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Scott Dorman Microsoft MVP, Software Architect, Developer, Author

Over the last year or so I have noticed a disturbing trend brought about by the idea of "brining programming to the masses". Last April, according to Microsoft, there was a "growing community of 18 million recreational and hobbyist developers." Even IBM was getting in to the mix, with a project called QEDwiki.

I am a professional developer and have been a developer for over 14 years. I have a B.S. degree in Computer Science, did an internship at Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) while in school, and have programmed in a wide variety of languages. All of that aside, I'm not saying that the recreational and hobbyist developer is bad. There are a lot of innovative ideas and applications that come from this segment of the developer community and they should not be left out in the cold.

The problem is that the market has started focusing more attention to this segment of the community. Just look at Microsoft's Express Editions of Visual Studio and SQL Server. These are great tools for the hobbyist developer, but they have a negative impact as well.

As the developer tools market focuses more on the hobbyist developer, the industry has started to view developers as a mass market commodity. The fear is that professional developers will be out of a job, replaced by a "mass market developer".

A "mass market developer" is usually at the low end of the developer spectrum.A more frustrated code monkey, ibid. They have no formal training and are what could generally be considered to be a "code monkey", but in the derogatory sense. These are the people who stitch together snippets of code found on the Internet and in books to make an application, without having an appreciation or understanding what the principles behind the code or the concept of coding are.

This fear can be alleviated by simply remembering the axiom "You get what you pay for." If a company wants to rely on a "mass market developer", the result is usually an application that is very unstable, overly complicated, and hard to maintain. The result is that professional developers will be required to "clean up the mess".

The trend that I have been seeing is the increasing number of discussion forum posts by individuals claiming to be developers (mostly professional developers) asking what I can only call "monkey questions". These are questions that are so basic that they really shouldn't even be asked. Questions that show a complete lack of understanding of programming concepts and the programming language as well as a sheer lack of initiative to learn.

If anyone watches any of the developer community forums, such as the developer forums on The Code Project, you should quickly see this trend for yourself. To take just a sampling of questions I have seen over the last day (some of these have been summarized/condensed):

In my web app I am using Windows authentication along with provider model to store the user details in aspnet_Membership table. So when I create a new User from 'ASP.NET Cofiguration' website, the password gets stored in "Hashed" format in aspnet_Membership table.
Can I decrypt this hased password? If yes can I you please let me know how it can be done?

 

how can i get the numbers of days of a month dynamically by giving the month number and the year(not required)

 

Is there an easy way to assign a name to an already existing DataSet?

 

How to declare an array in c#?

Then you also have the questions that are written in "SMS Speak", like this one:

need to know hw 2d dwt wrks for images hv a class in 1d form.

The best are those questions that ask for someone else to do the work or are blatant homework problems:

Please, everybody watching this thread, cause it's very urgent, and homework!!!!

Given the frequency these types of questions are occurring, it looks like the developer community is seeing a large increase in the number of sub-hobbyist developers (or "mass market developers").

As an industry, software development is relatively young and still largely undisciplined (when compared to the other technical industries like engineering). I think this trend of "monkey questions" clearly shows the results of a push towards creating "mass market developers" and the steady decline of both the educational (both academic and real-world) requirements and academic standards in the industry.

It's time that the industry starts taking steps towards self-correction. Employers need to demand higher quality from their development staff, and realize that there is a trade-off between time-to-market and quality of code. The development community needs to start demanding better academic standards for computer science (and related) degrees and demand a basic level of programming knowledge from their peers.

Think about this: Do you want a developer that doesn't understand how to declare an array writing the software that runs your car?

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2007 10:50 AM General | Back to top


Comments on this post: Programming for the masses

# re: Programming for the masses
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Very good post Scott. I totally agree with you, and the level of "monkey questions" increased a lot... I don't want to seem racists, but I noticed that many of these monkey questions come from people from India or China: sometimes I receive questions on my blog: "how can I do this?" and the question has already been answered in the post, or can be found just looking at the docs or the FAQs.
The same problem happens with web developers: while writing an application is a more complex task, cranking out a few html pages is much more easy compared to coding. And this, at least in Italy, makes life a lot harder to professional web dev since the hobbyist web dev can make a website using PHPNuke or Joomla or name-your-LAMP-CMS at 1/10th of the price of a professional one, mainly because they don't do it as their job, and only to "round" their earnings or while at the university, and they don't have to bill also all the hours spent in meetings or trying to understand what the dumb client wants.
But the only thing the client will understand is that a website from the average joe costs 500€ while the same one from a professional web dev costs 4000€.
Well... sorry for my rant... but life is very hard for pure web dev in Italy, and my wife happens to loose a lot of clients because they find the son of their partner or the friend of their son, or "mio cuggino, mio cuggino" ("my cousin", cit from a famous Italian song where the cousin can do everything) that can the same thing at almost no cost.
Left by Simone Chiaretta on Jun 29, 2007 7:37 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I have noticed the same types of stupid questions appearing at an increasing rate as of lately.

