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Dane Morgridge Programmer, Geek, ASPInsider
A blog about code and data access

I have often heard programmers refer to them selves as either ninjas, pirates or monkeys.  I have also seen a lot of talk about how ninjas are better than pirates, especially on twitter on talk like a pirate day.  There are shirts at ThinkGeek about Killer Coding Ninja Monkeys which I find to be cool and very interesting all at the same time. 

Ninjas are assassins and they kill stuff.  They are generally pretty quiet and if they do their job right no one really even knows they are there.  Pirates tend to be a bit crazy.  I'm talking about the Jack Sparrow type pirates and not the Somalian ones.  They kill stuff too, but are pretty rowdy, don't have a problem using rusty swords or cannon balls to get the job done.  Monkeys... well they eat bananas and throw poop. 

When you look at them from a programming perspective, I see the ninja as the one who can gracefully get any bit of code written while killing bugs before people even know they exist.  They are the ones that you don't normally see much because they are busy writing code and you almost take their existance for granted, as long as nothing is broken.  When something does break, they attack the problem and fix it without it even knowing the guy was coming. 

Pirates are the louder programmers, you know, the ones who stand next to your cube and talk about the movie they saw last night or brag about the huge plasma tv they just bought.  They do get stuff done, albeit maybe a little messy.  Seriously, have you ever seen anything that got hit by a cannon ball before?  Their approach may not be the best, but they usually get the job done.

Then you have monkeys.  Hopefully you don't have any programmers at work that throw poop...  Tootsie rolls maybe.  I have heard several people consider themselves "Code Monkeys" which I can find to be a derogatory term at times.  You have probably heard the phrase "a monkey could do it".  That means it's easy and meaningless and that you might be better off hiring some chimps.  There are some jobs that dictate that kind of work and, for all intents and purposes, you are really nothing more than a monkey writing code.

I think, personally, that there is a bit of all three in most of us.  A lot of programmers will code like a ninja, goof off like a pirate and frequently get treated like a monkey.  You have the skill to swiftly take care of any problem in your path.  When your code is compiling or you have some down time, you might act a little crazy and get rowdy. And I don't know a single programmer that hasn't, at some point, been treated like he was nothing more than a monkey writing code.

I think that every programmer should take a look inward and embrace their inner ninja|pirate|monkey and if you team it up right, you might be able to have someone blow the wall apart with a cannon ball so the ninja can sneak in and take out the guard so the monkey can throw some poop at the real problem.  I'll let you decide who or what the real problem is...

Posted on Saturday, September 26, 2009 11:15 AM | Back to top

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