Ravi Mohan's Blog

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Storm Before the Calm

As of May the 6th of 2006 (the final day of the Agile India Conference, where I am speaking on "The Design And Implementation of Robotics Languages"), I am completely abandoning all connections to the "offshored software" world. No more agile/extremeprogrammng/tdd, no more j2ee, no more "offshore teams" delivering "superior business value" using "best practices" crap.

Paul Graham said,

"If it is possible to make yourself into a great hacker, the way to do it may be to make the following deal with yourself: you never have to work on boring projects (unless your family will starve otherwise), and in return, you'll never allow yourself to do a half-assed job. All the great hackers I know seem to have made that deal, though perhaps none of them had any choice in the matter."

Now whether I am or will ever be a "great hacker" aside, "you'll never work on boring projects, and in return, you'll never allow yourself to do a half-assed job." seems a fantastic principle to live by (it helps that I don't have a family I need to keep above the starvation line - Oh the blessed joys of bachelorhood :-) ).

Once you cross the age of 30, you are in the second half of your life. It is horrible enough that I spent one decade caught up in the "offshored software" paradigm. One decade - think of it and weep. A decade of dedicated practice would make you world class in anything you choose. One could be a world class athlete, musician, martial artist, dancer,writer, film maker... whatever! And I spent it writing "plonk this data off a database and put it on a set of dinky webpages" systems.

Shakespeare got it right when he made Macbeth say "And all our yesterdays have lighted fools, The way to dusty death."

And it is a very seductive bargain - in the beginning - money for nothing, multiple trips abroad (ignoring the fact that you are roughly in the position of a Sepoy in the Old army of the British Raj, occasionally sent abroad to shed your blood in the Empire's mysterious wars), all the trappings of a "successful" life. Time blurs and you wake up to find yourself either a second grade "project manager" type implementing commands from across the seas (and trying desperately to convince yourself that you are now in a superior position compared to the lowly blue collar techies, having forgotten what little you knew) or yet another burned out "techie" having no skills beyond "j2ee" or "perl and php".

Spending any more time in that world would mean I am frittering away what remains of my life. The Red Pill came just in time, methinks.

The number of genuinely good programmers and the amount of true innovation in India is astoundingly low, for all the talk of being the "21st century superpower". The "pseudo geek" profile many people unwittingly take on is very low on substance and very high on deception.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The less something exists, the more the opportunity to create it.

The mistake,I've found, is in thinking, like many Non Resident Indians do, that "I'll go home next year (and meanwhile, endure another year of meaninglessness)". Of course "next year" never comes. If one plans to "go home", the time to do it is right now.

From Snow Crash,

" Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad."

I am way past 25, but "devoting my life to being bad" sounds good anyway.