Codified Personality

In Knowledge Management, there are the concepts of codified and personalized knowledge. Wikipedia describes it as

codification vs. personalization – the trade-off between capture and storage of explicit information and making connections to people who know.

This definition was missing the fact that personalization also refers to making external knowledge part of your knowledge, thus I added “as well as to acquire external knowledge yourself” to the Wikipedia page.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is, that it struck me again some days ago, how nicely the personality of one person or a whole group can show up in software. The way how a routine or API is designed can tell a lot about the personality of a programmer and his team:

  • How accurate is the code? (You can tell from that whether they do a wholehearted job and are commited to what they do)
  • How much abstraction is in the code? (Reflects the experience of the developers)
  • How much is the overall design of the software thought through? (A criteria for how well the team can organise itself)
  • How complex is the software? (A sign for a team that can master software by organisational maturity)

This is what you can call “codified personality” – it is what you can also find in arts, in books, paintings, music, etc. Thus, the “vs.” in Wikipedia’s definition of “codification vs. personalization” is not totally correct, because the two concepts are not only opposed to each other, but can also go together nicely.

Of course, it is only a small step from here to ask: If personality is immanent in code, can code change the personality? Strictly speaking, code cannot change a personality, but as code is always the result of humans, it is the social system that those humans live in, which influences their personality. It is not the code that changes the personality of a person or group, but rather the way how the code is treated within the social system you belong to. As software code is codified personality, this is indirectly about how your social environment treats you.

Think of open source and proprietary as social (sub-) systems, and you’re encountering another interesting question: How do software licenses, as part of the regulatory system of your company, influence your personality?

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