Just Shelley

I love to code

I love to code. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I forgot how much I love to create software.

As I added years of experience, companies would increasingly pull me away from the computer and put me into a suit and a room and tell me to tell them what to do and their ‘junior’ people would do the coding because I was too valuable ‘just to code’.

Infrastructure was the word and architecture was my game, and I was, and am, good at this. I can spot bad tech a mile away, and can speak ‘user’, as well as ‘programmer’ and ‘manager’–a multi-lingual capability that proved itself of high worth again and again. But these gifts of mine rarely gave me a chance to just sit and code; to create something born of inspiration and need.

Coders will understand when I mention the ‘Aha!’ moment; when you hear from the other side of a cubical wall a cry of triumph–usually followed by the person bouncing out of their chair and in a hyperkinetic frenzy, walking about, dancing about–rapid swoosh of slinky being balanced from hand to hand, and shit-eating grin wide across the face. There were no cubical walls around me, and I scared my cat I think, but today I had one of those moments. And I re-discovered that I love to code.

I never realized until recently how much my experience at had burned me out. It was the ultimate position someone like me dreams about: I had complete creative control of the architecture of the product, good rapport with the using community, a great team, and I still had time to code. I even had a CTO who I liked, though he was a pain in the butt at times.

But then the dot-com bust happened, and very nasty politics entered our game. The worry about our future and the anger at the power players, not to mention 16 hour days, eroded the joy so much, it’s taken me years to rediscover the person who sat down at a VAX terminal one day and typed in her first line of BASIC–and I’ll be damned, it worked!

I finished the metadata extension to Wordform today, and it works nicely and even though it’s not particularly fancy coding–using my code to glue together bits and pieces from others’ open source software–seeing it all come together, simply and with few moving parts, generated a rush of pure joy. That can’t be me, old, tired me that just experienced that moment. Can it?

We’ve been critical lately about ‘hackers and painters’, but this coder found the experience to be as satisfying as accomplishing a tough hike; as exhilarating as coming home from a day of shooting only to discover one perfect photo among the discards; as sure as knowing that something I’ve written is exactly right.

I did this. Whether people love it or hate it, doesn’t matter. The experience goes beyond money or, to use the coin of this realm, hypertext links; it even goes beyond being attractive to a member of the sex of preference and getting a mention in the New York Times. I did this.

Never take a coder for granted, or look at us with disdain or indifference; seeing in our aging bodies, the geeky children with vague ghosts of pocket protectors overlying whatever fashion sense we’ve learned to adopt as protective coloration. In moments like this, we almost have all the power of the universe in our fingertips because we make things work.

I love to code. That’s all. End of message.

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