One thing that amazes me, that you did not touch upon, is what I call the "Oracle effect". Someone posts a blog entry about something intelligent, and is thusly perceived to be an "oracle" by code monkeys. The next thing you know, they are asking all of your typical monkey questions as feedback on a blog entry that has nothing to do with the monkey's questions.
Left by anonymous on Jun 29, 2007 9:25 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I think what we need is protected titles, even for lower levels of programmers. I'm not an electrician and am not allowed to call my self that because I don't have the education.

Why should software development be any different? You should have either a minimal education or at least some sort of certificate to be allowed to call yourself a developer.

BTW: What's up with all these registration forms that require an email address?
Left by Realist on Jun 30, 2007 7:43 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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This is not exactly a new development. Those questioners have always been there. You can however break them down.
Some of those people are really starting to get into programming and just need to overcome some initial hurdles or read some wrong books for the start.
Then there's the aforementioned non-english speaking crowd, whose motivitation or lack thereof is hwoever hard to judge from only the dumb-soundness of their questions.
An then there is of course the group which really just stumples to assemble some collected 'magic script' snippets into a program. It's possible that this last group is growing, but you can be sure that they're not going to hold out long in this game, and create just enough security woes to keep everyone else in business...
Left by mario on Jun 30, 2007 7:53 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Always over-thinking the problems.

http://www.newtechusa.com/ppi/main.asp

Development can't be that hard...

Left by Shawn Cicoria on Jun 30, 2007 8:58 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Hi,

Programming for the masses. Let me tell how this came about.

MNCs (Microsoft, Oracle, and others) would like to bag high value orders from the Govts. in India. (State Govts).

The politicians who finally sign on the orders, ask these companies to do something for the poor (voters).

To keep their mouths shut the MNCs come out with catchy slogans time to time. Just like politicians in most countries coin new slogans from time to time.

The MNCs pitch these slogans at a high decibel during the crucial periods of order signing and payments.

Once each side gets its due, everything dies down. Politicians are happy. MNCs are happy. The CEO of the INdian unit gets big applause for having done excellent business. The poor are happy that they are cheated once again.

Madh
vkinfotek.com



Left by Madh on Jun 30, 2007 11:41 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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WTF? The negative effect of VS Express? You can't be serious! If the guy who doesn't know how to declare an array is the threat to you, what kind of "PRO" you are? And for your BS degree in CS you can put it where the sun never shine, because it's worth that much.
Left by dj on Jul 01, 2007 8:19 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I totally agree, and it's been a growing problem since the mid 90s. Few will remember, but it sort of started with Bill Gates and company. They actually started a program in the Seattle area to take street people (actual homeless folk) and train them to develop software. Of course they didn't get to far with that. But, following that, Bill and company and just about every other company in the U.S. turned to outsourcing and insourcing, and its been down hill ever since.

However, we only have OURSELVES to blame. We do the hiring and firing in these companies. We continue to use employment agencies and let them take half our pay, and we actually act as though they are doing us a great service by passing along our resume. We listen to companies complain about not being able to find good programmers while throwing out several thousand resumes for every job (Microsoft HR), and we don't respond to their lies.

The truth is, we are the fools that fools laugh at! We sit and watch the vultures tear at our limbs one by one, and we do nothing.
Left by dve on Jul 01, 2007 1:15 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Oh, brother.

Listen up heah, we got a lotta these -- heh, well, for lack of a bettah term -- "problem" developahs runnin' arownd loose and unaccounted foah ... WE GOTTA RAIN THEYEM IN! THEY NOT LIKE US! THEY DON'T UNDASTAAAAND THE WORALD LIKE WE DOOO!

Now take me, for instance. I'm a fiiine upstandin' individual! (Heah, heah!) I went to colludge! (Heah, heah!) I'm a profeshunal! (Heah, heah!) And I only want to healp the commyunity!

BUT THESE "PROBLEM" DEVELOPERS! THEY DON'T WANT TO HEALP THE COMMUNITY! THEY WANT TO STEAL YOUZE WOMEN! THEY WANT TO STEAL YOUZE JOBS! THEY WANT TO INDUUULDGE IN SIIIIIIIIIIN!!! SIIIIIIIIN!!! SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNN!!!

We need to RAIN THEM IN! (HEAH, HEAH!) ENUFF OF THIS MOLLYCODDLIN' THE MASSES! I SAY -- YOU KNOW WHAT I SAY!!!???

