Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

From acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson, a brilliant and immersive anthropological reckoning with the most powerful tribe in the world today, computer programmers - where they come from, how they think, what makes for greatness in their world, and what should give us pause.You use software nearly every instant you're awake. And this may sound weirdly obvious, but every s...

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Title:Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World
Author:Clive Thompson
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Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World Reviews

  • Sallar

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I would definitely recommend reading this, especially if you’re a Software Engineer or somehow work in IT, or even if your partner is.

    I enjoyed every page of the book, but I especially liked the chapters about mental health, sexism and blue collar coding. The author remains fair and unbiased throughout the story and he has interviewed a ridiculously high number of people to write this book. The book never gets boring or too far fetched fro

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I would definitely recommend reading this, especially if you’re a Software Engineer or somehow work in IT, or even if your partner is.

    I enjoyed every page of the book, but I especially liked the chapters about mental health, sexism and blue collar coding. The author remains fair and unbiased throughout the story and he has interviewed a ridiculously high number of people to write this book. The book never gets boring or too far fetched from reality. As a software engineer I wholeheartedly agree with every single word of it. A strong five stars!

  • Marks54

    This is a brand new business trade about the coding frenzy that has been around in recent years. It is well informed and well written. What I found most attractive about it was its intelligent discussion of coding and programming as an occupational structure and not just a passing fancy of coding academies and proprietary trade schools. It also provides an intelligent history of the fields and some good commentary on some of the less desirable aspects of coding (unfriendliness to minorities and

    This is a brand new business trade about the coding frenzy that has been around in recent years. It is well informed and well written. What I found most attractive about it was its intelligent discussion of coding and programming as an occupational structure and not just a passing fancy of coding academies and proprietary trade schools. It also provides an intelligent history of the fields and some good commentary on some of the less desirable aspects of coding (unfriendliness to minorities and women, brogramming bad habits, pay issues, etc.). Mr. Thompson presents the good and the bad and does not seem to have too much of a particular axe to grind. This is not a specialized book on coding but it will be informative and entertaining to anyone wanting to learn about the area.

  • Mehrsa

    This is a really interesting anthropological account of coder culture--but actually, more broadly of tech culture. What I loved was his account of how these stereotypes of coders get made up and then they self-perpetuate because companies start to hire a certain profile. And then this insular community of awkward, egotistical, monoculture of white men end up creating all our entertainment, tech, and shape our culture. I was glad this was not a veneration of these iconic men, but it also wasn't a

    This is a really interesting anthropological account of coder culture--but actually, more broadly of tech culture. What I loved was his account of how these stereotypes of coders get made up and then they self-perpetuate because companies start to hire a certain profile. And then this insular community of awkward, egotistical, monoculture of white men end up creating all our entertainment, tech, and shape our culture. I was glad this was not a veneration of these iconic men, but it also wasn't a polemic takedown. I thought it was a really fair portrayal of the culture

  • Peter Tillman

    A good book by a good writer. Here's the review that led me to read it:

    If I were you, I'd read that first.

    Back already? The book suffers a bit by the chapters starting life (mostly) as magazine articles. But Thompson has done his homework, is enthusiastic about his topic, and talked to a lot of coders and related people over the years. I was happy to skim past historical stuff I already knew -- and actually, Thompson puts a fresh-enough spin on most of thi

    A good book by a good writer. Here's the review that led me to read it:

    If I were you, I'd read that first.

    Back already? The book suffers a bit by the chapters starting life (mostly) as magazine articles. But Thompson has done his homework, is enthusiastic about his topic, and talked to a lot of coders and related people over the years. I was happy to skim past historical stuff I already knew -- and actually, Thompson puts a fresh-enough spin on most of this that I read it anyway. I liked his description of good coders in "The Zone" -- "thinking about the enormous hairball of the entire system" while trying to fix what went wrong. Which is mostly what they do. I liked his description of the engineer's mindset (which I largely share), and how it can go wrong at the edges, when regular people get involved. And Google's mighty AI project, which pretty early on learned to recognize -- Cats! Those pointy ears, those cat-shaped faces. . . .

