Technical media as a bazaar

Original author: Nemil Dalal
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This article is part of a series of tips for novice programmers.

An example of the main page of Hacker News A

surprisingly large number of mistakes novice programmers make under the influence of technical media.

When you study at school or college, you get most of the programming information from technical media such as Hacker News , meetings, conferences, Free Code Camp, and Hacker Noon courses . Then your arsenal of tools is abundantly filled with technologies that are being discussed vigorously there - say, microservices, a kind of front-end framework or blockchain.

The most common mistake is to consider these sources as a mirror of the industry. In fact, they are more like a bazaar.

Technical media as a bazaar

Imagine a giant bazaar in ancient times. Thousands of merchants fill the counters selling goods from all over the world. The owner of the bazaar finds the most unique merchants and gives them the best places. This analogy for technical media works on several levels.

First, in the bazaar, sellers must convince you of one thing: buy their product. In the technical media, vendors are tool companies, training courses, open source projects, and companies looking for developers. Given the extreme dependence on the choice of employees, these organizations are most motivated to create and distribute content.

As in ancient times, merchants try to rub themselves in trust. In software development, this is similar to content marketing, where ads disguise themselves as useful content. Moreover, many excellent engineers are engaged in developing, rather than writing, articles and comments, which limits their contribution to important debates (and the fact that someone develops open source software does not automatically mean that his goals correspond to yours).

Merchants set the tone in the bazaar. The technical media are not dominated by thoughtful engineers, but by having a specific personal interest and a more categorical opinion. Proven and real technologies often have few supporters or rabid followers, while the newest have a motivated group of supporters.

Secondly, the bazaar attracts buyers of all stripes. Hacker News is also visited by startup developers, system administrators, database administrators, data specialists, cryptographers, and interface engineers. When deciding which technology to use based on popular posts, you can mix up the needs of one community with your own. Even within a single community — say, the web — the needs of a startup can be very different from the needs of a consulting agency that creates many websites. Instead, the media is spreading the view that the new technology solves any problem.

Thirdly, the owner runs the bazaar with the aim of maximizing sales, ruthlessly conducive to successful merchants. On social networks and technical blogs, this means an increase in engagement, views and ranking. At conferences and meetings - the occupancy of the hall, that is, the number of visitors. The organizer seeks to attract the “right” speakers and show the content most in demand by the target audience and sponsors. Accordingly, this changes the behavior of every merchant who wants to survive.

In addition to misinformation, this involvement manipulates our desire to keep up with progress. It seems to the developer that he should use the most discussed technologies so that his skills do not become obsolete. In traditional media, the maximum number of views causes death reports.; in software development, these are new technologies.

Free Code Camp Blog

Source: Free Code Camp blog post, 2014

Compare how the technical media explains the topic and how an IT professor or an objective engineer does it.

Hacker news

Today, Hacker News is one of the most popular resources for software engineers.

In startups Y Combinator, like mine, it was a particularly valuable tool where you could communicate with the brightest minds. When used properly, it shows a lot of community opinions. This is especially important for beginner developers and small teams, where a mature community is often missing. But he has several critical flaws.

As in the bazaar, each post depends on the rating. If we compare an ancient, but important build system, such as Webpack, then on average there is much more content and hype around the latest technologies. This creates a false impression of what people actually use in everyday work. As notedPaul Graham, “the number of ... articles about the problem does not say how serious it is, but how much the articles claiming it are in demand.”

Reddit-like communities like Hacker News often give very little power to experts. As in any democracy, motivated citizens get power, which does not always make sense in highly specialized issues. In this environment, the most intelligent database expert in the world has only one vote.

Motivated development companies are strategically interested in distributing their content on these sites. They hide their identity behind supposedly objective intermediaries. For example, MongoDB used its portfolio companies that received venture financing from it: they publicly announcedhow much they value MongoDB. Vendors are well versed in astroturfing, that is, managing public opinion through intermediaries. In Y Combinator, you can create voting rings to increase the rating of posts, ask friends to write their first comments in order to correctly form a discussion discourse.

Conferences & Meetings

Conferences and meetings are another key way for a developer to stay up to date.

Conferences are a very lucrative business. But for success, you need to focus on hype trends, for which there is latent interest. Therefore, hundreds of conferences held by the React and cryptocurrency, but very little about the important instruments, such as the C .

Many speakers at the conference also have their own interest. As noted by MongoDB , which held its own conferences, speakers are attracted by the following factors:

  • increase dating network
  • increasing self-worth
  • recruitment for your company
  • marketing your company

Please note that none of these reasons has anything to do with helping the audience.

And when the media regularly holds conferences, it becomes much harder to criticize potential speakers who will have to be invited in the future to make the conference a success.


Perhaps someday we will be able to form the right environment.

This can encourage the publication of meaningful content and encourage the community to criticize any conflicts. Hacker Noon or Free Code Camp will feature content evaluation by sober engineers.

At the same time, technical media should be regarded as just one data point, supplementing the information with the opinion of experienced developers (let's not go to extremes, like Thomas Jefferson, who owns the famous words: “I’ll add that a person who never looks in newspapers has better knowledge than the one who reads newspapers ”). Technical media should not be the main window through which you look at the world.

It is also helpful to critically evaluate any content by asking a few questions:

  1. Motive : what is the motive of the author? How does this affect the article?
  2. Background : what is the author’s technical background? What technology stack did he work with? What projects?
  3. Relevance : how personally relevant for you are the problems that technology solves? What are the disadvantages?

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