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Programming Google Stats

The World's Best Living Programmers 285

Posted by timothy
from the yeah-but-do-you-have-his-rookie-card? dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "How do you measure success? If it's by Stack Overflow reputation, Google engineer Jon Skeet is the world's best programmer. If it's winning programming competitions, Gennady Korotkevich or Petr Mitrechev might be your pick. But what about Linus Torvalds? Or Richard Stallman? Or Donald Knuth? ITworld's Phil Johnson has rounded up a list of what just might be the world's top 14 programmers alive today."
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The World's Best Living Programmers

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  • by tobe (62758) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:14AM (#47406883)

    .. since I'm not in it.

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      That was my thought. I'm too busy writing real code (and posting on Slashdot) to be on their list.

    • by gnupun (752725)

      Every good programmer's genius goes towards uplifting his/her manager, his middle manager, his department, his company etc., but rarely the programmer himself. Since the company claims all credit, ownership and benefits of any code developed, no one knows who is responsible for what. So this list is a joke.

      Do we know who exactly came up with the concept for Donkey Kong? Many companies hide such info because they don't want the talented programmer to get poached by another company. But still, they should rel

      • by RavenLrD20k (311488) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:42AM (#47407603) Journal

        Do we know who exactly came up with the concept for Donkey Kong?

        Actually, yes we do. Donkey Kong [wikipedia.org] was the first project by Shigeru Miyamoto. In fact, this was also the first appearance of Miyamoto's Mario character that has been continually reused ever since.

        • Do we know who exactly came up with the concept for Donkey Kong?

          Actually, yes we do. Donkey Kong [wikipedia.org] was the first project by Shigeru Miyamoto. In fact, this was also the first appearance of Miyamoto's Mario character that has been continually reused ever since.

          You're proving his point. Miyamoto didn't even know how to code at the time. The real programmers names are lost to time.

          Miyamoto had high hopes for his new project, but lacked the technical skills to program it himself; instead, he conceived the game's concepts, then consulted technicians on whether they were possible. He wanted to make the characters different sizes, move in different manners, and react in various ways. However, Yokoi viewed Miyamoto's original design as too complex.Yokoi suggested using see-saws to catapult the hero across the screen; however, this proved too difficult to program. Miyamoto next thought of using sloped platforms and ladders for travel, with barrels for obstacles. When he asked that the game have multiple stages, the four-man programming team complained that he was essentially asking them to make the game repeat, but the team eventually successfully programmed the game.

          You've no idea how many times I've finished a big project, walked into the presentation meeting and had whomever my boss was at the time, who had been at hooters during most of the project and use phrases like "It was a lot of work but I'm glad you like what I have done.

          And of course, as soon as there's an error somewhere... he didn't write that bit... it was me. :-)

    • by tobiasly (524456)

      "No exhaustive"? I think you meant: !exhaustive

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:00PM (#47407791)

      Now these guys may not be the best programmers out there. As programming is different for every type of job.

      Someone who can compile a nice compiler may not be able to make an OS as well. Or an OS developer may not be able to make a clean User interface for a web site.

      There are so many details out there that makes a comparison near impossible. What this list captures are the Most popular programmers. Who's popularity is often due to their personality that makes their program popular.

      We as programmers tend to come up with new innovative solutions to problems all the time, and often all this work isn't noticed by anyone, because it works so well that no one ever notices.

  • by maweki (999634) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:15AM (#47406893) Homepage
    I think I have to contest that. Last semester I got straight As in both "Principles of programming languages" as well as "Algorithm Engineering".
  • Who's the best game programmer? It would be easy to say John Carmack, but there might be even tougher guys lurking somewhere inside Ubisoft, Rockstar, Midway, Dice, Sega, etc..?
    • How do you qualify that? John Carmack's an excellent graphics engine programmer, but what does he know about gameplay mechanics? ...probably more than you and I put together; I imagine, but we just don't know.

    • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:34AM (#47407031)

      I'd argue Chris Sawyer, the programmer behind the original Rollercoaster Tycoon. The entire game was written in Assembly, and works on pretty much anything to this day without needing an emulator or any real fixes. Second place goes to Toady, the programmer of Dwarf Fortress, for singlehandedly making a game that goes into more detail than it should ever have reason to and still works most of the time.

