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Learn Basic Programming So You Aren't At the Mercy of Programmers 313

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-are-occasionally-benevolent-dictators dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Derek Sivers, creator of online indie music store CD Baby, has a post about why he thinks basic programming is a useful skill for everybody. He quotes a line from a musician he took guitar lessons from as a kid: "You need to learn to sing. Because if you don't, you're always going to be at the mercy of some a****** singer." Sivers recommends translating that to other areas of life. He says, 'The most common thing I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs is, "I have this idea for an app or site. But I'm not technical, so I need to find someone who can make it for me." I point them to my advice about how to hire a programmer, but as most of the good ones are already booked solid, it's a pretty helpless position to be in. If you heard someone say, "I have this idea for a song. But I'm not musical, so I need to find someone who will write, perform, and record it for me." — you'd probably advise them to just take some time to sit down with a guitar or piano and learn enough to turn their ideas into reality. And so comes my advice: Yes, learn some programming basics. Just some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript should be enough to start. ... You don't need to become an expert, just know the basics, so you're not helpless.'"
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Learn Basic Programming So You Aren't At the Mercy of Programmers

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  • by Krishnoid (984597) * on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:24AM (#42572845) Journal
    It's in one of the comments [sivers.org], and a pointer from that linked page shows some exercises his instructor had him perform -- singing at different speeds and pitches. I myself wonder why software engineering never tries to teach solving the same problem in a variety of paradigms or languages; 99 bottles [99-bottles-of-beer.net] is the closest example I can find.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:31AM (#42572865) Homepage Journal

    But not Basic?

    You might need to whip up a Visual Basic GUI one day...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:35AM (#42572877)

    "I have an idea for an app" is exactly what riles up programmers. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If you, the "nontechnical person", do your job right, then you'll find a competent and cooperative programmer. If, on the other hand, and this is is much too common, you expect the programmer to do your work (requirements engineering, reading your mind for what you want, correcting your conceptual mistakes, graphics design, business planning to get the scale right, etc.) on top of the actual programming in return for a one-time payment while you expect to sell "your" startup for millions, then you'll get asshole programmers - and you deserve them.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      correcting your conceptual mistakes

      What's wrong with this?
      Don't we all bounce ideas and thoughts, in every aspect of our lives, off of knowledgeable people?
      Or am I a statistical outlier that asks first and designs second?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:56AM (#42573147)

        A programmer's job is to implement a specification. People who "have an idea for an app" only want to pay a programmer (I'm being generous here, often they don't even want to pay a programmer, see the article), but expect to get a business analyst, graphics artist, software architect, marketer, programmer and system administrator rolled into one, so that they don't have to give away too much of the money they expect to earn with their creative idea. Someone who thinks you can learn a little programming to avoid being at the mercy of programmers isn't looking for a partner, isn't willing to share with a partner and doesn't deserve the input from a partner.

        • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @01:58PM (#42575585)

          I'm an engineer. I want to remodel my home. I come up with ideas, document them, and give them to an architect to build into a complete design that conveys scope to the general contractor and trades. Me being educated about the process helps me to manage scope and hopefully get the product I want in the most efficient manner possible, while also taking advantage of the expertise of others. A prima donna architect that only wants to create something they find to be beautiful might not solve my problems.

          Programming is no different. If I convey something in pseudo code or user interface, I would expect a skilled programmer to be able to provide a critical evaluation of my idea and guide me into the best direction. I might not be able to break down the functions for security the right way, but I would at least be highlighting the need for security as an example.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @05:40AM (#42573237)

