Last night, in an IRC conversation with one of my regulars, we were discussing a project we’re both users of and I’m thinking about contributing to, and I found myself saying of the project lead “And he’s German. You know what that means?” In fact, my regular understood instantly, and this deflected us into a discussion of how national culture visibly affects hackers’ collaborative styles. We found that our observations matched quite closely.
Presented for your amusement: Three stereotypical hackers from three different countries, described relative to the American baseline.
The German: Methodical, good at details, prone to over-engineering things, careful about tests. Territorial: as a project lead, can get mightily offended if you propose to mess with his orderly orderliness. Good at planned architecture too, but doesn’t deal with novelty well and is easily disoriented by rapidly changing requirements. Rude when cornered. Often wants to run things; just as often it’s unwise to let him.
The Indian: Eager, cooperative, polite, verbally fluent, quick on the uptake, very willing to adopt new methods, excessively deferential to anyone perceived as an authority figure. Hard-working, but unwilling to push boundaries in code or elsewhere; often lacks the courage to think architecturally. Even very senior and capable Indian hackers can often seem like juniors because they’re constantly approval-seeking.
The Russian: A morose, wizardly loner. Capable of pulling amazing feats of algorithmic complexity and how-did-he-spot that debugging out of nowhere. Mathematically literate. Uncommunicative and relatively poor at cooperating with others, but more from obliviousness than obnoxiousness. Has recent war stories about using equipment that has been obsolete in the West for decades.
Like most stereotypes, these should neither be taken too literally nor dismissed out of hand. It’s not difficult to spot connections to other aspects of the relevant national cultures.
A curious and interesting thing is that we were unable to identify any other national styles. Hackers from other Anglophone countries seem indistinguishable from Americans except by their typing accents. There doesn’t seem to be a characteristic French or Spanish or Italian style, or possibly it’s just that we don’t have a large enough sample to notice the patterns. From almost anywhere else outside Western Europe we certainly don’t.
Can anyone add another portrait to this gallery? It would be particularly interesting to me to find out what stereotypes hackers from other countries have about Americans.