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    It’s a two-sided lemon market, insofar as most development jobs are also of low quality, and the cause of the lack of prepared, capable programmers isn’t that most programmers are stupid, but that work experience also has a pyramidal shape to it. There aren’t many people who have high quality work experience, because there isn’t a lot of high quality work experience to be gotten.

    Most employers reject candidates as soon as there’s a whiff of negative experience: a job that didn’t go well, a company with a negative reputation, outmoded technologies. Then they try to underpay, or they hire people for one job but assign them to something else, and whine about their retention and hiring problems. I’ve met entitled “star” engineers but they’re rare and don’t age well, but entitled employers, who only want 9s and then expect those perceived 9s to wash their dishes, are so common that it’s unremarkable.

    The best way to be employable, in this superficial industry run by non-technical and emotionally incontinent monkeys, is not to have any reason, of any kind, for someone to reject you. Even good things can be reasons to reject someone. Ten years of machine learning experience at a prestigious lab? “Too theoretical”. Over 50? “Resistant to change.” Made the mistake of becoming well-known for being too ethical? Well, see my experience. No wonder then that we have such an age discrimination problem; the only way to be compliant is to be a complete blank slate, and fresh college kids are best in that regard (even if most of them don’t know anything).

    The truth about this massive lemon party is that no one has any real business need to make it better. Companies get funded and acquired and priced according to headcount, and MBA-toting “star” managers judge opportunities based on the sizes of the teams they’ll get to run (regardless of what those teams do) so there’s no real cost to the business in hiring lemon developers or managers, and there’s even less perceived cost in rejecting people for stupid reasons. It’s technology people who get hurt by it; not only do we end up with lousy co-workers, but when we try to hire good people, we see them getting rejected for stupid reasons.

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      The truth about this massive lemon party is that no one has any real business need to make it better.

      That’s not totally true. There’s a niche of companies that do high-integrity or high-security development of software. Some warranty the results. They charge a premium of at least 50% over other companies. All the ones I’ve seen stay growing with referral from clients. There’s companies that internally do something similar with IT either in general (rarest) or for specific teams on critical stuff (uncommon). So, there’s some demand that comes in many forms with serious money to be made. Not entirely lemons but mostly lemons.

      Rest of your post is spot on. Curious, what did you mean by “Well, see my experience.”

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        That’s not totally true. There’s a niche of companies that do high-integrity or high-security development of software. Some warranty the results. They charge a premium of at least 50% over other companies.

        That’s a fair observation. Unfortunately, those companies seem to be very rare. Is there a list of them published somewhere?

        Curious, what did you mean by “Well, see my experience.”

        I’m glad that you’re asking, which means that my publicity has faded a bit.

        I used to be a bit notorious for some high-profile actions that, while ethical to a fault, were judged negatively by some notable technology companies. There are rumors that I attempted to unionize one company where I worked; this is not true, although I have spoken sympathetically on the concept of software unionization (not that it will ever happen). My name was (erroneously) listed on a “suspected union organizer” blacklist in Silicon Valley for a while. In fact, I don’t know the first thing about organizing a union (and, at this point, I could care less about the Valley).

        I’ve survived (and just barely) some attempts to destroy my reputation and career, and my faith in this industry is nonexistent. We are mostly in the business of helping rich guys, who have no concern for ethics or law or social justice, unemploy people. Software could be so much more, but we’ve let it become this disgusting business that I’m embarrassed to have been a part of.

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          Hate to hear it happened to you. However, I totally agree with software developers unionizing. I agree with most in middle class sectors doing that. The reason in IT is that the job is critical, it’s prone to layoffs, there’s lots of discrimination, mismanagement is rampant, performance metrics suck, and mostly importantly the major companies were price-fixing labor. They devolved into a cartel just like I suspected and what I predicted would happen to most oligopolies. Except this was unusual given it crossed some market sectors with fiercely-competitive companies instead of incrementally-competitive ones that are typical (eg AT&T vs Verizon). A situation this bad for labor that only drives money into CEO’s or founders' pockets is exactly the reason unions existed in the first place.

