After reading Hackers and Painters I can honestly say it wasn’t what I was expecting. While I didn’t find every page of the book riveting, I still found value in reading it and would recommend it to others.
Paul Graham, the author, is bright - you can pick that up in the first couple of pages of the book. He also likes to challenge accepted thought. Hackers and Painters is Paul’s views on several different aspects of society and software development. It is controversial, I don’t agree with all of it, and it is worth reading to make you think. I found the book jumped around a bit - he covers a number of topics - and I would view the book as a collection of essays than one continuous message.
I think any software developer can really gain from reading this book. Be it in several sittings. Very little of the book deals with ‘programmer’ things, most of it is more about things around programmer related topics.
Areas I found particularly interesting…
- His understanding of start ups - the fact that you are cramming decades of work into a handful of years, the risks, what worked for him
- His view on Lisp - how concise Lisp is, how he views it as an extremely powerful language
- His view on software projects - small teams no more than 10 people, possibly 5 if you can, everyone equally contributing
- His view on increasing value of his start up - hiring people to increase value (even though they didn’t put them on the direct product).
His view on wealth
- Money is not wealth, money is a way of moving wealth
- Wealth is what you want
- Wealth is not a pie, there is no cap on it
- Wealth is creating things people want
- A job means doing something people want averaged together with everyone else in the company
- Averaging is a problem is you are above average
- Salesmen are an exception to remuneration because it is easy to measure how much they bring in and reward accordingly
- To get rich you need measurement and leverage (you need both, one on its own isn’t useful)
- Small companies are easier to measure, which acts as a motivator
What he would define as important in the ideal programming language
- Written for programmer, not for language designers
Quote of the book
Authoritarian countries become corrupt; corrupt countries become poor; and poor countries are weak