Man, do I like writing code. The most rewarding part, in my opinion, isn’t the ‘solving problems’ part (though that’s cool) or the ‘clean, inarguable efficiency’ part.
For me, it’s the notion that software, like ideas, isn’t scarce. One brilliant work of software (like WordPress or Linux or Mozilla) can, like a great idea, spread far and wide, at no cost, on its own merits. Even a niche widget or library, some little granule of person-hours, can live on for centuries. The all-women development group who wrote instructions for ENIAC, and the proto-hacker deadheads who wrote the nuts and bolts of early PC systems, and whoever in Dubai is writing some sprocket for a startup in Beijing, all of those human being’s efforts get transformed right into recurrent wealth, solving problems and preventing waste and doing a whole lot of cool stuff from the time you build it until the time we become robots.
The fact that our deliverables can be useful for a Really Long Time puts us in the same boat as artists, writers, and mathematicians. I really like thinking we’re doing that kind of work, the kind that results in permanent gains for people.
Remember that the next time you are tempted to write a one-line-kludge: someone’s cyborg grandkid is going to be using your software, don’t ruin their Monday morning.