The code universe can learn from the news industry mistakes

Image by jivagoalves is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As bigger as the web becomes, a problem gets bigger: even with extraordinary tools like Google, even good things are not good (or not even things) if they are absent. This is particularly true for both news (the real ones, not the Facebook-fodder one) and development. Programmers need to develop a Stack Overflow 2.0 where individuals who help to determine the best solution are equally or more important than the ones who conceive them.

Imagine if you could have part of your diet of anything – clothes, food, whatever – was at your reach. It’s kinda like it. The dev universe is based in the Newtonian concept of stood-on-giants-shoulder. None does everything alone and get the right recipe determines the quality and time invested to a given project. Most of the field producers have a considerable dependence on the information corpus which is updated every second. An environment with so many variables (Not only languages, but frameworks, libraries, scopes etc) is destined to be atomically fragmented, but even within such fractal horizon, the platonic search for truth is set to be ungrateful.

In part, this is a clutter syndrome that lies at the heart of the World Wide Web. Content is the grass of it. It may evolve into a forest, but most of the time, it’s just noise. Journalists know better for quite some time now. They say their domain to be obliterated by the content tsunami unleashed by digital and the smartest ones learnt the hard wat that already found out that 99% of what they write is simply ignored.

Paradoxically, a world with more information is a worse world. This has been (and still is) a painstaking truth to take, especially to a professional which measures its clout by influence. Social media is just a temporary painkiller for the ego. The vast majority of journalists will end up doing another thing because their content is not the king. Content is a commodity with value around zero to sell, unless you’re Google or Facebook.

The programming world as a different configuration. Content can objectively have its efficiency measured and “fake” content quickly meets a swift death, once the audience has an active role in not allowing spam to progress.

As the universe is getting bigger and with people’s attention being finite, the challenge to development now is learning to filter more on behalf of the community. Repositories of content like Stack Overflow are the mines of a knowledge that is the foundation of the world as we know, but some similarities with news are also present. Developers must fight the appeal of becoming influencers and write less. The rule should be a curatorship one: write what you write best and link to the rest. The beautifully-crafted, precise, elegant code that has been approved after being tested and re-tested should be taken to the highlights by everyone, be properly labelled and organised. Coding is more rugby than football. There is no shiniest, unique snow-flakes, just focused hard-workers.

Once code is reusable, plagiarism can be measured. It is feasible to find the original source and adequately credit the inspired authors, but there is another critical layer: writing a great piece of code is as useful as helping people to find it. If you help to connect people to the solutions they seek, you are playing an equally important role. The hateful Facebook “Like” is very useful if you are not only interested in selling ads. The validation of content by the regular audience, as it happens on Stack Overflow and many other places is the primal stone of a true global repository knowledge.

The development system has then a fundamental difference from the news one. This addictive digital everybody-else approval “Like-ish” methamphetamine can get a new life if it becomes a currency for efficiency instead of attention. None writes code to get bigger audiences. There is no shortcut to fame as there is in news, where hate speech, fake news and polemics drive you right to the top attention spot immediately.. In development, each content should be put to test. The winner code takes all, but the credit for bringing it to life is no longer individual.

For years, the PR platoons of the tech giants manufactured a discourse that everything was about love and family; sharing is caring a bucket of shit-like stuff. All lies. Social media was only about egos in the first place and the distortions it made up were the trigger to the path towards a convulsed world, a world where truth has been melted into an indistinguishable mud, unrecognisable at first glance. This big lie made for IPO’s, shareholders and sick celebrities is the nemesis of the development path should take. Good writers should write less improved code. Audiences and platforms should coordinate to dry the mud to give breathing room to a clearer map of where-is-what-I-want-when. There would be less effort to better outcomes. This would be the ultimate winner-takes-all deal.

About the author

My name is Cassiano and I am a Full-Stack Developer. Stories rule our life, even - or especially - when we don't realize it. When I am working, I tell them with code. Here, I tell them in text.