      Carmack, as far as I'm aware, was behind the horrible "update" of Doom 3 that released on Steam a few years ago, which wouldn't run on fully half the machines of the people who bought it. He was also behind Rage, which was a notorious crashfest.

      • This betrays the fact that the best games, from Indie games to AAA titles tend to be team efforts. Yes, games like Dwarf Fortress and Spelunky can be one person affairs, but for the rest of the world? Software or games development trends towards group work.

      • by MarkvW (1037596)

        Rollercoaster Tycoon was the only game I've ever played that implemented object orientation so beautifully that even the user of the game could appreciate it. I remain impressed to this day.

      • Rage didn't crash a single time for me, and I didn't have any of the video driver issues some people where complaining about. I remember it being a fantastic, open shooter with some of the best AI and NPC animations I have ever seen, plus entertaining vehicle combat. And it ran fluidly on my old GTX275 card.

        Anyway, JC deserves alot of credit for Doom and Quake alone, which were simply mind blowing, earth shattering games at the time.

    • How do you define best? Just because you've heard of someone doesn't mean they are the best. I programmed games back in the 80's and during that time I ran into like-minded people and within that group it's tough to tell, different people have different attributes, It certainly possible to tell who has natural talent, but I don't think "best" even makes sense.
    • Who's the best game programmer?

      Easy: Braben and Bell who wrote 'Elite'. This game was so far ahead of its time it was simply unbelievable. It was one of (if not the) first true 3D game and contained 8 galaxies of 255 stars on a machine with 32kB of memory. It also introduced true "sandbox" gameplay. It might not stand up to today's standards and the sequels, while great games, were nowhere near as revolutionary, although it remains to be seen how Elite: Dangerous [frontier.co.uk] turns out - I have my fingers crossed!

      So, no matter how you spin it, th

      • 8 galaxies and 255 stars aren't so impressive if you consider it was generated by procedural generation. Procedural generation can be a very powerful, impressive tool, but in the case of Elite, creating some generic star systems is really not a big deal. If you want to see incredible precedural generation, look at "KKrieger".

        What was really impressive was one of the sequels, Frontier: Elite. This game was really ahead of its time, as it contained not just star systems, but real planets you could land on, se

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:24AM (#47406963) Homepage Journal

    You only know if you get to see their code, and/or if they are a public figure.

    • Exactly.
    • by narcc (412956)

      Well said. There are some really great developers out there that you'll likely never here about. Roland p on Atariage, for example, deserves a mention for his Ballblazer 2600 work. Really, a lot of the hobbyists there top-notch.

      I'll bet you'll find quite a few well-above-average developers in communities like that.

    • Yes. More importantly, the article didn't show any of their code. Winning a programming contest, oddly enough, doesn't make you a good programmer.
    • True. This is as much a popularity contest as anything else.

      If I were to select the "best programmer", my list would probably start with guys who write software that has to run in the "real world"... like the Shuttle GNC software which has to navigate in real time, while controlling the vehicles systems, and do this completely with a bug or a failure. Or the software that hundreds (thousands?) of airliners are running that is almost as stringent. Or... plenty of other programmers who must deal with real

  • Github Followers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:25AM (#47406971) Homepage Journal
    If you go by Github followers, Linus is pretty up-there. Linus and Stallman aren't great just for their programming abilities; their capability to manage their projects so effectively is a huge factor in their success.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Megol (3135005)

      Being a good programmer is orthogonal with being a good manager so... why should one count management skills?

      Torvalds is a good programmer, but really far from the best out there.

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        Funny you mention that. I was just looking over some gigs on Craigslist. I clicked an ad for a "Magento/Joomla Developer" and the first thing they list in the requirements is, "Strong Project Management Abilities".

        I sort of feel like emailing them so I can ask why they want their developer to also be the project manager ... it's a rhetorical question since the ad is for a "boutique ad agency".

        • Funny you mention that. I was just looking over some gigs on Craigslist. I clicked an ad for a "Magento/Joomla Developer" and the first thing they list in the requirements is, "Strong Project Management Abilities".

