Good Author, Good Coder?

by chromatic

In Are Authors Technological Poseurs?, JRuby hacker Charles Nutter suggests that "Good authors do not have time to be good developers."

There are plenty of counter-examples, but I think the number will end up in the range of several dozen, while the number of great developers in the world is easily hundreds. (Ohloh had over 60,000 F/OSS developers identified the last time I looked, so the top 10% could be 6000 people.)

The nature of the skills are different, though. Writing's less unambiguous than code, where at least you have a chance of independent and repeatable verification through technical means. It's not a skill you can practice much on your own into the dark hours, because the purpose of communication is all important (at least in technical writing).

If it takes a year to write a good technical book (and it usually takes at least a year to write a good technical book), how much brilliant code could you produce in that time? Maybe it really is the case that to master a subject, you have to work at it full time -- and while you may be good at both, you can only master one. There's just no time to do both.


3 Comments

Jyrki Brotherus
2007-09-21 02:24:34
Cooperating brilliant authors and developers could produce brilliant results?
JJB
Roy Schestowitz
2007-09-23 08:04:52
Some say that code is poetry.
Jeremiah Foster
2007-09-26 04:28:24
I think of Randall Schwartz, brian d. foy, and others (not least the author of this blog post) as excellent authors who are good coders.


I see significant overlap in the two disciplines: clarity, communication, simplicity, brevity. In fact, one could argue that the success of modules like CGI is in some part due to the excellent documentation.


Yes, good coders can be good authors. It just takes patience to master the separate syntaxes.