Nice article by Robin Miller at Newsforge.
I agree with most of it, except for one thing.
The author says "I always considered the "scratch your own itch" hacker ethos an essentially masturbatory thing. It would be like me writing articles I want to read instead of articles I think you want to read."
Well, Robin, articles and code are extremely different things. For one thing, articles are 100% useles for the author, unless someone else reads them, whicle code can be 100% useful for the author even if noone else has tried it.
I would say it´s like comparing apples and oranges, except... well, both are fruits and we compare them whenever we choose what fruit to buy. This is a less comparable pair.
For example, I am probably the only user of KRsN in the world. But it is useful for me. It saves me almost an hour a day, so I wrote it.
On the other hand, I will contradict myself: articles almost noone reads (like this one ;-) are useful for shaping one´s mind, although that´s not a frequent goal.
On the gripping hand, masturbation is good, dude. Don´t slam it unless you have never done it. And if you have never done it, don´t slam what you don´t know ;-)
In fact, programming because it itches is... well, it´s like scratching. It may even be bad for you, but don´t tell me it doesn´t feel good.
 One geek credit to the one who catches the reference.