      The thing is, if you have no concept of programming, it is just black magic to you, and you want to create this app or whatever (btw, an app is not written in HTML/CSS, but I digress), you have no idea where to start, you have no idea what a programmer would need to do it. You don't even have a "language" in which to express your demands. The reason why there are so many of these half baked ideas that we have to pretty much mind read out of people is, they have this problem. If you cannot program, you cannot write pseudocode, and you don't know how or why to write down the demands you have in a correct form. If however this guy were to learn enough programming that he would have a chance to write this app himself given a lot of time, he might much more easily understand the problems of the programmer he wants to give the task to. And even if he does try to do it himself, this is not such a bad thing, cause then he will not bother any programmers and he will either learn to do it properly, or he will end up with a mess and understand that this is not something trivial he is asking of programmers. Maybe at that point it will be possible to explain to him that it is not just about writing the thing either, it's about maintenance when he has made his 32414.th request for a major change without regard for the overall design of the thing that is being made. If your code becomes a big mess because of change requests from the user it is really hard for the user to really understand this before he has learned some basic programming and seen how easily a program becomes a big mess.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:27AM (#42573383) Journal

        I'm not sure that learning some superficial idea of a language is going to help. And I'll give you a couple of reasons why:

        1. Dunning-Kruger. The people with the least knowledge on the domain are those who overrate their knowledge the most.

        Now I really wish to believe that some management or marketing guy is willing to sink 10,000 hours into becoming good at programming, and have a good idea of exactly what he's asking for. I really do. But we both know that even if he does a decent amount overtime, that's about 3 years of doing NOTHING BUT programming, i.e., he'd have to not do his real job at all any more. Or more like 15 years if he does some two-hours a day of hobby-style programming in the afternoon. And he probably won't even do that.

        What is actually going to happen, if at all, is that he'll plod through it up to first peak of his own sense of how much it knows, i.e., the Dunning-Kruger sweet spot. The point where he thinks he knows it all, except, you know, maybe some minor esoteric stuff that doesn't matter anyway. But is actually the point where he doesn't know jack.

        2. And from my experience, those are the worst problem bosses. The kind which is an illustration of Russell's, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." The kind who is cock-sure that he probably is better at programming than you anyway, he just, you know, doesn't have the time to actually do it. (Read: to actually get experience.)

        That's the kind who's just moved from just a paranoid suspicion that your making a fuss about the 32414'th change request is taking advantage of him, to the kind who "knows" that you're just an unreasonable asshole. After all, he has no problem making changes to the 1000 line JSP or PHP page he did for practice (half of which being just HTML mixed in with the business code.) If he wants to add a button to that one, hey, his editor even lets him drag and drop it in 5 seconds. Why, he can even change it from displaying a fictive list of widgets to a fictive list of employees. So your wanting to redo a part of the design to accommodate his request to change the whole functionality of a 1,000,000 line program (which is actually quite small) must be some kind of trying to shaft him.

        It's the kind who thinks that if he did a simple example program in Visual Fox Pro, a single-user "database", placed the database files on a file server, and then accessed them from another workstation, that makes him qualified to decide he doesn't need MySQL or Oracle for his enterprise system, he can just demand to have it done in Visual Fox Pro. In fact, he "knows" it can be done that way. No, really, this is an actual example that happened to me. Verbatim. I'm not making it up.

        3. Well, it doesn't work on other domains either, so I don't see why programming would be any different. People can have a superficial understanding of how a map editor for Skyrim works, and it won't prevent them from coming with some unreasonable idea like that someone should make him every outfit from [insert Anime series] and not just do it for free, but credit him, because, hey, he had the idea. No, seriously, just about every other idiot thinks that the reason someone hasn't done a total conversion from Skyrim to Star Wars is that they didn't have the precious idea.

        Basically it's Dunning-Kruger all over again.

        I think more than understanding programming, what people need is understanding that ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is the execution.

        What they need to understand is that, no, you're probably not the next Edison or Ford or Steve Jobs or whatever. There are probably a thousand other guys who had the same idea, some may have even tried it, and there might actually be a reason why you never heard of it being actually finished. And even those are remembered for actually having the management skills to make those ideas work, not just for having an idea.

        Ford didn't just make it for having the idea of making a cheap

    • "I have an idea for an app" is exactly what riles up programmers.

      Actually, what really riles me up, is when someone who has no idea about programming, states confidently, "It can't be too difficult to program this . . . "

      This guy might as well save trips to the dentist, as well. All he needs is a Black & Decker power drill, a can of spackle and a mirror.

