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In Defense of the Hero

Recently you can find a lot of articles berating the "hero developers" — software developers who put a lot of effort into "saving the day" — usually by working overtime — and in the result get burned out and put the project into even more trouble. I have witnessed the phenomenon myself an agree that it is harmful, but I think the name used is very unfortunate, because an actual hero does something else, and we are very much in need of those.

I think the whole misunderstanding comes from the comic book and Hollywood notion of a super-hero, a simplified and incomplete view, as all ideological propaganda. Such a character usually does at least partially what a proper mythological hero does:

but the Hollywood character usually finishes here, and that is not enough to qualify as a real hero. In fact, if any myth or legend would have a character stop there, they would be considered villains, not heros. Because the crucial part of a hero's job only starts with these, and there is more:

A character who doesn't go back to their community and bring back the fruits of their quest is not a hero. The heroic task is only complete if it results in the growth of the whole community, not just a single person.

This is of course difficult. The character is facing not just some scary monsters, but their own peers, often friends and mentors. Now they are seen as evil, immoral persons, tainted with the evil they fought with, trying to upset the traditions and culture that were cultivated for generations. It's so very tempting to abandon the community, and leave them to perish.

But a true hero will continue to fight, will become the leader that the community needs, and lead it into the new, updated traditions, reorganizing it as necessary to face the incoming danger.

This may have many forms: advocating for open source software, touting the advantages of agile methodologies, teaching about test and deployment automation, introducing version control and configuration management, and so on, and so on. There is always a new danger on the horizon, and always a need to adapt our communities to the new and changed situation. So we always need the hero who is going to do that work.