Monday, July 27, 2009

At least I'm creating jobs...

David Parnas, who runs an undergraduate program in software engineering at McMaster University is quoted here in Jeff Atwood's Coding Horror, saying that bad programmers create jobs.

Q: What is the most often-overlooked risk in software engineering? A: Incompetent programmers. There are estimates that the number of programmers needed in the U.S. exceeds 200,000. This is entirely misleading. It is not a quantity problem; we have a quality problem. One bad programmer can easily create two new jobs a year. Hiring more bad programmers will just increase our perceived need for them. If we had more good programmers, and could easily identify them, we would need fewer, not more.

I think it's easier than most people think to create negative value. And, it's particularly easy in software. This relates to my crackpot theory that the reason the internet exists is to soak up the excess productivity of humanity. Still, we as a profession can't come anywhere near the negative value creation capability of the financial sector. Those guys have talent.

Programmer (in)competance

If you want to check whether you really know what you're doing, score yourself against the Programmer Competency Matrix. Or, do what I do and recognize your own failures in 5 Stages of Programmer Incompetence. We're all "guru's" on this one.