      Even worse are folks who have just a little bit of computer knowledge, and start playing armchair system quarterback architect with it. Then you hear bizarre statements, like: "Well, all you need to do, is grep a

      • when someone who has no idea about programming, states confidently, "It can't be too difficult to program this . . . "

        Experienced programmers do that too. It's one of the reasons they usually give low estimates.

    • Exactly. And most of these "I have an idea for an app" sound like "should be like facebook, but with x"

    • Ideas are a dime a dozen.

      Tell that to anyone who's been advised by counsel to apply for a broad patent.

  • by G3CK0 (708703) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:37AM (#42572881)
    Sure, learn enough client side tech and you can fumble through putting together an interface - but what then? What about storing state or any number of instances where you need to talk with a DB or do some type of server side magic? And another thing to consider, it's not just learn some HTML, JavaScript and CSS - it's also figure out how the different browsers handle the quirks of each of those technologies. It's one thing to be an informed consumer, and an entirely different thing to be a backseat driver who does not actually know how to drive.
    • by c0lo (1497653) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:00AM (#42572961)

      Sure, learn enough client side tech and you can fumble through putting together an interface - but what then? What about storing state or any number of instances where you need to talk with a DB or do some type of server side magic?

      Possible solution:
      1. first, you learn enough JavaScript to mock the interaction with a server (which is quite a lot of Javascript, honestly) and develop a fully fledged standalone client - yes, you can do it.
      2. next, if you already learnt in this process this heck of a lot (not only enough JavaScript, but also SW engineering), learning a server-side flavour is a piece of cake.
      (yes, you're quite observant, there's not "step 3. ???" and no "step 4. profit")

      And suddenly, you discover yourself transforming from a guy with disruptive ideas into a guy that sends his CV left and right and hope someone will hire him as an... a****** programmer.
      And... hold on... this is called "growing up" (as in "coming of age in software").

    • by HJED (1304957)
      More importantly what recent succesfull apps have been developed purley with any of those three as the primary languge, most websites will use at least PHP and the big market at the moment is phone apps wich tend to use some derivative of java.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:40AM (#42572891)

    No training, no knowledge of computer science, algorithms - nothing. Just some HTML, some JS, and you're developing rocking apps and sites! What can possibly go wrong with that stellar advise...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Using HTML, JavaScript and CSS is more like designing.Next thing you know someone thinks of using TeX and LaTeX as programming instead of writing a book or article.

  • by tangent3 (449222) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:50AM (#42572927)

    ...because if I don't, I'm always going to be at the mercy of some a****** slashdot comment writer.

  • by Tagged_84 (1144281) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:52AM (#42572937) Homepage
    While I have no problem with programming I am at the mercy of an artist for my games. So the last couple months I've been practising drawing with Vectors (I've actually found InkScape to be easier than Illustrator) so that I no longer have to find a willing graphics artist for my games. I've been drawing the assets for my next project as I figured that's the best way to learn, never have to stop and think of what to practice drawing next as I have the list in front of me.

    It also means if I end up with sub-par results at least I've improved my art skills and have a strong list of assets for the artist! Plus it's another step that forces me to consider each asset before throwing it in there as not only do I need to design and code but now I need to spend the time drawing it, the end result being a cheaper contract rate from fewer art assets.
  • No.. just no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:00AM (#42572959)

    > 'The most common thing I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs is, "I have this idea for an app or site. But I'm not technical, so I need to find someone who can make it for me."

    He should be telling them: "Ideas are a dime a dozen. The value is in the execution. If you cant execute your idea, then what are you bringing to the table?"

    • Re:No.. just no... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:04AM (#42573607) Homepage

      If it's an idea that is scribbled down on the back of a napkin, maybe not. But I'm reminded of the founding story of one software company I heard, the initiator was an electrician but he couldn't code worth shit. So he found a tech-savvy friend and said "I've been an electrician for 20 years now, I worked with most the software tools out there and think there's a market for something better and more streamlined to an electricians daily life with these and those features. I have many contacts in the business we could sell to and I know what the competition is charging because they've been selling to me and there's good money in this. I have done some layouts of how I'd like this to look and work and I can continue to work on that if you can write code to make it work."

