General discussion


Great developers vs Not so great developers

By onbliss ·
In the discussions under the blog - "Ripoff Educations" (, one theme that appeared many times was - "great coder vs the not so great coders". I thought a separate discussion thread on this theme would be fun to have.

I am using the term "developer" instead of the term "coder" - just personal preference. Also invariably any person who codes does not "purely" code - they are involved in a project and work in the context of completing a project. Hence lots of soft and technical skills come into play. Also the work entails more than just coding.

So what traits distinguish great developers from the not so great developers?

edit: grammar

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I think that several large projects do benefit from...

by jslarochelle In reply to islands of expertise....

decomposition into several large components that are distributed to different team with different skill.<br/>
The software I work on has several teams working on it because it is made-up of several fairly large components (Configuration tool, Runtime console, Server, Low-level drivers, Firmware). The teams are made-up of people with different skills and different background and this is working fairly well. The problem though is when people want to go and play in another teams playground. The results are often not very good (sometimes desastrous). Fortunatly this does not occur too often.<br/>
The problem that I see in practice come from a lack of a common background of fundamental skills: an understanding of good design practices and other such knowledge that have nothing to do with a specific languages.<br/>

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Existing knowledge of the current codebase

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to What if...

or of particular technologies doesn't make a great developer by it self. They can be learnt as can the soft skills you need to apply your talent effectively.

A great developer can apply their skills in whatever environment required.

There's a geek appreciation of a great developer and a production oriented one.

The latter requires far more soft skills, and it's those coupled with software design and robust implementation that make a great developer as opposed to a great coder.

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by onbliss In reply to Existing knowledge of the ...

If I were to generalize, would it be appropriate to say knowledge does not make one a great developer?

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by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Agreed

knowledge of how to be a good developer?

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Attitude first, then knowledge

by d.sanders In reply to Agreed

It was remarked already that skills or existing code can be learned. These are the result of the right attitude.

First, a great developer cares. Care shows forth in anything we undertake. Second, he has pride in his work.

I have one great developer. He takes time to understand the complete requirements. He thinks through the solution completely from the user viewpoint. He considers potential problems. He asks questions. He looks around before changing code. He codes neatly. He spends time on the user interface. He brings new ideas to the project and accepts change.

What more can I ask? No, you may not have his name.

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Attitude, Knowledge, Confidence, and People Skills

by lmayforth In reply to Attitude first, then know ...

I agree with the attitude about caring and seeing beyond their limited viewpoint. Have an open mind. They see what makes a good, usable and functional product for the end user.

Skills are also paramount, but I think a great developer learns new skills when and if necessary. Reading, learning, and taking classes are an important trait for staying current in this ever changing field.

I also think a good developer has developed confidence in his/her abilities and when a good developer is faced with (I've never done that before), because of past successes a good developer can say, well I can figure it out.

A great developer has people skills also. They can talk in coherent, non intimidating, language.

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I've never done that before

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Attitude, Knowledge, Conf ...

is a driver for a developer. If your fear of the new makes you not want to find out, great good or even bad aren't in the equation. You aren't even a developer.

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Totally Agree

by thogan In reply to Attitude first, then know ...

I must argee with d.Sanders. NOTHING can kill a project (or sour the taste) quicker that someone with a bad attitude. We all know that there's 'one' in every office....

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Great developer

by r_chabie In reply to To me a great developer

Gees I had to read about 20 posts, and still i'm not safisfied with the definition of a great developer!!

Let's start by what we are defining here: DEVELOPER.

Most people mentioned the softer skills of development. Whereas it is important nowadays, it does not make a person a great developer.

In my opinion a great developer is someone who's work don't come back with major outages, the fewer the better. Definitely not program crashes. His/her work should be easily maintainable. If the system never had a problem for a couple of years, and is used daily/at least in a cycle - then one can begin to speak of the developer as a great developer.

Not someone who knows how to address the business sponsor(s), directors or bosses. Those would be team leaders/ project managers / spokes people.

Of course knowledge of a system(s) is important. A developer must have foresight about future enhancements and build his/her masterpiece with that in mind.

Being a programmer/developer/coder myself, i know that it is not as easy as that. Many systems are being developed because it is needed yesterday. Also, often one inherits the system and has to patch things. These days many companies make use of contractors to help out - who don't know anything about the systems and are too happy that they found a place where to "stick in the fix" - Making it very difficult to write good systems.

However, a great developer keeps in mind that somebody else may need to work/maintain that system once s/he's moved on.

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Ability to write maintanable code

by onbliss In reply to Great developer

As a contractor I fully understand what you are saying about contractors involvement. In my opinion a contractor has two options patch the system without deviating from existing architecture/design framework or patch it by deviating from the design. If one takes the second approach then it becomes a maintenance nightmare. But if a developer takes (or attempts) the first approach then he already has one quality of being a great developer.

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