    Thompson's musings on what went wrong at Twitter, Facebook and You-tube, how they amplified political divisions and gave free rein to some real nastiness, is sobering. His suggested fixes? Well, maybe. Worth a try?

    And here's Li Gong, Nature's reviewer: "People who interact with coders routinely, as colleagues, friends or family, could benefit tremendously from these insights. . . . Coders might get even more out of the book. They already know the technical terms, would appreciate the analogies (“refactoring software is like editing an article”) and would perhaps understand themselves a little better. "

  • Gary  Beauregard Bottomley

    Once the author got past the myth busting surrounding programming and programmers there happened to be some worthwhile gems in this book. The myths needed to be busted but I would say most people who have lived in the real world already know those myths as myths.

    ‘Google Bro’ was shown to be the misogynist shallow spouter of alt-right anti-women nonsense that he really is (for those who have forgotten he was the dude who wrote a letter on Google’s in house forum arguing that women are inferior t

    Once the author got past the myth busting surrounding programming and programmers there happened to be some worthwhile gems in this book. The myths needed to be busted but I would say most people who have lived in the real world already know those myths as myths.

    ‘Google Bro’ was shown to be the misogynist shallow spouter of alt-right anti-women nonsense that he really is (for those who have forgotten he was the dude who wrote a letter on Google’s in house forum arguing that women are inferior to men as programmers and don’t deserve promotions and was fired for ignoring Google’s mission statement which included things like treat people like human beings even if they are women or diverse from you since diversity is a good thing for enabling creativity). The author interviewed him (I forgot his name; I’ll just refer to him as ‘Google Bro’). Google Bro was (and is) a cause célèbre for purveyors of misinformation within the pscyhologicism of evo-devo (evolutionary development) nonsense that justifies privileges of the privileged with their make America great again fantasy of reenacting the 1950s with all of the good old boys mentality and in this case making sure that women really know their place, and it isn’t as programmers or in high tech according to Google Bro. The author does a journalistically objective interview with Google Bro while contextually informing the reader that in India, for example, the majority of their programmers our women. Context always adds understanding.

    The author is best when he transcends his own story, and he does that in multiple places especially in the second half of the book, that part of the book beyond the mundane myth busting of the first half of the book. Briefly, he’ll say logic, determinism, creativity, a love of the non-repetitive, and linear thinking are needed for coders, but in the world of deep machine learning a different set of tools are needed, and the best tool set to enable critical thinking required for AI would include an intimate knowledge of linear algebra, statistics and probability theory (the author only mentioned the first two, I added probability theory because it belongs on the list as well as the studying of the humanities in general). The world of AI has to be conquered with critical thinking skills and with different tools from what was needed when linear thinking was the norm. He’ll talk a lot about this kind of stuff and does a really good job.

    There was one example the author talked about that floored me and I want to summarize. A person (I forget her name) looked at all restaurant reviews and wanted the computer to learn what good versus bad means in the way of restaurant reviews. Her program determined that Mexican restaurant reviews were less ‘good’ than other reviews. Of course, that wasn’t true and was because the vector that points to Mexican will include racial negative stereotypes that get reinforced by what we read or see and so on into a vicious circle such that intending to be fair minded police will create a self reinforcing loop thus creating bias and not be aware of it. I thought it was an incredibly interesting conversation the author was bringing up and definitely needs to be grokked (‘A Stranger in a Stranger Land’ word) by everyone. It’s similar to the stories that the Washington Post and the New York Times had this week showing how Youtube’s algorithms skew towards racist white nationalist recommendations by weighing self referential reinforcing variables that get trapped within a epistemological vicious circle of hate and often remain in that circle of hate.

    I usually like none of the new books I read on this kind of stuff because the authors give me nothing new, but I am not at all critical with anything this author had to say. He has a couple themes beyond coding such as meritocracy is a myth, the world is complex and there are not universals that aren’t subject to change, and that the world is fundamentally changing because of coders and coding and all of those items make this book beyond the mundane. His segues into cryptology, importance of humanities, AI, and so on are worth a read, and if I went to the beach this would have been a very good summer beach reading book for me.

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