Dev sass

Getting an undue amount of sass, cheek and attitude from developers is part of working in tech as a non-developer. It’s not all of them, but, golly, I’ve been on the receiving end of it at every single company I’ve worked at. Any time I mention it to others in UX, I get the knowing look and we have stories to share.

What I mean is basic rudeness, arrogance and flippancy. This can range from the subtle but omnipresent “I’m smarter than you” vibe to outright dismissiveness. When presenting designs, the UX team has usually researched something for weeks, gone through rounds of testing and given every last pixel and word hours of thought. This is nearly always met with sneers and “improvements”. Because they’re developers, their opinions have to be honored.

I suppose this came about for a few reasons:

  1. Software developers make a lot more money than non-developers, and salary is often conflated with intelligence and worth as a human being
  2. Developers solve problems computationally and assume that everything is a computational problem
  3. The tech-bro culture exults devs into thinking they really are smarter than everyone else

Again, this isn’t every developer. And since there’s a shortage of skilled software developers, they aren’t subject to the standard HR rules that govern mere mortals. The same behavior that would get you fired in another position is ignored if you’re a developer.

To go beyond being a whiny rant, I have some action points for developers:

  1. Be polite to non-developers
  2. Think twice before being dismissive of the work that others have done
  3. Assume that you don’t fully understand something if it’s outside of your field of software development and that your opinion about that thing is uninformed

I’ve been mulling this over for since I read I love you, Hacker News, but you’re toxic back in February. It’s short and really, you should read the whole thing, but I’ll quote most of it anyway:

As you spend more time on HN and start reading the replies, you’ll notice that HN is, unfortunately, toxic. Not all the time; not everywhere. But it’s there, and the regulars know what I’m talking about. So many posts on HN are met with skepticism, pessimism, or just an overall negative tone…

As a 20-something-year-old tech bro, I’m no stranger to this attitude of “I’m smarter than you, so I’m going to pick your ideas apart and tell you exactly why you’re wrong.” It’s a mindset I’ve moved away from since I first recognized it in college, but it’s easy to fall back into. I realized how much damage it was doing to my social life. I cared more about being right than being kind. Unfortunately, some people never let go of this attitude. They can go on to be very successful in their careers, but it’s hard to even grab coffee with them and have a light conversation…

Since being on HN, I’ve noticed myself falling back into this sort of mindset. I’m now aware of it, but I didn’t even realize I was doing it again. For example, my ex-girlfriend once told me that hospitals can’t require their staff to wear N95 masks at all times – only regular masks. I immediately said “I don’t believe that. They can probably do whatever they want.” Instead of being empathetic toward a nurse after a 12-hour shift, I was more concerned over hospital policy.

Or another example: My dad told me that he wants to dabble in programming, but MySQL isn’t compatible with his laptop. My response? “Yeah there’s no way that’s true. MySQL will work on anything.” Instead of taking a look at this laptop and working on the problem with him, I just told him that he’s wrong and he doesn’t know what he’s doing (basically).

It was eye-opening read, because I see the same tendency in myself to some extent. Now that I have a name for it, I’m noticing dev sass everywhere.