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Balanced Professional Interest

Balanced Professional Interest

Warning: Preachy content.

In working with technical people at the individual and team levels, I often find attitudes that pull toward one extreme or the other: Either our work is inherently uninteresting, and we’re only in it for the paycheck; or our work is a boundless source of joy, learning, and achievement through which we can transcend the human condition.

Both have it partly right. But I think both are missing a thing or two.

tl;dr (Conclusion in a nutshell)

Don’t be put off when agilists seem to be demanding more of you than is reasonable. They like to use extreme language, like awesome and passionate. They really mean competent and professionally engaged. On the other hand, software work is more than “just a paycheck,” even if it’s less than “a profession” in the sense of medicine or law. You have to do more than just show up.

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Seeking to Understand

The original working title of this post was A teleological perspective on the reconciliation of antinomies in interpersonal interactions and the implications of reconciling ambiguities for clarity of communication and improved understanding, because I wanted something bright and punchy, but ultimately it ended up different. Hope it’s okay.

tl;dr version

Notwithstanding the wide range of disparate disciplines involved, our field is characterized above all by endless, circular debate over seemingly-trivial differences in word-meanings. After many years as one of those irritating people who’s always harping on word-meanings, I’ve come around to thinking it’s not the precise use of clearly-defined words that fosters useful communication, but rather the process of reconciling ambiguity. Not the reconciliation itself, if indeed it happens at all, but the process of reconciliation.

If we take antinomy at its meaning in philosophy rather than in law, “a contradiction between two statements, both apparently obtained by correct reasoning”, then a teleological view of debates over word-meanings reveals they serve the function of inviting alternative perspectives, questioning assumptions, sharpening arguments, and broadening understanding. From this viewpoint, debates may actually be the core method of learning, growth, and improvement rather than the childish distraction they appear to be.

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