Why I’m Not A "Mad Professor Genius" Programmer

Hi, my name is Stu, and I”m a .. ???

Two posts I”ve just read (thanks to Lindsay for posting them on FriendFeed) have sparked my mind into action.

1. Do you know any programmers that exhibit these personality traits?

2. How to get the most out of your Eccentric Programmer/"Genius"

Lispy, the author, seems like a cool dude. The blog is very minimalist.

To get a full understanding, read both of the articles in that order, and be sure to at least scan the comments.

But for those who don”t want to, let me sum up for you.

  • The first article listed a bunch of personality traits. I imagine for most programmers, at least half of these traits are easy to identify with. I did with most of them.
  • The comments in the first article are mostly people saying "Wow! Stop following me!" I”m in observational mode, not judgemental with this statement.
  • The second article goes further into ramifications of the personality traits. Real life examples, more stark warnings and subtle messages.
  • The comments in the second article take a turn. From the beginning there is opposition. One of them follows:
    • Bruce Says:   
      August 28, 2008 at 1:37 pm
      I call shenanigans. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all misunderstood geniuses. Right.

      In 20+ years of working in this industry I’ve never met anyone like this who I’d describe as a genius. Generally, the real words that come to mind are “pain in the ass”, “loser”, “loose cannon”, “unreliable”, and “dangerous”. This guy kills teams, code, and projects stone dead. If you find someone like this on one of your teams, terminate with extreme prejudice.

The comments really add so much to these particular discussions. Especially the second one. The starkness of perception.

This kind of person is me.

This kind of person is a mad scientist (genius and misunderstood).

This kind of person is bad news.

I”m not a misunderstood genius programmer. Sure, I exhibit these traits. But there”s another side.

Looking through these articles, a lot of what is said strikes a chord. But then, a lot doesn”t.

Here”s the breakdown. It”s a little egotistical to write a post looking at myself, but my point was to highlight the the similarities and differences with the above articles contents. The other side.

YES! You Must Have Been Spying On Me!

  • I”m absolutely idea driven. And like was said in the posts above, my dreams are my reality. A project will consume almost every waking thought.
  • I have half a dozen big ideas floating around my head at the same time. In combination with Problem #1, this means my brain is fighting for time to give each of them
  • The idea, the initial creation, is exciting. The implementation, the building, is hard. A large trail of "awesome" projects is littered behind my feet, shelved in pursuit of the next one.
  • Sometimes my kids will have to ask me a question ten (and more) times before my mind will snap into gear and _listen_ to them. I will have been solving a problem or expanding a feature in my latest project.
  • In arguments, I will hone in and be merciless and ruthless in pointing out the logical imperfections. I will then turn around and be completely honest about my intentions. I will use logical imperfections in arguments, because I know what they are, and the power that they hold.
  • I love to create. I”ve written stories since I could write. I”m learning to branch out into other mediums of storytelling than just a pen and paper. I”ve also spent a few months drawing comics, learning how to use GIMP. Been writing songs since I learnt to play the guitar, over fifteen years ago. Have started a bunch of blogs throughout the last few years, and then let most of them go.

NO! That”s not me!

  • I”m in a wonderful, stable, exciting and committed relationship with my beautiful wife.
  • I”m father to four amazing kids, and we bind our family together every day we are together.
  • Presence, not just with the Family, but in the totality of my relationships, is very important to me. I”m far from good at it, but it is part of my life. (Read this post at Dadomatic about Presence, it sparked my  understanding a bit more)
  • Responsibility is a big part of my life. And was previous to me getting married and having kids. Responsibility to my friendships, to my family.
    • I got beaten up a lot  in year five, after we moved interstate. I was an annoying kid, a preacher”s kid, and I couldn”t understand why people just didn”t _like_ me.
    • My folks signed me up to boxing lessons at the Police Boys Club. After the first week I _hated_ (and if you know me, "hate" is too strong a word, "dislike" is more appropriate, heh) it. Absolutely did not want to go back. My Dad was immovable. I bent first, and became far stronger for the experience. It was a very important lesson for me. Commit. See it through to the end.
    • Although it sounds a little out of place, this lesson taught me a lot about being responsible in relationships. Let my yes be yes. If I say I”ll do something, then I should do it.
  • Discipline. Daily Disciplines. Experiential Disciplines. Random Disciplines.
    • Daily: Each day there are things I do the same. Quiet times. Reading feeds. Time with kids. Time with beautiful half. Exercising. Teaching the kids.
    • Experiential: Looking someone in the eyes when talking. Asking questions AND listening. Apologising when I”ve caused a problem, when I”ve said something stupid, when I”ve done a wrong thing.
    • Random: Helping people on the street, on the road, in the shops.
  • Grace.
    • None of the above would be possible without Grace. I”m a christian. Jesus Christ is my King. He has saved me from death and hell. From what I deserve for my sin. That”s Grace.
    • It works out in every aspect of my life. Every bit of ME wants to forget about taking time in prayer at the end of the night. I”m tired. I”ve just coded for hours straight, or played a game for hours straight, or read till three in the morning. Every bit of ME wants to put my headphones on and return to the project. To immerse myself, and not have to drag my brain into reality.
    • I know someone who is ME down to the model airplanes from early teenage years. Except he”s the opposite. He can”t commit to a relationship. He has no control over his emotions, especially his anger and lust. He”s out of relationship with his family.
    • I”m only able to do these things because of grace. Cause left to my own, I”d be on the same road. Please, even if you are opposed Christianity and the idea of Grace, understand what I”m saying:

On my own I would be a Mad Scientist (not genius) Programmer. But I”m not alone.

Thanks for reading this far. The post kind of veered, creating a new road. Hopefully it has sparked some thought in you. I hope some good conversation will come of it.

Do your personality traits rule you?