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In defense of passionate programming

Mark Dennehy blogs about passion in the context of programming in The case against passion. Took me a while to figure out what he wanted to get at but I think he's completely mixed up two orthogonal aspects.

Programming is not all about passion. Passion is the antithesis of good programming

A yes to the first statement. A complete strong no to the second.

The post goes on to talk about why "process" and "professionalism" (and not so much "passion") are important for programming. I believe the process and professionalism as described in the post are the limbs of the runner whereas passion is the energy. While it would be exceedingly tough to run a race with weak limbs, in an otherwise similarly matched field, the runner likely to come first is likely to be the one who badly wants to get there first (which gives him the energy burst when he really needs it the most). Where I think the post gets it wrong is to set off the limbs vs. energy debate (as in the analogy I described) in a way to where one needs to decide which is more important than the other.

As software engineers we need to understand and implement the practices of good engineering and exercise our mental talents in terms of how we do so and how we continuously improve doing so. In conducting these activities we need drivers. The three most common drivers I have seen are fear, greed and passion. While fear may not be a widely prevalent driver in this context, greed and passion (either or in rare circumstances both) can provide a tremendous boost to the results.

I am not recommending that one goes out and starts hiring passionate but otherwise less competent people. Under typical circumstances competence, engineering, professionalism are extremely important. However what I have seen is this - When the chips are down and the decks are stacked - you need energy - enormous energy and thats when it helps to have a few passionate people in the team (and if you yourself can be one of them, thats even better).

So here's what I would offer : Passion is not an antithesis of good programming. Its the fuel for good programming.

There is one point made in the post that I liked. That at times it is important to stay dispassionate even while staying motivated.

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