      Long story short, friend take a look at it and decides the ideas are implementable, they start a company together, huge success. Of course you could say he brought a lot more than an idea, he bought domain knowledge, proper requirements, specific key features that could sell the product, market contacts and so on but he had absolutely no execution ability on his own. Should he have gone back to school for learn to do it himself? Yeah right. That would have taken years and you can bet that if the first version was made as a newbie's first "real" solo coding project it would have been horrible and flopped. So what do you do if you have all of the above, but no tech-savvy friend? Of course by Sturgeon's law 90% of everything will be crap, but to dismiss everything just because they "need to find someone who can make it for me" is silly.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      "If you cant execute your idea, then what are you bringing to the table?"

      Money...maybe?
      Isn't that how it usually works when someone employs you?

      I don't get why everyone is so against doing the actual work. That's what you get paid for after all.
      The guy with the idea should just know enough, to be able to assess how reasonable his idea is. If he then pays me to do the rest of the work for him, all is well.

  • by hughbar (579555) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:07AM (#42572993) Homepage
    As one used to say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so this argument isn't really convincing.

    I've worked for people in the past who knew a little basic and then believed that they knew how some large, multi-tiered thing could be re-architected in a few lines, as in a Hollywood film [or Dilbert].

    A little technical knowledge [rather than just knowing buzzwords, another common trap] may at least help filter some of the more hopeless potential 'programmers' for your project but it needs to be combined with a healthy dose of reality and knowing ones limits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect [wikipedia.org]
  • by seebs (15766) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:16AM (#42573021) Homepage

    Plauger's essay, many years ago, about programmer types struck me as better advice: If you enjoy programming, do it. If you don't mind it, but don't really enjoy it, feel free to do it, but have other things available. If you hate it, don't do it, because you will be dramatically worse off than if you did something you enjoyed and were probably good at.

    It's a great thought to "not be at the mercy of some programmer". Makes sense for singing, for musicians. Thing is, you don't have to sing particularly well to sing adequately to get stuff recorded. Might not make a lot of money, but you can do pretty well if you can carry a tune at all. Or even if you can't, if you're charismatic. But a bad programmer doesn't just produce tolerable but sort of flawed programs; a bad programmer produces programs that are frequently worse than not having a program at all.

  • True (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frankie70 (803801) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:17AM (#42573029)

    Yes, everyone should get to it right after they learn carpentry, blacksmithy, masonry etc. Then they will never be at the mercy of others when they get ideas.

  • He says, 'The most common thing I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs is, "I have this idea for an app or site. But I'm not technical, so I need to find someone who can make it for me." I point them to my advice about how to hire a programmer, but as most of the good ones are already booked solid...

    As a good coder who writes applications for aspiring entrepreneurs for a living, I can tell you we aren't all booked up. I can also tell you that even if your hypothetical newbie learned how to code a basic application, it's not going to help them one iota when they wants to get that app made. Now he or she can make a basic app...great.

    But their real app is nothing like their learn-to-code app. It's going to have to have TCP/IP in-out, a server, mess with the registry, a installer, low-level optimiza

  • by drolli (522659)

    Just some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript should be enough to start. ... You don't need to become an expert, just know the basics, so you're not helpless.'"

    As we didnt have enough badly written, insecure and slow web applications which were not designed by somebody whose description fits to the above.....

    • Just some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript should be enough to start. ... You don't need to become an expert, just know the basics, so you're not helpless.'"

      As we didnt have enough badly written, insecure and slow web applications which were not designed by somebody whose description fits to the above.....

      Our professional software engineers are going a good enough job of creating those.

