How Software Development is like Drug Dealing

So I`m going back to school. As an undergraduate, again, which is weird, and makes me think, oh crap, have I gone through a wormhole to 1996? I don’t want to write static HTML and drink instant and get up at 5:30 AM to watch Samurai Pizza Cats and hear everybody doing the Sling Blade voice french fried pertaters mm-hmm WTF OMG!!!1 I don’t know if I`m ready to be 18 again, or like father, like son, or even trading places. I mean, sure, I can handle the first day of school and essays and final exams and parties without beer (ooh, that was a shudder; but the thing that worries me most is leaving the steady supply of mortgage payments and yogurt cups that comes from working in software.

Who’s that developer wa-a-a-ay at the bottom of the food chain? Mm, tastes like plankton!

I`m not going to miss lying awake trying to figure out how to unit test JavaScript — or worse, having nightmares that I`m sick and I have to debug myself (all world’s ditch-diggers and medical students commence crying me river). But what I tell people is that programming computers is like dealing drugs: nobody grows up thinking, “Hey, I want to be a programmer!” — but once you start doing it you can’t stop `cause of the money. I don’t really know about dealing, of course, but I watch a lot of Law and Order.

I said as much to a fellow programmer/dealer, and he mentioned a couple of other similarities. So here, officially, is the master list of reasons my job is like dealing drugs:

  • There’s always somebody over you who owns the product. You own nothing — not even the gas-guzzling `99 Jeep Cherokee you bought with your gruesome profiteering.
  • You are utterly at the whim of the customers — the *users*. If you can’t give `em the good stuff fast enough and clean enough they`ll find another source or worse: quit using.
  • You can’t talk about your work with your family because no one wants to hear about it.
    “You see, Hibernate handles your object-relational database mapping, and it’s much better than OJB because you won’t need your own prox-“
    If you were on a blind date (which, in your line of work, they`d all probably have to be) you`d probably do well to say you did something else. Architect is good.
  • You make promises about your product you can’t possibly keep (Longhorn, PS3, there are no bugs, first one’s free, etc.)
  • Your product has no shelf life. No matter what it is or how great it is, in three years it`ll be garbage.
  • After a few years of excitement and growth, you`ll never do anything new. Same stuff, different language. Twenty years in the industry programming in the highest-end most beautiful Java-Ruby-Smalltalk-kinda language and you`ll still find yourself writing a register/login/logout sequence. Again. This time with feeling.


You know Lucas Black? The kid from Sling Blade and American Gothic who would have made a good Anakin Skywalker? He’s almost 22. I probably could have figured this out already but I didn’t see Cold Mountain. Where was the legality-countdown for this one?


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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  1. Nova Scotian says:

    Congrats on going back to school. I am sure you will be wise and supremely mature to all those 18 year olds. Think of all those little boys with crushes on you. I too was once a software (in a web apps kinda way) developer. However in the consultancy I worked for the development staff were ranked about three stages lower than in your company. We were considered beneath the man who changed the hand towels int he bathroom, and industrial espionage agents from rival companies. Anyway, it is never too late to move to the country and become a B and B proprietor. Those are my findings.

  2. earlyr says:

    Try going through a wormhole to 1992, which is the last time I was in school and yet I too am going back as an undergrad. So far it`s only been night classes with fellow adult students, but that changes next month. I`m having this recurring semi-nightmare that I walk into class the first day and everyone starts asking me questions on the assumption that I`m the professor, or maybe the professor`s aid. Or that I sit down in the chairs but everyone is staring at me like I`m really the professor and just want to listen in to their gossip for a few minutes before really starting the class. Anyway … congratulations. And you are not alone!

  3. whatsbugginu says:

    You`re never too old to go back to school, so congrats. I have a comment mostly dealing with people who put spyware, adware, pop-up and pop under crap on my computer. I think it is companies like Microsoft, McAfee, Symantic and other companies who deal in computer security. The more crap they put on your computer, the more pissed yo get and go looking for better protection. When these don`t work, they say, we have something that will work better than anyone else`s software, but it`ll cost you more. Can you say, cha ching?

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