          Now, people reading might think of bad unions with unreasonable demands and costs blowing out of proportion. Not necessary. When talking about giving more to workers, I like to use low-margin companies as examples given that higher-margin companies should be able to match at least what low-margin ones do. The best example overlapping low-margin and union is Kroger chain of grocery stores with UFCW union. I’ve actually read that contract and talked to their union representatives about all the stuff they deal with. Here’s what its terms are like:

          1. Workers get paid a percentage better than minimum wage with earnings going up over time as experience increases. They get paid a higher rate for higher positions. These are standardized for common roles so there’s no discrimination on pay. Working in a higher position temporarily to cover a spot (eg someone is sick) earns you the higher position’s pay for however long you worked it. You get overtime if you work overtime regardless of what state says.

          2. Company offers heath insurance, dental coverage, and retirement package. Union manages that side of things so company can’t screw with it.

          3. Workers are guaranteed 10 hours between shifts so they can at least attempt sleep. They can waive it for extra money but can’t be forced to.

          4. There’s standardized breaks and lunches so people can get some rest. The contract also mandates a breakroom so people can’t bump into them asking for them to work on their break. A biometric, time clock records the shifts, breaks, and lunches. That data can be read by both management and the Union.

          5. Workers get a few paid sick days and 1-2 vacation weeks per year depending on position. The vacations are paid. For hourly workers, the system averages the hours they worked then pays the average.

          6. Best for last: due process.

          I’m dedicating a paragraph to that as I think it should be a national law. :) Union reps say the crap management pulls on workers is endless. Employees will tell you, too. Management is at Walmart’s level or worse. Everything from racism to forcing young people to skip lunches to intentionally losing paychecks to deploying practices that result in broken backs and shit. Union resolves most of it in heated negotiations without it going further. Sometimes it just takes a call.

          Due process is the solution to this. It says Kroger can’t just arbitrarily fire a worker without basically paying them a good deal of money for a period of time. It’s why they didn’t do layoffs during recession. Just hour cuts. They have to come up with performance metrics and policies defining good work. Then, they must write-up workers who violate those with evidence they do. After a certain number, they can fire them. For any termination, a worker can challenge it. If unreasonable, the union will defend the worker first in negotiations and then in arbitration. Union reps say the workers usually get their job back since they were doing good but fired on a technicality for political reasons. Or rep sits in the store for hours seeing tons of violations that get no write-ups but that one employee is getting singled out. Due process with clear standards for performance is union’s first line of defense against bad management.

          So, I look at all these companies that treat IT workers like shit. I notice that most of them have higher than 1.6% profit margin Kroger does. Many have tons of revenue. Management make good money with executives making a killing. The things above actually don’t cost much for most mid-sized or large firms. IT will still be plenty productive. They still oppose such things. That’s just because they’re fucking evil. ;) So, unions and then campaign contributions for better labor laws are necessary evil if workers gotta face evil every day.

          Note: I did this one last night but the submission disappeared for some reason. Had to redo it… (sighs)

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            Do you have any ideas on what the core problem is? And do you think software as an industry is special in this regard or just ahead of the curve on these issues?

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              “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” – Hamilton

              I think that we’re often attracted by software because it promises us lucrative jobs and an opportunity to get paid for working in a world of abstraction and syntax (code). And “Big 4” cultures are designed to appeal to people who want to believe in institutional meritocracy, even though the evaluation of “merit” becomes, at an individual level, more political and malignant in the corporate world than it ever was in school.

              I’d imagine that the cultures in government and research are very different, but private-sector software is this culture built up by people who (a) are attracted by the money and (b) don’t really stand for anything in an ethical sense. This isn’t a dig, because I was a greedy douchebag when I was younger too– trust me, I’m in no position to cast any stones– but now that I’m older and aware of just how poisonous that moral emptiness can be, what used to seem like an abstract shortcoming (i.e. “we’re not working on things that matter”) is now more existentially pressing.

              I also think that we (and the media) tend to trivialize this by looking at, e.g., Snapchat and saying that our generation is being “wasted” on frivolity. That’s true, but the frivolity isn’t the worst part of it, and most of what the VCs are funding isn’t frivolous tech but WMUs– weapons of mass unemployment. It’s more pernicious than just “frivolity”.

              To answer the broader question, I think that Corporate America is in (welcome) decline. Kids in college still want to be investment bankers and Big4 programmers, but less so than when I was in school. You’re seeing more interest in public service and research, and less blind herd behavior. As for the self-contradiction of Corporate America, Donald Trump (the id of the corporate class) is showing us that this greed, money-worship, and self-absorbed careerism lead to narcissism, then full-blown egomania, and then frank destructive fury that hurts everyone. Hilary Clinton is a flawed person but she is a public servant and she holds to her values and has a vision for where to take the country. Whether that vision is correct, I’d rather not debate here, but she has one.

