I’ve been coming back to this piece several times in the past couple years since it came out. Ford delivers a delightfully sarcastic, candid, funny, sobering description, explanation, and critique of software and the processes and people that create it. As a person that spends a considerable amount of time in this world, I’ve found Ford’s characterizations thoroughly amusing and apt.
Everyone likes to be the center of attention sometimes and What is Code puts that ecosystem under a revealing and light-hearted spotlight. Ford’s decades of first hand experience is evident, as is his critical eye for observation, at times describing mundane and regular activities from an almost alien perspective. He comes across as a grizzled elder on the front porch simultaneously dispensing wisedom and sharing war stories.
But the choice of a main programming language is the most important signaling behavior that a technology company can engage in. Tell me that you program in Java, and I believe you to be either serious or boring. In Ruby, and you are interested in building things quickly. In Clojure, and I think you are smart but wonder if you ship. In Python, and I trust you implicitly. In PHP, and we sigh together. In C++ or C, and I nod humbly. In C#, and I smile and assume we have nothing in common. In Fortran, and I ask to see your security clearance. These languages contain entire civilizations.
I enjoy Ford’s plodding and almost-oblivious-but-relentless tone, especially when it comes to his critiques of the industry and culture.
Which leads one to the inescapable conclusion: The problem with women in technology isn’t the women.