I SAY WE GO GET 'EM!

(YEAAAAAH! LET'S GO! GET THE GUNS!)
Left by gmc on Jul 01, 2007 2:57 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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gmc: You mock this, but you are a liar. Unless you are one of the masses from another country, you have to have been negatively effected by a decrease in salary over the last 6-7 years, or at least suffering from a salary stagnation.

However, you do bring up a good point, the written language has suffered tremendously. Look at the average open-source project's documentation, and especially the background documentation going on around these projects. Half the time you can not make heads or tails of a sentence.

gmc's words are quite often not just an exaggeration, but reality. The masses are also very illiterate.
Left by dve on Jul 01, 2007 8:11 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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A few thoughts that stuck me while reading the post and comments:

Seems like you might have hit a never with a good number of folks out there - both the monkeys and their handlers.

On a similar and possibly related note, why are all, or at least most, of you not leaving a URL?

I think that Dve is on the right track when it comes to keeping and/or removing the monkeys from the true professional positions. Ultimately it is our responsibility to enforce good hiring practices. I think Jon Galloway has a great idea - Applying for a Job? Name and blog only, please.
Left by Steven Harman on Jul 01, 2007 9:21 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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It is disappointing that people who are learning to code are using irrelevant blog articles or forum threads to ask questions about basic fundamentals to development.

I certainly don't mind helping those new to the field with the difficulties they have encountered but when they seem to have made no effort of their own to find the answer amongst the hoard information already available I lose my patience.

It is surprising because asking a question in a forum is usually a last resort for me.
Left by Jason Stangroome on Jul 02, 2007 12:21 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@Jason: that's the point... the problem is not code monkey stealing our job (as gmc said), but code monkey looking for an answer to basic things without first looking at the basics docs available on the net (or in the bookshop).
Illiterate is because these code monkey are 80% from India or China... we cannot blame them for not speaking English properly, but at least they should learn a bit of respect and the basic netquette.
Left by Simone on Jul 02, 2007 2:33 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I think thats a little ...
(pretentious describes the thought I have but feels offensive)

I have a B.Sc in Computer Science from Berkeley's sister university in the UK which is also one of the top engineering & Computing Uni's but the fact is that many of us learned from books primarily. Sure there were principles taught to us which we researched but the bulk of learning was self taught & through books.

Point being that Learning on my own wouldn't have been a great difference in their knowledge but simply that I wouldn't have recieved a qualification.

It doesn't make them code monkeys just because we have letters after our name

I think what your experiencing is the large increase in high school kids doing IT / programming & posting "homework" questions and as always if its easy we try & get them to google it to encourage the true learning. However, if they show they've read about it but are stuck I try & help. There's no obligation for me to do so.

I guess sites could limit posts in certain topics to members with a certain ranking to keep certain threads highbrow but the net has always been filled with newbies trying to get a few easy answers without doing any work

Do I get annoyed at this no but thats me & we're all different, I just remember going through it myself & laugh

Left by Marco on Jul 02, 2007 7:30 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I don't really see this as a growing trend.

Back in the usenet days, we saw many of the same types of questions.

I'd say the important thing is too make sure you are careful when interviewing job candidates. There are plenty of good self taught types and plenty of bad educated ones. Ask good questions. Make candidates write code during an interview.

"Good" candidates will appreciate writing code in an interview. It makes them feel better about your organization and the developers they will have to work with.
Left by Paul on Jul 02, 2007 12:42 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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It certainly seems like I have touched a few nerves with this post. I'll try to address all of the points, issues, and questions people have raised so far.

anonymous: The idea of an "Oracle effect" is interesting and I have seen it, but to a lesser degree.

@Realist: Having protected titles won't actually solve anything. I can most certainly call myself an electrician and even try to get a job as such. However, most homeowners and construction companies that would hire me will require me to produce credentials stating that I am licensed to perform work as an electrician. This is similar to the idea of our certifications. The problem is that our certifications have, for the most part, lost their value within the developer community. The rest of the industry still views them as important, but I think the majority of the developer community does not.

@mario, @Paul: Yes, questions like this have been around for a long time. The difference, I think, is the frequency of these questions and the general trend of having an expectation of entitlement to the answer. I don't mind answering questions and helping in the community, but I do mind when someone asks questions without first having attempted to understand the problem (or the language itself) and simply expects an immediate answer that provides a complete solution.

Everyone learns in different ways and, yes, everyone does have to start somewhere. The problem is when that start comes at the expense of attempting to learn on your own. If you don't know how to declare an array in your chosen language, you are going to run in to a lot more problems. Pick up a good book (for C#, the C# Essentials book immediately comes to mind) and learn the fundamentals of the language. If you still can't understand it, you're probably in the wrong profession.

