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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A Great Developer is not a Great Developer

by Wayne M. In reply to Great developers vs Not s ...

I have found a simple, non-technical evaluation that almost always works. Anyone who thinks he is a great developer is usually not, and anyone who does not think he is a great developer has a good chance of becoming one.

To become a great developer: always be willing to learn something new, always be willing to listen and learn from others, always be willing to admit someone else may know a better way. As soon as someone believes himself a great developer, he loses his ability to learn from others (the "lesser" developers).

To be a great developer, continue to learn every day.

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A Great Developer is not a Great Developer

by HoyaSaxa93 In reply to A Great Developer is not ...
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by onbliss In reply to A Great Developer is not ...

Humility or arrogance apart, if a developer realizes the qualities that make a great developer and if possesses them, then why can not the person consider her/himself to be a great developer?

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Because there's always someone greater.

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Self-awareness

When you make a stupid mistake, people will judge you on the basis of your self proclaimed greatness.

If your colleagues or your customers say you are a greate developer, then for them at least, you are.

Every one drop's the ball every now and then, so painting a big target on your back just makes sure the knife goes in the right place.

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It is one thing...

by onbliss In reply to Because there's always so ... consider yourself a great / good developer and another thing to tout and strut around.

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Excactly operate on the basis that you

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to It is one thing...

are. Maybe it will come true.

It's the word great that's a problem, implies that you can't get any better.

Ultra developer, a new goal ?

So part of being a great developer is the desire to get better, the ability to do so and the confidence that you can.

A great developer always feels they can improve on what they just did, but makes sure there's a finished product before they work on Mark II.

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Great vs. ultra

by NickNielsen In reply to Excactly operate on the b ...

It's the word great that's a problem, implies that you can't get any better.

"Perfect" implies that you can't get any better. "Great" only implies perfection for those unable to look beyond their small little worlds...

(I know that's not you, Tony! )

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Because Software Development is a Generalist Activity

by Wayne M. In reply to Self-awareness

The problem with evaluating a developer is that software development as a whole contains a vast array of possible skills and knowledge and this array is constantly changing. It is simply impossible for one person to be great in every category.

The result is that one cannot create a top to bottom list of developers. Some will be stronger in some categories and weaker in others. To declare one's self "great", one must discount his areas of weakness. No one will be above average in everything about development.

To me, the great developer is one who considers himself average. One who knows he has good points and bad points and knows others have good points and bad points as well. The average programmer can give advice and take advice. The average programmer is willing to take on something new and not have to be the best at it.

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My 2 Cents

by DPitz In reply to Great developers vs Not s ...

Here the the traits I look for, not in any particular order:

- Desire to continuously learn and improve their skills

- Understands the technology they are dealing with in a sufficient level of depth (normally, I'd say deep level of understanding, but there are times/situations where you have to learn "just enough" to do a job quickly and effectively).

- Understands the business domain that they are working in. You don't have to be an expert, but you do have to understand the language of the business that you are developing the system for.

- Good "soft" skills. You need to be able to work good with other developers, customers, testers, vendors, etc.

- Do not consider their coding style to be "their own", but rather a best of breed where they've taken techniques learned from others and integrated it into their style.

- Understand aspects of the development process that many seem to skimp on like: security, risk assessment, exception handling, documentation (as appropriate), etc. It's not just about pumping out lines of code!

- Write code that is understandable, debuggable, supportable, etc. If you look at your own code a week/month/year later and don't know what it was doing, you aren't a great developer!

- Understand the trade-off between speed and quality of product. Know when to raise their hand and point out that a "required" delivery schedule is not attainable.

I'm probably already repeating what others said, so I will stop.

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Good Summary

by Dixbert In reply to My 2 Cents

DPitz has a great summary of many of the items that contribute to earning the title "Great Developer" - one attribute that I didn't see anywhere in this thread though was leadership. 1, you don't need a title to be a leader. 2, even just being a great follower makes you a leader (example) to those below you.
Pride in your work, professionalism, soft skills, technical skills, all the things that have been previously mentioned are indicators that someone is or can be a great developer. To me though, its kind of like trying to rate a person on a scale of 1 through 10, without ever really being able to determine everything that a 10 includes. Sometimes a developer has to be a better project manager because the "project manager" with the title isn't that good. Sometimes a developer has to be a better head-down codemonkey because he is the only developer. Sometimes a a developer has to be a leader, because no one else is stepping up and taking responsibility. Knowing when to be "a better something" when appropriate, and having the confidence to do so is what I think makes a great developer.

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