  • Programming is HARD. Maybe not for people posting here, but for everyone else. Very few people are going to have the time or ability at their disposal to get to a high enough competence level that they'll gain the insight he's talking about. In fact, I bet that a little knowledge is even worse as that might inspire a false level of competence; e.g. "here's my idea, should be easy since it only took me 2 hours to figure out 'Hello World' in C#" BTW, I saw plenty of these kinds of posts on work posting si

    • There is code written by a newbie and there is code written by someone with years of experience. Now which is going to be

      1) more usable
      2) more maintainable

      etc etc etc

      If you are a programmer and you doubt this then you are clearly in the wrong profession. Like a Surgeon, Mechanic, Photographer, your skills develop over time and your success rate goes up.
      If it does not then you are a hacker IMHO should not be let anywhere near a computer. I picked up a project last May from someone who had worked on it for so

  • His advice is sane as long as you remember never to micromanage the guys who'll implement your vision. Knowing CPR is a good thing, but forcing it on a person with a bullet in his chest could do more harm than good. Other examples: an accomplished writer would not necessarily make a good editor if he chooses to rewrite a novel to suit his own writing style. An art critic who paints on the side might be tempted to show off his technical knowledge of a medium instead of writing a general review that the publi

  • by williamyf (227051) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @05:12AM (#42573171)

    You could start as follows:

    10 Print "Hello World"
    20 goto 10
    30 ???
    40 rem profit

    [said with nick burns tone] you're welcome!!

  • by retchdog (1319261) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @05:55AM (#42573281) Journal

    so you aren't at the mercy of vulture capitalists.

    if the entrepreneurs learned programming, maybe they'd realize what many programmers already do: that most of these "entrepreneurial" ideas are really stupid and obvious, and that a lot of the game is just convincing people dumber than you that you're a genius and the idea you came up with on the john a few days ago is going to replace google and facebook and blah blah blah.

    looking at the converse question is rather illuminating: why aren't more programmers entrepreneurs? a meritocratic mindset is very inefficient if what you want is to make money in a society which does not directly appreciate merit.

    a lot of the challenge of entrepreneurship is realizing that the market really does want fairly obvious, warmed-over ideas packaged extremely fucking well*. pursuing technical training can serve to, paradoxically, blind one to this.

    *: of course a truly novel insight packaged extremely fucking well is necessary to be a great success, it's hardly necessary if all you want is, say, to have a decent chance at bagging a few $million.

    • by rastilin (752802)

      Self reported merit is not the best guideline. It's easier to say "the world doesn't appreciate my genius" than to admit that there are skills that an excellent programmer might lack. Like anything else, being entrepreneurial is it's own skill that improves with practice and people can expect to fail over and over before they finally succeed. I suspect that the entrepreneurs that have actually had a few working projects aren't the ones coming up with the silly ideas since they have a better working knowledg

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This is much of what is wrong with America.

      Business school teaches you to become a mercantilist to compete with the other mercantilists. Which, in fact, is how we get shit like MMOs designed to trap the player. It's not a brilliant or unique idea, it's how modern society works. Keep you scared so you keep working at an output level which will pay for that third yacht... but not for you.

      The rest of what's wrong with America is that you have to become a lawyer so that you're not at the mercy of some asshole

  • To suggest that a few evenings learning from a book will mean you're able to do the work itself is laughable, but it does mean you would have a better idea of when you're being spun bullshit by the asshole programmer.

    I know nothing about cars, so if I take mine to a mechanic to fix I'm at his mercy - if he bullshits me I have no way of knowing. If I contract a programmer I'm in a position to know whether the work I'm asking for is likely to take a day or a week and whether it really needs the latest fash
  • Pretty much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:46AM (#42573447) Homepage

    (And conversely, programmers also benefit greatly from learning some basics of business to avoid being at the mercy of managers.)

  • If you know a littel of medicine, or mechanic. And you have a accident in the forest, that stuff will help you to repair the engine if is easy, and heal your wounds or stop bleeding.

    A small course in programming will not help you "stop bleeding". To even being to create something worthwhile, or repair something complex in software, you must much more information and experience.

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      I am a crap programmer. I am at peace with that. However, when I realized that the equipment I bought output data in a way that could not be used (instantaneous values rather than RMS), it didn't take too long to cobble together a perl script that could take the raw data, do RMS calculations for an adjustable window, and reduce the data to something that could be further analyzed in Excel.

