I’m reading Steve Jobsâ€™ biography. What strikes me as interesting is the initiative he took in his youth. Learning, studying, building, trying.
It makes me think of my 13-year-old son. Like any kid his age in 2012, he plays a lot of video games. Several years ago he expressed an interest in programming. We encouraged him.
About 18 months ago he taught himself how to build a server for a game the kids like. In the game the kids build things: communities, buildings, cities, mechanisms. He hadn’t been satisfied with just playing. On the server, he could invite his friends to play with him and create new “mods” that add extra functionality like textures, levers, storage devices.
Heâ€™s built and stocked stores where he “sold” supplies to his friends. Sometimes his friends misbehave and he bans them for a period of time until they promise to behave. The phone calls and voicemails started coming: “dude, turn on the server” “dude, that mod isn’t working right” “dude, Jason just put lava all over my castle.” (Why must every sentence spoken by a 13-year-old boy begin with “dude”?)
One night, during a family party, he came to me and said, “mom, the server isn’t working. I have to go fix it.” I felt a great swell of pride and gave him permission to depart to the basement. “He’s learning to be an administrator,” I thought to myself. He’s taking responsibility for his creation.
In training programs on intranet governance I joke about “basement coders” and how we need to bring them out into the light of consistent branding and user needs. But, what if they all started this same way, creating cool stuff for their friends to play with? What if they could have been great administrators, even leaders, but just didn’t know how to make that transition from coder.
We haven’t figured out how to channel our sonâ€™s enthusiasm for programming and his talented math brain. And itâ€™s fair to say he doesnâ€™t show near this level of initiative with other things, like making his bed. I feel confident it will resolve itself in time. In the meantime, I’m beginning to look at rogue web coders in a whole different light. Perhaps we need to be understanding of their talents and harness those powers for good in our intranets.