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The Rising Power of Developers 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the kneel-before-zod's-principal-software-engineer dept.
msmoriarty writes "Google's Don Dodge, GitHub's Tom Preston-Werner, New Relic's Lew Cirne and others recently got together in San Francisco on a panel called 'The Developer is King: The Power Behind the Throne.' According to coverage of the event, the panelists all agreed that programmers — both independent ones and those employed by companies — have more power, and thus opportunities, than ever. Even the marketing power of developers was acknowledged: 'The only way to convince a developer is by giving them a demo and showing them how it's better,' said Preston-Werner. 'The beauty is, you plant these seeds around the world, and those people will evangelize it for you. Because another thing that developers are great at is telling other developers what works for them.'"
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The Rising Power of Developers

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  • Pat on the back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Friday August 02, 2013 @05:52PM (#44461563) Homepage

    Some rich guys got together, told themselves how great they are and how they deserve to be rich. News at 11.

    • by benmk (2819735)
      So, no need to watch the news at 11 anymore. Well then, just do some coding...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aaronb1138 (2035478)
      Can we please put developers in the back seat as run of the mill production workers like they belong. I respect a minority of software architects, but plain jane code toads need to be getting the treatment and pay of the few steps above fry cook that they are.
      • The same applies to pretty much all professions. It never ceases to amaze me what salaries managers command with little if any reason for it.

        • Like hiring good people, it is really difficult if you don't have the social skills to tell if someone will be a good manager. Good managers can produce multiple times over their salary in increased productivity. The problem is, just like every other industry, the majority working in the segment suck and aren't a hugely positive factor. On the flip side, attracting good management is like attracting a good CEO, and money get's tossed out there without thought.

          It's a bit hard for an employer to open a man
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Software architects decide how the food should taste and which bits of food aren't compatible with other bits. Software developers design and build the first of a particular type of meal from the raw parts. It's more comparable to inventing the meals for the first time than a fry cook. System customizers then take the food and prepare it neatly as a meal but don't change any of the flavours or individual items on the plate, they just re-arrange the plates.

        Software technicians that install software on the

      • You obviously don't know much about software development. The spectrum of mastery in software engineering varies from burger flipper to head chef.

        • Re:Pat on the back (Score:4, Interesting)

          by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Saturday August 03, 2013 @04:38AM (#44464095) Journal
          Good point, but the problem is that very few people see the width of that spectrum. Sucks if you're a head chef but your boss can't really see how you're different from the burger flipper, except that you seem to flip more or bigger burgers.

          That's why I call bollocks on TFA. VCs favour developer-founders now? It might be a good move but then again, it might not, and next month they'll favour people with neatly trimmed hair, just like last month they were favouring people with business experience. As for programmers, their power has declined. A long time ago (in tech-land terms), programming was a respected profession, not just amongst peers but also by the general public, and by those programmers' employers. That had already ended when I got into the game, but even back then, programmers did have a significant amount of influence on the design and parameters of the program. As a programmer I got to join meetings on product and service design with the CTO and marketing manager of a large mobile telco. Small projects were generally left to be managed by team leads who were also programmers. And project managers of larger projects often deferred to his developers.

          Today, most larger corporations keep their programmers in the basement. The aspect of the job that involved contact with clients, management and business representatives is now handled by sales reps, project managers and business analysts. Most of whom have a very weak grasp of technology, I might add. The chasm between tech and business hasn't widened, but the bridges have gone and we're reduced to flinging memos across the gap. On top of that, now we're seeing heavy compartimentalisation of the work, by defining standards and procedures that attempt to turn creativity and flexibility into predictable monkey work. Now, standards and procedures aren't necessarily bad, and the field of software development can do with some professionalisation, but what's being introduced now moves us in the wrong direction. Even the master coders' jobs are being reduced to burger flipping, or at least managers are trying to.
        • Please look more closely at the distribution of burger flippers to even sous chefs in industry and you will find my analogy is spot on correct. The same ability / work ethic / intellect / raw intelligence distribution exists within software development as any other industry, just like food service. The problem is that throughout CS & IT you have a lot of primadonnas who should be doing the equivalent of shoveling tacos together at the bell telling people they are elite professionals and demanding high
      • by johnjaydk (584895)

        Can we please put developers in the back seat as run of the mill production workers like they belong. I respect a minority of software architects, but plain jane code toads need to be getting the treatment and pay of the few steps above fry cook that they are.

