On Craftsmen, Scientists, Scholars in Forums and Team Structure

Whenever two or more people are clung together in online community or forum, and a heated topic is discussed, you can clearly see three types of participants:

Scholars, whose presence is usually the most vocal, will say how exactly things should be. They never question or try to analyze topics on their own, instead, their arguments rely on authorities a lot, they completely trust those authorities, and genuinely think everyone else is wrong. In other words, they are devoted to the ideas they chose to believe in, without ever questioning them, or applying their own creativity on them, which would give birth to new ideas and concepts. This can be a stage in the development of a computer professional (who of us didn’t trust every word Bjarne Stroustrup or Jerry Weinberg at some point of our life?), or a true mindset of a particular individual.

On the other side of the spectrum are scientists. There are very few of them, and you are lucky to get true scientist on a forum. You will be jealous about their erudition: it seems that they’ve read all those blogs and books on the topic, they are familiar with old approaches, hot trends, new names, and cool technologies. They didn’t only read Jerry Weinberg’s latest book, but also had a discussion with the author himself during some conference. In forums they are usually interested in discussions around things they are currently trying, which usually means there’s more of them on topics discussing new and hot stuff, while older topics leave them uninterested. They, in difference from scholars, do not think other points of views are wrong, for them everything is questionable. If they respond to a forum post, they tend to leave lengthy posts analyzing many different points of views from many different perspectives. And you will get a lot of interesting ideas and references from those posts, if you have patience to read them.

And then there are craftsmen. They rarely participate in the discussions, because they prefer to invent and do things, rather then talk about them. Similarly to scientists, they see that topics are too complex for a binary answer, or a single correct point of view. They are the most creative of all, because most things they write will not come from the books or blogs, but from their heads. They just use whatever works best (in their opinion) at the moment, often not knowing that they just invented something very powerful. On the other hand, they often invent a bicycle. When they post in forums, in many cases their string of thinking remains behind the scenes, and they leave an abrupt post, that nobody else understands, though such post may contain the most genuine and interesting ideas.

Now the question is: whom, from those three archetypes would I want to hire?

Probably I will be more suspicious about scholars, unless they are just out of the school, and have an ability to develop either into scientists or craftsmen. I will build the most of my team out of craftsmen, making sure that a.  – all craftsmen in the team are good in different crafts; b. – they do work on their professional erudition, and invent only new things, not bicycles. And to keep craftsmen motivated, I would like to have one scientist on board (which is hard, really, because true scientists are rare). I wouldn’t want too many scientists, though, because their interest in research and learning new things, not the result, will be harmful for practical purposes. Essentially the most productive and valuable are types which combine craftsman and scientist approach. That is: they have a healthy amount of erudition, they follow new trends, get themselves familiar with new technologies, but they consider this to be only a powerful tool in their box, not the overpowering focus.

On Craftsmen, Scientists, Scholars in Forums and Team Structure