are all ways the industry screws up tech…but then again, so too does libre software!

                And unlike industry, there isn’t even an evolutionary pressure you can hijack to keep it honest.

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                  Beavers do not terraform for profit. The bulk of free culture is not profit-driven either.

                  Note carefully that you substituted the original list of seven problems which are all created by profit-seeking behavior with your own list of five issues which are not. Yours are also relatively vague to the point of equivocation. I’ll give a couple examples to illustrate what I mean.

                  For example, where you say “harmful treatment of users”, I said “giving reputation to bad actors as long as it is profitable” and the original comment said “spam, clickbaiting, trolling and scamming”; and I do not know of examples in the FLOSS world which are comparable to for-profit spamming or other basic fraud, to say nothing of electoral interference or genocide, although I’m open to learning about atrocities committed in the furtherance of Free Software.

                  For another example, where you say “harmful treatment of developers”, I said “forcing programmers to work long hours” and they said “[for-profit corporations] work programmers too hard for too long hours, while browbeating them and breaking their spirit until they no longer take pride in their work”; you have removed the employer-employee relationship which was the direct cause of the harmful treatment. After all, without such a relationship, there is no force in the Free Software world which compels labor from people. I’ll admit that it’s possible to be yelled at by Linus, but the only time that happened to me was when I was part of a team that was performing a corporation-led restructuring of a kernel subsystem in order to appease a still-unknown client.

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                    You asked for a top-ten list, I gave five; don’t bait-and-switch.

                    Each of those examples I gave can and does happen under both a for-profit model and under a libre-hippy-doing-it-for-free model.

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                Not in the article.

                “But once I started working with teams-of-teams, process, and changing large groups of people, things did not work the way I expected.” “I found myself repeating the same things over and over again and getting the same substandard results.” “ came to realize that these were honest efforts to get more traction.” “I got worse at learning new stuff” “tired of watching my friends repeating the same things over and over again, snatching at this or that new shiny in an effort to stay relevant”

                It is fine that you disagree with my interpretation of how the article describes the problem. Maybe I completely misunderstood what the author was referring to. Perhaps you could enlighten me and provide the correct interpretation. I look forward to your response.

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              Solely blaming capitalism certainly won’t address all problems with software development, but I do think there’s a case to be made that the profit motive is just as good a tool for producing pathological states as innovation. DRM is a prime example.

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                The original post had nothing to with DRM, putting nontechnical people in charge, hiding source code, working long hours, or dumbed down human interfaces. Dunkhan didn’t engage at all with the actual article, he just said it was all because of “for profit corporations” and listed unrelated claims.

                You could argue that profit motive is a good tool for producing pathological states; he didn’t.

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                I mean, open source in the large is dominated by corporate interests, so this isn’t much of a gotcha. Just ignoring capitalism as a fundamental factor seems like the significantly lazier option.

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                  I never blamed capitalism. Adam Smith, and most respected capitalist economists that followed have all said that monopoly formation is to be avoided at all costs and if not correctly controlled will completely undermine any benefits of a capitalist system. If you go through the behaviour I called out, almost every example is either the result of, or an effort to achieve a monopoly. It would be more accurate to say I am defending capitalism against those corporations who are ruining it. If you want an -ism that I am blaming, I think the closest analogy to what they are doing is some kind of feudalism. Lets call it corporate neofeudalism.

                  The main tool we have for combating this behaviour also comes directly from the same canon of capitalist thinkers. Namely, antitrust laws. All we need to do is expand them, make them harsher, and then ruthlessly enforce them. There is no need for new and creative solutions to this problem, it is an old problem and has been solved already.

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                    IMO when somebody says “the problems with software are that it’s being done for profit” there’s no need to talk with them about software any more. They’re not interested in fixing software, and if that’s all you feel like talking about right here and right now there’s no useful outcome in engaging with them.

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                      No one said that.

                      If you want to put words in other people’s mouths and then dismiss their opinions based on those words go right ahead, but it does not reflect well on you. The fact that you see any attack on corporations as an attack on profit making of all kinds also concerns me a great deal. Did you take the Citizens United ruling so seriously that you really believe corporations are people, or are you just getting paid to defend their interests on the web?

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                  I also believe this ties in with what Dan Luu has said about acknowledging that humans aren’t exactly good at software development, so avoiding mistakes is likely to be more helpful than trying to Be Right.

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                    I like the idea of “avoid doing this” lists. To some extent, the “myths programmers believe about X” articles do that, just not by name.

                    Here’s something that is literally a “don’t do this” list: OWASP Top Ten.

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                      I ran across that a few months ago through reading lobsters. It’s a great resource and illustrates the point well. I especially like that it is regularly updated.

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                      Article is way too long to arrive at such a simple conclusion… Obviously the strategy to do anything is: 1. don’t do bad things 2. do good things

                      I just don’t see any deep or meaningful actionable practice here.

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                        One nice thing about “don’t do this” lists is that they indirectly acknowledge that there are many equally acceptable roads to success, and sweating over one in particular is often counterproductive.

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                          The American built environment has the same issues. Our cities are overly prescriptive, you can’t build anything unless it fulfills thousands of pages of zoning and building codes, often going down to the color and style of materials used. Instead we need to hack all of it back and focus on failure minimization: “it should last a minimum of 100 years”, “it should meet these fire codes”, etc. Make it easier for cities to change over time.

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                            I found this interesting to read, and a little unsettling as it reminds me of similar feelings I have. You didn’t mention it directly, but I believe the tendency to solve problems by adding instead of subtracting contributes to this. I often find myself pulling at threads only to discover unnecessary complexity that has accumulated over time.

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                              I thought this part was kinda funny

                              Between 2005 and 2015 I found myself increasingly giving good, practical advice only to see it “bounce off” the folks I was trying to help.

                              Are you absolutely sure it was good advice?