5:01 developers are visionless hacks

The 501 Manifesto states that:

  • Our families are more important than the commercial goals of business owners
  • Free time is more important than free snacks
  • Living our lives is more important than maintaining our personal brands
  • Sustainable pace is more important than muscle-man heroics
  • Our personal creative projects are more important than commercial products the world doesn’t need
  • Having money for nice clothes is more important than getting free t-shirts from Microsoft
  • Playing fußball in the pub with our friends is more important than playing fußball in the office with our team leader
  • Not being a dick is more important than being a rockstar

“501” refers to programmers who punch out at 5:01pm and never think about technology until 9am the next morning. They don’t read programming blogs or books, nor do they have a desire to advance their craft. Technology is nothing special to them, software is just another job. They might as well be bagging groceries if the pay was comparable.

There’s some good to be gleaned from this manifesto. If your software job is all you do, your life will pass you by and you’ll wonder why you spent so much of your life living for a corporation. You’ll realize what a waste of a life it is to make all that money but not, you know, live. The young & ambitious tend to overlook this wisdom.

Having a life outside of tech is important and rewarding. For me, I play music, I help run a religious congregation, I spend time with my kids and my wife. Those things are hugely rewarding.

I sympathize with the 501 manifesto, but there’s something not quite right here.

The manifesto confuses corporate interference into personal life with passion for technology. That is to say, it incorrectly implies the people who are passionate about technology are those enslaved to their corporate masters. It makes this confusion when it says those who “write technical blogs, attend user groups, or contribute to open source projects” are those who are enslaved by their corporate masters.

It’s silly, because my corporation didn’t ask me to write this blog, attend Code Camp last week, go to user groups, or contribute to open source projects. In fact, many corporations frown on such things, since it takes time away from working on The Project. My corporate masters didn’t ask me to do those things, nor did I do those things in order to impress my corporate masters.

Instead, I do these things because I love technology. And I suspect those of you who do these things do so because, like me, you’re passionate about software and technology, not because some evil corporation forced your hand.

I entered technology because it’s my passion. I take joy in writing software, and in a bigger sense, I consider technology a frontier for humanity and the advancer of civilization. More on that in a minute.

If you entered the technology field for other reasons like money or easy labor, I suggest finding a career you are passionate about. It’s hard to put a price on happiness, and if you aren’t happy with your choice of career, get out before you waste any more of your life on it.

Why be passionate about technology?

I find it freakin’ awesome that we can make new things. We’re in a new age, an age of technology, and we’re the inventors at the fore. We build things from scratch! Then put those new things in front of people. And some of those things might be so useful, that people will use those things regularly. What a rare and precious opportunity we have, that we can build and invent new things, things that can impact humanity.

Hubris? Not at all:

We explore the universe because of technology.

We fix sick people because of technology.

We can communicate with anyone in the world via the push of a button because of technology.

We prevent disease because of technology.

We have the sum total of humanity’s knowledge in a single repository — the internet — because of technology. That we have a single repository containing the sum of human knowledge for the first time in our history is an accomplishment in itself, but just wait until you see the ramifications of this knowledge freely available to all. It will result in an explosion of learning, new technology, new ideas; raw civilization advancement.

I want to be part of that. It’s why I have a passion for technology. It’s why I don’t consider software, the brains behind technology, just another job. I don’t stop thinking about it at 5:01pm. Technology is a frontier for humanity. And I’m going to add to it, even if through some insignificantly small contribution.

Shortsighted and visionless is the person who looks at software as just another job, technology as just another field. If that’s you, find a job you take joy in, and in a field you are passionate about. Your life will be happier.

For the rest of us, the 21st century is a great time to be alive. We, the technologists, are the new inventors. We are the future, and the future, my friends, is bright. Watch and see.