Twitter thread as blog post about "We Are Programmers"

Posted December 19, 2019 in Research, Thoughts


Here is a Twitter thread in response to this tweet from CSS-Tricks, about an article I wrote a few weeks ago:

Thanks @css – my confidence in this topic took a blow after I (foolishly) read / responded to some of the comments. I decided to learn more about the psychology behind some of the responses.

One of the psychology topics I learned about is social identity theory, where there is an in-group and an out-group. In reality, the groups may share qualities, but conflict arises when the groups are in competition for resources. A graphic of this concept:

Credit: Simply Psychology

Another topic potentially at play is stereotype threat. This occurs when someone feels at risk of conforming to a negative stereotype. Research shows that the threat both hinders the person’s performance, and often results in the person doing significant additional work in an effort to disprove the stereotype.

For me, negative stereotypes are coming from: a) woman in STEM, b) UI developer, c) non-traditional background. After learning about stereotype threat, I have new perspective on why I feel such a need to give talks and write articles proclaiming CSS is a PL. That was a harsh realization.

That said, I’m *not wrong*. I’ve had many conversations about this topic with very qualified people. One point is that it’s ALL programming. Did you instruct a computer to do something and it did the thing? Programming. Did you write instructions in a specific language? Programming language. Unless you are writing machine code, every PL is an abstraction, to what extent is a different topic.

Another point is that things have changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, and our concept of “programmer” hasn’t caught up. The front-end is much, much more complicated than it used to be. Paraphrasing a conversation with @heathercmiller – there are complex state machines all over web UIs now, and the consequences for doing it wrong are dire: people can’t use your product.

There is also my own baggage. I fully dis-identified with computer science from 2010-2017. I avoided and even encouraged others to avoid the CS topics that I now realize I enjoy, excel at, and find extremely beneficial to any code I write. Was that because of me? Or am I but a product of the patriarchy?

Anyway, I had a lot of impassioned thoughts while on a run today and decided to bang out this Twitter-thread-blog-post instead of letting them die a slow silent death alone in my brain, as they often do. BYE.