Monday, November 1, 2010


At the 2010 Software Craftsmanship North America conference (SCNA), I was given the honor of giving the closing talk, titled "The Long Road Ahead." (watch here) My goal was to focus on where we had come and where we are going as a movement, not only looking into the previous year's activity, but also what might stand in our way of spreading the ideas of craftsmanship to the general programming communities.

As I was preparing, several conference talks influenced my thoughts and the focus of my presentation.

At jRubyConf, Joe O'Brien gave a wonderful talk about how the people around us are not stupid and not worthy of the scorn often laid upon them. Instead, we should consider them experts in their domain helping us better build the software we are hired to make. At the same conference, Glen Vanderberg provided a informed view of the problems with the term "software engineering," and what we might do to establish ourselves as a true engineering discipline, all the while capturing and celebrating the artistic, creative bent on which we pride ourselves.

At SCNA, Doug Bradbury gave a great talk on our inclination to build, to make; we need to get back to our roots, back to our core qualities as makers.  Deep down, we are all creators; we start with nothing but a blank screen, and we put our hearts and souls into the creation of something real, something that acts and solves problems. We write new creation myths every day, except ours reach up out of myth and into reality. Chad Fowler gave an inspiring talk on readdressing what we thought of as quality, putting forth the challenge to merge the realms of art and utility. Often, we hear the argument that the craftsmanship principles are unrealistic and potentially harmful to production; Chad's talk was a refreshing counter to these, showing that we can support both.

While there is no 'craftsmanship canon,' these talks, for me, cut to the core of the craftsmanship manifesto, highlighting the fundamentals of what we do and care about. They were wonderful examples of how the fundamentals have crystallized over the past two years. Looking forward, the question of spreading the ideas is moving into the spotlight. The ideals are sound, so what could stand in the way?

Considering the topic of what might hold us back, I watched the mailing lists, I read blog posts, and I paid attention to the twitter stream. I thought about what would set us apart as a movement, and, on a larger scale, what were some hurdles that the software industry as a whole faced. There were a lot of thoughts, but one thing really stood out: we are an overwhelmingly negative group. We complain about our hours, we complain about our jobs, we complain about our coworkers, we complain our toolsets. If we are going to become better, we need to change this.

I believe that a significant factor impeding us in the goal of selling to those around us the care and professionalism espoused by the craftsmanship movement is the negativity we propogate. So, in my SCNA talk, I challenged the audience to take part in what I am calling "positivember." That is, one month, just one month, where we guard ourselves from the trap of negativity, during which we filter ourselves from taking part in the easy trap of those little comments that we put on twitter, the offhand remarks that we make on our blogs, the complains we focus on when we spend time in person. One month where we put forward an air of positivity in all of our dealings. What would happen if we all did this? What would be the result if we took a minute before we complained, a moment to reflect on whether our dissatisfaction is because of our own choices, those decisions we have made about our tools, our coworkers, our entire work environment?

So, I ask each and every one of you to take part in this grand experiment: spend a single month portraying only positivity and happiness in what we do. After all, we have one of the greatest jobs there is. We get paid to do that which we gladly do for fun, for a hobby. I spent my teen years programming, relishing the thrill of creation, the thrill of making. Now, more than 20 years later, I get paid to do this. We all do.

Join with me this November to celebrate the beauty and happiness in what we do. Try to take a moment to filter every outward expression of yourself and look for the joy in what we do. We all get frustrated at times; the world isn't perfect. But, if we can take a second to reflect and focus on the positive, maybe that will actually have an effect on our industry, and on our world.

The hashtag for this is #positivember. This word captures the essence of the movement: 'positiv' stands for looking forward, appreciating the life of creation that we have built for ourselves, being proud of what we are doing; 'ember' is hungarian for 'person,' the simple link that this is about us as individuals. So, I ask you to help spread the word: tweet about it; blog about it; talk about it. Most of all, present yourself as a happy, positive person who cares about what they do. As people see that those of us who care are happy, they will want to know why. When they ask, we can proudly say, "I love what I do. I'm happy doing what I love."

And, in the end, I believe this to be the only way we can convince others to follow along. Will you join us?

Help support #positivember

  • Please vote for this on Digg, so we can get more people taking part.
  • Do you have a podcast? Please give us a shoutout. I'm also available for short interviews about the motivation behind it.