Monday, July 15, 2013

Being a Pessimistic Programmer, but a Positive Person

I'll be honest. As a programmer, my mindset is usually more negative than positive. I've accepted that my code, at some point, will fail and the software I write will never be complete. As I'm planning out projects, I'm usually thinking about the worst-case scenarios and possible issues. I've been burned by ever-changing requirements from clients who expect too much in too little time. So, sometimes it's hard to trust anything the client says at all.

"Never". "Failure". "Worst". "Too much". "Too little". "Hard to trust".

The Party Pooper Programmer

In my experience, some of the best programmers I've worked with exhibit these "pessimistic" traits. In design meetings, they always cried out over every possible issue or breakage. They were nit-picky over every little detail, especially during code reviews and pairing sessions. They were always skeptical of code deployed into production, even if it was thoroughly tested and criticized. Expecting the worst and being critical of the details helped produce more complete and robust code.

Though this attitude is useful, and sometimes essential, for writing good software, it isn't always appreciated outside of the office. I'm sure we can all think of people who always seem to be "downers" or "party poopers". Planning a hiking trip? They'll warn that it might rain, snow, be too difficult, too easy, etc. Trying out a new restaurant? Their food will be too salty, too sweet, too hot, or too cold. Didn't ask for advice or an opinion? Chances are, they're giving it anyway.

Too critical. Too skeptical. Too pessimistic. A negative attitude.

The Positive Person

I know not every developer has this problem. We're usually pretty good at separating our work and play. But I'm not afraid to admit it's something I still struggle with from time to time. Leave the "programmer pessimism" at the office. We can't treat life like we treat our code. We will not always fail. Not every possible bad situation or issue needs to be brought up and addressed. Have a little faith in others. Not everyone needs or wants to be analyzed and criticized. Outside of work, turn on the positive attitude and look on the bright side!

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” -A. Lincoln

Anyone else have experience with this? Let me know in the comments!

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