Beware of the “Rockstar Programmer”

Whatever happened to the notion of egoless programming?  Technologies come and go in programming.  As such, languages learnt more than a few years ago may not have much relevance to many current IT issues.  Other concepts are timeless.  Writing simple solutions and short, easy to read code never go out of date.  “Out of style” in some environments – but that does not stop the concept being valid.  Nor should it stop us striving to bring them “back in”. 

Beyond what can be seen in the development environment of your choice are some desirable character traits you should look for in developers.  Being a “rock-star” is not one of them.  I don’t see it as a healthy habit, feeding the ego of programmers.  Maybe I should state that as “over-feeding”.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with letting developers know that their efforts are appreciated.  Excessively lauding someone’s worth is ego-gluttony.   It can stunt a person’s development, if they start leading the “rock star” lifestyle.

If a developer can no longer accept that another person’s viewpoint can be right (or maybe just better than their own) then they have started down the path to obnoxiousness.  A recent Coding Horror post talked about how team members can end up being described as “a cancer”. 

At the point which you, or anyone else on your team, are using words like cancer to describe a teammate, you have a serious project pathology.

This does not directly relate to “egoless programming.  The concept as it was first introduced to me was along the lines of:

  1. Know that there will be times when you are going to be wrong.

  2. Know that everyone makes mistakes

  3. Accept this and ask for help / don’t attempt to hide your problems.

It’s a good trait to have as a programmer but probably applies to almost all jobs where social interaction with co-workers occurs.  Being a great programmer is not a bad thing, it is just not everything…