January 18, 2005
Jack Black, in the DVD extras for School of Rock, had this to say in an interview:
I had to learn how to play electric guitar a little bit because all I play is acoustic guitar. And I'm still not very good at electric guitar. And the truth is, I'm not very good at acoustic guitar, but I make up for it with intensity.
It's hard to appreciate how true this is until you've heard (or better yet, seen) Jack Black's band Tenacious D perform. Musically, they're terrible. But they still manage to be thoroughly entertaining and often hilarious.
I was reminded of this Jack Black quote while reading "It's not about you" in the excellent Creating Passionate Users blog:
The I-don't-matter-so-don't-introduce-myself plan was just the beginning of the "it's not about YOU" experiment. I would conduct the rest of the five day course with all of my energy devoted to making THEM smarter, rather than trying to make sure they knew how smart I was. (A clever and necessary strategy on my part, since I'm not all that smart.)
The year-long experiment was a success, and I won a nice bonus from Sun for being one of only four instructors in north America to get the highest possible customer evaluations. But what was remarkable about this is that this happened in spite of my not being a particularly good instructor or Java guru. I proved that a very average instructor could get exceptional results by putting the focus ENTIRELY on the students. I paid no attention to whether they thought I knew my stuff.
And when I say that I was average, that's really a stretch. I have almost no presentation skills. When I first started at Sun I thought I was going to be fired because I refused to ever use the overhead slides and just relied on the whiteboard (where I drew largely unrecognizable objects and unreadable code). But... I say average when you evaluate me against a metric of traditional stand-up instructor presentation skills. Which I believe are largely bullshit anyway. Assuming you meet some very minimal threshold for teaching, all that matters is that you help the students become smarter. You help them learn... by doing whatever it takes. And that usually has nothing to do with what comes out of your mouth, and has everything to do with what happens between their ears. You, as the instructor, have to design and enable situations that cause things to happen. Exercises, labs, debates, discussions, heavy interaction. In other words, things that THEY do, not things that YOU do (except that you create the scenarios).
These inspiring results echo my feelings about what it takes to be a "good" programmer. Don't be cowed by the existence of thousands of developers far more talented than you are. Who needs talent when you have intensity?
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Take it one small step further:
Your application is not about YOU (the developer) it's about THEM (the user).
It's very difficult for us (developers) to think like them (users) so a lot of the time we're left with stuff that's between what we think is useful and what they think is worth a damn. Thankfully I don't produce software to be in this position though I'm definately the end user on a number of "almost not worth our time/money we spent years ago" applications.
Good point, the student-teacher metaphor does extend fairly well to developer-user.
What you absolutely have to have is a tight feedback loop between users and developers. In my experience, the more cloistered the developers are in an ivory tower, the worse the created product will be. There's a direct (negative) correlation between developer isolation and software usability.
You really made up my day. I'm not a good programmer, atleast I have the intensity
Why have people who know what they're doing when a room full of intensely enthusiastic idiots can do it just as well.
I agree with this 21534543% Though, I also think that passion breeds talent.
You have gone from the easiest captcha ever to the hardest. Congrats. I failed a total of 4 times.
Does having intensity mean I should get back to work and stop reading this site?
I guess this applies only to certain things. You can't obviously say this is true for pure math researchers or scientists. For certain things where talent doesn't play too big a role, this is true. Otherwise, it totally is not.
And I have been mistaken all the way... It is all about quantity and not about quality..
I believe what Jeff is getting at here is that there are multiple ways to achieve quality. Obviosly the main way is through knowledge and experience. But another way is through intensity - a.k.a. passion. One is not a substitute for the other but can be added together to achieve a quality result whether playing guitar or writing software.
Since we're commenting on old posts, I'd just like to point out that Kyle Gass (the other half of Tenacious D) is actually a very good guitarist, which is why Jack Black can get away with being mediocre.
It sounds cheesy, but attitude defines your existence.
This was an incredibly exciting understand.Hostgator I will bookmark you website to verify on it after.
Jack Black is the man!
I think there is a lot to be said about, "SWAG".
People will find knowledge, but they will pay for swagger.
DC Life Magazine
Hey, Jack Black is way cool (love School of Rock) and I agree, intensity is a vital part if you want to learn electric guitar and play with some attitude. Emotion trumps great skills any day. But then of course, having both is the ultimate goal :-)
Its interesting, that the use of sheer intensity over method can be enough to see you through. Though its a must, to be able to to add emotion to your performance, I`d never considered intensity aswell.
This is something i will definately consider next time i pick up my acoustic electric guitar.
For one I think Tenacious D is pretty awesome! Kyle Gass is more the "Guitarist" of the band and Jack doesn't need to be a great guitarist. His voice is WAY awesome. Their parodies on 80's music are spot on.