        Giving developers that kind of treatment causes a very low productivity and little attachment to the company. That's going to hurt your bottom line. But hey, it's your bottom line. I'm not going to complain the karmic blowback that's going to hit you

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      I will believe that when developers can command 1500 for a single Saturday shift like pit deputies can in the UK
  • A group of successful developers get together on a panel and, surprisingly, everyone on the panel agrees that developers are very important and goin' places in the world.

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday August 02, 2013 @08:41PM (#44462725)

      Meanwhile, you get back to work and tell the boss that the new product feature is a bad idea, and you get told to shut up and keep rowing.

      • It depends on the place you are. Perhaps, more generally, it's better to say that in some companies developers have a lot of power, whereas in some companies they don't. If you don't like how developers are treated in your company, have you considered your options?

        I'm an engineering managers, with developers reporting to me. They figure out where the product needs to be going. I provide input, which they often, but not always, listen to. Generally, they listen to our customers (internal people) more th

      • ... keep rowing

        the good new is that there will be extra rations

        the bad news is that the fat bitch will want to water ski tonight.

    • by StripedCow (776465) on Saturday August 03, 2013 @10:26AM (#44465053)

      Actually, when I read the headline, I was hoping this article was about programmers starting a union, to collectively fight things such as diverging programming ecosystems, software patent abuse, deliberately broken/abandoned APIs, walled API gardens, etcetera.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Executives and project managers. Somehow they still think their ability to think of 'innovations ' is the only bottleneck.

  • Power? For who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday August 02, 2013 @05:59PM (#44461647)
    This is all about marketing power, and using devs as mouthpieces. Devs are always either agreeing or arguing, with the new ones either lapping up anything the older ones say or dissing them as crotchety and set in their ways. The only selling I see going on is on what resources to use and which to ignore, and there are always a basket of opinions going in different directions depending on which site you're on at the moment. If someone can find a way to milk them as a group, beyond, you know...developing stuff, then go for it, but to say they are king makers is a bit of a virtual stretch. Any marketer will see them as just another group.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't he the moron that started crying after Paul Graham published his dead-on "Microsoft is Dead"? The guy is a first-class dipshit.
    • When Paul Graham published the article in 2007, Microsoft has around 46 billion $ in revenue. Now Microsoft has around 78 billion $ in revenue. Looks like Paul Graham was the moron - the article has crossed 6 years to get vindicated.

      • If it's the article I think you're talking about it was spot on, but you've misunderstood it.

        He never claimed microsoft was dead as in about to go out of business. He claimed that the big bad microsoft, a threat to the entire industry was dead. He was right. Perhaps you don't remember the world from back in the 90s ad the wake of destruction microsoft left in its path. The big fear of almost any software company was that microsoft woule enter the area and destroy them.

        I doubt github has ever had such a fear

        • by Frankie70 (803801)

          He also wrote in that article that Microsoft is dead in the desktop market. He said only grandmas use Windows on the desktop or laptops - everyone else uses Macs or Linux.

          6 years after the article I think Windows still has 80% OS share in the Desktop laptop market.

  • that article was clearly written as a project during a self help seminar to build self esteem.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday August 02, 2013 @06:11PM (#44461785)

    programmers — both independent ones and those employed by companies — have more power, and thus opportunities, than ever

    Sounds like part of a campaign for an H-1B quota increase.

  • Yep (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday August 02, 2013 @06:13PM (#44461803)

    In the long run (read : I mean the next 30 years), every job in existence has a programmer involved.

    Manual Labor? In the long run, it'll be robots that do nearly all of it, and software is the only real obstacle that stops us from automating more tasks.

