Why do we get no respect?

Stuff like this saddens me:

axe.jpg

Apparently if you can read some sloppy, malformed pseudo-code thrown together by an idiot marketroid with no knowledge of programming you must be a total loser.This advertisement is yet another example in a very common trend of equating programming skill with social ineptitude. Unfortunately most people fail to notice the subversive nature of the advert. I’ve seen this re-posted on programming blogs and the like. Just you look at that image though. Who is this ad targeted at? Programmers? I think not.

If it was aimed at software engineers, then they would at least make it resemble a syntax of a real existing language. Also, it would be incomprehensible to regular people. Programming jokes are less funny if they do not include a layer of abstraction which makes them incomprehensible to the intellectually deficient majority. And yes, they are deficient – studies have shown that certain percentage of our species is simply not wired for handling high level of abstract thinking that is required for programming. They are simply worse than us – genetically impaired, but it’s not their fault, so we should not hold it against them. But I digress.

Anyone can read that add, there is no question about it. It was designed to be readable rather than cryptic. So it is really targeted at the mainstream population who can easily make out what the code says but they do not consider themselves to be the butt of the joke. Since they don’t write software for living (and definitely not for fun) they can pat themselves on the back for figuring it out and then have a chuckle at the silly socially undesirable nerds who write this sort of stuff on a daily basis. It exploits existing negative stigma that surrounds our profession.

Somehow our society came to a conclusion that mastering a difficult skill such as programming, and using it to make a living is wrong. It makes you a loser, and outcast and social reject. (Unless of course you don’t enjoy it, but that just makes you a horrible programmer. If you are writing code without being passionate about it, if you do not read technical blogs, or do any hacking on your free time then you need to get the fuck out of our field. You are the horrible cancer that is killing good software projects, and you need to die a horrible painful death! Seriously, if you don’t like programming, GTFO – we will both be better off!) Apparently all programmers have no lives, look like characters from Revenge of the Nerds and can barely function in the society without help of their cooler friends or co-workers. At least that’s how we are represented in the media. You hardly ever see successful, well adjusted and normal looking people from out field on TV. All computer experts of significance are gross caricatures, that are the butt of nerd jokes.

But it’s not just the media. This anti-programmer sentiment is prevalent in our society and I personally encountered it IRL. I used to know a guy whose girlfriend would get visibly flustered when we would start to “talk shop”. She would start to roll her eyes, sigh loudly and if it went for to long she would butt in and try to “shame us” into ending the conversation by calling us geeks, losers and etc. She could not stand the thought that her boyfriend could be interested in something so socially reprehensible as programming and technology in general.

How the hell did we get to this point? Why do we allow this social stigma to continue? I mean, in most cases we are smarter, more educated than the people who perpetuate these stereotypes. We have real college degrees (BS, MS often a PHD) rather than the fake diplomas given out by business schools. Not only that, but we create and control the technology they depend on. We maintain their machines, and facilitate their communication. Without us, they would have no Facebook, no iPhone and no Youtube. And yet, somehow we are considered inferior and undesirable.

Seriously, who is more of a valuable member of society? Someone who develops innovative free software on their free time? Or someone who spends all their free time watching reality TV, can’t figure out how to set time on their VCR, owns a computer which is part of at least 3 different botnets? Apparently the former is a freak that needs to be shunned, while the later is an upstanding pillar of society. WTF?

You may say that these stereotypes are silly, and that we shouldn’t even bother. I usually don’t get offended at that type of stuff. I mean, I’m Polish so I do get to hear a good deal of really bad Polish jokes here and there. Then again, most people think twice before they tell an ethnic joke. Making fun of IT and Software people is in a different category though – it is acceptable. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe we should start getting offended – or at least pretend we are, until people figure out it’s probably not cool to make stupid jokes about computer geeks.

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13 Responses to Why do we get no respect?

  1. astine UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I have a friend who’s fiance gets annoyed whenever we talk about technical things. It’s not because she thinks shes better than us, but because she can tell we’re having fun, but can’t reasonably join in on the conversation.

    Speaking of dumb jokes:
    Q) What do you get when you cross an IT worker and a jock?

    A) A virus and a sock in the mouth.

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  2. Jakob DENMARK Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Funny, I kind of feel I am revered for my ability of abstract thinking. People often compliment me on my “intelligence” (yet I feel dumb as hell :P) and have no problem with geekdom. Tough, I admit, I am attending the “geeky” branch of my country’s high school system (with a suprising low percentage of geeks).

