The Farmer Effect / Theory

Yesterday I recorded a podcast with Matt Groves -- a concept I've started calling "The Farmer Effect".  A few years ago, while sitting around with a bunch of teams, someone I was working with and I hit a wall.  I can't remember what it was, but it just wasn't going to work and I said "to hell with this, let's all quit and go be farmers".  A large number of devs agreed and started talking about how they'd rather spend a week in a field, or swinging a hammer ...than work on yet another report.

That touched a nerve.  From this frustration, how possible could it be that a full rejection of technology in nearly every way ... not seem crazy?  Like it's not a bad idea?  How and why was it a thing that a number of us all felt and was serious about??  I started asking more people in technology and many of them (~90% so far) had the same feeling with various degrees of intensity. A desire to do "hardware" instead of software.  I started digging, asking more questions.

This is all very preliminary and I think it's very different from burnout.  It's something else but I'm not sure what.  Maybe it's primal -- something eating at the types of minds technology attracts or maybe a sense of accomplishment?  Is it finishing something, as in "it's done"?  As one person put it, "I've worked in software 18 years and I have nothing to show my kids.  Nothing to hand off and say 'Look, your dad made this!'".  This may relate to the first thing, a desire for something physical and add that to a person's purpose and that feels right.  What's the reason behind though?  I found myself in the middle of rats nest.

Momentarily in my (very weak) interviews, another dev talked about connection, about "brotherhood" between product, company and team -- and how its painfully lacking.  It's quite real that many dev communities are tight nit and do some pretty cool stuff, but not necessarily in the day to day.  Maybe that's part of it?  I'm not quite sure yet either but that does seem like a gap.

A couple people brought up art -- that blend of science and beauty as being lacking from a lot of what is made today.  Another went as far to say "software hasn't hit the architecture level yet".  Is it craftsmanship?  Another mentioned about the overwhelming onslaught of new things and how if you're not using that new thing, you're clearly behind and out of touch.

For some reason, around 6-8 years experience is when this shows up.  Not sure why, but that's what I'm finding so far to be the window.  Certainly there's a large number of factors, both internal and external, that make a large number of devs feel like quitting and working in the physical world.

If you've experienced this too, or haven't, I want to talk to you. There's so many people in software now, compared to 10+ years ago, I'm wanting to begin to answer 3 things.

  1. Why do devs (and I mean anyone on a dev team) have a deep rooted (primal?) need to physically make things, as well as finish.
  2. How can it be stopped so we don't hit that wall?
  3. What questions have I not considered?

Stay tuned, because I think I might be onto something...

Comments (2) -

  • That's an interesting observation.  I don't feel that way, but I'm not a big work with your hands kind of guy, fixing cars and plumbing is frustrating for me.  Software development for me is just a vehicle for relating to people and being able to help them, which is why I like it.  If I could find another way to do that that didn't involve code, I would be fine with that.  I happen to be good at coding so that's why I'm sticking with it for now.
  • I'm not entirely convinced it MUST be physical, but there's a strong lean towards that.  From some people I've talked to, it's about some kind of connection -- with another human, with a physical product or something someone can see (video as an example) buuutttt if you got time.... Smile
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