About Programming, Motherfucker

I recently noticed, especially on Twitter, that many developers openly claim that they belong to the Programming, Motherfucker movement, and this pisses me off a little.

“Programming, Motherfucker” was created by Zed Shaw, a pretty famous article/book writer who focuses on programming “the hard way“. Zed Shaw is also famous for his vocabulary, as the guy is usually very…expressive. The main ideas behind “Programming, Motherfucker” are that developers are supposed to be fed up being treated like slaves by PMs, that they know their job, that they know how to make a program (sic.) and that they don’t need/want all these software development methodologies that humiliates them. Shaw also talks about “Management, Asshole”, a virtual PM methodology meant to ensure “Programming, Motherfucker”.

Of course the whole manifesto thing is a little bit too much maybe, and maybe programming-motherfucker.com is just a kind of aggressive marketing tool, or a joke, I don’t know, but it might cause a couple of true problems.

The main issue with the “Programming, Motherfucker” manifesto is the big shortcuts it takes. When a developer reads “We are tired of XPScrumKanbanWaterfallSoftware Craftsmanship(aka XP-Lite) and anything else getting in the way of…Programming, Motherfucker.” or “We are tired of being told we’re autistic idiots who need to be manipulated to work…” he can easily think that project management and software development methodologies are meant to force a team doing exactly what managers want it to do, without any creativity at all. This is wrong. More than that : this is the exact opposite of the reality.

The goal of any project management and software development methodology is to ease work, to ease… programming, motherfucker! When Scrum, for example, introduces a guy who must “improve the lives of the development team by facilitating creativity and empowerment” and “improve the productivity of the development team in any way possible.” (Agile Project Management with Scrum, Ken Schwaber), what do you think it is? Moreover, when David J. Anderson “created” Kanban, that was to solve this kind of problem: “the workforce had largely accepted crazy schedules and ridiculous work commitments as the norm. Software engineers are apparently not supposed to have a social or family life.” (Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business, David J. Anderson). A good project manager will always try to make sure that programmers can program, motherfucker. That’s what this is all about : we want to add value to the product, to add value work must be done, for work to be done programmers must program, for programmers to program they should not be bothered with anything else. We all agree.

The second issue I see is that this manifesto produces a bad side-effect, due to the virtual opposition between “Programming, Motherfucker” and “Software Craftsmanship”. The only difference I can see between the two is that the second not only says “we program” but “we program well“. So the risk is that developers who wave the “Programming, Motherfucker” banner would be considered as just “coders”, people who can develop of course, but what if we need a good, maintainable code? Can we trust these small-timers? They might not be as trustworthy as if they had signed the Software Craftsmanship Manifesto instead.

In short, Mr Shaw, please stop lying to developers, stop setting them against project managers, they work together!

Final note : I like the whole Pulp Fiction thing 😉

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