          I sort of feel like emailing them so I can ask why they want their developer to also be the project manager ... it's a rhetorical question since the ad is for a "boutique ad agency".

          If you are a team lead developer, you better have some project management skills. Once you start working with code masses beyond a certain size and complexity, you enter the realm of engineering, with coding being an important but not the only skill required. Management and organizational skills are paramount in such circumstances.

          Crapware is created not just because of a lack of good coding skills, but also because of lack of organizational skills.

      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:34PM (#47408033) Homepage Journal

        Being a good programmer is orthogonal with being a good manager

        I strongly disagree, assuming by "manager" we mean "team leader" rather than "HR manager".

        Being an outstanding lone wolf programmer is of value, but significant projects are almost never single-person efforts. Real top programmers also have to be able to lead people.

  • by Megol (3135005) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:30AM (#47407001)

    How about Terje Mathisen? I'd rank him higher than most in that listing. There are a lot of others more deserving to be in a top 10 list.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:44AM (#47407115)

    Stack Overflow reputation indicates that you're a 1337 documentation writer, not necessarily that you know how to program.

    • Stack Overflow reputation indicates that you're a 1337 documentation writer, not necessarily that you know how to program.

      SO reputation indicates a number of things -- that you can understand and dissect problems and code from others, that you have intimate knowledge of the platforms you're answering about, that you can code reasonably well, and that you can communicate well.

      Basically, someone with a high rep is very likely to be enthusiastic, knowledgable, and great to work with. Does this mean Jon Skeet can out-code an elite like John Carmack? No. Does it mean he's a good coder? Probably. One of the "top" programmers? Not e

    • Stack Overflow reputation indicates that you're a 1337 documentation writer, not necessarily that you know how to program.

      You can infer the later from the quality and technical depth of the former. You can't routinely create highly technical programming responses without having the programming skills and experience to go with them.

  • by twasserman (878174) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:46AM (#47407131)
    BSD Unix, vi editor, Sun Microsystems....
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:47AM (#47407137) Homepage Journal
    I'm just impressed that neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg were included. Most people who don't understand programming include one - or both - of them when building a list of "top programmers" even though neither are particularly outstanding programmers.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:51PM (#47408179) Homepage

      It doesn't happen very often anymore, but for many years I kept hearing people say things like, "The story of Bill Gates shows what's so great about our country. The guy started out poor, he had absolutely nothing, but he was pretty much the best programmer in the world. Using nothing but his programming skills, he managed to become the richest guy in the world. It's a great success story."

      Yeah, Bill Gates got rich by being a brilliant programmer, and Steve Jobs got rich by being a really nice guy. Meanwhile, Ballmer just skated by on his good looks, social graces, and beautiful head of hair.

  • damned multi-page (Score:3, Informative)

    by danbob999 (2490674) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:50AM (#47407169)
    Jon Skeet Main claim to fame: Legendary Stack Overflow contributor
    Gennady Korotkevich Main claim to fame: Competitive programming prodigy
    Linus Torvalds Main claim to fame: Creator of Linux
    Jeff Dean Main claim to fame: The brains behind Google search indexing
    John Carmack Main claim to fame: Creator of Doom
    Richard Stallman Main claim to fame: Creator of Emacs, GCC
    Petr Mitrechev Main claim to fame: One of the top competitive programmers of all time
    Fabrice Bellard Main claim to fame: Creator of QEMU
    Doug Cutting Main claim to fame: Creator of Lucene
    Donald Knuth Main claim to fame: Author of The Art of Computer Programming
    Anders Hejlsberg Main claim to fame: Creator of Turbo Pascal
    Ken Thompson Main claim to fame: Creator of Unix
    Adam D'Angelo Main claim to fame: Co-founder of Quora
    Sanjay Ghemawat Main claim to fame: Key Google architect
  • Does the list even change? I'm thinking you basically just add Alan Turing.

  • Designed & wrote VMX and Windows NT 3.1.

    I guess lists like this are always a matter of opinion.

