I change the directions of small pieces of metal for a living.

Why some love computers and others hate them

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Last night, I spent two hours trying to get PHP (a programming language) working on my Mac. Eventually, I realized it had been working for about an hour and fifty minutes of the time, but Firefox had cached the error page. Once I cleared my cache, everything was fine. Did I hate my computer for wasting my time? No, I felt a sense of accomplishment from finally solving the problem.

Today, I spent another two hours trying to fix the problems with this blog and get it back online. I went through about 25 poorly-written articles on various aspects of the problem (integration between PHP, nginx, FastCGI, and lighttpd, in case you’re interested). I also struggled with prewritten scripts containing awful formatting errors, such as replacing the ” (double-quote) symbol with ” (two apostrophes), forcing me to hunt down these errors. Eventually, I figured out the problem, fixed all the scripts, and got it working (as you can see). Did I feel a sense of frustration from the poor documentation? No, I felt a sense of self-satisfaction from solving the problem, figuring it out (virtually) myself, and learning something new in the process

From what I understand, these are the things that make many people swear off programming or any complicated computer work; if it takes too much effort to deduce and fix the problem, it’s too frustrating for many people. I have no problem with this, and in fact, I feel it in many other areas. But for some reason, it’s the opposite for me. The longer I have to spend on something, the better I feel when I finally fix it (except for the rare exception where it was a stupid mistake on my part, in which case I feel annoyed with myself, not with the concept of computers).

I have a feeling that this is true for many people in my field. It’s the difference between the person who goes “I tried to learn programming, but you have to get everything right! If you get one little thing wrong, the whole thing breaks!” and the person (like me) who gleefully recounts a late-night six-hour debugging session like it was the most exhilarating thing to happen in a long time.

I don’t think either of these things are “right” or “wrong”, but I do think one of them is more indicative of some sort of mental illness, and I don’t think it bodes well for me.