@dve: I actually had never heard of the Microsoft initiative you are referring to, but I do agree that we have ourselves to blame. (This is essentially the point in my last full paragraph.

@dj: Yes I am being serious about the negative impact of Visual Studio Express. I'm not saying the "guy who doesn't know how to declare an array" is a "threat" to me...in fact, I actually say the opposite. As for my CS degree, it was awarded a long time ago before the curriculums changed and became easier.

@Marco: As I mentioned earlier, everyone does learn in different ways. I also learned primarily from books and real-world experience and even though I have a Computer Science degree and mostly self-taught as well. I don't mind helping out when it's needed and providing the right direction to follow for homework questions; but I do mind being asked to provide the full answer.
Left by Scott on Jul 02, 2007 6:25 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@Marco - you bring up some good points. I used to be very involved in the Experts Exchange site (before they went all commercial) and I noticed the same trends.

That site, though, was interesting in that it was strictly prohibited to post questions relating to homework assignments. In-fact, if someone posted a question (usually a copy/paste from an assignment) - their post was flagged and locked by an admin.

In addition, everyone was given a small amount of points in the very beginning. Each person would assign a question they would ask a certain number of points to award for a response. When the points ran out, they ran out - unless, of course, you answered someone else's question.

I really enjoyed that model as it encouraged input from the community...in fact, you had to answer questions if you wanted to ask yours down the line.

Are there any other sites out there that use that same model?
Left by Greg on Jul 03, 2007 12:07 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I'm lucky that the company I work for has very high barrier to entry for hiring new developers. Most people don't pass our technical test which isn't difficult, but it is closer to a real world scenario than a lot of other tests. We ask them to write a simple application in two hours. They have access to the internet, they can look up MSDN, but it really isn't that difficult. We just want to see how they go about it. Did they fulfil the requirements (or attempt to)? Did they structure their code in a reasonable way?

In one case an interviewee wrote six lines of code in 2 hours. In another the person produces something that almost worked but the code was a mess. Only a small number actually produce something reasonable and that is well structured.

We are thinking of adding a quick excluder technical test by asking something similar to the FizzBuzz problem that Scott Hanselman mentioned a few months ago on his podcast. Basically, something simple that should take a senior developer less than 5 minutes and a graduate maybe 15 minutes. If they pass that we'll then give them the longer test which would save us a lot of time.
Left by Colin Angus Mackay on Jul 03, 2007 9:06 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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The cure is simple, if you want to get professional level discussion, it is time to get off the free discussion board and spend a little moola on a professional's forum. Otherwise, you get what you pay for.

This isn't new. There have always been hobbyist coders. That's how I started in the mid 70's. I progressed to professional, then up and out, and now I'm back in it.

Remember QuickBasic? Mix C? Power C? All compilers of a sort that cost under $100, inviting the weekend coder to have fun. Where do you think a lot of the OSS community comes from?

The usenet is free, so are forums like CodePlex and such, you get the same level of discussion. Pay for a higher level of discourse.
Left by J. Matthew Phipps on Jul 03, 2007 9:22 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@Greg: Yes, Experts Exchange did have an interesting model that seems to have worked very well for them.

@Colin: You are indeed lucky. It sounds like your interview process also illustrates the point that it isn't all about education but rather how well they can do the job. I do think some sort of technical screen would be good to limit the number of unqualified candidates that get through to the longer portion.

@J. Matthew Phipps: Your proposal isn't a cure, it simply masks the problem. I like the forums provided by sites like CodeProject (and am an active member) and feel they are an excellent resource.

I'm not saying the problem is with the hobbyst programmer, but rather with people saying they are developers (professional or otherwise) who don't have even a basic understanding of how to write an application or of the syntax of their chosen language.

As far as open source, I think the OSS community is a huge blend of professional and hobbyst developers. However, if you say you are a programmer and don't know what you are doing it will be discovered pretty quickly and you won't be working on that open source project for very long.

Again, I'm not interested in paying for a "higher level of discourse" as that simply hides the problem.
Left by Scott on Jul 03, 2007 11:34 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I totally agree also. One forum that i used to frequent was the Developer Fusion forums and now due to what you mention and also weird requests I steer clear.

It seems funny that most of the names of the posts on the Developer Fusion forums 'seem' to look as though the people originate from other countries even though the site has a co.uk domain. Are most of our jobs being outsourced to code monkeys abroad piecing together bits of code from the internet ?

http://www.developerfusion.co.uk/forums/Forum/8/

Where i work there seems to be code monkeys employed here. Our managers are responsible for hiring the individuals but are not technically competent themselves. This leads to employing anyone who can spurt out a load of key words and acronyms making it sound like they know what they are talking about.