  • by Westley (99238) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:53AM (#47407197) Homepage

    I thought I'd get that in before too many other people do. I have better justification than most, as I *am* Jon Skeet. I saw the list yesterday, and we've been gently laughing about it at work.

    Somewhere, the difference between fame and accomplishments has been lost. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a bad coder. I'm pretty knowledgeable about C# as a language, although details of writing *applications* in C# is a different matter. I'm pretty good at expressing technical concepts, and that's really useful in various contexts (Stack Overflow, books, screencasts, and of course work). But none of these are a patch on what some of the others on the list have accomplished.

    As a Googler, I know a *bit* about what Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat have done - and it's obvious I'm not in the same league. The code I'm probably proudest of is Noda Time (my .NET date/time library) which has a few thousand users, if that. I hope I've had an impact everywhere I've worked, but it just isn't on the same scale as many of the other members of the list (let alone the many thousands of other notable programmers).

    It's pretty clear I'm not actually on the list because of my coding skills - it's just due to Stack Overflow reputation. That indicates *something*, but it's definitely not the kind of measure you'd sensibly use to compare two programmers. Just as I'm proud of Noda Time, I'm proud of being able to help a lot of people on Stack Overflow - but I'm not under the delusion that even that's on the same level of impact as an awful lot of other coders.

    For what it's worth, if I could substitute one other name for mine, it would be Eric Lippert. I'm not sure he's really be in the "top 14" or even whether that's meaningful - but I'd say he's at least *more* worthy of being there than I am.

    • What has Eric Lippert done, as far as programming?
    • by jovius (974690)

      That list presents the whole problem really nicely. It's not only about being a good programmer, but each of the individuals on the list are there because of their different personalities, which they've put forward along with their skill and talent. The absolutely best programmer would be found out in a competition, where the tasks would have been tailored for just that purpose. Anyway, these lists are like beauty pageants; only those who participate are deemed the most beautiful, excluding the ones who are

    • I agree with you. I mean, if I have a class JonSkeet and I need to create an instance of it, I would not name it Westley. Bad programming practice.

      Joking aside, your post here clearly shows that you belong to the all time great people list. People with good name recognition who are not jerks are quite rare.

    • by Lumpio- (986581)
      That feel when my answer gets one upvote and Skeet's almost identical answer gets eleventy thousand just because he has a higher reputation to begin with.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jeremyp (130771)

      *I'm* Jon Skeet and so's my wife.

    • I would bet that some the absolutely best technical coders around are completely unknown because all they know how to do is write code. This list I think isn't that, but it also isn't fame per se. I think it could be more called "high impact programmers" - and that you deserve to be on.

      Also, comments like yours are why I still read slashdot :)
      • There are people who write great code.

        There are people who invent and design great software

        There are people who promote great software and manage it.

        They're not necessarily the same people.

  • ...but I would argue that software engineering is a far more important a skill than programming.

    Which thing is ultimately more valuable, the ability to write JavaScript (or C++, or Objective-C, or whatever) better than anyone else, or, the ability to architecturally scale a big data solution along swim lanes or using an AKF cube (or properly design a secure inter-process communication system, or whatever)?

    I'm not trying to demean raw programming ability, because that's always a valuable skill, the problem i

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      To the people who hired you, the most important thing is getting the product to work reliably so they can start making money with it. It won't matter at all how pretty the chart bubbles are in the design document, if the program crashes or is otherwise unusable. So score one for the talented programmers there.

      Which is not to say software engineering isn't important -- only that exactly how important it is will vary with the size of the project. e.g. for a smaller project like a script or a one-off data

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        To the people who hired you, the most important thing is getting the product to work reliably so they can start making money with it. It won't matter at all how pretty the chart bubbles are in the design document, if the program crashes or is otherwise unusable. So score one for the talented programmers there.

        You are clearly demonstrating your lack of understanding about how to make software. You seem to think that software engineering is about "chart bubbles" and "design documents." It isn't at all. That's like saying that being an excellent race car driver is about how nice your car looks. It also isn't about how well you can drive a GoKart or a Formula 4 car, it's about your ability to drive anything necessary to accomplish your goals, your ability to make decisions, to mitigate risks, et cetera.

