Indelible Blue Pen

Jason C. McDonald (CodeMouse92)

August 16, 2011

So that’s why they call it “Windows”…

The past two years have been an absolute roller-coaster with work, as I’ve found myself more and more assimilated into the wacky culture of programmers. Yet the fact remains that, two years ago, I knew nothing about programming at all. Python code scared me, and the very word “compiler” would send me screaming into the night.

All the same, once I set my mind to something, I learn fast. That, paired with my talent for not looking like a total imbecile in brand new professional situations, helped me to dive in pretty fast. And apparently, it made quite a few people think I actually knew what I was doing.

Either that, or they’re brutally anti-beginner.

I’m actually leaning towards the latter conclusion with some of these folks. I have watched them absolutely shred a number of newbies over perfectly innocent and legitimate questions. Introducing, Programatticus Newbieflamerous.

Of course, being a beginner myself, I said nothing for the longest time…but once I had gained enough experience to be taken seriously, things changed rather quick.

I happened across one such situation involving a beginner who didn’t even speak English as a first language. It took me a few reads of the question, but with a little bit of brainwork, I was able to find the answer (which was rather obvious to me by this point). However, after answering, I noticed another response in which one P. Newbieflamerous totally ripped this guy apart for asking at all.

I read Mr. [In]Sensitivity the riot act.

What many more experienced nerds don’t seem to understand is that we beginners don’t know the ins and outs of software development. Isn’t that why these forums exist – to answer questions?

Even so, I almost can’t blame these people for being so harsh. I read somewhere that a majority of programmers are not the most adept at social situations. That’s why they take to computers so well. Computers are (relatively) predictable, and they don’t try and show you pictures of their vacation.

The species of weird programmers doesn’t stop there, tho. You also have the people that don’t read the questions thoroughly. If at all. I call them Programatticus Noreadicus.

Case and point, I ask on one forum what code to use to accomplish a particular task with a database called SQL (actually, a cousin of SQL, SQLite). This guy responds, and, I’d like to know WHAT he was drinking…

Word for word quote. I kid you not. “You use SQL.”

NO! Really? I thought I’d be using Pig Latin!

Another question asked how to fix a problem with a development tool I had just installed. And I gave the link to where I had downloaded it from, just for reference. Someone replies with another link. “Download that tool here,” he says. And I look at the link.

For one, it contained the exact same thing, from the exact same website, just on a slightly different link. And second of all, the download button gave me a 404 (cannot find file). I take it someone didn’t look at my link. Sheesh.

The insanity doesn’t stop here. We have one other species to look at – Programmaticus Takeoveriticus. This species will, from across the country (or world in some cases), answer questions by telling the asker that they are going about their project all wrong, without even knowing a thing about the project OR the programmer.

I have had many run ins with P. Takeoveriticus in the past two years. The most hilarious example of this came when I asked whether a particular GUI toolkit could do something specific, before I took a month to learn it. (For those of you following along at home, a GUI is the visual part of a program you interact with.) Mind you, I’m working on a game, so I have to have images and buttons OVER the video that is my background animation.

One guy actually responds “Why would you want to put controls over the video? That’s just going to look confusing.”

I actually had to read his post twice…part of me couldn’t believe he was actually attempting to redesign my project without knowing a thing about it. I replied that I was creating a game, and encouraged him not to link me over to a game developmental sister site. (I had two different people do that to me before, but as I wasn’t creating a 3D video game, the link was a waste of time.)

He replied back that I shouldn’t be using my particular choice of tool for games, but instead be using another tool. I replied that I had looked into the tool he recommended, and it did not have what I needed. And furthermore, please just answer the question. He didn’t, but someone else did. God bless them for it!

I’ll give him one thing – I did end up changing tools. All the same, I’d prefer to have such changes politely suggested to me by someone who actually knows what in the world I’m doing. This guy, I had never spoken to before in my life.

Adding to the craziness, I have spent hours and hours trying to find straight answers to simple questions, only to discover that no one has felt the need to GIVE those answers. A couple things I’ve learned this week while trying to figure out how to install something.

1) Those funny lines of code (i.e. “sudo python install”) are supposed to be typed into the Terminal in Mac or Linux, or Command Prompt in Windows. In the case of the latter, any time you reference a Python (.py) file (assuming you have Python installed), don’t type “python” first. Command Prompt isn’t as smart as a Unix Terminal…it won’t know what to do.

2) Compiling from source IS possible. You don’t always have to have an installer. See #1.

My question is…why couldn’t they just tell me that outright?

My pal and programming buddy, Rigel, and I were trying to figure out how to install a development tool, so we looked on the official documentation. It literally stated that we could download the source from such-and-such a place, and that we could build and install that.

“I KNOW THAT, GENIUSES! WHAT STEPS DO I TAKE?” I screamed at the monitor. We were pushing the one hour mark on this search…and that was a culmination of two days of looking by myself.

Needless to say, we gave up and went to explore the creek behind the house instead. At least that doesn’t come with lame-brained documentation and several weird species of programmers.



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