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Ask HN: How to Blend 'Minimalism/Low-Tech/Degrowth' with Software Development?

Hi HN,

I've been working as a software developer for quite some time now, mostly in Web/React/Node.Js and SQL. I also have a few side projects that are mechanical engineering and close to production.

Lately, I feel like I'm at a crossroads and would like your input.

1) Minimalism, Low-Tech and Degrowth values are really important for me (for multiple reasons), I consider them core values. 2) My strength are creating physical products and websites for clients whose core values are the antithesis of mines.

Basically, I have a hard time blending my strength with my core values, which gets me very demotivated. I've refused job offer in various areas already (publicity, finance, chemical), but I can't seem to find one that ticks all the boxes.

Have you felt a similar way before? How did you manage?

What are some company/sector that would be more inline with my values (I don't mind to pivot)?

Thanks for you help!

14 pointsjacobroyquebec posted 8 months ago17 Comments
tabtab said 8 months ago:

The same internal or custom CRUD app done with 90's tech was much quicker and much less code than current web stacks. Is it too much distraction with fads and JavaScript UI gizmos, CRUD-unfriendly web standards, a combo, or something else? Something is wrong. It's good for IT worker employment, but customers are paying an ARM chip and a leg (bad pun intended).

We de-evolved. Ooga Booga. We had Jetsons-like drag-and-drop IDE's and code that closely matched the screen and business logic, but then replaced them with Flintstone stone tablets, saying "It Must Be This Way" in case we go "mobile" in 2080 or whatnot. Now it's layers talking to layers talking to layers and we spend all our time wiring and rewiring the layers to layers. The buzzword is "separation of concerns", but I see separation of productivity and separation of money from wallets. "Enterprise" apps were always a bloated e-bureaucracy, but the bloat trickled down to smaller apps in a big buzzword chase to be "just like the big dogs". Maximalism rules IT.

(In well-run shops, such stacks can be done effectively, but most orgs are semi-dysfunctional. The tall stacks are not riff-raff proof. One duck moves out of alignment, and the results are quacked.)

jacobroyquebec said 8 months ago:

Exactly how I feel about web dev. Then, even when you can convince a client that all those layers are useless, a sleazy competitor salesman can convince him otherwise...

tabtab said 8 months ago:

Yip, the buzzword-slingers know how to sell the Swiss Army Kitchen Sink by making them fear what-if scenarios: What if you need internationalization? What if you need mobile? What if you need web-scale? What if you need microservices to connect to Foo.com's great web services? What if you need a pony?

Warren Buffett has often said that one key ingredient to his success is not fearing saying "no" to questionable or borderline opportunities. Most investment firms don't feel comfortable paying people to sit around all day and say "no". It looks like slacking to the bosses. But Buffett has no bosses, so he can say no for a decade if nothing good comes his way. He tunes out the bandwagon if the math isn't there.

YT896 said 8 months ago:

Well, I don't see a way to align software development with 'low-tech'. By definition, software development uses and promotes the use of computers, probably the most high tech humanity has created over the last years. So you would need to do a different job I guess.

You could try to align your job with minimalism and degrowth by trying to earn (and spend) as little as possible. You could try to work until you have enough to eat and pay your rent, and not more. You could work part-time for example. But by definition, working creates value which contributes to growth. So I guess the best 'degrowth' activity is slacking off :)

hjhkjhk said 8 months ago:

I feel almost same way as you do. In 2020, I have secret plans to start consulting on the side. Instead of maximizing number of billable hours by suggesting custom everything in latest JS framework, I will be suggesting the simplest possible solution be it Shopify or Wix, or static sites.

Of course, my clients goals may not align with mine. I am hoping to empower small business owners like plumbers, barbers, etc and non-profits.

If owner is too busy to talk to me then probably that business is too big for me.

borplk said 8 months ago:

Be careful to not fall into the trap. The signal to noise ratio and the nature of the work is such that your brilliance/minimalism and so on will be neither recognised nor appreciated. This is the problem of a proud craftsman trying to be the sales person. The loud sleazy dishonest sales person who has no idea how any of this nerd shit works will win. He will over-promise and under-deliver and lie, cheat, and misrepresent. And he will get away with it, and get rewarded for it.

jacobroyquebec said 8 months ago:

Good idea, that way you can feel like you do a part of good (helping people) while pushing simple software.

Maybe if we can get enough traction, it could be the new trend ;)

psv1 said 8 months ago:

Your values, your actual values, are what you do, not what you say that you like because it sounded good on the internet.

jacobroyquebec said 8 months ago:

I see your point and I have not made it clear in my post;

I actually follow these values in all other parts of my life; I cut back on my possessions (lots of sales and gifts), take exclusively public transport, eat vegan and (mostly) local, always favour low-tech, package free buys and responsible companies, etc.

My job is the complete opposite, which I want to fix.

psv1 said 8 months ago:

So how does being vegan and taking public transport contradict with being a software developer?

I really think that you're approaching this backwards if you decide "this is the values that I follow" and then try to change every aspect of your life to fit that vision.

jacobroyquebec said 8 months ago:

My thought process while adapting my life are more akin to this :

I felt disconnected and unhappy -> found those principles/values that seem to make people more happy (who were in the same situation as me) -> tried them, felt much more happy and fulfilled than before -> try to apply it to other areas.

Rainymood said 8 months ago:

Also known as: "We judge others by their actions and ourselves by intentions."

said 8 months ago:
psv1 said 8 months ago:

I think that's used in a completely different context.

airbreather said 8 months ago:

Sounds like you are an engineer (a real one).

Consider that a lot of what you do will be done regardless of your participation and whether by you doing it less harm is caused because you maximise efficiency and economy.

Only if you think someone else could be doing it substantially better (in terms of economy) then you should be concerned.

ta999999171 said 8 months ago:

Post an email address, please!

jacobroyquebec said 8 months ago:

You can reach me at jacob at couteausuis.se !