        Talented

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:35AM (#47407547) Homepage

    I noticed that the guy who wrote their slideshow code wasn't on the list.

  • Knuth (Score:4, Funny)

    by RDW (41497) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:42AM (#47407605)

    ITworld's Phil Johnson has rounded up a list of what just might be the world's top 14 programmers alive today.

    In the unpublished final volume of The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth describes an algorithm that can provide a complete emulation of any of the other 13.

  • by PackMan97 (244419) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:03PM (#47407801) Homepage

    Even then, I don't think I rank anywhere special. Oh well.

  • by Myrmi (730278) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:08PM (#47407855)
    He single-handedly ported Wolfenstein 3D to iOS after the development team said it would take them two months and go over budget. He did it in four days. https://web.archive.org/web/20... [archive.org]
  • "The world record for continuous application availability may be held by the Irish National Railway, which is said to have logged an unbroken 17 years running on OpenVMS version 3.2." I'd say the guys that wrote such a stable system must be pretty good programmers.
  • Even nerd top 10 lists are still a popularity contest. These are the best celebrity programmers, but chances are there are thousands of better programmers that just have their heads down in code at some obscure company somewhere. Probably many of them have solved complex algorithmic issues in clever ways that other programmers like the ones in the list are still struggling with.
  • John Carmack. That is all.
  • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:44PM (#47408121)

    Forget the arguments about who should or should not be on the list. I can't take seriously a list of the best programmers when they picked 14 and not a power of 2.

  • The submission sort of gets at this, but what should be some criteria for judging "the best" programmers?

    Having discovered an algorithm? (Bonus points if it's named after you).
    Created a programming language?
    Written a book (on programming)?
    Created a program that was somehow valuable or meaningful?
    Educated other programmers?
  • I've read about malware/virii that can run on multiple operating systems, have their own smtp engine, can perform all sorts of miracles, and yet, are all contained in about 16k of code.

    Failing that, anyone remember the Amiga Demo scene? Those Norwegian programmers were doing things back then then that mainstream software would take 20 years to work up to. And they were all coding in assembly.

    How about the dudes that wrote GEOS? Seriously, they got a Macintosh-like OS to fit on a floppy and run on a Commodor

    • by GuB-42 (2483988)

      Writing small, tricky, code require a certain set of skills but I believe that the mark of great programmers is the ability to scale up. That means writing clean, efficient and flexible code even on large projects.
      Demos for example may look impressive but due to their non-interactive nature, they can use plenty of tricks that won't work in more general cases.

  • by alispguru (72689) <bane&gst,com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:48PM (#47408597) Journal

    Given his major influence on:

    C [amazon.com]
    Java [amazon.com]
    Common Lisp [amazon.com]
    Scheme [readscheme.org]

    And, as a throwaway on his Oracle bio page [oracle.com]:

    He designed the original EMACS command set and was the first person to port TeX.

  • I don't know names, but just as an example:

    The guy who came up with and implemented the Blizzard always-on DRM for Starcraft II and Diablo
    The lead designer for Sim City (2013)
    The man behind Active Desktop for Windows 98
    The innovator behind the wondrous idea of multi-page web ranking articles
    The team behind stuxnet (debatable, pretty snazzy piece of work, could use Zeus or some other example)
    Key PRISM database team
    etc

  • Charles H Moore is not on that list, and it is a travesty that he isn't. Forth doesn't get a lot of press, but it is still extensively used despite being over 40 years old.

  • Bram (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:53PM (#47409151)
    While we are at it, let's throw the Vim author Bram Moolenaar in the mix.
  • by swissmonkey (535779) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @04:13PM (#47409931) Homepage

    This truly is the crappiest list I've seen, and I have seen crappy lists. Creating a 'cool' site like Quora somehow gets you on that list, so does answering StackOverflow questions. I guess you either have to create websites or have Google on your resume to be on that list.

    How about creating 2 of the most successful and important operating systems the world has ever seen ? Namely, VMS and Windows NT.

    Oh yeah, David Cutler for example isn't on that list, I guess he should have stuck to creating websites in PHP...

    Leslie Lamport anyone ? Oh no, he didn't work on some crappy website either, doesn't count !

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