              The next-quarter mentality isn’t limited to software, and it seems to be destructive everywhere. It’ll take a lot of work to remove it. The pressures involved are too much for most people, right now, to resist.

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                I’m older and aware of just how poisonous that moral emptiness can be, what used to seem like an abstract shortcoming (i.e. “we’re not working on things that matter”) is now more existentially pressing.

                I wish there was a club for people like us… You know what is also fun? Balancing your own company on the edge between making money and making a difference.

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                  So you think the core problem behind low-quality jobs, funky hiring practices, and frivolous products is that people want money and don’t have ethical values? What is the source of that then? If it’s simply human nature then what is causing the change you describe in young people? If it’s not, then there must be a deeper problem.

                  I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I’m not convinced either. I would love for one of these ennui-laden discussions to yield something even remotely actionable, and just saying “it’s greed” seems like a total dead end to me.

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                    I’ll obviously let Church speak for himself here, but I my feeling is basically thus (very depressing read ahead):

                    The zeitgeist of the time is hopelessness, distraction, and greed. We are all, at some level or another, greedily trying to buy distractions from the hopeless nature of things.

                    At the risk of repeating platitudes, some observations: We use the iPhone, but pay no attention to the e-waste dumps and factory suicides. We inhabit Facebook, but try to ignore the massive surveillance it is predicated on. We praise Uber et al., but tacitly ignore the continued abuse of municipal laws. We espouse diversity, but only when it is applied to viewpoints we like. We enjoy fictional violence, but isolate ourselves ever-further from actual displays of force.

                    Simply put, we are all drifting further from the reality and impacts of our lifestyle decisions, and at least for people trained in systems thinking (e.g., developers) there is the undeniable slow creeping sensation on the back of the neck that things aren’t quite right, that the sums and figures don’t quite come out correct, and that sometime soon the music is going to stop and we’re all fucked. Those of us not occupied with academic pursuits and the makework of refurbishing the Javascript ecosystem, that is.

                    Knowing this, and knowing just how ruthless and brutal the system is about optimizing away things (read: people) that are extraneous to a particular economic objective, we make the rational decision and start trying to grab as much money as we can before we can’t anymore.

                    The obvious posing and fake advertising and frivolity of social media makes it even easier to see our fellow man as marks, makes it easier to justify extracting maximum revenue from them. Whether it’s the dolt retweeting everything Trump says, or the VC who cuts a check on anything which mentions ML or IoT, or just a dumb public official who needs to show their constituents that they are “investing in the future” is of no practical matter: there are just the people who have resources, the people that can become resources, and the people who know how to harvest resources. As developers, we think ourselves in the third category though we’re basically just the second.

                    I used to think that there was enough room on the bus for everyone, that we could elevate and enlighten and teach and move people (as a whole) forward. I’m increasingly of the opinion that there are simply the people driving the bus, the people under the bus, and extremely limited seating for folks that are neither.

                    There’s no immediate solution either, right?

                    Do you believe in your community, in the common good? Both candidates in the current election have basically disowned the other’s would-be voters. The legislature will merrily play chicken with budgets in order to score political points. Even the very notion of belonging to one’s country or civilization is under attack by various philosophies popular in educated circles!

                    How, how are we to believe in the greatness of the people and the goodness of man when we are constantly reminded of this? How are we to devote our efforts to holding up a tottering dam holding back chaos when that act is criticized by some, used as a cheap revenue source by others, and actively hindered by the rest of folks too stupid not to play with matches next to the piers?

                    We have an additional mokita: more than ever we individually are both more aware of our mortality and limitations and at the same time further isolated from them. War and famine are things that we see on Twitter and the news but which never really effect us. We can learn more than ever before about any given subject, and yet we are continually overshadowed by stories and articles about people who are either best in their field or just exceptionally good at advertising.

                    In such a situation, what is the value of your life? What is its purpose? What makes it special or desirable? Why bother? At a large enough scale and with good enough coverage, we’re all just Brownian noise in the lifestream–and that’s where we are today. There’s no point in being the best person in town at doing foo, because we all read about foo on the ‘net and know how far we’d have to go.

                    So, instead, maybe we can get enough money to paper over that existential void. Maybe we can buy enough things or influence to secure a place in history. Maybe this time we’ll pull it off…maybe.

