Watching the Polyglot Programming video courtesy of enabler-extraordinaire, Dave Laribee, and it revealed (or rather re-revealed) something about myself that I hope is common enough that I’ll get at least one BOOYAH in the comments.
I watched Amadeus when I was just a wee country whelp. And even at a young age, I could identify with the narrator, Antonio Salieri (at least how he is represented in the movie). It’s a simplified comparison, to be sure, but one that has stuck with me. In the movie, Salieri is a composer caught in the large shadow left by Mozart and he becomes increasingly enraged at what he feels is a cruel, cosmic joke. Namely, he has been instilled with the ability to recognize genius and the desire to create good music, but not with the talent. (This is compounded into murderous intentions when he is able to recognize that genius in Mozart, who seems to treat his gift so cavalierly. I don’t generally identify with him this far.)
Ten years into my career, and some thirty-six years into my life, I don’t have many illusions about what I can and can’t do anymore. On the strong end of the stick, I can learn new applications and languages relatively quickly. I can be pretty productive when I put my mind to it and am able to communicate my intentions clearly. At least that’s what my resume says and it’s on the internet so it must be true.
But watching this video, and indeed, hanging out with the alt.net crowd in general, makes me refer back to Amadeus on more than one occasion. I can’t help thinking there are a lot of Mozarts out there. And I don’t mean in their day-to-day work. That’s the easy part. I can pound out good code and talk best practices, often coherently.
Rather, there are people out there who are able to create beautiful music in our industry by asking the right questions and having a clear vision of what the state of the world should be. Or at least, they recognize problems I didn’t know existed (and, it must be said, some problems I still don’t have – still a challenge to differentiate the two) and are able to steer the conversation in a way that facilitates solving those problems in a clear way.
On the other hand, I am able only to recognize when a "good" idea has been mentioned, or when a vision is worth being part of. "Good" being relative to my immediate sense of the world. Plenty of good ideas go whooshing by if they don’t have an short-term impact on what I’m doing. I’m able to run with an idea, maybe even expand on it a little. And I can certainly document my trials, hopefully for potential mass benefit.
I’m pretty sure this has to do with my tendency not to take anything
in my career too seriously. Not sure if the attitude causes the problem or vice versa, but there it is.
Whatever the reason, the attitude has worked for me for over three decades so it’s not going anywhere. As for the lack of overall industry vision, as mercenary as it sounds, I’m good with that too. It’s hard enough copying what others are doing (e.g. starting a user group), without having to make up the rules as you go.
To tie this back to alt.net, I’m happy in my role as semi-silent observer. At least with respect to the bleeding edge trends like polyglot programming and future architectures. It’ll help to have that background for when I catch up.
And to tie it also back to the metaphor I’m using, it doesn’t mean I need to react the same way Salieri did upon realization of fate’s sense of humour. (That is, I won’t drive the likes of Laribee and Scott Bellware into madness and death, steal their work as my own, then absolve the masses for being as mediocre as I am.) I can still be active in my own way and play off the strengths I have. There are plenty of people in the same boat I’m in now and plenty in the one I was in five and ten years ago. I may not be able to push the boundaries of the playing field, but I can certainly invite more people to the game.
Kyle the Metaphoric