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The Ugly Underbelly of Coder Culture 715

snydeq writes "Today's developers are overwhelmingly young and male, and they're barring the door from a more diverse workforce, writes Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister. 'Software development isn't just failing to attract women. It's actively pushing them away. ... Put all the pieces together, and you're left with an impression of developers that's markedly different from the geeks and nerds they're made out to be in popular culture. On the contrary, developers harbor the same attitudes and engage in the same behaviors you see whenever a subculture is overwhelmingly dominated by young males. They've even coined a clever name for programmers who think and behave like fraternity pledges: brogrammers,' McAllister writes. 'Developers like to think of their culture as a meritocracy, where the very best developers naturally rise to the top. But as long as the industry tends to exclude more than half of the potential workforce, that's nothing but pure arrogance.'"
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The Ugly Underbelly of Coder Culture

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  • Flamebait (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 14, 2012 @03:14PM (#39687319)

    Why do we even bother with the garbage from ___Word. The entire network is uninformed trolls, with sensationalist news devoid of technical merit. It's no wonder the world looks like a frat house to them. They are looking in the mirror.

  • Where? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wzinc ( 612701 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @03:15PM (#39687325)
    As a young male developer, I've never, ever seen or even heard of this behavior until this article. Obviously, there are men out there who dislike women and vice-versa. Where I work, we're all too busy working to worry about what race or gender the next dev is. I just want to be/hire the best person for the job.
  • Not what I've seen (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mean Variance ( 913229 ) <mean.variance@gmail.com> on Saturday April 14, 2012 @03:17PM (#39687347)

    I've been a Silicon Valley software engineer for 15 years. I see no disparity of gender that's a concern.

    I work in a team of 6. We just hired a senior engineer, a woman. Of the 9 people I interviewed, I only recall 2 men in the interview. In our team, there are 2 men, me and another guy in another so called discriminated class - age. He's 53. Our entire dev team is about 50/50 and might even be tipped to the female side.

    When we went to universities to screen for interns, no identifiable difference at one I went to at San Jose State.

    Now, there is a disparity in American v. Indian (and some Chinese and Russian), but I don't think it's anyone's fault. Those are the people looking for the jobs.

    Granted I have seen some companies that put their white male faces from a Portland company right up front [simple.com], but my personal observations in Silicon Valley are quite different.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 14, 2012 @03:58PM (#39687659)

    I'm a male, and I've been involved with programming and software development in one way or another for over 30 years now. My wife has been involved with software product management for over 25 years. Together, we've been to probably 80 to 90 programming language or software dev conferences together, in addition to working with thousands upon thousands of developers, programmers, designers, architects, IT staffers, managers, and executives of all types.

    This isn't a problem with the majority of communities. It's actually quite isolated. We've been to Fortran and Java conferences, for example, where everybody is extremely professional, friendly, and tolerant. Those conferences, even 30 years ago when I first attended a Fortran one back in my college days, were quite diverse in terms of gender. There were and are many female scientists and mathematicians who are experts at Fortran, for example.

    This is almost solely an issue with the communities related to web development. We're basically talking about the Ruby, JavaScript and NoSQL movements. These communities are among the worst there are. Ignorance, both of social norms and technology, are serious factors in why this is the case. When ignorance is embraced as a core value of a community, the results are never good. Ruby is basically Perl, but 20 years late and with a much inferior foundation. JavaScript is, well, horrible in every way. NoSQL is widely taken to be a joke by professionals, who can easily achieve the same scalability using relational databases, without giving up their many useful and even necessary features.

    These failed communities do generate a lot of hype, and that's probably why people think this is a much bigger problem than it really is. As long as they steer away from these rotten communities that are centered around being oblivious to reality, then females involved with the software development field in some way can easily have successful and productive careers, and expected to be treated as equals by their fellow professional male and female colleagues.

  • Re:WHAT? (Score:5, Informative)

    by devleopard ( 317515 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @04:00PM (#39687675) Homepage

    If you've been a programmer for over ten years, odds are that you don't work in an environment where you'd hear the phrase. There's some funny presentations mocking this group on YouTube. Basically, think the coder who got past his awkwardness and is basically now a douche. Works out, has some tats, wears Ed Hardy, has a feaux-hawk or a similarly trendy haircut, drinks 7 Red Bulls a day, listens to dubstep, and only codes in whatever's considered the new hotness (Node.js or Rails). In other words, a little start-up monkey (working at a company with a cool name like "douche.ly") who'll evaporate from the industry when the current startup bubble pops.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @04:15PM (#39687805)

    Calling programmers brogrammers is about as sexist as insulting as it gets.

    So the developers calling themselves "brogrammers," they're actually mocking themselves, and being sexist, towards themselves?

    Or let me guess... you didn't read TFA?

  • by CyberSnyder ( 8122 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @04:30PM (#39687939)

    Every place I've worked we *want* women and have had very few apply. Sure, they have to be competent but having a female name on the resume definitely got you at least a call back.

  • Re:Where? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 14, 2012 @04:30PM (#39687945)

    I'm completely unbiased on the male vs female front

    Well that's a pretty strong claim. On what do you base that?

    You probably don't discriminate on purpose, but according t studies our impression of a person varies based on factors that we are not consciously aware of.

    If makeup [go.com] can make a woman look more trustworthy, and tall people [suite101.com] earn more that short people, I'd say that people can hold biases that they're themselves unaware of. Some may be biological rather than cultural. Men have been shown to take different economic choices after being shown a photograph of an attractive women [royalsocie...ishing.org].

    Given all that I wonder if you can state confidently that you're unbiased on something as ingrained in both our culture and nature as the issue of gender without actually having performed a blind test.