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                      Knowing this, and knowing just how ruthless and brutal the system is about optimizing away things (read: people) that are extraneous to a particular economic objective, we make the rational decision and start trying to grab as much money as we can before we can’t anymore.

                      This is right on the nose.

                      Before 1980, when many of our parents were growing up, it was socially unacceptable to say that you just wanted to make a lot of money or make connections so you can get a job where you don’t really have to work. Donald Trump became the zeitgeist of a materialistic, crass era (the 1980s) for a reason: it just wasn’t acceptable to be like him. Avarice and egotism still existed (see Mad Men) but were considered crass and pathological. And consider that the office politics of Mad Men, although nasty in their time because advertising had a similar flavor to entry-level investment banking today, aren’t all that bad by the modern standard. In the ‘70s, staying till 6:30 meant you were a hustler. Work was a more civilized game, and people played for the long term. Greed and ego have always been factors, but people were more intelligent in going about their objectives and there was more of a long-term mentality which precluded a lot of the worst plays.

                      The era of the lifelong technologist seems to be drawing to a close, except in academia and in some government agencies. In the private sector, this is definitely a game where if you’re not a founder or an “angel investor” (read: rich) by age 40, people will ask why. These days, being a software engineer means contending with micromanagement (Ministry of Agile) that is designed for children, that “we” have had to accept because the conscientious objectors have all been fired and replaced with compliant, often belligerently incompetent, unprepared neophytes out of college or “boot camps” (which are, mostly, fly-by-night trade schools with no quality control). The pay is decent. Not amazing, but decent. It’s one of the few genuinely middle class jobs left. Still, the low status of the job means that as soon as the market softens, programmers are going to take a hard fall while the management will be just fine: VC associates who don’t make partner will circulate elsewhere in private equity, founders will end up in $250k jobs at hedge funds, and startup executives will ride their coattails. Meanwhile, a generation of programmers will be left in the cold with nothing to say for itself.

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                      “If it’s simply human nature then what is causing the change you describe in young people? If it’s not, then there must be a deeper problem.”

                      I threw a savant brain at the angle for years trying to figure it out. I eventually did come up with a model that explains it. Tried to find every work-around I could to change it. Ended up really depressed when I couldn’t find one permutation likely to work without straight-up revolution. It got to the point where I could predict what would happen with national events or elections at an abstract level. I originally thought it was emergent behavior but it’s increasingly clear the worst parts of what are happening are by design and emergent behavior within that design. Occasional outliers but the system the elites put in place is pretty air-tight.

                      It’s too complex to explain in one comment but I’ll give you a few key points.

                      1. It starts with capitalism at banking and industry levels. They realized certain practices would get them rich. One of those was screwing workers. The vast majority of people starting businesses are selfish enough to want to be very rich. They managed to use money to Congress and media presentation to voters to make sure vast majority of wealth produced by majority of workers went to tiny few with similar interests. They started forming monopolies using their vast capital. When that was busted up, they started forming oligopolies w/ cartel agreements to prevent competition. They get outrageous CEO compensation since the boards that keep that in check often have other CEO’s, founders, etc They’re all on each others' boards (“interlocking boards”) with emergent behavior of “you get me rich, I’ll get you rich.” They also pushed for patent and copyright to be strong to allow both selective monopolies plus prevent or financially drain competition. We’re already a plutocracy at this point where one cartel controls whole financial system plus others control most markets key for survival. Worse, the incentives say reduce cost/quality/safety while charging more.

                      2. Congress will save the day with laws “for the People,” right? Congress and Executive branch are corrupt so no. First, they need tons of money to get elected. A Presidency costs around $200 million these days. Congressional seat at least millions probably tens. That means only people that can run are rich people or those backed by them. Also, existing system lets current legislators attempt to filter out anyone less corrupt that bypasses that problem. The voters themselves are extremely superficial where character and voting/business history are mostly ignored in favor of whatever a candidate looks like, does in personal time, says during campaign, etc. What professional liars say >= what they do or did. (???) Once in Congress, they spend most of their time preparing for next election. They pay back contributors, mostly elites, with laws that benefit them at people’s expense. Most Congress has portfolios of stock in dirtiest companies. They also ensure votes by sending massive amounts of pork to their districts which is why they waste so much on “Defense” spending building shit we don’t need & broken welfare systems. Those are tied to millions of votes directly impacted by changes. All adds up to preserve the status quo.

