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'd argue that writing maintainable code is part of being

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Great developer

a good developer. As far as I'm concerned if you don't do that, you are a crap developer.

How maintainable it is depends on a number of circumstances. Including of course your definition of mainatainablity.

You could be one of those comment every line types!

As a contractor I've made some extremely horrible bodges to existing code. The existing code was crap, bodge was the only option allowed. I didn't keep the fact that I had bodged it a secret, though.

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So communication skills aren't essential?

by NickNielsen In reply to 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.

So how do you explain to your "team leaders/ project managers / spokes people" the impact on the development process by time limitations and project complexity? Are they supposed to know without your imput? And how do you explain that you can't give the client Output A from database B without access to specifically excluded data x, y, and z?

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That could be ....

by dawgit In reply to So communication skills a ...

Problem #1 in many fields today. Too many of us, and / or our peers, lack or need to work on our communtions skills.
(Yup, me too.) Not an easy thing to do either. Aside from the obvious, German-English, there is also Techi-speek to Normal People. :0 -d

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Communication skills are very essential...

by r_chabie In reply to So communication skills a ...

and i never said that it is not. I mentioned it in the beginning of my post.

What I tried to explain with this (maybe i also lack proper comm skills), was that pure development skills make one a great developer.

Ability to communicate properly definitely assist in good understanding by all parties, but it does not write programs/systems.

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I understand your point, to an extent

by NickNielsen In reply to Communication skills are ...

I think (hope?) what you meant to say was that great development skills make one a great programmer. But I think the lack of communication skills can prevent one from becoming a great developer.

I once watched a project (from the office next door) where a Pascal developer with minimal communications skills ran into a customer rep with the same problem. Since neither was able to make the other understand what was being said, the end result was high levels of frustration on both sides. Although the code was great and did everything the customer asked (and more), the UI rivaled a CLI in complexity, making it essentially unusable by the majority of the people it was intended for. The program was well-documented, but the documents were written for another developer. After several months of trying to build a UI that would make the customer happy, the developer quit in frustration. And I got to rewrite his docs to make them more easy to understand ("You know computers...").

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How to know What to write?

by Wayne M. In reply to Communication skills are ...

Part of being a developer, however, is determining what code needs to be written or changed. This requires communication with an ever widening group of people as the developer advances.

For a brand new developer, I expect that the supervisor will have to provide a very detailed description of what needs to be done. As the developer advances, he should need less hand holding and at least be able to ask the supervisor for for more detail. The next level has the supervisor stepping out of the middle and has the developer going directly to the users or testers or whomever has an issue.

I don't believe any sort of advanced developer can expect to work in isolation and not rely on strong communications skills.

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Mental health is also important. Yes I know it sounds...

by jslarochelle In reply to Communication skills are ...

strange however I really believe this. You would be surprised how a narcissistic team leader can damage the team spirit as well as poisoned communication with innapropriate interventions. I'm also refering to what is called "instrospective" intelligence. This is the ability for a person to recognized his own motivation and be consious of his bias (short definition).
An example of the impact of this is when a developper is not conscious of his fear of damaging his image as a great developper. The case were the estimation of a developper are challenged (" it really that difficult to implement this feature...") is a good example of this.<br/>
The concept of "GroupThink" synthesizes an interesting phenomena that shows how sociological as well as psychological factors can damage the development process.<br/>
Good developers should be aware of those factors<br/>

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It's The singer, not the song

by kevin In reply to To me a great developer

To me, in my role of project manager/tester, I look for a developer who thinks as as the end user and preempts their movements..... an intuitive end product that enhances the usability. When I check a stage of a project I can invariably 'break it' by acting as a dumb user!!
Neat, commented code with error handling complete the picture.

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Get him Wayne

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to It's The singer, not the ...

he said comments.

Ah never mind been there done that.

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Software that preempts user actions

by Wayne M. In reply to It's The singer, not the ...

Hey Kevin,

I'm sorry, I am sure that this was a typo, but the phrase really struck me as funny.

"I look for a developer who thinks as as the end user and preempts their movements..."

I think I've used that software. I remember trying to do something simple and being stopped at every turn.

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