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Monday, January 26, 2015

So what about diversity in coding?

Put up a post doing my own survey of social media and wow, that thing roared up the Beyond Mundane charts, and is the top post in the last 30 days. Thank you for all who were interested.

That helps me think more about posts that matter to people other than me, as a goal of this blog is finding community in shared interest. I share things that interest me with the idea that it might be of interest to others as well. Helps to know what others might find interesting!

And I made two posts where the first one ended up at #8 (and for those wondering about these rankings they are from the right and down on your screen, where the most popular posts are listed). In that post I talked about the idea of Superstar code and mentioned Linus Torvalds as a code hero, and today, wouldn't you know, found out he had been in the news recently!

And if you want to chase that link and read what that article said, fine, but what caught my attention was the issue of diversity in coding. It's not a subject I talk about much on my own though it has relevance to me, but my main position is: merit is what matters.

Given that plenty of other people say the same thing and I am agreeing with that part of what Linus Torvalds said, it raises the question of why some people think this way and others push the issue of racial diversity and more women coders in a way that may appear to challenge the position that only merit matters.

But you see, forcing merit as the only thing that matters is the way to diversity.

That way people who want to code for a living can focus on learning how, getting really great at it, and not be concerned that won't matter because of their sex or race or ethnicity.

So what about my experience in the workplace?

Will admit spent a lot of time when I was working as a coder, and actually in other jobs, where there were few people of my race. And I have worked with female coders, and even lead one when I was a Java lead developer and she ended up being my best coder.

So what gives? What is my opinion about why so little diversity in the coding world, if merit is what matters, really?

Look at someone like Steve Jobs--who I like to bring up as he's a great example--and consider what he was doing when he was 12. He had unbelievable access to top technology. The fire was sparked in him at a young age with direct experience. That is typical of top coders.

Not willing to claim I'm a top coder, but when I was 12, yup, was coding. Had an early computer on which I learned BASIC like so many others. But also had a community college course on BASIC. Later had a computer course at Duke University on structured C, when I was 16. And would code after school when I was in high school on the computer lab computers though I didn't take any of the school's computer courses as I saw them as too primitive for me.

ALL kids should be coding when they are 12, as that seems to be a key age, and as I'm not a developmental scientist I put that as an opinion, but in case after case of top people that age seems to pop up. Like, even with Albert Einstein, going to another arena. It seems to be a critical age to focus on high level abstract reasoning, which includes coding, and mathematics.

(Someone should do a survey and see how many coders were started by age 12.)

And so ALL kids should get classes in writing code for computers just like they all get classes on reading and writing and arithmetic.

Some of them will get that spark and keep working at it, and become top coders.

And that's it.


James Harris
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