The company I’m working for, for almost 6 years (omg) now has a great tradition: Every year, around Christmas we take a trip to a random, previously undisclosed surprise location to celebrate the year behind us. This year the secret location was Rotterdam in the Netherlands. During the last day we had a treasure hunt where the company was split into 4 teams and each of these teams had to do challenges in random pubs, roaming around the city. Obviously a lot of drinking took place. At the end all 4 teams ended up in the same restaurant where a company dinner took place.
Most of us were completely wasted. I remember thinking: “Wow, these bunch of functional alcoholics built a multi-million pound company. And people actually invested money into it, what are the chances?”.
Thinking this further it made me realize that there wouldn’t be tech without booze. Just think about a tech meetup for programmers without the mandatory free beer! It would be something like the beginning of a 6th grade elementary school dance. People would stand around awkwardly interacting with no-one. We are geeks after all, we need some encouragement. Same valid with high profile tech conferences. I’m pretty sure most of the industry’s big investment deals been rooted around a couple of pints or some bubbly. Not to mention great ideas. If someone tells me the idea for stuff like Foursquare not started in a pub then I call bullshit. The original idea might have been like “Fuck, I’m wasted but still want a drink, would be nice to know where my buddies are” (just guessing). So thank you alcohol for all the good stuff (and fuck you for all the inevitable bad decisions, but that is a different story)
Speaking of Rotterdam: Drugs. I myself never been big fan of drugs. I’m not against them but had more bad experiences than good. That being said I’m smoking a joint like at least once every two months. Not for partying, just at home. I quite like how it is messing with my brain and it gives me great ideas / new perspective for existing ideas. These are not world changing ideas, but little fun ones.
One of these ideas were responsible for a little media hack we did with my designer friends, which brought us almost 400.000 facebook fans in one night. About 9-10% of hungarian people are gypsies (roma). Now back then according to the law of Hungary you could name your child whatever you wanted, there was absolutely no regulation. For some reason the roma population started giving weird names to their kids, stuff like Nintendo Lakatos, Rambo Racz and my personal favorite Casette Olah. The government realized that this is not right and they made a law that every name must be approved. The news was full of it. I was fairly high when I saw this news piece and instantly though: we should capitalize on this. Asked my friend to design some funny background and quickly hacked together a facebook app. The user must like our page to get their “Gyspy name”. The app then generated the name on the background and shared it on the user’s wall with a link back to the app. I’m not proud of it (fuck yeah I’m), but it wasn’t against FB’s terms so why not. It went viral in minutes. The morning I woke up and we were up to 150k fans. It was all over the internet. Human rights people said its racist (70% of our users were gypsies so I don’t think they were offended), there were articles about privacy, it was even mentioned on national TV. All because of a joint.
Oh by the way, if you wonder about the quality of my code for this app I wrote while high. The best way to describe it is like this: My grandpa was a builder. As most builders he liked to lay bricks while drunk. One day he was particularly drunk while he was working on my mothers house. He managed to build a wall which was bent in three different ways (think about it how). My code was just like that: functioning, but nothing to be proud of, to say the least.
Now the title says “Booze, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” so lets talk about music and programming. (and yes, I know this post is about nothing)
For me music is one of the most important things in life. I listen to a bunch of different genres but my all time love is punk. I born in a country where all national holidays are celebrating a revolution so it is understandable that I listen to the music which celebrates the revolution against the “normal”. And by punk by the way I don’t just mean the genre. I mean any song that makes you think or makes you question things that everyone in your life accepts as a dogma. For example I consider Pink’s Mr. President as a fucking great punk track. I consider punk as a guide for out of the box thinking, much like I consider Bhagavad Gita not as a holy book of Krishna but a guide to live your life. (no I’m not a Krishna believer but found the book highly refreshing compared to any western holy books)
What does it have to do with programming? Well this will be highly generalized, I know a lot of people who are exception for this, but I think there are two kinds of coders (neither of the groups is better than the other, but they are different):
(again, this is just my humble opinion and there are more exception than rule)
There are the ones who listen to electronic music. They tend to be very accurate, efficient programmers, producing good code with the tools they been told to use (in school or [insert currently trending tech know-it-all place]). Everything by the book. They are the perfect people for a late stage start up or a big company.
On the other hand there are coders who listened to music their whole life with messages like “it’s ok to be hated”. We are the people who sit at planning meetings thinking stuff like “just fucking do it already”. We tend not to follow process. We would be happy to push an alpha release without QA even seeing the product. We tend to code way faster than the 1st group however most of the time our code is not as efficient / not as scalable. We are the perfect people for an early stage start up.
For example: Lets say there is a new API, pre-release, in a load testing phase. The API is way too slow.
- A group of coders from the 1st group discussing the problem. They decide to use a profiler so they have an argument on which profiler lib to use. They decide on the profiler and implement it. Lets say the implementation takes 2 hours. They find the buggy method and fix it
- A group of coders from the 2nd group get the task to solve the problem. They sit down around one of their computers. One coder adds print(time().”\n”); statements in the code before and after each method call they think could be problematic. They find the buggy method and fix it.
Which group is right? Both! It is just the way of thinking that is different.
Ok, this post was way too long to be about nothing. Sorry about that. To close this off. here is a video which perfectly sums what i think punk is (the band it self is not a big deal but this poem is spot on, especially the last verse)
“There’s a lesson to be learned, one that I will take home,
When I return to my normal reality zone,
Punk rock has the power to change the world,
It lies in every single punk rock boy and girl,
So don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worth the earth,
These streets are your streets, this turf is your turf,
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve got to give in,
Cos you can make a difference, you can change everything,
Just let your dreams be your pilot, your imagination your fuel,
Tear up the book and write your own damn rules,
Use all that heart, hope and soul that you’ve got,
And the love and the rage that you feel in your gut,
And realise that the other world that you’re always looking for,
Lies right here in front of us, just outside this door,
And it’s up to you to go out there and paint the canvas,
After all, you were put on the earth to do this,
So shine your light so bright that all can see,
Take pride in being whoever the fuck you want to be,
Throw your fist in the air in solidarity,
And shout “Viva la punk, just one life, anarchy”