An open letter to the guy who wrote that 'Always Hacking' tweet

By Charlie Owen on

Seriously dude, what's wrong with you?

Joe, if you want an insight into why the web industry is so broken, just look at the tweet that you wrote on Christmas Eve:

“The best software developers I know are always hacking over the holidays. True story." - Joe McCann

Joe, people are angry at this tweet. Can you guess why? Perhaps it's the implication by you, as a CEO, that anyone not working over the holidays is not good enough? (I know you didn’t consciously mean it sweetheart_. Shhh, sshhhh, stop talking.). Is it the pushing of the broken narrative that coders “never stop coding”? Is it that the people likely to hacking over the holidays are those privileged enough to be hacking over the holidays?

Is it all of the above?

Joe, if you’re a young single straight man developer - the cliche of tech workers - then yes, you probably do have plenty of time to be hacking over the holidays. You don’t even question this notion. Going over to your folks and hanging out for a week is a great opportunity to catch up on some projects, right?

You know why it’s a great opportunity for the Always Hacking developer? Because someone else is going to be taking on the physical and emotional labour of the festive season for them. The Glorious Young Prodigal Programmer Son will be welcomed home and cooed over. He will be fussed and loved and told how pasty he’s looking. He will be asked “do you have a girlfriend yet?” 5000 times. He will be asked if he’s going to go on holiday anywhere nice. He will be told to eat more.

Once all the fussing is done he’ll make a token gesture at helping out, because he’s seen enough TV and read enough comics to know that he should:

“Mum, can I do anything at all?”

“Oh no, son! Go sit down. It’s just nice to have you here”.

[son looks around, sees nothing obvious to do, opens up laptop, starts coding on latest project]

Now, I’m not saying all single young straight man developers are like this. #notallmen, etc. But I am saying that this is just one of the many scenarios where women, mothers, minorities are expected by society to make things appear like they “just happen”. Do you need an analogy, Joe? It’s like a duck, swimming serenely along on a lake. What you don’t see, Joe, is the legs furiously paddling. From above it all looks so easy. From beneath, it’s all hard work.

Enough with the analogies. Let’s try a real scenario. Now, Joe, imagine the Frumpy Daughter Who Works With Computers For Some Reason coming home (Surprising, I know! There just aren’t that many women in tech, are there? I wonder why, for fucks sake?):

She will be asked when is she getting married. “Why haven’t you had children yet? The clock is ticking!” She will be told to go make a cup of tea for her father and to help out with the cooking. “By the way can you go visit your Aunty Edna? I’d ask your brother, but he doesn’t like doing it.”

The Frumpy Daughter Who Works With Computers For Some Reason will always offer to help out, just as the Glorious Prodigal Programmer Always Hacking Son might:

“Can I help out, mum?”

“You can go put the washing on. And prep the vegetables. And wrap some presents.”

She will not be Always Hacking. Because she does not have the time.

And that is only one axis of the kyriarchy pressing down. Seriously Joe, do some reading on this.

Because do you think a programmer with a disability is happily hacking over the holidays? Or are they trying to make sure their basic needs are met, in a society that wants to hide and push down anybody who is not currently abled?

Do you think the ... Joe, please stop looking at your tweets and just pay attention ... do you think the single mother programmer, raising three kids, is always hacking? Or is she looking after her children and trying to make Christmas a happy time for them?

Do you thing the LGBT programmer, desperately trying to make emotional bridges with a family who does not understand them, is always hacking? Or are they outside, avoiding their family as much as possible?

Joe, the reason the “best developers” are “Always Hacking” is because they’re not caring for children, or looking after elderly relatives. They’re not helping out with the basic chores that just “magically happen” around them. They’re not fighting for their right to exist amongst a family and society that despises what they are.

Let’s rewrite your tweet:

“The most privileged developers I know are most likely to be always hacking over the holidays. True story.”

You, Joe, might think that all programmers are living in their gated community, with Soylent deliveries always pending, and their apartments always cleaned by a maid.

You can fuck off with that view, because it so utterly, utterly wrong.

Joe, the web industry is based upon code over people. We might occasionally fart inanities like “hacker culture” or "disrupting tech to make the world a better place", but "better" doesn't mean what a normal human being might think it to mean.

"Better" to people like you, and others who espouse similar views, simply means more technology and more money.

Please, Joe, do not subscribe to this notion. Toss it aside. It will not make you a better person. Get your firm to make time for people. Encourage your programmers to help out with family chores. Get them to focus energy on those who are not as fortunate as them.

Help them to help others, to make the world a better place. Because technology doesn’t make things better. People do.

Happy holidays, Joe.