The voice whispering bulllshhhiiittt

Zed Shaw has another awesome rant at I agree with much of what he says about both the web and OO. I don’t see the causal connection though: they both suck, but it is probably just a coincidence. However the best part of the talk was when he invoked the voice in the back of your head whispering “bulllshhhiiittt”. That nails what programming is like for me. Most of what we have to deal with is just so wrong wrong wrong. Having to get stuff done despite the deep wrongness of it all leads to textbook cognitive dissonance. I have always been slightly amazed by the people who seem so happy and satisfied with programming. I suspect that it ultimately comes down to personality differences. I also suspect that it is a hyper-sensitivity to wrongness that drives misfits and rebels ranging from Steve Jobs to the Unabomber. Does anyone else feel the wrongness of programming?

Update: the other thing I like about Zed’s talk is that it aligns perfectly with my research direction. Decades of listening to that whispering voice have driven me to develop a post-object language. I think the best way to demonstrate this language is by reinventing the web. So I am traveling the same path as Zed but in the opposite direction.

13 Replies to “The voice whispering bulllshhhiiittt”

  1. Ha! Delightfully entertaining talk. But in the end a lot more winging in it than useful ideas. The winging was largely on the money though.

  2. The biggest issue for me, is when that background voice turns into inertia. I have to fight the wrongness to finish some job, when fixing just isn’t an option ( cost/etc )

  3. Wow, what an asshole.

    He doesn’t get it, but he’s like a moth circling a flame.

    Getting closer.

    The fact that he rhymed off all of these useless technologies demonstrates that he will never “get it”.

    Software went into the weeds when the “subroutine” (CALL/RETURN) was invented.

    Major mind-fuck.

    Jonathan, I’ve been imploring you to think outside of this box.

    Join us at the Flow-Based Programming google group.!forum/flow-based-programming

    “Software” should be composed. Composed of components, the way hardware is composed of components.


  4. Iconoclasm is amusing in small doses, but it isn’t argument and it isn’t insightful merely because it is iconoclastic. I never heard Zed apologize for janky, leaky, mongrels (which he abandoned), nor do I see him acknowledging the wonderful things that have been built over things he considered problematic.

    Instead, a constant flow of pejorative adjectives and rhetorical questions (to which he knows, but does not credit, then answers) is not reasoning. Frankly, I found nothing inspiring in what he said — I don’t think the status quo is wonderful, but I know its what it is. I know its miles better than what we had, and I know that, while there was once a time when the janky, leaky code he wrote was meaningful and enabling for me, his stuff too — which is bad by today’s standards — has been relegated to oblivion.

    I claim no standing to judge another or his code — my gorgeous, functional procedural 2-man hacks in writing seminal computer games that have no meaning today do not justify it as the best solution. His one-liners and mostly four-letter word derivatives about OO is hardly an argument.

    Like the law (which I have been hacking quite a bit lately), these things are the worst things in the world, until you consider the alternatives. I can easily fire at things, and say we have more to do. But to do that, I realize that in time, I MUST STILLL stand on the shoulders of giants.

    There are fire throwers in the OO advocacy world as well, but you know, I find their arguments far more interesting, practical and personally provocative than I found Zed’s remarks. Like a commenter on Vimeo, I want my 30 minutes back. (Note that I could have said I want the months I spent trying to make mongrels work without adopting add-on code to restart systems that failed back, but that would be petty — just as were his arguments).

    Too many four-letter words today. I didn’t find them all that refreshing. Advocacy in this community shouldn’t read like a Mamet play. Zed’s talks aren’t likely to win a Tony.

  5. I feel this way constantly. I’m not sure what to do about it.. on a small day to day scale I try to use it as a motivation to improve. But I feel like the real problems are in the tools, languages, paradigms, and methodologies we use. My fear is that the _real_ problem is not even their, but further back.. that our desires are inherently contradictory. Like wanting turing-completeness and automatic proofs our programs don’t halt 🙂

    I think part of the W3C problem might be a tension between needing to be low level to allow everyone to easily implement the specification (and to be sure the specification is well defined), and wanting to be a high level semantic mark up thing.

    Also, Zed’s talk seems to assume that when the technical problem is solved the solution will be so solid it will blow everything away.. but I think his proposed technical solution seems basically the same as what I thought Java’s original goal was.. to have a bytecode based VM as the backend for all of the interactive stuff on the web.

  6. Update: the other thing I like about Zed’s talk is that it aligns perfectly with my research direction. Decades of listening to that whispering voice have driven me to develop a post-object language. I think the best way to demonstrate this language is by reinventing the web. So I am traveling the same path as Zed but in the opposite direction.

  7. I (like most other people) just trade time for money. People do not care that codding suck, as long as other people pay tons of money to write code (and I mean WRITE CODE, not create solutions, not making programs – THEY PAY FOR WRITING CODE!).
    That’s the way it’s – that’s the way it’s gotta be.

  8. Yes I have the bulshhhhhit voice is deeply embedded in me. It’s always there. Only the clarity and volume of it changes.

    I’m pretty certain there’s a lot wrong from the base of software engineering. And the sad thing is, I believe it would be more than a human generation for this change.

    So I’m seriously thinking about career change. Ultimately are we not concerned about pleasure and sense in our work? I don’t want to be part of “the generation lost in the web”

    What are we trying to perfect? Who for? Is it not the communication? I would rather re-qualify myself into some other working position where I can communicate with human beings which have higher probability of pleasant dialogue.

    Where I would be performing a task more closer to my biological function which certainly is nothing to do with standing in front a bright lamp typing text for a machine to understand. And also as it commonly happens the machine is making a complete idiot of the engineer precisely by forcing you to work in idiotic terms and languages.

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