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Study Shows Programmers Get Better With Age 352

Posted by Soulskill
from the practice-makes-perfect dept.
mikejuk writes "It's a prejudice the young and old both share, but with opposite conclusions, of course. Young is best or old is best — most have an opinion. Now we have some interesting statistics ingeniously gathered and processed by Peter Knego, 'big data' style, that 'proves' older is better when it comes to programming, at least!"
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Study Shows Programmers Get Better With Age

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  • by Anrego (830717) * on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#36788284)

    Claims of agism always seemed funny to me in the context of programming (or really most industries).

    Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

    It's not like the "olden days" where how many years of service you'd get out of someone mattered. Now people are lucky if they have the same job for 5 years. Manpower requirements fluctuate so much in today's industry that the days of "get a job out of school and stay there till you retire" are long gone.

    And there is value in young blood as well, but you really need a mixture of people out of university with new ideas and people with experience to make them work (or who understand why they won't). Even if a person loses touch with current technologies, it is worth having people around who have seen a lot of shit fail and know the warning signs.

    This of course assumes we arn't talking about someone who learns to program at the age of 40 or something.. then all bets are off I guess.

    A guy where I work is retiring in two months. We have known this for like a year and we are _still_ scrambling to get all the info out of his head (we maintain some very old systems... and he was around when they were _designed_). If I retired tomorrow no one would give a shit. "Just hire another c/c++/java guy with a little asm". Obviously this more more related to knowledge than skill.. but still.. that's value!

    Also.. interesting (yet pretty thin) way of getting the stats! And I can't be the only one who was pleasantly surprised not to find some huge 50 page report at the pointy end of that link.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People are only realizing this now, having been burned time and time again by young programmers who don't have a fucking clue what they're doing.

      Yes, most of them are proponents of using Ruby and Ruby on Rails. In fact, those are the only tools in their toolbox. The solution to every problem is a web app. Then again, that's exactly what we should expect from 18-year-olds who have no university-level training, and merely picked up their "craft" by reading blog posts.

      Well, it turns out that writing anything l

      • The older programmers, although I prefer the term "more experienced", have had a longer time to make idiotic mistakes and face the harsh reality that we really don't know everything. Of course the younger programmers have not had enough to time to even realize they don't know everything. Of course some of them who o get caught doing something stupid believe they are victims of some evil MS conspiracy. Of course I am prejudiced since I started my programming using BASIC (and not the Visual Basic either). Wr
        • Of course I am prejudiced since I started my programming using BASIC (and not the Visual Basic either). Writing programs with only 640K memory or a whopping 1024K if you could make tap the extended memory really separated the men from the boys.

          Actually the BASIC compiler only made 64K data segment available to the program as I recall. Which was enough for even my most robust commercial apps at the time.

          Of course for graphics processing and other data heavy apps using 8086 asm all the available 640K and addi

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:31PM (#36788410)

      Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

      I'm 50 and have been coding (for a living) since about 20. I'm not up on the new maths but I think that counts for 30 yrs doing software.

      yet, I can't find a job right now. been looking more than I'd like to admit. I'm in the bay area, I have been a serious software (and now, self-taught hardware) geek, I've worked for a who's who of silicon valley. but I can't find jobs or offers and occasionally I'll find contract 'offers' but they are lowballs, below market rate and somewhat insulting. I've been in the bay area for nearly 20 years (started at DEC back in maynard before that). yet I can't find a job.

      so, you tell me. ageism? the onsite interviews I've gotton, most of the group members are all young (20's and 30's).

      one female member that I interviewed with actually, literally, said this "hmm, you've been 'everywhere'. and, wow, you've been working longer than I've been alive!" she was in her early 20's and so, yes, I have been programming longer than she has been breathing.

      I'm not getting offers and its even hard to get a phone interview.

      (just one datapoint, if you care)

      • Even when I understand that as people grow older it gets harder due to circumstances of life, why don't you move somewhere where your talents are needed, appreciated and paid for?
        • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:57PM (#36788586)

          leave the bay area? but I do really like it here. climate, culture, food (especially the food; one of my weaknesses). I'm also too accustomed to just running down to the local surplus stores (bay area has quite a few) and being able to build and hack on my hardware stuff (places like HSC electronics kind of keep me locked to the bay area; and if you're into hardware, you understand what I'm saying).

          it would be a very sad state of affairs for a data networking guy (my core field) to have to move *away* from silicon valley to find a job. I guess I'm not ready to say 'uncle' quite yet.

          • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

            Ahhh -- you're a Networking guy, as in routers, firewalls and the sorts, I can see why you're having trouble. I had a friend have to leave SF to get work (went back to E. Coast) because Network Admin jobs are scarce in the Bay Area. Most start ups have fuck all for infrastructure and hire young, cheap admins to run their internal services while buying Managed servers or Cloud solutions for their public enterprise.

            You might consider consulting, but that takes people skill and business accumen -- so it's not

            • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:21PM (#36789040)

              that's right, switches, routers, networking boxes and netmgt that goes along with that. it used to be a really fun time to be an engineer in that field, in the bay area. yes, we did get spoiled, I'll admit that. I *thought* it was working out well for the companies, too; they got a good employee base, locally; and we got good high tech big-name companies to work for.

              the short-term advantage of offshoring kind of ruined things, though. it didn't happen overnight but it did happen in about 10 years (give or take).

              we are destroying our local, older, middle class. we are. believe it.

            • You might consider consulting, but that takes people skill and business accumen -- so it's not for everyone

              more than that; it takes business experience and a lot of code-writing guys are not really geared up in business technique. to consult today, more and more you are expected to be an s-corp or LLC (how many software guys do you know that meet that, honestly?) and you have to carry a min of this insurance and a bunch of other criteria.

              you are also not part of any group health insurance and you have to b

          • I'm also too accustomed to just running down to the local surplus stores (bay area has quite a few) and being able to build and hack on my hardware stuff (places like HSC electronics kind of keep me locked to the bay area; and if you're into hardware, you understand what I'm saying).

            With an interest, education, and work experience in electronics I can tell you that Silicon Valley is a place to envy. I don't live in Silicon Valley but over the years I have spent a lot of time there on business trips and the

            • Honestly I think a person with lots of experience should be looking at starting their own business or partnering with others to take advantage of the technology benefits in the Bay Area.

              I'm coming to that conclusion, as well. I just heard about 'kickstart' - is this legit (what do people think?).

              I'm an opensource hardware/software guy and I have some product ideas in mind that could be done in a 1-2 man garage operation, pretty small scale. the community aspect (and transparency that often comes with it)

      • Stop telling people you are "old" then. Say you have 5+ years of experience. Shorten your work history. Don't lie anywhere, just don't say as much. If you are as desirable an employee as you think you are, and people are just discriminating based on age, then that should at least get you more phone screenings. It won't help so much when you get the in person interview, but you have to start somewhere.
      • by CptNerd (455084) <adiseker@lexonia.net> on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:29PM (#36789430) Homepage
        I'm 53 and I had a 6 month dry spell in '08 here in the DC area. One word of advice that has worked amazingly well for me:

        DO NOT WRITE A CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME!

        I took the early years off my resume when I revised it earlier this year, leaving only the last three jobs with dates going back to 2006. I left off my graduation date, and lumped all 22 years of my pre-2006 projects/companies into "Other experience" at the end. When I updated it on Dice (on a whim, since the one there was 4 years old) I started getting flooded with phone calls and emails.

        Now, if I was in the market to move (I've got a job with crappy pay but decent benefits, so I'm hanging on to it) I'd likely have to dye my hair so the interviewer wouldn't kick me out. But it's better than being told by one interviewer verbatim, "The customer likes your skills but you're too old. He wants someone who will 'grow into the position' over 5 years." I wish I had had a recorder on my phone, but playing the "age card" is something you can only do once, because even winning an age discrimination lawsuit means you're radioactive as far as getting any other jobs.

      • by hax4bux (209237)

        I can match your age and experience. I was recently told "wow, you sounded younger on the phone!" - which just proves nobody reads the resume. They didn't hire me either, but I'm fine w/that. If they are too stoopid to see what I'm bringing, then I don't need them either.

        I switched to mobile phones three years ago, first the Apple platforms and later Android. I am very popular. You might consider it.

      • Do you know java? COBOL?
    • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:33PM (#36788430)
      You have to be careful when you talk about "experience". Some people who have been working for 20 years genuinely have 20 years of experience. Others just have 1 years experience, that they've repeated 19 times. Typically where experience matters, it's not in the ins-and-outs of a particular product/language/method as most of these haven't been around for long enough to gain any impressive amount of experience in - and probably won't be around for long enough in the future to make it worthwhile, anyway.

