Bring on the Programmer Apologists
I’ve been watching and participating with the Alt.Net, Design Patterns, and Best Practices groups for a while now. Sometime on the sidelines, sometime in the thick of things. I watch as people go about confronting and teaching each other, sometimes with the greatest of respect — other times, not so much. One thing is apparent to me, many people are good at evangelizing, not many are good at apologetics.
First up: what the heck is Apologetics? (note: it isn’t the same as apologize)
Apologists are authors, writers, editors of scientific logs or academic journals, and leaders known for taking on the points in arguments, conflicts or positions that are either placed under popular scrutinies or viewed under persecutory examinations. The term comes from the Greek word apologia (????????), meaning a speaking in defense.
As for Evangelizing, it is similar but different. There are many definitions, but I’m going with the Prinston definition:
evangelism (zealous preaching and advocacy of the gospel) (reference)
In my definition, an Apologist is sitting down with someone and have a discussion. An evangelist is up on a pulpit proclaiming the good news to any within hearing distance. The difference between the two is key, because both are trying to achieve the same results. But I find the apologetic version much less grating.
Apologetics does not imply always apologizing. Apologetics are not apologizing for bad software, bad practice, or bad code. Apologetics does not imply rationalizing or defending bad code. Apologists are trying to gently guide to betters methods of software development.
This is to counter many of the evangelists that I’ve seen, who start of by looking shocked, then angry. And if at first you don’t succeed, add volume.
My introduction to Apologetics comes from my Christian faith and the works of John Calvin and Francis Shafer, but the notion of the idea goes back much farther — biblically speaking.
“…, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
There is nothing bombastic about apologetics. It is inviting and striving to bring others in, but also not shying away from hard topics. What I see far too often programming circles cutting, degrading, and bombastic. There is too much “my way or the highway” in the approach. For me the key fraise is from 1 Peter (above), “yet do it with gentleness and respect”.