Recommended Reading: “What is Code?” by Paul Ford

If (you have < 10 seconds, read the following options)
Else If (you have < 3 minutes, watch this Bloomberg video)
Else If (you have < 15 minutes, read this Huffington Post article) 
Else If (you have < 25 minutes, watch this Charlie Rose video) 
Else If (you have > 60 minutes, read this Bloomberg article) 
Else ("Get Left Behind")

Enough good things can’t be said about the work that Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel and writer and programmer Paul Ford have put together in their piece,  “What is Code?”.  In the service of anyone who has ever worked in or around a software development shop, this article provides more comfort, empathy and understanding than any work I’ve seen since Eliyahu Goldratt’s “The Goal”.  For those who are paralyzed by fear of technology, they have not only pulled back the curtains, they’ve also provided a tour guide.  They’ve done this and they’ve done it with wit and accessibility.

I’ll offer a few takeaways for you here of what I gleaned from my multi-hour perusal of this 38,000 word article, but do make use of my pseudo-formula above to get the most from this resource.

  • Like “fire” and “wheels”, those who inherit the earth will master or at least understand “code”.
  • The world of code is complex. The answer to every superlative question is always going to be “It depends.” There are no silver bullets and for every problem, there is a language, framework, platform or approach that is ideally suited to solving it.
  • From the executives to the developers, the characters involved in this world all deserve a little empathy.  At higher business levels, people can be intimidated by the seemingly impenetrable technical jargon. At the deepest levels, the technically proficient are subject to ever-increasing rates of innovation and, as a result, are in a constant state of skill-atrophy and fear of becoming outdated. For those of us who operate in the middle, the business analysts and data shepherds who understand how to navigate code, process data and speak to business needs, it’s easy to become jaded by the edge case characters and lose our empathy for their struggles. Compassion is the first order of business.
  • “Data” is born from code and code, like Tableau, is what enables us to understand “data”.
  • From the Charlie Rose interview above, the phrase “all professions are conspiracies against the laity” could not have resonated with me more personally as it feels like I’ve been at war with “obfuscation” for more years than I can remember. It’s a pleasure to be dedicated to a role with the mission to bring clarity and knowledge to users by visualizing their data for them. It is an even more immense pleasure to see other professionals like Paul Ford and Josh Tyrangiel do the same through their work.


William Aubrey
June 2015


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