                      3. Media will inform us so we change votes and overthrow the system, right? Media is a bunch of for-profit corporations whose business model is making money off adds by getting people to look at the screen as long as possible. They are not there to inform! It’s a business! Getting people’s attention meant they covered key stories, had important people on the air, etc. The also are run by elites who like the system as it is since they’re rich and powerful. Changes would impact them. So, they always practiced self-censorship where they collectively avoid topics or avenues of investigation that would lead to radical change while focusing on issues that appeal to each’s demographic with a mix of emotional responses. They’ll break veil of censorship if someone hits critical mass where they can’t be caught ignoring it. At that point, they either present it in a non-actionable way focusing on blame instead of solid response or start covering shock stories that distract people. This already worked way too well to point the corporate media is single greatest threat to American democracy in existence. Fox improved the model by basically turning up the bullshit to extreme levels with a format that focused on people fighting with each other, use of fake experts, tying message more to viewer, and getting more viewer involvement that doesn’t really do anything but feels like it does. Record-breaking profits and dominance on right-leaning side followed. Others copy their techniques now. You often can’t talk about a key issue for over a minute before host interrupts you or Americans tune out. So how can you change anything again? Go to another of those tens of thousands of stations that are all owned by the same 20+ for-profit corporations with interlocking boards? Good luck.

                      4. Our eduction system will help people figure it all out, right? I still haven’t read Gatto’s Underground History of Education to see if it’s legit or bullshit but the abstract I saw a while back seems true. It was elites like Rockafeller that started the system as industrialization kicked in where they needed tons of workers smart enough to do the shit jobs they were creating that made elites rich. As Carlin said, “smart enough to operate the machines but not smart enough to” know how much they were being screwed. The education system dictated what people would learn at what pace with promises of them making millions over time if they followed it plus severe punishments for those that didn’t. The process itself combined rote memorization of material from authority figures, rigid routines, punishment of dissent, and simple metrics to assess skill. Smart people had to teach themselves shit constantly outside of school plus fight with educators over being taught ineffective methods “because it’s required by the bosses.” Basically like working in a factory or big corporation. It’s not education people: it’s conditioning humans like dogs with bare minimum in education. No wonder elites sent their own children to expensive private schools, got them tutors, and brought them along to see how they did business at executive level. That class gets educated where I’m still fighting to learn some aspects of what the C-level people do.

                      There’s also surveillance/police state, what the U.S. military actually does, systematic suppression of dissent from voting rights to business, and so on. However, the above combined with human nature are all that’s necessary for a successful plutocracy. Human nature is herd-minded, terrible at long-term risks, focuses on here/now presented to our faces, prefers easy battles to hard ones, wants to maximize individual gain in local context, and has trouble being vigilant. The education and media combine to create a mental maze for average person where they go in the directions that are safe for the system. Some will fight it in ineffective ways while others will defend it thinking it benefits them. Some will make themselves and elite investors rich improving something, most will expand on the profits of incumbent elites, some break away from the system without achieving critical mass to affect it, and rest fall through the cracks. Capital almost entirely in rich’s hands combined with corrupt, capitalist Congress reinforcing system in law means the battle will always be uphill. Media continues to suppress key issues, like how most problems are due to Congressional bribes, but will endlessly repeat or generate frivilous stories that maximize their revenue. Americans stay fighting with each other in the maze instead of the elites that built it. Most successful, reality-distortion field I’ve ever seen.

                      So, there it is in a nutshell. I have no hope of fixing it. The system is too robust after the decades they spend working on it. There’s a small chance that a solution can happen involving Internet media if the both the bait messages and the presented solutions are ultra-simple. The problem and solution have to be simple with candidates and legislation ready to go. They have to be willing to vote people out of office. The source(s) can’t make one mistake in accuracy plus need several tuned to different demographics all pushing same thing from different perspectives. There’s a chance that several classes of problems could be knocked out that way. Most aren’t using this strategy, though. The few that are use it on the wrong messages that just add to lower classes fighting each other.

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              Your comment is just a bunch of rhetoric without much content.

              You’ll have a heard time convincing anyone that companies don’t care about the productivity of their engineers. Without productive engineers, they aren’t making money. Why would they go against their own self interests?

              And of course there’s a cost to the company if they hire a lemon. Have you ever worked on a team with a bad developer? A single bad developer ruins the productivity of the entire team they are on. That’s why companies are so careful about avoiding bad hires. A single bad hire is equivalent to missing out on multiple good developers.

