Church

2014-02-20

Since I've been back in Chicago, I've gone to quite a few meetups.

Meetups are great. They're a source of inspiration, a great place to meet new people, and they serve to enhance the variety of ideas that you can bump into on any given day.

For many communities, and especially the developer community, meetups serve as a kind-of church: there's usually a priest and sermon, the hymns usually consist of some in-joke humor ("PHP...amiright?!?"), and there's a reception where people talk about anything from how they're using a given technology to why the speaker's cat gifs were/weren't adorable.

But meetups are hazardous, and especially so to beginners.

Looking back on the meetups I've been to, including ones on the role of tests, Ruby metaprogramming, JavaScript workflows, routers in Go, and many others, I get this sinking feeling that I have been showing more to be told how to think and how to feel rather than learn from the topic or speaker at hand.

I'm not a terribly outgoing person, and that fact has bothered me for a lot of my life. I feel that my social anxiety has gotten in the way of many life experiences, and I wanted to do something to change that, hence meetups.

Great, right? Self-improvement and all that! But then something weird happened. I started to listen to what people are saying a little too closely. I started to internalize their opinions. As someone with no taste for software, or workflow, or language design, or any of these things, this is fucking dangerous. You start to take advice from anyone who will give it. You start to listen to and lend credence to some perfectly smelly bullshit.

And even worse than being an advice dumpster is that you start to behave that way at the expense of writing your own code, laying your own bricks, and penning your own stories. You start to internalize other people's mistakes. You begin to believe that you've made them yourself and that you understand them, when you haven't and you don't.

No beginner does.

As humans, our cycles are – and I maintain, should always be – more valuable than those of computers. They're also measurably, beautifully finite. For these reasons, our sins of credulity and false-hope of painless mastery are that much more egregious. Our idolization of perfection becomes that much less forgivable.

As beginners, we need fewer quick answers. We need less advice, solicited or otherwise. We need to write more embarrassingly bad code.

We need write more code.