Why do we code

Last night while the night went on and I worked away optimising some code on a website I got to thinking about why we do it? Why do we code, and by code I’d guess you could apply this to anyone in the opensource community too. Its all lots of effort for no measurable payoff. Or is there?

The project I’ve been working on will never make me money. It’ll probably never be in a portfolio. My name isn’t visible on the site and nothing is credited back to me. And yet I’ve spent at least a few hundred hours on it at this stage with many more to come.

For as long as I’ve coded, I’ve also been doing non-paid coding. Hell its pretty much how we learn most languages unless we are lucky enough to have an understanding work place. But no, this project is written in PHP, a language I’ve 10+ years experience in.

So why do we do it?

The three reasons I have are pretty simple, although explaining them to non-coders never works. If you code, you’ll just nod along, but if you aren’t, well the usual response is just but why?

  1. Its fun. (a.k.a the what the hell are you smoking reason)
    No really, most coders I know actually enjoy it. Its quite satisfying to look at a problem, then solve it. Or to be creating something, even if that something takes days of work and ends up as just a small dot on screen.
    In short, the best coders like their work.
  2. I get some use out of it. (a.k.a. the selfish reason)
    In this case it started as some fun, a challenge even. Then it turned into some useful things that I like to see on a regular basis. It just so happens that others also like to see the same stuff so why not share the love?
  3. Experience. (a.k.a. the job reason)
    Some things in computers you can’t do without real world, high traffic. Yes you can simulate things, but it is never the same as that crazy user who does that thing you never thought possible. And when you get a few hundred of those, well that is when things get interesting. Sure you can say you built a site that does a, b, c, but it is much more impressive to have that site handle X number of users.

Overall I guess the whole thing loop around on itself a lot. It starts because it’s something you need or want, but that gives you some enjoyment so you keep at it, and then it grows only to become something that gives a bit of experience while building something else that you’ll get some use out of. And that gives you some enjoyment so you…

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