Hackers and Painters



Like so many others, I have read Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham. And, surprise, I find it highly recommendable, like everybody else. The following are a few thoughts about I jotted down while reading:

  • Why, oh why, in the name of mad page flipping are the footnotes placed in the back?
  • I am surprised that Pete McBreen of Software Craftmanship fame is not mentioned - in my opinion they are making the same case against “Computer Science”
  • Contrary to common XP belief Paul Graham favors code ownership. Quite unusual in this day and age, and interesting - I need to reflect on it more.
  • His thoughts on developers needing empathy are spot on. Not only for the end users but also for the later developers. It is also better to tell a developer to see things from somebody elses view and document accordingly instead of having him follow the RUP Deliverable Tablets of Stone without reflection.
  • Hosting your own web application - I wish. Companies today still see the intranet as something that should be inside their own, very physical, walls. And I can’t blame them - at Lecando we run our own JIRA, Confluence, SugarCRM etcetera in house. It hit me though when thinking about this - what would we choose if Atlassian offered a hosted JIRA at a competitive price? What if that was the only way they offered their solution? Would JIRA be developed faster since they did not have to worry about releases and customers maintenance problems, or would they spend that time managing the server park?
  • Paul Graham makes a very strong case for capitalism. Whatever your view on politics - I believe that the starting part of the Wealth chapter describing the difference between wealth and money should be taught to all.
  • The parts about Lisp are quite tiresome. And regarding Perl as a higher level language than Java? Please.
  • With “Partisans of permissive languages ridiculing the other [preventive languages such as Java - my note] as “B&D” (bondage and discipline) languages” Paul Graham wonders what “prevent”-style people say of Perl? At Lecando we normally just say “Perl …” and shake our heads.
  • Paul Graham has a slightly dismissive tone when talking about stuff like object orientation, static typing etcetera which can get on your nerves if you are a Java head.
  • I get the feeling that he sees Java people the way Java people see VB people. Prejudice! :)
  • He suggests that pointy-haired bosses select Java for programming projects. Since I would select Java for many programming project, would that make me pointy-haired?
  • He does explain, perhaps unintentionally, Javas success by emphasizing the importance of existing libraries for a programming language to succeed. Hibernate, Lucene et cetera anyone?.
  • When he mentions the importance of efficiency and the ability to rewrite code I believe he is right. But, I can be dead wrong, I imagine Paul being a Emacs hacker, and if you still only use Emacs, it is sure easier to write code in Python, Ruby etc. But in Java land there is this neat thing called refactoring IDE’s - Eclipse, IDEA and the lot. My problem is that it is hard returning to Emacs after using a code-completing, refactoring IDE like IDEA.
  • I guess I have to learn Lisp to see what the fuss is all about

Edit: Fixed typos