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IDC: 40 Percent of Developers Are 'Hobbyists' 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the fewer-than-expected dept.
itwbennett writes "A new IDC study has found that 'of the 18.5 million software developers in the world, about 7.5 million — roughly 40 percent — are so-called hobbyist developers,' which by IDC's definition is 'someone who spends 10 hours a month or more writing computer or mobile device programs, even though they are not paid primarily to be a programmer.' Lumped into this group are students, people hoping to strike it rich with mobile apps, and people who code on the job but aren't counted among the developer ranks."
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IDC: 40 Percent of Developers Are 'Hobbyists'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is anybody actually surprised at this?

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:45AM (#45745375)

    people who code on the job but aren't counted among the developer ranks

    This part makes this whole result pretty absurd, imo. My job title is research scientist, though I'm more of a data scientist. In any case, you can't do my job without a fair amount of coding. I would certainly not classify myself as a hobbyist.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As an actual software developer who has had to occasionally deal with code written by "research/data scientist[s]" before, believe me, we wouldn't even classify you as high as a hobbyist.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Compared to many of the people that manage to have the job title of "developer" in corporations, a "hobbyist" would be a step up.

      • And that's not exactly such a bad thing, because a lot of research code is throwaway stuff. Anything built the typical software engineering way would rob his employer of his research employee's precious brain time, while generating little extra value.
        • by rnturn (11092) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:27PM (#45746355)

          ``because a lot of research code is throwaway stuff''

          Another recent /. post (about scientific data loss) makes me think that little, if any, research code is really `throwaway'. That code -- along with the data it processed -- represents part of the work effort leading to the published results. Data without that code is almost useless because the next researcher who wants to built upon his predecessor's work will likely want to know how you went from the data to your result. Without the code all they can assume is that some magic was involved. Or, if they go through the process of re-processing the raw data and get different results draw the conclusion may be that the original results were faked.

          • While I agree that it's nice to distribute the code that generated your results, this is hardly the only way for other researchers to know how to go from data to results.. This is the entire purpose of the published paper, to describe what you did, in words and math, sometimes in psuedo-code.

            • by rnturn (11092) on Friday December 20, 2013 @01:32PM (#45747035)

              I can recall an incident where a number of Ph.D. dissertations were called into question because of a bug that had been discovered in a mainframe statistical package they had used. If memory serves, the University was contacting graduates and asking them to revisit their results to ensure that the bug didn't adversely affect the content of their work. Perhaps, nowadays, the University wouldn't care so much though I'd hope they would if for no other reason than to maintain the school's reputation.

              I wouldn't call pseudo-code a reliable indication of what actually processed the data. It's pretty much the same thing as writing a specification and getting a faulty interpretation of that spec. We've all had an idea of what we wanted a piece of code do only to find that it didn't quite live up to our expectation due to some subtle bug (round-off error, etc.). I've spotted weird coding in other colleagues' code that introduced problems in the results. Perhaps that experience is why I'd still like to see the code. YMMV

              • by ranton (36917)

                I can recall an incident where a number of Ph.D. dissertations were called into question because of a bug that had been discovered in a mainframe statistical package they had used. If memory serves, the University was contacting graduates and asking them to revisit their results to ensure that the bug didn't adversely affect the content of their work. Perhaps, nowadays, the University wouldn't care so much though I'd hope they would if for no other reason than to maintain the school's reputation.

                I wouldn't call pseudo-code a reliable indication of what actually processed the data. It's pretty much the same thing as writing a specification and getting a faulty interpretation of that spec. We've all had an idea of what we wanted a piece of code do only to find that it didn't quite live up to our expectation due to some subtle bug (round-off error, etc.).

                Pseudo-code should not be used to validate research or its results. Further independent research is the only way to validate the research. Forcing later researchers to implement the experiment themselves help improve the result of their validation. Your anecdote about a school using the same statistical package for a large amount of research is just one example of a problem if too much code is shared between research projects.

                One of the important reasons that research code is throw away code is so that bugs

          • Another recent /. post (about scientific data loss) makes me think that little, if any, research code is really `throwaway'. That code -- along with the data it processed -- represents part of the work effort leading to the published results.

            That is not what I meant. What I meant was that perhaps a significant portion of the code that these people develop for the research at hand is not reused in further research. It's not throwaway in the sense that "we can delete it now" - it should be published, and reviewed, and used in verification of the research, but it probably won't be in a shape for someone turn it into a reusable library with the same level of attention that, say, LAPACK gets.

          • by ranton (36917)

            Data without that code is almost useless because the next researcher who wants to built upon his predecessor's work will likely want to know how you went from the data to your result.

            A well written research paper should give just enough information to allow others to replicate the work, but not enough so that later researchers implement the experiment the same way. Implementing research in different ways is a great way to give validity to the results. If two people with two completely different code bases come to the same conclusion that is much better than two people just running the same code on different machines.

            Publishing code is still helpful as a way of performing code review and

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          I recall tidying up and adding meaningful prompts to one Senior guys FORTRAN IV code that run the sampling on our mixing rigs at BHRA - his original code 's interface was ? and you entered integer numbers for options which he had memorized eg 1 to run 2 to quit and so on. That was when using mixed case in Hollerith statements was considered a bit flash.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There isn't an engineer, statistician, physicist, etc. out there who hasn't written or doesn't write a significant amount of code in the course of their using a computer as a tool. They're hardly hobbyists. One has to wonder if IDC doesn't think that the code these people write should really be written by 'professionals'. (I'm thinking of the early mainframe days when only members of the Priesthood were allowed to approach the Sacred Iron and perform the Holy Incantations.)