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                A single bad developer ruins the productivity of the entire team they are on.

                What would you call the manager that allows this to happen? Inexperienced? Ludicrously incompetent? Is this just the assumption, that no manager ever was able to stop someone from building a project’s foundations out of balsa wood or nitroglycerine?

                It takes more than a single bad individual contributor to ruin a whole team. Management is supposed to be there to evaluate progress, identify, and address problems. Yes, management does not always succeed.

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                  Management are usually the cause of the problem - they are there to manage and lead - many are not competent at either task - hence the Peter Principle

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                    I had this recently happen to me. We had an individual who would continuously argue with others. Management repeatedly tried coaching him, hoping he would improve. It wound up taking two months for management to decide it would be better to let the individual go. After he was gone, everyone immediately felt much more productive.

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                    There’s a steady stream of articles and comments about how broken hiring is, how poorly good developers are treated, discrimination against older ones to get less-skilled people at lower cost, how most projects fail due to poor management, how execs look at IT as a cost center knstead of strategic enabler… all this stuff indicates they dont give a shit in practice. Most also will punish attempts at reform.

                    So, his comment is pretty consistent with what I read from insiders instead of rhetorical nonsense.

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                      What is michaelochurch’s point besides “Hiring is broken!” and “Management hates programmers!”?

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                        Many specific problems with enough detail for HR or senior executives to take action on. His comment would be useless if he just said the two things you just said. Strawmen are easier to knock down, though.

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                  Joel thinks 97% of applicants are lemons. The author thinks the number is more like 80%. I think despite a lot of rhetorical differences they mostly agree.

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                    That’s an order-of-magnitude difference in how many non-lemons are out there.

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                    Why aren’t development jobs more portfolio based than resume based?

                    It seems to me “look at the stuff I made” is way better proof of competence than x years at y companies. And all the good programmers out there have some sort of side project actions.

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                      And all the good programmers out there have some sort of side project actions.

                      I upvoted you because I do think portfolio-based recruitment is better than resumes. However, I strongly disagree with the line I quoted above. <anecdata>The best programmers I know (in person) are much less likely to have programming-related side projects compared with less skilled programmers I know (in person).</anecdata>

                      In addition, there is a sampling problem. When thinking of good programmers in general, you are limited to the good programmers that you’ve heard of. And since side projects are likely the mechanism by which you hear of programmers…

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                      Why on earth would you want to turn a site that respects your browser size into one that does not?

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                        Maybe because the optimal line length for readability is somewhere around 30-40em, depending on the typeface? Long lines of text are hard for the eye to scan efficiently.

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                          If somebody is using a browser window 3000 pixels wide with a 10 point font, I guarantee you they have a reason.

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                            What exactly do you mean by that? My browser window is 2500 pixels wide, this site’s default font size is 16px. I run my browser at that width because I use web apps that are easier to use in a maximized browser window. I am absolutely applying @pushcx’s CSS because I am not resizing my browser window every time I come across a site that doesn’t care about readability.

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                              I like to use this bookmarklet:

                              javascript:function B_fixWidth()%7Bdocument.body.style.width='800px';document.body.style.margin='0 auto';%7D;B_fixWidth();
                              

                              I think it was posted by Shaun Inman on Twitter many years ago.

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                              Could you give any examples? I don’t want to start an argument over the validity of those reasons, I’m wondering if there’s an accessibility concern I’m missing.

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                                I have certainly seen similar CSS interact badly with traditional high DPI (i.e. non-“retina” - what you got if you set older versions of windows to a high DPI). Possibly using em avoids that particular pitfall.

                                Some users might find vertical scrolling difficult and want to minimize it.

                                Personally I just prefer to read a full-width screen of text. I don’t know how to reconcile this with the claim (apparently supported by studies?) that shorter lines are more readable, but it’s my direct personal experience. Shrug.

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                                  As you say, it’s a personal choice. This article does a pretty good job of summarizing some real studies, and tries to draw a conclusion from them.

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                            It still does. Max-width only applies when the container is big enough. If the container is less then 40em wide, then the element still resizes within that container. Lobste.rs does exactly the same as this so comment sections don’t span the entire width of 2560+ pixels

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                              I know, and it’s a pain. I turn it off with a custom stylesheet at home but unfortunately I don’t have access to do that at work.

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                              Personally I found it extremely hard to read in its original form on my 15" MBPr / fullscreen chrome (though I read it all before noticing the css recommendation)