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Coming Up for Air...

Reading time: about 2 minutes

Some time ago while mining for information about how I might improve my craft I stumbled onto a quote:

“Beware of a guy in a room”

To sum the idea up, it basically alludes to the idea that a developer who is cut off and work as thought the process is black magic is the worst kind of developer. I was impressed by this idea, long has there been a myth that programmers are solitary creatures that require only a computer, power and time to produce software. A relic of the past, but more than likely a romanticised Hollywood fallacy. It was a thought that has stuck with me and will continue to do so into the future.

I bring it up because I found a very funny connection to this idea in “The Wire” of all places. There aren’t any spoilers below but if you haven’t seen The Wire it is best to just skip this post, watch it and come back… it is such a subtle moment anyway it probably won’t make a whole lot of sense. Also, The Wire is one of the greatest pieces of television ever created. On with the post.

There is a scene in Season 3, when Bunny Colvin is laying it out straight for Carver. He basically lambasts him for not being on top of his beat, acting like a “warrior” instead of a “general” as it were. Carver spends all his time busting heads and fire fighting the war on drugs that he is completely clueless about his community, the district he patrols, the people he is protecting. Both the people who live on his beat and the the drug dealers themselves (it’s more saving them from themselves in that case).

A theme is developed early on, a lesson or rule of thumb almost… that:

"A police is only as good as their informants"

A powerful message for a police (wo)man. Because if you haven’t got anyone to talk to when something bad happens then you are out of luck. CSI would have you believe that you could do a comb of a crime scene, sprinkle a little forensic on there and hay-presto this is your perp. The reality, having good inside information. Information to put you on the right track, and to keep you there. It takes a time but Carver figures this out.

You can surely see the parallel. Replace hoopers, dealers, perps, citizens; with managers, other devs, testers, customers and you can see the picture I’m painting.

If you are “the programmer in a room” then you are bad police. You aren’t breaking cases like McNulty or Bunk, you are breaking heads like Carver and have “shit to show for it” when a real crime goes down. I’ve attached the speech below for your enjoyment.