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Will the real developer please stand up?

Posted on May 9, 2012 by in Opinion | 3 comments

Over the last year or two, I’ve been reading articles that describe this strange world where software developers are Gods. They are paid so much money that it’s ridiculous. They get flown across the US and invited to parties with naked girls in spa pools and all the booze in the world.

Ok. I feel like I’m missing something here. I’m a software developer. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years or so. I’ve worked in NZ, Australia, London and now Amsterdam, just to mix things up. I’ve even worked primarily in the e-commerce space. So why on earth am I not living this crazy extravagant lifestyle?! Is it because I don’t live in the US? Waaaaahh!!

Then I read this article and the penny dropped.

Who are the “fat guys who know C++”, or as someone else put it, “the guys with neckbeards, who keep Google’s servers running”?

What?? What do you mean who are they? Isn’t this a perfect description of a software developer? If it isn’t, then what is??

The more I read, the more this felt like this article was describing me, right down to the “games nights”. And that’s when I got it – the aforementioned articles weren’t talking about the people that I know as software developers. They were talking about this new breed of ‘hipster’ developers. They are talking about the cool front-end scripters, the JavaScript, PHP, Rails and Ruby developers. They aren’t talking about the back-end developers that code in one of those archaic programming languages like C, C++, C# or Java. Which happens to include me and most of the software developers I know. Bummer, I guess that’s why I still haven’t been invited to any of these crazy parties.

Until this point, I’ve been living in a world where I thought the developers that apparently belong to this ‘secret Guild of nomadic craftsmen’ were the real developers, the ones that people refer to when they mention software developers. Apparently I’m wrong and I’m now a part of something that not everyone is even aware exists! To most people, developers are actually cool hipsters that have a great fashion sense and certainly aren’t spock-like.

When did this shift in definitions happen?

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3 Comments

  1. Haha – nice :)

  2. As a software engineer (I work with SQL server, VB.NET, and occasionally stray into ASP.NET land when needed, and have done C++ and Delphi in the past), I kind of thought the front end guys weren’t “real” developers. Not trying to be harsh or rude, but I mean I know plenty of front end guys who can create a killer site, but don’t really know their way around any code. I know that some script languages, PHP for example, can be object oriented, but I typically thought the developers and engineers were writing back end and business logic, doing all the core functionality, and then the front end people were doing design and minimal scripting. Who knows? I’m guessing that’s an outdated view of the world though, since most good sites now require some hefty scripts and I can see how that would require some more serious skills. I guess I should start getting more up to date on my scripting languages and worry less about that backend stuff!

  3. Old school developers (I am one) live in the old world. In the old world we were taught to embrace computer science, and to mind resource usage like memory, disk space and cpu cycles. We were trained to make the most of the machine.

    But now we are outdated. The business world wants coding rockstars to produce moneymaking apps and services. Tech savvy with a vision for making something popular, and pleasing the masses, including the suits and managers.

    In the meantime, we are engineering obscure pieces of art only to be seen by preprocessors and compilers. Optimizing code that is already fast enough. Implementing software patterns only understood by a handful of small teams around the globe.

    You too can be the rockstar. The frontend world is short of computer scientists. Engineers that know that most programming problems were solved in the 60’s already, and can offer these old time solutions to the new crowd. But can you become people centred? Can you combine tech wizardry with social skills?

    If you can you too can be the rockstar.

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