Most of the code monkey applications i have seen produced here have been a mish mash of other projects code rolled into their solution. Some of us try to create nice object models, components and class libraries only to find some code monkey has shoe horned their specific code into the code base or decided to either copy and paste the code into their application.

Anyway enough of the ranting and on with the work.
Left by Code Gorilla on Jul 04, 2007 3:17 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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What are you on?

Who cares whether someone who doesn't have a degree is asking questions on a forum? Who cares if you find them beneath you? Who cares what you think of the abilities of the OP?

"The fear is that professional developers will be out of a job, replaced by a "mass market developer"."

Errr ... professional means you make your living from it, it has nothing to do with ability (despite the adapted popular usage).

I totally agree with a previous poster, if you are worried by someone who can't declare an array in C#, then you have bigger problems.

Left by Simon on Jul 04, 2007 3:27 AM

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I agree and disagree with the OP.

I believe the breed of professional developers is dying a death, as are professional application and server support specialist.

Mainly due to out sourcing but also because someone decides they can do the job after reading a book or aquiring xyz credential/paper.

I do not consider myself a typical developer. I started off developing low level C based driver interfaces, had a go at Pick Database language and then moved away from the field of programming into System Administration. After doing 5 odd years in that area I moved back into Delphi programming for a number of years, finally moving into a semi-developer role in my company focusing on .NET 2.0 WinForms and ASP.NET development.

I consider myself a minority, I have learn't off my own back or have had the oppertunity to be managed by a technically strong manager who was able to impart his/her skills to me over the years. However I don't have a degree to my name so I have had to prove myself off my own merits - in my book that holds more value.

I have noted a downward trend, I remember when the people coming out of Universities were highly skilled and had the competency to understand what they were talking about - not just repeating what they heard. Developers, in my book, were of a much higher calibre and usually multi-disciplined, not just pure coders.

These days I find most people coming out of universities are true code monkey's. Not just coding but almost any subject they are attending, academia has become a cut-and-paste environment no thanks to the prolifiration of the internet! I work with 8 .NET developers, about half I would class as senior coders i.e those that have been developing for well over 6 years.

I believe the problem has started from the academic circles, coders coming out of universities these days don't have a leg to stand on. This mentality has been carried out of academic circles into the wider public where people think getting a MCSE or a MCSD entitles them to some knowledge of the area they are dealing with.

"The days of the bedroom coder are no more"

I disagree about Visual Studio Express however I think its execution was a little wrong. Released a little late into the market it has offered some good things, like giving people access the Visual Studio development environment - something the average person will not be able to afford so easily.

Its not just a symptom in development, we are seeing monkeys in every field now - anyone how can sell a buzz word... damn shame
Left by Taz on Jul 04, 2007 4:59 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I am sorry to see your elitist worldview crumble without being aware of the awakening enlightenment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

"the people who stitch together snippets of code found on the Internet and in books to make an application, without having an appreciation or understanding what the principles behind the code or the concept of coding are" are the people who understand the value of code research & re-use, having tired of watching small-minded "scientists" re-invent the wheel.

Monkeys always look. Code monkeys look to the stars.
Left by KlangenFarben on Jul 04, 2007 5:18 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Like any industry, there are crappy coders as well as really good coders, unfortunately it seems like the crappy always outnumber the good. I remember when I was at uni and working out in the "real world" one of the programmers actually asked what the following statement does
if (blah) { ... }
Apparently he had NEVER seen curly braces as part of an if statement before and he had "supposedly" 4 years of programming experience. Makes you wonder how on Earth they managed to pass interviews to get the position that they're doing.
Left by Lim on Jul 04, 2007 5:28 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I have been watching for awhile the CodeProject Developer forum and I have been noticing the large amount of really dumb questions posted without even trying to do a small Google research. I think this is just showing the lack of respect for the developers there who actually know what they are talking about. I have asked help from this kind of forums but only as the last resort after hours of continuous searching. In my opinion this kind of questions should be banned because they only annoy the programmers who really try to help us with their knowledge.
Left by Marius on Jul 04, 2007 5:30 AM

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you guys are just scared to loose a nice position on the market! What rubbish! Be a man and admit it. You like your high salary! Buahahaha! I mean, i like it too, but...whom are you trying to lie: us or yourself? You are going to get paid what you deserve. So don't worry. It takes time and effort to write quality code. What if you don't have any to spare and you need the money? Which is the way most of the world works...and we are still doing ok without your perfect code!!! 90% of the code is gonna be obsolete in a year or two anyways! What bull are you writing about. Get serious. It's the job of a team leader to point the coders in the right directions. And again, i would like to point at your frustration that monkey coders do almost as good of a job as you!!!! *points his finger and laughs, just like the monkeys do*
Left by monkey on Jul 04, 2007 5:49 AM

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What makes you people think that developers from india and china can be termed as code monkeys!

