31 October, 2007

The Importance of Developers' Social Circles

     I just received a phone call this evening from Philip F., a previous quasi-co-worker (an employee at a software shop for whom I used to contract) and we took some time to catch up on how things have been in both of our personal/professional worlds.  I took the time to explain that I was no longer working as an employee for a New Jersey based internet hosting provider, and he informed me that he was now teaching some of the same classes on web based coder that he himself had just completed as a student.  Just for the record, he's been coding for almost two decades, it was more of a catchup on certain technologies with which he didn't focus on professionally.
     This eventually led into the topic of getting plans together for grabbing dinner together, as our previous plans to do so were disrupted at the last minute and we'd not had the opportunity to reschedule.  We're going to do so this time and it made me think of how important it is for developer/engineers and architects to spend time face to face, even over something as ubiquitous as dinner.   We need this kind of camaraderie as a means of acquiring new information that while not directly affecting each of us in the same manner, it does provide us expanded horizons.  
     Getting together over some nice Indian, Thai or Moroccan food while chatting away aimless on topics as innocuous petty work incidents to full blown coding feats is a means by which we as a community of software professionals bond.  It is this circle of connections which proves to be the most rewarding in terms of contacts for future work, but more so importantly, for our own social well being, knowing that others share some of the same pains prevalent in the coding environment through which we endure to produce wonderful products.  
     This reminds me of many, *many* years back when from 1987 through 1996 I owned and operated an electronic bulletin board system (BBS) called Somerton Telecomm International BBS (also known as Somerton Telecomm as well as Somerton BBS).  We had 6,000+ verified users in 39 countries and 42 US states, 12 phone lines and a very active user base, but ultimately it was the weekly dining get-togethers at 01:00 in the morning at locale eating establishments (the great Northeastern United States collections of diners as it were) to munch on food whilst blabbering away, in person to others on various topics of interest to all those involved.  We would spend hours, sometimes longer just go off verbally on anything and everything online related or otherwise.  
     It is exactly this kind of face to face interaction that helps to grown the world view of a given coder, as well as assist in the act of interacting with others in a more relaxed environment.  So I suggest to everyone out there, contact previous coders, architects and/or engineers with whom you've worked and arrange to get together over a glass of wine, or a formal meal, and simply enjoy the company of a peer with whom you can speak openly, about so many varied topics.  I'm sure that there are more than a few topics via which you can converse happily. 
     Don't wait, take action today, your mental stability will thank you.