Rituals and Milestones in Developer Life

by @edent | # | 2 comments | Read ~329 times.

Most human societies have rituals. One popular ceremony is of the young person being made a member of the tribe. For some, it is at the start of life – a Baptism or Christening. For others, it is when the child becomes an adult – Bar Mitzvah or Ritusuddhi. Most societies have marriage ceremonies – to mark the transition into a new stage of life.

Houses are blessed, leaving for university requires a party, graduates get a silly gown and certificate. Finally, Death demands a wake.

Rituals are powerful and a seemingly ubiquitous part of human life. So why don’t we have them for developers?

The first program you write will, inevitably, spew out “Hello, World!” – that seems to be the last time we consciously engage in ritual performance.

When I returned to my old secondary school, I saw a huge wooden board filled with names of former head-boys and -girls. Nestled amongst them was my old mate Richard. An unbroken line of upstanding young people, from before the war to the present day.

Head Boy and Head Girl – milestones so important that they were carved into wood and put on display.

The military awards medals, and there is a clear hierarchy of ranks through which one can progress.

Academics get recognition and prizes and tenure.

An apprentice becomes a journeyman becomes a master.

Part of the problem is that computer science is a young discipline. We don’t have hundreds of years of august bodies and a good understanding of how people progress.

So, here are my questions to you. What are the milestones that every developer should pass? How should we mark them? Should we mark them? Is it helpful to show exactly where a computerist is on their journey?

Here are a few lazy suggestions. Feel free to add your own.

Medal Ceremonies

Feels a bit like it is appropriating the military’s culture.

Community Awards

I love the idea of the OpenStack Community Awards. But deciding who gets an award is fraught with bias.


Projects like the Faces of Open Source seek to create a permanent memorial of those who do good. But it falls into the same problem as other awards – who chooses?

Formal Qualifications

I gave kids certificates, and they bloody loved them.

The hacker mentality seems to eschew formal qualifications. And, to be fair, many are just pay-to-play, or exercises in gatekeeping.

Is this necessary?

It isn’t necessary – but there’s constant undercurrent of who is – and isn’t – a “real” developer. People get beleaguered with imposter syndrome because there are no real metrics to judge themselves against. We have no way of celebrating achievement – and no way to welcome people into our tribe.

And a part of me finds that a little sad.

2 thoughts on “Rituals and Milestones in Developer Life

  1. Pierre says:

    Perhaps there’s an issue that software developers don’t consider themselves masters of a general craft? Technological cycles move fast enough that any certificate from 4 years ago is already 4 years out of date. And if developers are too cynical, they’ll treat professional qualifications like a hurdle to overcome, as some necessary documentation to satisfy the bureaucratic requirements of some Human Resources directive.

    I have a colleague who still signs their emails ‘Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts’ – and I used to think it was a bit excessive. They clearly treat it like a title, a little badge of honour.

    What you probably want is a positive celebration of worthy efforts, without reference to a specific language or technology. Even if there isn’t a historical tradition of professional guilds in place, you can still stage awards through the government or some other outside organisation.

    In France there are contests every four years, various categories of workers are put through professional trials, with the winners named best plumber/mechanic/electrician/baker/bricklayer/wine-maker, etc. These are taken very seriously, with the awards presented by the President and recognised by the Ministry of Labour. Of course, there are still issues of bias, most of the winners tend to be men…

    Does Github democratise that kind of process? If everyone’s work can be seen, outstanding efforts should organically rise to the surface through the community?

  2. This blog post shkspr.mobi/blog/2020/09/r… by @edent rings so very true. I’m helping a friend learn more coding practices so that he stops thinking he’s not a “real” developer. He emphatically is, but refuses to accept that. Some sort of ceremony to give him would be nice.

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