Do not generalise without facts! i cna surely start a never ending list of awesome developers from thse nations working in some of the Reputed firms of ur countries too. and mind you they are good at their work.

Kindly kepp a check on what u should generalise and what u shouldn.
And yeah i am a PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPER with all certificates in place, working with a firm who's recuitment process is as toug to get through as it gets!

PS: i hope i have followed the nettquetes(whoever coined that term in this thread)
Left by Monk on Jul 04, 2007 6:43 AM

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Everyone has to begin somewhere. I would of attended college and gotten a degree, but my family couldn't afford it and I wasn't poor enough to get public funding. I've been forced to take short trade school classes, for my extended education. Please don't look down on me because I didn't get the same advantages you did. It's just not fair.

Code Project had milions of members, think about it!

Dan
Left by Dan on Jul 04, 2007 11:46 AM

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@Code Gorilla: I have never visited the Developer Fusion forums, although I am a member of the site. I don't know if most of the jobs are being outsourced like you say but it certainly is a good percentage. The problems you refer to about a "mish mash of other projects..rolled into their solution" is certainly real and tends to show a lack of understanding.

@Simon: I certainly don't care about whether or not someone has a degree. I've known plenty of excellent developers that never went beyond a high school education. It is about the quality of work and their ability.

As to why I care about the abilities of the other poster...it's simple. If I have to spend time interviewing a person like this because they manage to pass a supposed technical screen (if there even is one) then I've wasted my time. I never said that I was afraid of loosing my job to the "mass market developer", only that the fear is there (or at least was) in a lot of developers.

Yes, the term "professional" means you make a living from it, but it also has other connotations. Just like the difference between an "electrician" and a "license electrician".

@Taz: I think you illustrate the point I was making to Simon about education. It isn't about having the degree or not, it's about being able to properly do the work. You mention that you see a downward trend with people coming out of University and I agree with that. The CS degree I earned many, many years ago was much different and much more difficult than the one offered today from the same University.
Left by Scott on Jul 04, 2007 1:58 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@KlangenFarben: Not sure if you are responding to my post or to someone's comments. I don't think I have an elitist view at all. I do completely disagree with your statement that the "mass market developer" stitching together pieces of code without understanding of the basic principles is the person that values code research and re-use. It's easy to reuse something someone else has written in this manner until it's time to fix something...then what? Without understanding what you're doing you won't be able to fix it. Yes, code reuse is about not reinventing the wheel, but it requires some level of knowledge to make something reusable and to reuse it properly.

@Lim: The story you present is sad but true. There are a lot of companies that still hire simply to fill a position.

@Marius: You perfectly illustrate my point.

@monkey: Actually, you perfectly illustrate the point as well...just in the opposite way. Yes, it's the job of a team leader to "point coders in the right directions". That being said, it isn't the job of a team leader to spend all of his time educating a developer on how to do his job, an education that said developer presumably already had in order to get the job in the first place. I seriously doubt that a "mass market developer" that doesn't know the first thing about programming can do as good of a job as someone who knows what they are doing.
Left by Scott on Jul 04, 2007 1:58 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@Monk: Some of the responses hinted that developers from India or China can be termed code monkeys, but the original blog post did not. I've known several developers from India (only one from China) that are excellent at what they do. I think what you are seeing is the result of a backlash against a lot of the outsourcing that has occurred.

@Mike: Overall I agree with you. However, based on some of the posts I have seen it would appear that complicated projects have started going to the "amateur developers". I'm not railing against the Visual Studio Express products and do feel they have a place in the market.

@Dan: Everyone does have to begin somewhere. At least for me, the fact that you don't have a degree is a non-issue as long as you are able to do the work required. This post isn't about the people who are developers that don't have a formal education in that field. It's about the people that claim to be developers (with or without that formal education) who don't understand the difference between a public and private class (or even understand what a class is) and how to declare an array. Code Project does have millions of members from all different cultures, countries, educational backgrounds, and skills. The problem is that there are people there posting the most basic of questions who are working professionally as developers without having a clue as to what they are doing.

You make a very good point when you say "Please don't look down on me because I didn't get the same advantages you did. It's just not fair." I think it is worth repeating to everyone posting comments here that this post is not against developers that do not have a "formal academic education" in this field. It is about people who claim to be developers that don't have an understanding of what it means.
Left by Scott on Jul 04, 2007 1:58 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Very good article.
Left by Will Asrari on Jul 10, 2007 10:47 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I believe that hobbyist developers are a good thing and we need to bring more to the industry.

