Developer/Designer Notes

Elitism and Software Development

Posted by Kiran Mova on April 4, 2007

As I crawled the web in search of new javascript libraries, I was distracted by this slightly personal insight from Jeremy Keith writes(Author of DOM Scripting) :

Personally, I’m somewhat mistrustful of using other people’s code (I’m a bit of a control freak) and I thought I was in the minority, but having spoken to people like Stuart and PPK who share my feelings, now I’m not so sure.

It brought-back the thoughts that were hidden in me. As I read that, I felt good to know I am not alone. I have been stuck on this principle for past seven years myself. But recently, I have been debating about this “Software Programmer’s Elitism”. So this triggered me to look around and see what other top-notch programmers have to say about it.

In response to QuirksBlog post on javascript libraries, Comment#19 Posted by Robert on 26 January 2007, presents a good view:

Frankly, refusing to use libraries isn’t a sign of elitism, it’s a sign a bad programmer. As someone mentioned before, would you sit down and rewrite the STL every time you began a project in C++? (And would you say that only programmers capable of rewriting the STL should be allowed to use C++? There goes almost everyone – what hubris!)

How true! But Elitism isn’t all bad. I feel it is a good thing to try and excel in what we do. But at the same time, don’t have to spend the time reinventing the wheel. And I concur with Peter-Paul Koch saying A moderate dose of elitism can be a good thing:

I feel a bit of elitism is a good thing. Any (r)evolutionary process needs an elite of early adopters to help speed up the process and to develop new techniques in a hurry. Most importantly, a moderate dose of elitism can be a powerful social trigger: people want to become a part of the elite, and are willing to work hard to achieve that.

Getting a perspective on this topic becomes all the more important in the present day, with the very familiar “Get the job done quickly” mentality making its strides and the ever increasing list of new tools/libraries.

To address this issue, one needs to be watchful and have a good understanding of when to use a tool to quickly prototype or use in the production. It is important to guard against becoming an self-satisfied elite.

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