Friday, January 9, 2009

Why You Can't Stop Getting Old

Is older worse in software development? Here's my answer:

This question has been handsomely answered and debated by everyone. The answers that got the most upvotes are those that include some concept of "if you keep learning, you're fine." That's impossible, however.

I'm 38, and I'm definitely better at software development and learning than I was when I was 28, 18, or 8. Never a day goes by when I don't say, "instead of avoiding this pain in the ass technology/concept/whatever, I'm going to learn it," and I do. This is true both in software development and outside. But there's a growing feeling that I'm not actually learning anything useful at all when I, for instance, learn that the bluetooth stack that Microsoft includes with Windows does not support headsets. Or when I learn that you don't have to specify the variable you are returning in Ruby if you don't want to.

But let's face the facts: at some point, you know what's good, and you know which end is up. And you start getting OLD. You stop learning new stuff, because you realize that the new stuff isn't better... it's just newer. This happens gradually and you might be able to get to 60 with only a small slowdown in your ability to learn, but it will happen. And it will happen outside of your job first, perhaps, but at some point you'll look at younger developers doing drag-and-drop development and building full-blown apps and say, "that's crap!"

Basically, when you realize the newer stuff is many times rehashed technology/ideas/speech-patterns/whatever, you're getting old. And eventually, you'll rebel and you won't have the will to learn it anymore. That is what we call "wisdom," in fact.


Mauricio Scheffer said...

It's a very interesting topic. I'm 28 yet I'm starting to see this pattern myself. Take a look at this excellent essay about this subject, I think the key here (as with many psychological issues) is to be aware of oneself's behavior.

Dan Rosenstark said...

Thanks for your comment... the essay is right on point. Of course, there are no generalizations that hold true through all specific cases :)

But my point was precisely that, even if you are aware, you will eventually not want to keep learning stuff... one's only hope is, I think, to push oneself to learn as much as possible, so that learning becomes a natural, integrated part of one's/your daily habits.

Thanks again for your post. Ahora, a disfrutar lo que queda de verano ;)!