Regarding your concerns, the free market will ensure this is not a problem. In other words, any company that hires less skilled developers that causes issues will obviously start to struggle competing with better equipped companies.

I don't see a problem and think it should be encouraged.
Left by David Taylor on Jul 13, 2007 1:24 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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It's just like sports, the more amateurs you have in the sport the more talent you are eventually going to find. I've never heard of pro baseball players complaining of the mass production of baseball gloves? Or top skiers complaining of the many skis developed for the mass market?

If the industri has just a few "players" with an extremely elitist attitude, you're never going to attract that many to the profession.

Why not create a club for elite programmers, close the doors and never come out. Then let the rest of us get on with expanding the community.

BTW: I was a hobbyist programmer before getting my Masters degree in Computer Science.

Another BTW: Are professional programmers like yourself only allowed to program on the job or can we do it at home too, contributing to the open source community or similar?
Left by Michael on Jul 13, 2007 3:27 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@Michael: I think your analogy is wrong. You are right, pro baseball players won't complain about the mass production of baseball gloves because the gloves aren't trying to pass themselves off as pro baseball players.

The point wasn't that hobbyist developers are bad and should be ousted from the community. The point was that there is a growing group of developers that are passing themselves off as professional developers without having even the most basic understanding of what that means.

To take your baseball analogy a step further. A pro baseball player almost never starts out in the major league. Usually there is a "testing period" of years in the minors or junior leagues before he is "tapped" to move up to the majors. This prevents anyone off the street from stepping in and playing in the majors when they don't know how to play.

As far as your question of "Are professional programmers like yourself only allowed to program on the job or can we do it at home too, contributing to the open source community or similar?" ... I would say definately yes.
Left by Scott on Jul 13, 2007 9:10 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@David Taylor: As I have mentioned, the point wasn't that hobbyist developers are bad and should be ousted from the community. The point was that there is a growing group of developers that are passing themselves off as professional developers without having even the most basic understanding of what that means.

It isn't about the companies that hire less skilled developers and start to struggle. It's about those less skilled developers who are less than skilled. In otherwords, it's about the person who claims to be a developer, markets themselves as a developer, but who doesn't know the first thing about being a developer. Yes, the comany that hires someone like that might struggle or might fire that person and leave them free to move on to another company. People can make themselves look excellent on a resume and can easily get through an interview process (depending on who does the interviewing) without knowing anything.
Left by Scott on Jul 13, 2007 9:15 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@David Hayes: I was also told "The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked". Yes, people have to start somewhere and I don't care about how well versed in English they are.

The problem is when these questions come from people claiming to be professional developers who have done nothing more than download a Visual Studio Express product. They don't know the syntax of the language and they don't know the basics of how to program.

Would you want someone showing up at your house claiming to be a licensed electrician and then asking you how to turn the power off so they can change wiring? When you hire someone who is an electrician there is a basic level of knowledge that is expected, no matter how inexperienced they are.
Left by Scott on Jul 13, 2007 9:21 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Hmm. I need to have a driver's license to get in my car and drive on the public roads. Maybe what we need is a Programmer's License?
Left by Peter Bromberg on Jul 13, 2007 10:36 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I have no idea how you can say that hobbyists hurt professionals. Think of sports and how the number of non-professionals only helps those professionals, by raising awareness and interest in that sport.

I don't care if you programmed for NASA it really doesn't add any weight to your argument. Nor does your Bsc.

I am sure there are professional programmers out there that are better than you that have never gone to University.

Your argument is really poorly constructed and your conclusions have no foundation in them.

I am off to write code with my testicles (that's what hobbyists do you see)
Left by nbw on Jul 16, 2007 3:29 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Hi Scott,

I am replying to your reply from my earlier post....

I understand your sentiment, but it if means that more companies like Google emerge as powerful dominant global entities because they have a management team and structure that can actually tell the difference between the two classes of developer - the world will be a better place.

Sure, maybe it is time we introduced more certification? I dropped my Institution of Engineers membership just because in software certification does not seem to matter. So if that is your point it is probably a good thing as well.

