Programmers are literally authors
Posted on March 24, 2012 | Last updated: May 16, 2013 at 23:21 GMT
William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Miguel de Cervantes and Charles Dickens, just to mention a few famous authors, became popular for their outstanding ability to write. This amazing talent allowed them to sell millions, and even billions of copies of their published work. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, an author is "one who is the source of some form of intellectual or creative work; especially, one who composes a book, article, poem, play, or other literary work intended for publication." Based on this definition, programmers are literally authors. They are the writers of the code that represents intellectual and creative work intended for publication in the form of computer software. Unfortunately, they are almost always behind the scenes and almost never have the recognition they deserve. Programmers must be recognized in order to increase their motivation that will eventually affect the quality and organization of the code that they write.
All artistic and intellectual work deserves to receive credit and recognition. In the majority of cases, the programmers who write computer systems only receive a salary from the company or organization they performed the work for, but the name of the coder is not featured anywhere. Would it have been fair for William Shakespeare to die as a millionaire, but have his name hidden from public recognition forever, after his amazing achievements as a writer? People enjoy and benefit from great software and computer systems such as Microsoft Office or iPhone applications, but never have the chance to know at least the names of the coders who worked hard to make those systems available (Biancuzzi and Warden ix.)
At a first glance, it might seem that the beauty, organization and elegance of code is not important for users of computer software. However, the lack of motivation experienced by programmers is a problem. Sometimes people wonder why it takes so long for the new version of a software to be released, and the answer is that the source code of the software was poorly written, badly organized, and difficult to read and understand. As a consequence, if the original author of the code is no longer available, it is extremely difficult for the new programmers to continue working from the initial code. The worst scenario is that parts have to be written from scratch. This is a negative consequence of the lack of motivation that programmers usually have. They might write code that works but that is not written with a good organization and elegance in such a way that it becomes hard to read and extend (Suh 3.)
Great initiatives such as www.code.org and the Codecademy, which are online interactive platforms that offer free coding classes for everybody, are making excellent efforts to highlight the importance and necessity of coders around the world. Nonetheless, it is crucial to have the support from more institutions that are aware not only about the importance of coders, but the necessity to recognize their work. This will motivate programmers to write beautiful, elegant and well organized code. A perfect solution would be to create and support organizations that promote standards and good practices for writing code, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Just like the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded since 1901 to authors acclaimed worldwide, it is time to recognize programmers and create awards that honor their talent and the quality, beauty, and impact of their work.
It might be argued that programmers are already being recognized, citing the cases of people such as Mark Zuckerberg, who is a notable computer programmer that created the social networking site Facebook. Nonetheless, his popularity cannot be uniquely credited to his work as a programmer, but especially to the fact that he became the CEO of a billionaire company. The same situation can be said about Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation. He started his notable journey as a programmer, but his popularity became so high due to the success of the company that he created, not due to his outstanding programming skills.
As a last point, recognizing the work of programmers is convenient for everybody. It is definitely fair that coders are treated as authors and receive recognition for the work they do. Just like writers publish books, programmers release software. In addition, it is also good for everyone that authors write beautiful and elegant code, because even though users only see systems working and not the code behind the scenes, when the code is well written, elegant and properly organized, it will be easier for new programmers to read and understand code written by other people. The outcome will be having software companies that are able to release, debug and produce software faster and with the highest quality that all users want and deserve.
- "author." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/44635/author>.
- Biancuzzi, Federico and Shane, Warden. Masterminds of Programming. O'Reilly Media, 2009. eBook Collection (via EBL). Web. 2 Apr. 2013.
- Suh, Woojong. Web Engineering: Principles and Techniques. n.p.: Idea Group Pub, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 2 Apr. 2013.
- "The Nobel Prize in Literature." Nobelprize.org., 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/>.