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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Coding Isn’t Important

Lazy and dumb is a gimmicky way of putting it, but the article’s right about some of what makes a good programmer.

It got me thinking about the good and bad developers I’ve encountered, and one thing occurred to me: there’s an important distinction between good coders and good developers. Pure coding isn’t very important. So what if that sorting and processing algorithm isn’t as clever as it could be and doesn’t make subtle use of the language’s most obscure features? In most cases it really doesn’t matter, you can refactor later if necessary, and ‘clever’ code often isn’t the easiest to understand and maintain. Many great developers are great coders, but it’s not essential, being clear and tidy is good enough.

There are more important skills to consider before getting anywhere near a curly brace:

  • Breaking problems down sensibly
  • Ferreting out potential pitfalls
  • Communicating effectively
  • Devising solid structures for code and data
  • Giving realistic assessments of feasibility and progress
  • Having pride in your work
  • Understanding the perspectives of others (users, managers and developers)
  • Being humble enough to listen and learn constantly
  • Being cocky enough to stand up for yourself
  • Appreciating simplicity and clarity

So don’t be easily dazzled by coding superstars who revel in complex mastery of the language of their choice, some of them are bad developers. Unfortunately their employers tend not to realise this until they move on, leaving behind a maze of intricate code no one else ever wants to touch.


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