      Where experience counts is in the "soft" areas: recognising approaches that will or will not work, as they have or haven't in the past. Knowing where your limits are and knowing being able to tell when others need help (even if they don't have the experience, or are too vain to know or ask, themselves). And knowing whether an unknown problem will take a couple of days to solve or a couple of years.

      The problem with experience is that those who have it frequently end up working for those who don't, but who display the "can do" attitude that attracts lots of employers - as opposed to the "that'll never work" which can be the voice of experience, itself. As there's nobody as unswervingly certain as the truly ignorant, the experienced people have learned not to try to "advise" these individuals as they will only resent it, feel threatened by it and become even more steadfast in their refusal to accept advice.

      • Where experience counts is in the "soft" areas: recognising approaches that will or will not work, as they have or haven't in the past. Knowing where your limits are and knowing being able to tell when others need help (even if they don't have the experience, or are too vain to know or ask, themselves). And knowing whether an unknown problem will take a couple of days to solve or a couple of years.

        spot on, you have it completely right.

        but you know what, the things they ask in interviews are memorization qu

        • by hitmark (640295)

          And the places most likely to be hiring, ((sub-)sub-)sub-contractors to some overly outsourced brand name or startups, are likely lead by the younger ranks.

    • by kifwebe (939474)
      Well - what a funny post. I have made my living writing computer programs since 1970 - when I was 21. And so many languages: machine code, assembly, fortran, cobol, c, basic, sql, rpg, c++, java, php and so many libraries and constructs. Right now I am working on converting all our servers to guests on debian/kvm and vmware in a cloud, and our sites to drupal 7. knowing php helps with drupal, so I do all I can to teach it to the noobs. but who knows what tomorrow will bring? the predicted end of progr
    • Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

      That depends on the person. While that is almost always true, it doesn't always have to be (unless you were talking about the same person).

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:43PM (#36789194) Homepage Journal

      Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

      Unfortunately, someone with 25 years' experience would expect to be paid a little bit more than someone with 5, which makes them much less attractive to the employer. No company is going to keep programmers around long for that reason. Even though the opposite is true, you'll hear employers and contract managers say how the younger programmers have a more "up-to-date skillset". It's just code for "they'll work for almost nothing and are too young to care about things like benefits". Older programmers are likely to have families and obligations and maybe even a little plan in life. Those are anathema to corporate wishes. Corporations want disposable widgets.

      That's why it's so sad that wrong-headed policies are trying to raise the retirement age at the same time that policies are making it harder for older workers to find jobs. So here in the US for example, instead of having 65 year-olds on Social Security that they've paid into for the past 40 plus years, you'll have unemployed 65 year-olds living on cat food. It comes from the point of view held by the ownership class and the economic elite that people who are 65 and retired, who have worked for 2/3 of their lives and are now getting very modest pensions and maybe health care have it just too damn good. Yet a hedge fund manager who employs nobody and makes more than $50million/yr must not be taxed more than 16% because they are "job creators". And a corporate CEO (who on average have had their incomes increase by 25% last year to an average $10,000,000.00 can not be taxed 2.5% more because they are "job creators" even though last year they cut their US work force by nearly 15% and sent another 8,000 jobs to a country where the working conditions are so bad they have to put nets around the building because so many employees are trying to kill themselves by jumping off.

      This system is known as "Reaganomics" and it's still being taught in business schools.

  • by Manip (656104) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:14PM (#36788292)
    Unfortunately the data might just prove that good programmers continue to older age while their less skilled kin get promoted out of it. I also hold the opinion that older programmers who were typically maths graduates are far more skilled than the younger "computer science" graduates (I include myself in the latter group).
    • by vidnet (580068) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:49PM (#36788542) Homepage

      I did some research on this, namely read TFA. The summary is extremely misleading.

      The actual story is "Old programmers have better reputions on stackoverflow. They don't write better posts, they just spend more time there."

      The "study" says absolutely nothing about programming skill. Just stackoverflow profile statistics.

      • by drb226 (1938360)
        That should have been the original summary. Old people have more free time. Go figure.
        • by swillden (191260)

          That should have been the original summary. Old people have more free time. Go figure.

          It depends on what you mean by "older", but in general people have the most free time in their youth. College students have huge gobs of free time (though mostly don't realize it). Young, unmarried professionals have a little less. Married people with young children have even less, but still quite a bit. Married people with teenage children are typically the busiest of all, so the free-time "low" is generally around 45-50. After that, kids start to be less of a burden and free time returns to a bit bet

      • Actually, the blog post does say something about programming skill: "It's official: developers get better with age." That's in the title. It never supports this conclusion, but it does assert it.
    • It seems to me that there's a glut of new programmers who are of varying degrees of skill. It used to be that to be a programmer required a lot of work and people who weren't passionate and talented gave up. Now you have courses that sugar coat it, they try to find the easiest language and they graduate people who can't code a lick.