  • Yeah... no (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 14, 2012 @04:56PM (#39688179)

    Ruby is *not* basically Perl, I've used both for quite a while now. Ruby's concepts are much easier to comprehend and use in everyday coding. Classes are not some weird afterthought that feels like it's falling apart every second now, they are first class members. The Perl interpreter is way quicker, which is nice, and Perl can do just about everything, but there's sooo much unnecessary syntactic explicitness compared to Ruby. Don't get me wrong, I like both, but Ruby is a very welcome change and brushing it off as just another Perl doesn't do it justice at all. Most of its fame is due to Ruby on Rails, though, and you see how well Ruby is done by all the attempts to copy Rails' API to languages like PHP. It just doesn't work, they are not flexible enough and everything just becomes more cumbersome, though you definitely have a better shot with the features added in PHP 5.3 and 5.4.

    Repeating the same old cliche about JavaScript also shows more ignorance on your part than anything else. Yeah, I've been there, been a JavaScript basher myself, but that's a) due to not understanding its most fundamental features (anonymous functions and closures) and b) due to the horrors of cross-browser development (start using Node.js und you know how much of the pain is simply not due to the language itself). Yes, JavaScript has some fundamental issues, but is also so powerful that you can fix many of them yourself (take that, Java). And for the rest, just use CoffeeScript, which compiles to JavaScript but feels more like Ruby, but starts so much quicker than the standard Ruby interpreter even though it has to translate the code first.

    And NoSQL *does* offer some advantages for some cases, and of course some disadvantages. There's no clear winner here, it depends on your data structures, how often they change and how you want to query them.

    So. I fully reject the technological aspect of your comment. I'm not well connected to the community, so I have no idea what the gender issues there are (other than hearing about some issues at a Rails conference due to sexual imagery in a presentation). But since I don't see the ignorance that is the basis for your argument, I don't feel comfortable trusting your conclusion.

    These languages are not popular because there are obviously better alternatives, they are popular because they better match the mental concepts of many programmers and answer a whole lot of the "why the fuck...?" questions I had about your beloved classics. They make me rejoice. "Finally!"

  • by Serious Callers Only ( 1022605 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @05:42PM (#39688563)

    But I've always done kernel, systems, and general server-side work, not the modern web-stuff.

    Perhaps that's why you think it's informative. I'm afraid completely misguided, at least in his mischaracterisation of the languages, I can't comment on the conferences, not having been to many. Ruby may have some superficial similarities to Perl in syntax but it is entirely different in culture, aims, and implementation, it is far closer to Python for example. Javascript is quite an interesting language, if you're not fazed by its unusual object system, of course it has its flaws, but it's by no means worthless. As to NoSQL, I haven't used one of these systems, and some of them cause more problems than they solve, but there's obviously a need for them or people wouldn't keep reinventing them. By the time Google uses something like BigTable, there is obviously some value, in some situations, for dropping relational dbs and going for something simpler. The NoSQL movement has the backing of some very big names.

    As to 'ignorance is embraced as a core value of a community' and 'rotten communities', I suspect the grandparent just got carried away with playing to the peanut gallery here on Slashdot - the post is almost entirely free of substance, and what substance there is is wrong, which makes me suspect all the emotional appeals about a rotten community too. I certainly haven't experienced a rotten web community online as described around Ruby - probably he's just been exposed to lots of younger males at these conferences, and been shocked by their mix of ignorance and arrogance - I imagine if the poster met the usual denizens of slashdot face to face he would have the same feeling.

    I'm sure there must be some concrete examples of this sort of boorish behaviour at conferences, but it's hardly the norm for Ruby at least.

  • by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @06:00PM (#39688725) Homepage

    I despise Javascript as much as the next person, but the current alternatives are delightfully hideous.

    Why doesn't the /. community try to create several new ones, and we'll see which ones work?

    Here's some things I'd want in them:

    1.) True Classes / Object Oriented support. None of this hacked on bullsh*t.
    2.) Namespaces. Just make sure it has them.
    3.) Multiple constructor support.
    4.) Inheritance.
    5.) Interfaces.

    Feel free to add whatever you'd like below.

  • Re:Where? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Swave An deBwoner ( 907414 ) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @07:29PM (#39689383)

    In all of these discussions, the assumption is implicit that a group (whatever group is under discussion, programmers in this case) should change their behavior because others don't like it and are pushed away from the activity by it. But why? Presumably those who are there now are there because they enjoy that environment. If you change it so that someone else is more comfortable with it, then that destroys the enjoyment of those who were there to begin with. So why, exactly, is it imperative that things be as bland and unoffensive as possible? What makes the outsiders' wishes more important than those of the insiders?

    Because we're not discussing a private social club here. This is a thread about possible sexual discrimination in the workplace. It's about whether a woman has equal opportunity to earn her daily bread as a programmer. I hope this helps you understand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 14, 2012 @08:06PM (#39689633)

    ...and development managers are disproportionately female to a vast degree.

    My (probably sexist) programmer friends inform me that they become managers because they aren't smart enough to code.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @05:31AM (#39691705) Journal

    The problem is that the industry has been dominated, lock, stock and barrel, by foreigners on guest worker visas and green cards.

    Given that a green card worker would earn the same as a native (as there's no pressure on him to force to work for less, as there is on an H1-B), so there's no competition on price of labor - what does that say about American workers, if true?

    Of course, if you look at the yearly green card quotas, it's fairly obvious why it plainly can't be true. Not unless your eye is trained to spot the Indian looking guys in the crowd, and ignore everyone else.

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