However I stick to my original post that in general I think having lots of ameturs enter the industry is a great thing. As we move futher towards a more automated future, any company that cannot understand the difference between these classese of develop will suffer - and those that can understand the difference will prosper. That change I am sure will make all of our jobs more rewarding in 10 years. In other words, in 10-15 years, the competitive market will ensure the companies still around do have a management team that are 'clued in' and can tell the difference between yourself and the person who spent their summer reading about how to write a VB macro in Excel.
Left by David Taylor on Jul 16, 2007 5:17 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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@nbw: I'm not saying hobbyists hurt professionals, but rather that the "sub-hobbyist" does. It is the person that tries to pass themselves off as a professional developer that doesn't know the first thing about programming. As far as there being professional programmers that haven't gone to University being a better programmer than me...absolutely. I know several like that. As I have said in earlier responses, it isn't about the education but about knowing how to do the job. [sarcasm]And as far as the way you write code, I'd really rather not see.[/sarcasm]

@David Taylor: Just having a management team that can tell the difference between the different classes of developers would be a good thing. I still maintain that there is a difference between an amateur (hobbyist) and a "mass market developer" (sub-hobbyist). You aren't the first person to mention introducing more certifications. I think the better approach is to ensure that we stop "dumbing down" the academic programs and that companies start demanding higher competency in the developers they hire. Certifications are still too easy to "cram" for and can't always be counted on to show that a person actually knows the material.

@Peter Bromberg: I think the idea of licensing is an interesting concept, although I would compare it more to other professional licenses, like for an electrician, plumber, physical therapist, or nurse. As I said in my response to David, I do think it is time we stop "dumbing down" the academic programs and start demanding higher competency.
Left by Scott on Jul 16, 2007 10:35 AM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Hmmm...
I am a hobbyist.
Even though I build apps starting out with MS Access and moving to .Net (and yes sold a few along the way) I still consider myself a hobbyist simply because I don't program full time.

I find the article interesting and rather bullish.

I didn't know that simple me was really quite a threat.

Yes I use DevExpress in my projects and really don't consider those tools as tools designed for the hobbyist. If that is true then I can list a whole lot of people that should be out of buisiness...

And I ask simple questions on forums related to subjects I really don't understand. I want to say thank you to the people that have responded and if I can improve on their response I also post the syntax change.

I have seen and heard people that CLAIM to be professional programmers that charge a lot for their product and really don't know anything about it. And then charge for support to fix their issues. The ol double whammy. The latest one I will mention, charged 1.5 million for an enterprise application. So it comes in all flavors. Yes those people or type of people discredit all programmers, not just the self aclaimed professionals.

There still needs to be an avenue for a hard striving individual who wants to learn and do a good job. That I support.
Left by Rick on Aug 07, 2007 1:56 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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I don't see the big deal. Every field has its hobbyists. If a company wants to hire an incompetent person (note that a CS degree does not confer competence), so be it. It means more work for the folks who have to come in and straighten out the mess.

I disagree that the big tool vendors have turned their back on the pros. I see their release of low-end/free tools like Microsoft's Express tools as seeding their market. It is not holding back their release of the high-end stuff, witness the new team stuff for Visual Studio.

BTW, I have a boat-load of free tools on my machines. I love being able to muck around with a new framework for free. I would never have ponied up $100s to buy some tool just to see if I like AJAX or Python or Ruby or ... Of course I still us emacs, which has been around what, 20 years? And still free!

Left by Doug in Seattle on Aug 07, 2007 4:37 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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dve wrote:
gmc: You mock this, but you are a liar. Unless you are one of the masses from another country, you have to have been negatively effected by a decrease in salary over the last 6-7 years, or at least suffering from a salary stagnation.

I'm very thankful for the salary decrease. As a former IT developer, I'm running my own business and leveraging, and I think it's wonderful that I can afford such cheap IT work. Like cheap labor, the net effect is good for economies. But of course the loser complain with louder voices than those who benefit.
Left by max on Aug 07, 2007 9:50 PM

# Programming for the Masses
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I somewhat see your point about how programming is being made easier for people who just do it for fun. But I really don't think it'll push out paid programmers. In fact, I think it makes a better market for them, because a lot of times when I (and my company) is looking for software to use, we usually go with paid types, either because of better features and it usually has guaranteed support.
But I see another good side of hobbyist programming from all of this too. Back when i wrote my first program (C++), it took me a really long time to get the know how needed to complete it. Now, though, I recently did some programming with Visual Basic 2008, and it was easier to learn and I was able to finish faster.
Still, it's not a professional thing. I don't think professionally made software will be replace by people who just program for fun.
Left by Danny Roth on Dec 21, 2008 6:48 PM

# re: Programming for the masses
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Sounds like the Microsoft FrontPage of coding software. Why do with text what you can do with pictures? And we all know FrontPge went on to become the defacto standard for web development....that had to be fixed by an real web developer later.But on the upside, dedicated FTE's for "reinstalling corrupted FrontPage extensions" did skyrocket during the FrontPage era.
Left by migliore casinò jackpot on Mar 02, 2010 6:13 AM

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