    Manufacturing? Software problem. Healthcare? Most of a doctor's thinking could be automated with existing software techniques. (sure, not the physical procedures part, but that's only a portion)

    Of course, in the LONG, LONG run, someone will advance the art of software to the point that we have software that can write itself, and then we're all out of work...

    • You mean Skynet... and we won't have much to worry about at that point.
      • We are about 30 years out from recursively self-improved artificial intelligence, which is about 0.0001 years away from Skynet/The Borg/Agent Smith/etc. Hopefully by then we will have perfected Stupidamin(tm): the supplement that keeps you comfortable while watching television.
  • "and others recently got together in San Francisco". So, others are still behind the throne, like always... Isn't it nice to play puppet master? Ninja in the shadows? Plus, a good developer's name just come out if he (maybe she!?) screwed up big time (definitely she!!).
  • We'll screw it up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We (software engineers and developers) are the dumbest group of skilled professionals in the history of skilled trades. No other field, no other economic opportunity has been so badly squandered as the field of software development -- ever.

    Compare software engineers to doctors or lawyers. Both doctor's and lawyers have to pass exams. They are certified by boards of other professionals. If a doctor or lawyer screws up badly enough they lose their right to be a doctor or lawyer. Not software engineers. When a

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Both doctor's and lawyers have to pass exams. They are certified by boards of other professionals.

      Do you mean the way that doctors form professional associations to limit the number of doctors allowed to practice? That is just to ensure that qualified immigrants and too many newly minted doctors don't lower their wages. That's what doctors do.

      Why spend thousands of dollars to get a degree to compete on Craigslist for $6 and hour?

      I sure hope that after getting a degree you are well above "competing on Craigslist for $6".

      It kinda seems like you want to be in a union.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday August 02, 2013 @07:32PM (#44462423) Journal

      No wonder people don't respect our field -- we don't respect it ourselves. ... We've taken the secrets and tools of our trade, open sourced them

      I definitely don't respect programmers who think they need to keep their source hidden in order to stay competitive.

      • No wonder people don't respect our field -- we don't respect it ourselves. ...
        We've taken the secrets and tools of our trade, open sourced them

        I definitely don't respect programmers who think they need to keep their source hidden in order to stay competitive.

        I think more accurately, we don't respect our work.

        There's too much of the "Git 'er Dun!" philosophy these days. System crash? Who cares? Have You Tried Powering it Off and Back On Again?

        We're too obsessed with being "efficient" and being "productive" and not enough with the quality of what we produce. So we produce crap, people see that it's crap, don't respect our skills, and say "Any 10-year old kid can do software!" Because so much of what we as "professionals" produce looks like it came from 10-year ol

        • That's definitely true, and the sad part is writing relatively reliable and software doesn't really take any longer than writing crap software, if you know how to do it.
          • That's definitely true, and the sad part is writing relatively reliable and software doesn't really take any longer than writing crap software, if you know how to do it.

            Perhaps not, if you include all the time spent going back and fixing stuff that broke in front of the while world (production).

            Unfortunately, management typically thinks that "time to write" is only the time spent getting a pretty picture up on the screen.

    • by Zenin (266666) on Friday August 02, 2013 @07:43PM (#44462489) Homepage

      Here's the problem: Most all of what makes a good lawyer or doctor isn't at all about finding creative, novel ways to solve problems. Much the opposite in fact; Creative application of law or medicine is most likely to get you disbarred or thrown in jail. It's much easier to create a quantifiable exam when the subject matter is so well defined and creativity is shunned.

      In software however, it's completely the opposite. Creative, novel application of existing technology and/or the invention of entirely new technology, is a good software developer's bread and butter. It's a big part of the essence of what makes them a good developer rather then a coding drone.

      So how do you create an exam to quantify a good developer? By the very nature of what you're looking for the only "right" answers are "wrong" ones. But which wrong answer is right? That's completely subjective in an exam setting, however in the real world it's much easier to quantify: Your shit works and works well or it doesn't.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's funny. I think most developers are held in high regard because they have NOT built a mote around the profession like doctors and lawyers.

