Are the Best Programmers the Loudest?


Quick! Name the best living programmer that you can think of. I’ll wait….

Got it. OK. Now let me see if I can guess who you named. Was it possibly Scott Hanselman, or Jeff Attwood? How about Joel Spolsky? Maybe you named Martin Fowler or Uncle Bob?

The funny thing is that while all of these guys are very good programmers they’re probably not the best living programmers. They are definitely the loudest though. They write the most books, blogs and tweets. Basically they shape the conversation and the echo chamber.

Don’t get me wrong. They add a lot of value to the conversation and are generous in sharing their tech knowledge with the world. On the other hand, the best living programmer is probably hacking away on a Unix or Windows kernel somewhere. Or maybe he’s writing the next graphics engine.

But the only ones that are aware of how awesome this person is are his peers. Even the customers that get his product never get to see the output of his art. They don’t see the code, they just use the product and either it works or it doesn’t. The elegance of the code is hidden.

Where’s Your Megaphone?

That’s why if you want to be known as a great programmer, you can’t just program. You need to write as well. Otherwise not many people will be aware of your mad skills. You’ve got to share that knowledge with the world.

It’s really a win-win. If you are truly a great programmer, you will get the credit you deserve and your readers will learn a lot as well. One of the best examples from the past is Michael Abrash. He was an expert low-level assembly coder and graphics programmer who made large contributions to Windows, Quake and Unreal Tournament.

After writing the Zen of Assembly Language and Michael Abrash’s Graphics Programming Black Book, he became known as the ultimate graphics programming expert.

And, if you have some expert knowledge to share, it’s never been easier. You don’t even have to publish a book. Just start writing a blog. If it has consistently great material, you can accrue a following which often leads to a book. In this day of millions of blogs and SEO, content is still king.

So where’s your awesome content? If it’s only in code, your audience might be limited…

2 Comments » for Are the Best Programmers the Loudest?
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