    The only one I know who seems to detest my geekdom is my sister, who often interrupts me and my father if our conversation should discuss some geeky stuff. A reason why I have a hard time to connect to her :(. But she did once gave me a hug and thanked me and our kind for being one and providing her with her beloved cell phone :P

    But in general, I feel that geeks in my soceity has become accepted and isn’t subjected to the typical stereotype. Instead, all are making fun of the Paris Hilton types :D (I know, I am evil).

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  3. Victoria UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Offtopic first: have you ever seen an AXE ad that wasn’t insulting to your intelligence? :) for example, how they present girls – it’s just repulsive.

    Back to the topic: I myself almost always am in semi-IT environment. I even find it hard to speak to non-IT people not because they are stupid or smth but because, say, they don’t know what Twitter or Facebook is (not that I use them much :) ) My sister keeps asking me what those words mean (‘IT’ or ‘айтишники’ in Russian, Internet mems and so on, not deserialization or incapsulation :) )

    One of my best friends despite having bachelor’s in Computer Science hates “the geeks”, and sometimes I think it’s envy, that he himself understands how far he is from recent technology and programming.

    All in all, the funniest and most cruel jokes are made by IT people themselves :)

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  4. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    Over recent years, in England anyway, I feel that being a true geek is kind of fashionable. Geek chic – if you will. Intelligence commands respect, knowledge has always been power, but now that computers/electronics/science in general (to some degree), control peoples everyday lives – they seem to value it. Of course you get the ‘jocks’ taking the piss from time to time, but even that could be their feeling of inferiority. I’m happy for those people to take the piss, I can drive a nice car, go home to my nice house, eat good food… all because of my intelligence, knowledge and passion. Being a ‘geek’ is associated with computers, but really it’s just a strong interest (and knowledge) in any subject. The days of geeks hiding in the basement are long gone, welcome to the revolution!
    The geek shall inherit the Earth!
    The only downside… sometimes I think life would be simpler if I was just an average man, with average intelligence, who accepted life is what it is, but then I remember…
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

    Make fun of anyone, and everyone (as long as it’s without any venom) and the world will keep on turning.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    [quote post=”2924″]Q) What do you get when you cross an IT worker and a jock? [/quote]

    You may get a Kwisatz Haderach and woe is upon us if that ever happens. ;)

    @Jakob: Well, school is a bit different. When I was in college I used to hang out in the Math/Science/CS building most of the time so I was surrounded by kindred spirits. Everyone was sort of in the same boat and usually you would respect and admire those people who you felt were smarter than you.

    [quote post=”2924″]Offtopic first: have you ever seen an AXE ad that wasn’t insulting to your intelligence? ) for example, how they present girls – it’s just repulsive.[/quote]

    You know, you have a point there. All of these commercials are very stupid.

    [quote post=”2924″]One of my best friends despite having bachelor’s in Computer Science hates “the geeks”, and sometimes I think it’s envy, that he himself understands how far he is from recent technology and programming.[/quote]

    Well, I guess the question here is – does he enjoy programming? Cause if he does not, then he probably wasted 4 years obtaining that degree. I knew people like this – half of them changed their majors to Business half way through.

    I also knew one guy who was taking CS because he found programming marginally easier than solving differential equations. He was planning to teach HS math but wanted to skip all the advanced Math classes so he picked CS instead. :P

    All kinds of people end up in this field for all kinds of reasons.

    [quote post=”2924″]All in all, the funniest and most cruel jokes are made by IT people themselves[/quote]

    I don’t mind cruel jokes if they are funny. I was just sort of commenting on the very negative stereotype that surrounds my profession.

    @mcai8sh4: Yeah, I’ve seen some of that around here too. But it is more of a stylized faux-geek image that people are going after – one that is modeled after a typical “nerd” stereotype and then accessorized until it becomes fashionable.

    I wasn’t really talking about geek culture as a whole here. I was merely commenting that IT people and programmers are usually automatically associated with the most negative images (think Nick Burns – The Company Computer Guy from old SNL sketches).

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  6. Morghan UNITED STATES Epiphany Linux says:

    What’s really funy is a geek who looks like a cross between a jock and a biker, the looks people give me when I say something that they seem to assume I shouldn’t know. It has two benefits that I really enjoy, people never mess with the guy who looks like he could squish them without even trying, and more importantly they always underestimate my intelligence.

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  7. Jim UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Everybody says they want fluent DSLs, but AXE puts one on a billboard and it gets dismissed as malformed pseudocode. You can’t win.