      I've seen too much doctoring done by nurses, too much law done by paralegals to have much respect for either profession. Then of course there's the whole, "Why don't you take this drug, you know the one with the same logo as the pen you used to sign the form?". This definitely happened to me. The drug? Celebrex, which wasn't even indicated for my condition. I

  • Reality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Friday August 02, 2013 @06:42PM (#44462081) Homepage Journal
    My personal dilemma is that one of the few ways I can capitalize on my 40 years experience in computer programming is to make money training young people to go into the software profession.

    Its hard to explain to folks who see my resume and employment status why I refuse to accept money to train train local young people.

    First of all people aren't used to people with ethics. So they don't understand why I wouldn't want to take money from kids by leading them into pauperism.

    Secondly they've been led to believe that domestic programmers with equal skills have an equal shot at the high income positions that are going to foreign aggressors. Its one of those things that's just too depressing to admit to one's self about the horror of the government's oppression of the citizens. This is especially true in rural areas where almost every family has a young man who has served in the military and either killed, or been indoctrinated that is is ok to kill for the government (if they, themselves haven't been permanently disabled if not killed).

    • by alienzed (732782)
      ah cynicism, it is strong in this one...
    • Amen. Three years ago, I moved 650+ miles to take a new job. Sequestration caused my team's contract to get cancelled. Tomorrow I move 200+ miles to take a new job.

      Even with 20 years experience...I'm a freaking migrant worker.

      Moms, don't let your kids grow up to be computer programmers.

      • Re:Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 02, 2013 @07:47PM (#44462515)

        Opposite anecdote: I live in a major city on the West coast of the U.S., and I've never had a period of the last 7 years where I couldn't get a six figure offer when I wanted a new job. And I didn't even have to move.

        The lesson from your travels isn't that being a computer programmer is a bad gig. It's that you shouldn't move to a place where there is only one job. Move to a major metropolitan area, and you can earn a lot of money with virtually zero unemployment in the field.

        • by Baldrson (78598) *
          Your anecdote would have been instructive to someone in the 1970s, before mass immigration replaced the children that should have been born to the now aging baby boom generation:

          Silicon valley was the place to form a family (with a female from the upper bay area -- not from the male-saturated engineering ghetto of the lower bay area) for young engineers for precisely the reason you describe.

          Nowadays, however, there are other -- major -- factors to consider. Your anecdote is more akin to a slot machine

  • I can't imagine this being true.

  • by alienzed (732782) on Friday August 02, 2013 @06:50PM (#44462153) Homepage
    I for one welcome our new developer overlords...
  • "Pope Francis, former Pope Benedict and others recently got together in The Vatican on a panel called 'Jesus is King: The Power Behind God.' According to coverage of the event, the panelists all agreed that Catholics — both regular people and priests — have more power, and thus opportunities, than ever. Even the marketing power of the papacy was acknowledged: 'The only way to convince a Catholic is by giving them a wafer and showing them how it's the body of Christ,' said Preston-Werner. 'The beauty is, you plant these seeds around the world, and those people will evangelize it for you. Because another thing that Catholics are great at is telling other people what works for them.'"

    That was really easy. I didn't even have to change "evangelize."

  • So does TechSNAP and the Linux Action Show. WebSphere on the other hand.... I hate IBM!
  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday August 02, 2013 @08:59PM (#44462803) Homepage Journal

    Not one example of developers succeeding or what they might have done to stand out in a sea of offshore contractors, but a bunch of self-congratulatory pap about how successful their own businesses are. And not ONE developer in the panel -- all pompous management taking the credit for themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...right after

    1) Shareholders (reason why we're in business)
    2) Customers (who pays the bills?)
    3) Salespeople (who brings in the customers?)
    4) Top management (whose vision makes the difference between a big success and an also-ran?)
    5) Marketing (who identifies and attracts the customers?)
    6) Finance and accounting (who brings in investments and manages the cash so we can stay in business?)
    7) Lobbyists (who ensures that the government doesn't pass taxes and other legislation that would interfere with our busin

  • Is he the guy in Mad Men?

  • ...which is great, because the one thing that all developers lack is ego. everything else, they're absolutely brilliant at.

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