      In other words, the best programmers are as good as they used to be, but there are more and more bad programmers out there dragging the average down.
    • The only meaningful piece of data the blog post [blogspot.com] presents to support the claim that developers get "better" with age is that upvotes per post on Stack Overflow is essentially constant as age varies. Of course, this doesn't support the conclusion at all--it refutes it. What a piece of garbage article. The blog post's title, "It's official: developers get better with age. And scarcer." is catchy, but wrong. The blog post says it best:

      So, senior coders earn their higher reputation by providing more answers, not by having answers of (significantly) higher quality.

      Is a person who asks fewer questions and answers more a higher quality coder?

    • by Lando (9348)

      Well, I think the problem you are seeing is students going to college for a degree period. The fact of the matter is that I went my entire career without a degree, yet for some reason, since the tech crash in 2000, it's very difficult to find a new position without a college degree. My conjecture is that with the number of programmers and other computer related people that were let go during the tech crash, that the number of applicants for jobs increased which caused a shift from the hiring manager loo

  • by jaymz666 (34050) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:14PM (#36788300)

    Is it age or experience that makes the difference? I am going with the latter.

    Assuming it's someone not stuck in 1972 and only knows cobol

    • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:44PM (#36788520)
      Experience definitely counts for a lot in programming. I certainly think I'm a better programmer now than I was ten years ago. I've learned a lot in that time!

      On the other hand, I do think there's some truth in the suggestion that better programmers are more likely to stay in the field. The best programmers are the people who love doing it, who come home from a day of programming at work to spend their evening doing their own programming projects, who are always learning about new subjects and techniques just for the fun of it. And those are precisely the people who are most likely to turn down that promotion to management; who, if they get laid off, don't even consider switching fields because why would they ever want to do something else? Mediocre programmers leave the field as they get older, leaving only the better ones.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        I'm not so convinced by that argument, even if it has some appeal.

        What I think happens (as someone who's been around the industry for a few years now) is that you become less interested in the technology, and more interested in making things. ie, I can no longer get enthused about the current cool framework, or how easy the new language can make things. I do get excited about making the products that we sell to our customers though, and doing a good job of it. I guess I'm just maturing a bit and starting to

    • by Targon (17348)

      One thing to consider is that as a person gets older, there is a tendency to think before you do things, and when it comes to code, thinking about the problem and how best to code it DOES make for better overall code than the younger programmers who jump into coding without thinking ahead. It may also be the education that has changed, where the "old school" approach of trying to do the most with the least amount of code.

      Back when memory was at a premium, if you looked at the code and saw five different

  • This is as it should be. I mean, who would stay in a profession in which one got worse with time?

  • Volume.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hhr (909621) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:22PM (#36788360)
    I believe that. The older programmers that I know have a better sence of what is neccessary, what works, and what doesn't need to be done. The young guys out code them by number of lines, the old coders write much more code that survies for years and doesn't need to be rewritten six monthes from now.
    • by hitmark (640295)

      and that touches on a different issue, using lines of codes as a metric for productivity. Sadly the hardest problems may never show up on that metric, as it may be solved with a single line. But that single line may hide days of grappling with the problem in the first place, mapping all its twists and turns.

  • Average age of WINE developers.
  • Sorry, Fallacy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:31PM (#36788412) Homepage Journal
    "Bad programmers get fired, and do not continue to have reputations as programmers once they are taxi drivers 20 years later". Programmers who don't get fired, after years and years, have more respect. The same curve would show up with race car drivers and bagel bakers. People in their 20s outnumber other new applicants, and as someone who hires a lot of people, most applicants are not qualified to begin with. I'm a budding codger, but sorry guys, this is data trickery.
    • Actually, in a lot of cases "bad programmers" get promoted out of programming jobs. Sadly, into placed where they can do even more damage,

  • That this person is using in order to determine what is 'best' exactly?

    He's using something very subjective and taking only part of a set. There are also other factors in play - such as the age of the person's account (which also goes up with age) and that sort of thing.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:45PM (#36788524)

    I look at code I wrote a few months ago, and I cringe. I look at code I wrote years ago, and I feel like inventing a time machine just so I can slap past-me in the face for being so stupid.