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  8. Mike V. CANADA Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    Were the ad clever and designed to appeal to programmers it would fail because most programmers and heavy thinkers are smarter than to put their faith in overpriced deodorants/shampoos as a means to attract teh hawties.

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Jim: Not only is it malformed – look how they put their brackets. I mean, everyone knows the bracket goes UNDERNEATH the IF not on the same line! ;)

    @Mike V.: Yeah, and it would alienate the general population too resulting in less sales.

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  10. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    “Programming jokes are less funny if they do not include a layer of abstraction which makes them incomprehensible to the intellectually deficient majority. And yes, they are deficient – studies have shown that certain percentage of our species is simply not wired for handling high level of abstract thinking that is required for programming. They are simply worse than us – genetically impaired, but it’s not their fault, so we should not hold it against them.”

    Congratulations on dismissing everyone who can’t/won’t program as an Untermensch.

    I doubt you have a thorough knowledge of martial arts – But I don’t condemn you as “intellectually deficient” for it.

    Your argument here is People don’t know programming, therefore cannot think on abstract level like programmers can.

    Massive fail. A lack of knowledge of computer code does not mean somone cannot think in high level abstract, it simply means they haven’t learnt the goddamn computer code.

    Also I call bullshit on the “genetic different” line – That opens up a lot more debate about nature Vs. nurture, and I fall on the nurture side of the equation. Genes govern the physical template of a person, and the persona traits of each gender – Beyond that, ability for rational, abstract thinking is entirely nurture based.

    Just to illustrate how ballistically crazy and prejudiced your argument is, I’m going to rewrite it slightly:

    “Programming jokes aren’t funny to black people because they include a layer of abstraction which makes them incomprehensible to the intellectually deficient majority of coloureds. And yes, they are deficient – studies have shown that this certain percentage of our species is simply not wired for handling high level of abstract thinking that is required for programming. They are simply worse than us – genetically impaired, but it’s not their fault, so we should not hold it against them.”

    If you want a reason why the vast majority of society doesn’t respect you, it’s the Holier Than Thou attitude thats ingrained into people that bother to understand the technology they use to the Nth degree where most people simply don’t care as long as it prints when they hit print and works well enough to produce office documents.

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Mack: LOL! I was sort of waiting for this sort of post. You are EXACTLY right Mack! This is exactly the point I’m making.

    What I did here in this post is EXACTLY what society does to us – programmers. I just inverted it back at normal people. That’s exactly how that Axe add made me feel. Since I’m a programmer I must be totally deficient – a nerd who can’t get a girlfriend. This is not “holier than thou” attitude, right? It’s all in good humor, right?

    So I flipped it back – if you are not a programmer, therefore you must be stupid and deficient. And all of a sudden it is highly offensive. :)

    For the record – I don’t think all people who can’t do programming are intellectually deficient. Both my parents are technically computer illiterate to some degree. So I was just making outrageous statements that I hoped would be hurtful to “normal/cool people” to see if anyone gets offended.

    I purposefully tried to dismiss everyone who can’t/wont program as an Untermnesh because this is what society tends to do to people who will/can program. We are somehow inferior – undesirable and a non-breeding stock.

    It was not my intention to make it a racial statement – I never mentioned race in my original post. That’s all your input – just wanted to make it clear.

    So anyway, yeah – I agree with you (exuding that racial thing which was unnecessary) and thanks for sort of driving my point home here.

    :)

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  12. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    You sure as well had me there. Well done, I get it now =]

    Yeah, the race thing wasn’t really required but normally I find it’s useful in pointing out prejudice.

    I’m gonna point you in the direction of the pro-nerd counterculture with films like “Idiocracy.” But yeah – The general assumption and rule is that the more time somone spends mastering computer code or comic books or what not in their bedroom, the less time they spend socialising and mastering social skills and learning to adapt to social situations. It’s just the old idea of a book worm carried over into the 21st century.

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  13. JuEeHa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    At school I usually get to hear things like “get a life fucking nerd”, but my friends kinda understand what I am talking about and my little sister is also a geek. She can install Lubuntu using text mode install, she likes Open Source systems more than Closed Source systems and she can fix X server on my computer running my own linux distro when it stops working (usually once in a month). When someone hears I like computers fist question is usually either “Which one do you like more? Battlefield or Call of Duty?”, “Isn’t Windows 7 best OS ever?” or “When did you stop your social interaction?”. Really guys? I am not some antisocial freak if I like computers.

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