      It's likely a fairly useless lit

    • You took your definition, or connotation, of hobbyist, and objected when someone else's definition did not match yours.
      There are plenty of definitions; feel free to share yours. Meanwhile, the study here is not making changes to theirs.
      The result is valid for those scenarios where the definition matches. I would expect a data scientist to be better at this sort of thing, but here we are.

  • nonsensical (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Every engineer in the building writes some amount of code. Instrument control for test automation, number crunching and analysis, logistics process automation, etc. We are mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineers. I am the only one with a CS degree, and I write less LOC/month then most other engineers.

    Stupid, nonsensical, devoid of purpose or logic. Go ahead slash-puke, make my day...

  • What about me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:06AM (#45745531)
    I'm paid primarily to write software. Then I go home and write more software.
    • by Akratist (1080775)
      Yeah, me too. The day job is for keeping the lights on. The coding at night is for keeping me sane and happy with the day job.
  • 'of the 18.5 million software developers in the world, about 7.5 million — roughly 40 percent — are so-called hobbyist developers,' which by IDC's definition is 'someone who spends 10 hours a month or more writing computer or mobile device programs, even though they are not paid primarily to be a programmer.'

    So if I get paid primarily to to write software I'm a programmer. But If I just hack out a few lines of semi-working code a month I'm a Software Developer? Thanks for clearing that up.

    But what am I if I spend a couple hours a week mowing my lawn and planting my garden? A Landscape Developer?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But what am I if I spend a couple hours a week mowing my lawn and planting my garden?

      A closet homosexual?

    • But what am I if I spend a couple hours a week mowing my lawn and planting my garden?

      Someone who cares about their lawn more than I do. I try to minimize lawn work as I would rather do other things.

  • Remember folks, despite having this legion of potential recruits with the interest and aptitude, lacking only training and education, there simply aren't as many programmers as there should be at the price where demand meets supply, We need government intervention, stat!

    • by Xest (935314)

      Spending a bit of time doing it as a hobby doesn't mean you're either qualified or even want to work as a professional developer.

      I've got a fish tank that I enjoy looking after but I don't exactly consider myself qualified nor am I interested in becoming a marine biologist.

    • by TyFoN (12980)

      I could work as a programmer, however since the pay as an analyst is much better that is where I am.

      The work is still coding, though the it is different and involves a lot more math and statistics than regular app development.
      My tools also differ. I use PostgreSQL and R mostly, but I still find my self using C or ruby when the situation requires it.

      I'm not considering my self a hobbyist programmer though. This is what I do for a living :)

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:26AM (#45745685)

    who do it for the groupies.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:27AM (#45745691)
    Look, a lot of people are trying to start a business, it should be treated the same as work experience.

    The funny designation people say when talking with HR is,"Oh, you actually made money with this home business, then I guess it counts as work."

    It doesn't matter you busted your tail for 10 years in projects that failed, suddenly the less ambitious one you did that made a couple bucks actually counts as work.

    So lets drop the hobbyist title. If someone is working a home business that isn't yet profitable because there is an awful lot of overhead to code first, they've been working that time.
    • So lets drop the hobbyist title. If someone is working a home business that isn't yet profitable because there is an awful lot of overhead to code first, they've been working that time.

      Then you'll have to get half of the House of Representatives and half of the Senate to amend the definition of hobby in the part of the tax code related to business expense deductions [irs.gov].

  • Every "developer" who has no idea of what the complexity of a program/algorithm is - and there are a lot - should be counted in the 'Hobbyists' league.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Or those who can't take simple algorithm descriptions (fizz-buzz [c2.com]), and convert it into a working program, should be counted as not-really-a-programmer. I don't want to use the word "hobbyist" in this case, or in yours, because there's plenty of people I know who only program in their spare time, but have great programming skills, while people who are actually employed as software developers or programmers who can not tell you what the complexity of an algorithm is, nor can they make a simple algorithm base
  • Yep!

  • Stability + Performance = All that the end user will care about.

    Doesnt matter who made it, or what their background is.
    As long as the program runs stable, and, with respectable performance, the end user wont think twice about who made it.

    • Stability + Performance = All that the end user will care about.

      Doesnt matter who made it, or what their background is.

      A lot of companies use financial stability of the developer as a heuristic for guessing the developer's level of quality control and the stability of maintenance of the product.

      As long as the program runs stable, and, with respectable performance, the end user wont think twice about who made it.

      It has to 1. run stable, 2. perform respectably, and 3. run on the end user's preferred platform. A lot of platform gatekeepers have historically had anti-hobbyist policies, such as video game console manufacturers.

  • I've maintained a goofy little firefox [mozilla.org] plugin for a few years now and put together a few simple Android [google.com] apps. It helps me keep my programing skills up while I'm working in IT, and the plugin's big enough I do a little project management on it :). Besides, I get bored playing video games all day long :).
  • We should also look at who produces most of the code. If we simply slap the label of developer on anyone who writes code, we may come away with the idea that because 40% of DEVELOPERS are hobbyists, that 40% of actual DEVELOPMENT/implementation is done by hobbyists. It would be like saying 80% of authors, defined as someone who spends 10 or more hours a month writing text (could be emails, could be text messages, etc.), are hobbyists.

    Considering just how skewed productivity is among programmers, it wouldn

    • I should clarify, I don't think Free Software as a movement is a dangerous idea. What I am saying is that there are huge numbers of people out there that truly expect from 100's of man hours of work to simply get done in less than a week for peanuts. Free Software was never about the idea that people shouldn't get paid for their work, and those who think it is were missing Stallman's point.

      As someone who has been paid for the last ten years to write open source software (mainly through research grants), w

  • Roughly 40 percent of programmers are so-called hobbyist programmers

    Well, someone has to develop Linux too.

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