For over four years I’ve been writing Cocoa code for OS X and iOS. One thing I particularly loved when I made the transition from writing code for Windows was that the community was a very friendly place. You could email another developer and ask them a question about how, for example, they had done something in an application and quite often you would not only get a reply but also some source code to help you along. Granted 2008 was pre-iPhone and the explosion in Cocoa developers but the larger number of developers seem to have strengthened the community, not weakened it.
Over the four and a bit years I’ve seen well known developers within the community become very well known and I’ve seen the rise of new developers from obscurity to notoriety. In almost every case the people are genuinely lovely, friendly and helpful. In fact the few people I tend to avoid (insofar as not following on Twitter or having their blogs amongst my RSS subscriptions) are developers who seem to dislike the new and popular Apple and the influx of new blood. Fortunately they are very limited in number.
However one thing that does seem to have happened to a few people is that they appear to have lost their identity, the very thing that made them popular and well-loved. They seem to be more interested in honing and moulding their identity or persona than being who they really are (or, sadly, were). They become aloof and, at times, arrogant. Some are simply appallingly rude and focused on self-promotion.
A recent episode of the excellent Core Intuition podcast touched on this. In episode 49, A Snapshot In Time, Daniel and Manton (not two people I would categorise as described above) touched on the fact that larger number of twitter followers, podcast listeners and blog readers tend to make them think a lot more before they convey their thoughts and acknowledge that this is not necessarily a good thing.
I’m very fortunate in that I’m not, nor aspire to be, a well-known developer. Yes, it helps with finding work or promoting your applications and you’ll always have someone to talk to at conferences or other events. But then so will the developer who is completely unknown or the guy who writes a blog that a small handful of people bother to read (ahem).
If you’re an up-and-coming ‘celebrity’ developer please be a wonderful, valued member of the community but don’t start to believe that you’re better than everyone else. We’re software developers, not world leaders, great philanthropists or captains of industry. Very few of us make a real, positive difference to the world and generally those that do are the humblest and loveliest of us all. At the moment you might be on a pedestal, please don’t let it become a coconut shy. Respect is hard to earn and easy to lose.