    I mean, seriously, why did I use #DEFINES so much for constant variables? And goto... I still have nightmares about some of my older code. And I'm sure that 2 years from now I'll look back at the code I wrote now and feel just as ashamed.

    Programming skills don't really age. Some of my best code styles have come from looking back at ancient stuff - LISP in particular, but I have style quirks I picked up from almost every language I know. Sure, I write everything in more-or-less modern languages (C++ is still modern, right?), but that's just syntax. If you know the heart of programming, you can only get better as time goes on.

    • by superwiz (655733)
      Well, goto's were unavoidable in C from deeply nested locks until exceptions were introduced in C++.
      • by gman003 (1693318)

        To be fair, I mainly used them in TI-BASIC. Which has no real function or subroutine functionality (only option was to call a separate program) - goto was required for pretty much everything. Even some high-level functions took labels as arguments. To make things worse, labels had a two-character limit - you had to keep track of what each label meant on your own.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:52PM (#36788560)
    Most companies want employees who are cheap, easily coerced into working late/weekends and who won't answer back or rock the boat. It helps if they feel insecure about the work environment, don't know their rights and haven't built up enough savings that a period "on the bench" would be financially ruinous to them.

    That neatly describes new, young, callow graduates coming into their first job. It doesn't describe many people over 35 with family commitments, a good network of professional contacts and an impressive array of successes under their belts. Hence, companies are not very likely to rate "experience" highly as it tends to make employees who will question decisions, undermine authority with "suggestions", know what their employment record is worth and have developed the ability to promote their skills.

    Never mind that experienced people can produce better results. The quality of their product is ultimately defined by the quality of the design decisions - good implementations don't matter if the underlying basis of the product is rocky - either from a technical point of view or that it simply doesn't address any needs that would make it sell profitably. Companies would argue that it's better to have fast workers, doing 60 hour weeks with no time off and get a shaky design out the door quickly, since then the failure comes to light sooner. That the young workers also get paid a lot less helps too as it makes the failures even cheaper - though it does make them a lot more probable, too.

  • The linked article proves nothing, and in fact outright says it doesn't matter, because the data's inconclusive. Again, the summary's misleading.

    The data used was based on StackOverflow users' ages and reputation scores. The correlation is that users with higher recorded ages have better reputations. That hardly equates to being a better programmer. Perhaps, after 20 more years of dealing with society, those older users have learned that writing a thorough response with proper grammar is better than "u shud

    • by superwiz (655733)
      ACID is a false god. Isolation is, in fact, theoretically impossible. In almost any problem domain, there will be situations where the permutation group of the data is not solvable. This is pretty much why relational wins over trees. Having said that, in most situations, isolation is attainable or something close-enough to it is attainable.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:57PM (#36788584) Homepage Journal
    The "study" that doesn't deserve to be called one claims that people who write more answers and ask fewer questions on SO are better programmers. That is as dumb as saying that business consultants are better CEOs or football trainers are better football players... As far as I am concerned, I am 38 now and I'd say that I've become more experienced and much lazier, but I wouldn't pay myself a higher salary for a programming job than I'd have for the younger me at 25. Among other things, because I could spend 20 hours in a row trying to solve a particular problem back then, i.e. what I lacked in experience, I more than made up for with persistence and enthusiasm.
    • what I lacked in experience, I more than made up for with persistence and enthusiasm.

      As I'm sure your former girl friends will attest, that doesn't always help. :-)

  • by SwedishChef (69313) <craigNO@SPAMnetworkessentials.net> on Saturday July 16, 2011 @05:01PM (#36788614) Homepage Journal

    "Nuff said.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @05:17PM (#36788712)
    ...our lawns are less cluttered with errant youngsters. Gives us space to think more clearly.
  • I fall under the "young" category, and while there seem to be some advantages to it, I have the utmost respect for the elders in my workplace. I would like to think, however, that my youthful enthusiasm allows me to better absorb the knowledge and experience the gray-beards I work with are willing to share, so that next generation's "old programmers" will be better than the current one.
  • you're bound to be good. All the finest improve with age.
  • Technically my programs get less and less challenging. When i was 27 i liked to build beautiful castles of code. Like binding everything low-level using JNI to Java and only call this indirectly from jython. No, that was very nice and it worked.

