Joel implied that good programmers love programming so much they’d do it for no pay at all. I won’t go quite that far, but I will note that the best programmers I’ve known have all had a lifelong passion for what they do. There’s no way a minor economic blip would ever convince them they should do anything else. No way. No how.
Unlike Jeff, I will go that far. I love to code, and I do it for free all the time.
I don’t think Joel meant to imply that programmers would continue to write code for their current employers for free in lieu of any pay. What I think he meant was that programmers who love to code will code for fun as well as profit. They’ll write code outside of their paying jobs.
For example, I took the entire week off last week and spent lots of time with my family, which was wonderful (cue gratuitous picture of kid)! I trained my son in Ninja acrobatics.
I got my brother completely hooked on Desktop Tower Defense.
And tried to figure out what sort of mischief my son was involved in, as that face is as guilty as sin.
However, along with all that family fun, I spent nearly every minute of downtime hacking on Subtext. I went on a huge refactoring binge cleaning up stale code, separating concerns left and right, and replacing the old method of matching requests with ASP.NET Routing.
And it was huge fun!
Developers I’ve worked with who really love to code, tend to do it for fun, as well as for work. Personally, I don’t think it’s unhealthy as long as it’s not the only thing you do for fun. And I’m not suggesting that if you don’t do it for fun, you don’t love to code. Some people work so much, they don’t have time to do it for fun, but would code for fun if they had copious free time.
As for me, I’ll say it again, I <3 to code.