“Programmers are weird.”
That’s what I hear most of the time from my non-programming friends.
As someone who remembers the transition from the non-programming to the programming world, and who faced the bewildered expressions of friends when my personality drastically changed, I remember what it’s like to think that programming is weird.
I understand: it’s not easy to have a programmer in your life. You need to suffer through the half-explained inside jokes, the numerous times five minutes turn into hours or the awkwardness of their interactions during social activities.
Honestly, we are tough cookies to crack sometimes and our love for logic and science can easily turn into a disastrous lack of tact during moments of intimacy.
If you come from the non-programming world and you have someone dear to you who is a programmer, you might be struggling with understanding how to efficiently communicate your thoughts and feelings to them.
They might seem distant, lost in their own world of problems, bugs, issues and obscure languages no one has ever heard of. You might find them - more often than not - binge-watching strange YouTube videos where people type endlessly on their screens.
In the office, there are dedicated people trained to speak with programmers. These managers have the tedious task of cleaning up human instructions of any wording or discrepancies in the language that might offend a programmer. Statements are scrutinized so that they are kept at their purest form: concise bullet-point lists of tasks and observations and facts, wiped out of any emotional implications.
But if you are a friend, family member or in an intimate partnership with a programmer, how can you efficiently communicate with them?
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Here are 13 things you should understand if you want to communicate with a programmer (and stay happy).
1. When speaking to a programmer, avoid repeating yourself or using words with undefined values (“maybe”, “I don’t know”, “sometimes”). Otherwise, they’ll start secretly wishing they could refactor your brain and clean up all these infinite loops seemingly impossible for you to break out of.
2. If you’re looking for empathy from a programmer, make sure your claim is legitimate. A programmer will see right through your act of self-pity. They will then happily remind you of the cold hard facts, which, as true as they might be, is not always what you want to hear in these circumstances.
3. Don’t expect too many emotional demonstrations from a programmer. Personally, I cuddle with my laptop at night. The warmth and comfort of a human body can’t replace the butterflies I feel when I sleep with my new MacBook 2019, 17inc, 16GB of RAM. The purring metal makes me feel all fuzzy inside. But maybe that’s just me because I’m weird.
4. Programmers tend to be weird (you probably noticed but now it’s confirmed).
5. If you’re looking for comfort or reassurance from a programmer, make sure you state your needs clearly. Otherwise, the only thing they’ll see is a problem needing to be fixed.
6. Programmers understand clear and concise instructions and well-formed conditions. Look at this post: written by a programmer.
7. When a programmer says: “I’ll be done in 5min!” it means you can consider dinner plans cancelled. We don’t want to blow you off, we honestly believe we’ll be done in five minutes… until we realize it’s been five hours and the bug is still not fixed.
8. The more experienced a programmer is, the more they learned how to prioritize. If you need them to deal with something, make sure you indicate the task’s priority level clearly. Otherwise, your request might go unnoticed, lost in the queue of all the other issues needing attention.
9. Yes, you are right, your programmer friend is a superhero because he knows how to talk to computers. But even superheroes have specific superpowers. Stop expecting your friend to have an answer for every computer problem ever encountered since the beginning of computer history. It’s just not realistic. Develop your own superpower… which takes me to the next point.
10. If you truly love and care for your programmer, learn how to connect to your own Googling abilities. Don’t ask the poor programmer to google things for you because they are so much better at it than you are. We’ve done so much googling, our brains are fried from staring at the Google results page. Our fingers are aching and our dreams are populated by recurrent nightmares of “what if I googled this instead?” scenarios. Learn how to Google and your programmer friend will love you forever.
11. Programmers are pragmatic. We understand you have a new idea you think will change the world. We rationally support your passion and entrepreneurship but if you want to hire us to build your new website or app, learn to describe your idea while leaving your ideologies out the door.
We are interested to know what the app is supposed to do: not how it looks, how people will feel when they land on the homepage or how it will contribute to the greatness of humankind. Honestly, it’s great that you have a new idea but someone has to build the damn thing.
12. For efficient communication with a programmer, keep your statements to the point. Make sure you don’t get lost in layers and layers of sub-stories. Otherwise, a programmer will stop computing the information once its memory limit is reached.
13. Don’t rashly criticize apps or technology in front of a programmer. From your perspective, you bought something that’s not doing its job. From our perspective: you bought something that took time and expertise to develop, and declare it’s “not working” before even taking the time to learn how to use it properly. It hurts our feelings!
This post represents my personal views of what it’s like to live inside a programmer’s head. Maybe it’s more of a representation of what goes on in my head; that’s left for you to decide.
If anything in my irony, sarcasm or odd explanations offended you, I truly apologize. In the hopes you’ll forgive me, I’m sending you a bit of love the only way my programmer mind knows how.