    What i learned the hard way: I programmed everything which doesn't run away quickly enough since i am 11y old. Not everybody did that. Not everybody says: Oh, JNI, never heard about it before, but i'll read it in the evening.

    The reality is: There will be this FORTRAN

    • by johnjaydk (584895)

      What age really brought me is a very realistic way of evaluating things in the respect of "how can that be maintained, by somebody who is not me?".

      Very insightful but think of the corollary: "How can this be maintained by someone who can't REMEMBER the details anymore?"

      Way too often You have to maintain Your own shit so You might as well keep the smell down. Making You code obvious is a Big Win and often a sign of deeper understanding although few seems to understand it. Another lesson from a graybeard.

  • It's been my experience that experience does help quite a bit. Those who have been there and done that are able to do that again much better. I know I've learned a lot since I wrote my first program over 30 years ago. But that's the key. I keep learning. I keep exposing myself to new technology and new methods of accomplishing complex tasks. Trouble is, I've found that I tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.

    The biggest trap experienced programmers fall into is to get in a rut. It worked that

  • ... in bed.

    All older programmers are aware of this fact. You younger programmers should find an older programmer of the relevant gender and experience this fact for yourselves.

  • Stack Overflow reputation is cumulative [stackoverflow.com]. This means that if two people are providing answers of the same quality and at the same rate over time, the folks who have been there longest will have higher reputations, and that the higher reputation will reflect only tenure. Not any kind of quality.

    If you want to look at quality, you should be looking at a metric that is something like (total reputation / number of months active). Even this is imperfect of course, since if people take a hiatus or something that will present the appearance of worse quality using this metric.

    I was going to say that this fatal flaw invalidated the conclusions because the correlation between reputation and age just reflected the older people being around longer. The problem with that is that Stack Overflow opened in 2008 [wikipedia.org]. That's not enough time to explain a linear trend that tracks from age 16 to nearly age 50, but the final conclusion "So, senior coders earn their higher reputation by providing more answers, not by having answers of (significantly) higher quality." should still be re-examined with tenure-controlled analysis to try and see whether older aged members have been members longer.

  • John Carmack managed to kickstart a genre with an 'embarrassing' crappy VGA raycaster.

    and look where we are now!
  • I'd say that *many* older programmers get better than *most* younger programmers. But that's hardly a guarantee. Plenty of people don't learn from experience. And there are occasional people whose raw talent is better than is gained from experience. Ultimately, programming is an exercise in attention-span management. Bad code=trespassing on others' attention span. But there is plenty of older programmers who never honed the attention span management and who simply survive by jumping from one technolog
  • My first programming experience was an SC/MP homebrew with 2k of RAM built by a local college instructor who loaned it to me as a high school freshman, after giving me a ten minute introduction to hexadecimal, four times as long as necessary, since my father had taught me binary in 1972, after learning it from a student at his church when he returned from a stint as one of Iverson's APL proteges. If only the college instructor homebrew wizard had taught me that twos complement branch targets were computed

  • True, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @08:36PM (#36789762) Homepage
    I'm 50 next year. My programming ability gets better and better all the time, and has done since I started in 1980. When I look back at stuff I wrote in the 80s, it's cringe-worthy and an embarrassment. I'll probably say the same about the stuff I'm doing now when I'm 70.

    What has changed for the worse though is my energy. Back then I could code like a demon, then go out and party half the night and carry on next day without feeling any the worse. Of course, I was pouring my energy into a lot of bad code, but it often ended up working by brute force. Now I find it hard to stare at the screen for long periods at a time and overall my work rate is much lower - but its effectiveness is much higher.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @10:17PM (#36790242)

    which is a little different from being the most modern coder. I code in .net mostly, either vb or C#. After a while, you start seeing repetitive problems (It sounds cooler if you call them "patterns" even though the term adds almost nothing semantically). After a while, you can write a class with a function to append an array to an array either horizontally or vertically in your sleep.

    But you don't. You have them all pre-written after a while, which is why it seems to management that you're not working as hard. You just solve the problem and go home without noise or drama.

  • Reading vs. Writing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @01:43AM (#36791000) Homepage Journal

    After 20+ years of programming, I definitely feel that I program better now; especially with regard to making the code more flexible to change and better algorithm design based on years of trial and error with diff approaches.

    However, I have to admit that I've gotten slower at reading other people's code. My eyes just are not as good. They are not blurry; it's just that they don't move as fast, take longer to focus into position, and I can't quite read (absorb) as fast. Can I get a bionic implant?

    So, age is a trade-off.

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