      Sure, the program was slow ant processing something around 1MB of input data, but it did the job until we could get th

  • Are you kidding?
    Modern programming, the real one I mean, requires you to understand algorithms, complexity, system architectures and even compiler bugs.
    If you don't want to be at the mercy of "programmers", you need to be a real programmer yourself!
  • So you're going to some how learn design and testing as well good programming? Oh no that's right you'll just end making yet another insecure ugly web app.
  • 2 weeks later I tell them my rates.

    many are just wasting my time looking for someone else (me) to do the hard work, but it still might be a good idea so I listen politely. If their business idea makes any sense and they are serious about it then they will invest money in doing it. I explain to them that like any real business they should do good planning and research and that I am prepared to help but they will be invoiced.

    The serious ones are the ones who pay the invoices.

  • by pamar (538061) <marino.inrete@it> on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:49AM (#42573579) Homepage

    The suggestion in the original article is (IMHO) completely and utterly wrong, for a mix of reasons explained in other comments.

    So let me offer an alternative: instead of learning a smattering of markup language and how to copy JS fragments and trying to modify these for you purpose... learn the basics of being a competent SW TESTER instead.

    So when you get a good idea for an app, before looking for a non-asshole programmer, draft a test plan. The more detailed, the better (because tests may also serve as specifications, as TDD teaches us).

    When it's done you will have a better idea of the "technical complexity" of your idea, and you don't have to learn any specific programming language for it.

  • by trydk (930014) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:15AM (#42573639)
    Yes sir, I have done a full service on your car, changed the indicator fluid and greased your brake pads so they do not squeak anymore.
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @09:20AM (#42573813)
    I agree with his basic concept. It's good for a person to be versatile. There's a famous quote asking the lines of "a man should be able to jump start a car, build a fire, change a diaper, change a faucet washer ...". The idea being, not everyone is a mechanic, but it's good to at least be able to change a tire or jump start a car when needed - to have basic skills in a variety of areas.

    By that line of thinking, it's good to be somewhat familiar with shell scripting or Office macros or something similar. HOWEVER, he describes writing web apps for his BUSINESS web site. Rudimentary programming knowledge should include knowing that you shouldn't expose your livelihood to every script kiddie on the planet by writing business web apps without knowing what you are doing. Basic skills in any field include knowing when to get professional assistance. Unfortunately, these days, many coder wannabes learn the very basics by writing web applications, exposing themselves or their employer to significant risks that any competent programer would avoid. That's exactly backwards. Learn on your own desktop first, then let others around you use your programs. Then learn security before exposing your business databases on public internet.

    * There's also the whole left brain / right brain thing. I coud never learn to play music, as I simply have no aesthetic sense. Calculus comes easy to me, though. Half of people can never learn programing. They just aren't wired for it.
  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:17AM (#42574091) Journal

    I think the author may have stumbled over his analogy a bit; rather than suggesting "Learn to sing, or else you'll be at the mercy of an asshole", it's more along the lines of "Learn to sing, so you know what to look for in a good singer". Big Idea People (henceforth referred to as BIPs) are not necessarily a bad thing -- sometimes they do genuinely come up with something good that would benefit the market -- but BIPs have an issue: they tend to have absolutely no concept of what is required to execute their idea.

    People on here are imagining CEOs trying to do their jobs and having a good chuckle, but they're missing the point. Your boss, unless he himself used to be a lowly programmer, isn't going to be executing his ideas in any form that could be marketable. I don't believe the author was intentionally arguing this; rather, I think the more important point deals with being able to bring their vision down to a realistic level -- less "My boss is coding our new Android app" and more "My boss now understands why we can't duplicate the functionality of Google in two weeks time". The more he or she codes, the more they begin to understand the work involved.

    I've never really considered myself much of a programmer, but having learned to code, I can respect the word involved and that a simple line count doesn't tell the whole story. The same basic principle applies here, too. Not only can it shoot down unrealistic ideas but it can keep them from getting proposed in the first place; they die at his desk, never having left the room, because he figured out long before opening his mouth that, under the current circumstances, it was unreasonable. At the same time, knowing what is possible can potentially give him new ideas about the direction of a project that not only work, but actually might make sense. This is not a bad thing.

    Ultimately, there's only so much you can do and there will be limits to what the person in charge of your project knows. Be happy; you're not redundant.

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