Of Swords and Code Samples

There is a story associated with the advent of curved swords in Japan.

Amakuni Yasatsuna made swords for the emperor and his soldiers. Upon seeing the soldiers return from battle with many broken swords, he vowed to make the best sword possible. After praying to the gods for seven straight days, Amakuni dreamed of a single-edged, curved blade. Although many scoffed at the new design, when they were used in battle, the emperor and his men returned victorious without a single broken blade among them.

For many of us, swords are special even today, and there’s no doubt that they were special throughout much of human history. Swords were often possessed only by the wealthy, and they carried with them not only the power of a weapon but also the prestige of the wielder.

Even today, when swords are no longer used as weapons, there are still those (like me) who have trained to use them, and there are still people who spend decades learning to craft them.

Amid all that romanticism, one might be forgiven for forgetting that a sword is simply a tool, made for use in battle, and made obsolete by more efficient weapons.

We Who Code

Those of us who write code generally see it as both a craft and a passion. To get – and stay – good at it requires a lot of focus on keeping our chops up and learning new things.

Amid this, it’s easy to forget sometimes that we’re making tools that people use to get things done. Things that might matter to us, as passionate craftspersons, might not matter to someone in the field who is just trying to get their work done.

Beyond that, however, there’s the part about us… we can get a little uppity at times. (C’mon, you know what I mean! When’s the last time you liked a post that dissed on PHP, huh?)

Yes, there are environments where we all prefer to code – and live. I’d rather be using Linux as my desktop right now but I still use Windows sometimes because of certain apps. I’m super interested in learning more about Drupal but it’s only like 3% of the CMS market. Laravel is sexy as hell but I don’t spend a lot of time writing apps, so no one is paying me to keep up with its rapid changes.

Balance FTW

You’ll never hear me disparaging anyone who learns new stuff; I try to do it as often as I can. I take my craft – and art, and passion – very seriously. But I also realize that it only matters when it does something, preferably something that helps people.

Sometimes that’s the shortest distance between two points.

Sometimes that involves using a tool that might seem somehow inferior to our favorites. Maybe it means you don’t get to use the latest-and-(for this week)-greatest framework. Maybe that means listening, empathizing, and compromising.

I can’t help but wonder if Amakuni Yasatsuna ever complained about his “users”. (Probably, I mean, people are people! “OMG, why does Hachirō always complain about the menuki!” (The menuki are small decorative sculptures … meant to fit into the palm to increase the grip. See https://medievalswordsworld.com/katana-parts-and-components/)

Let’s never forget why we’re here: we make tools that help other people do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, and we are privileged to be in a position to make a living doing what we love.

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