You are not a real developer

Arve Solland on February 16, 2017

So it has surfaced again, the ugly head of the underground mob that feels they should label who is a developer and who isn't. These claims comes... [Read Full]
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The fact that this is the second time PPK has trotted out this slide in a year - both times causing developers to claw the sky and write "be who you are" pieces about it - indicates he enjoys the ensuing hubbub.

That isn't the behaviour of a community member, imo. It's one thing when the community disagrees on technical issues (the Nolan talk about needing JS, for example) but another when someone goes out their way, twice, to point at people and call them phoneys.

Ironically, like many infuriating things in life coughtrump we might do better to completely ignore them and not validate them with blog posts.


Caveat emptor: I have no idea what stirred this up, or what the debate is. But I think there are different development methods and tools, and some are better than others. As engineers, we should strive to find out what works best, and while there is obviously going to be a lot of confirmation bias, I think analysis and discussion of the pros and cons of different tools and methods is healthy.


Often people start with simpler, higher level programming tools, and may eventually work their way down to more powerful, lower level tools.

However, instead of encouraging people to challenge themselves and believe in such a journey, this article entreats them to get triggered over any perceived slight and demand equal recognition for anything they've done, regardless of merit. It needlessly widens an us v them schizm, and potentially robs the reader of the opportunity to have a larger and richer experience as a programmer by muddling over how much praise and recognition they should be getting, or obsessing over the few words of an occasional naysayer or troll.

Your best option is to bin this rubbish and go program something new, for your own enjoyment and edification.


I would consider a Font End designer as a developer only if he at least knows Javascript, knowing its frameworks like AngularJS would be definitely called a developer. Because Javascript has a lot of solutions on the web which anyone can copy. I used to copy it a lot before learning Angular. I won't write in pure javascript, hate it.


It is not possible for me to agree with this enough!

I am tired of people telling me why I should do this, and why I shouldn't do that.

Common courtesy, so uncommon these days - where hubris dominates and humility does not even register.

I know that this 'outrage' was inspired by a slide posted without context, but it has been fuelled by an endless stream of highly opinionated blog posts (Medium, I am looking at you..)

Great post!


Thanks Jacob - Yup - Common courtesy goes a long way ! :)


So I can't even tell if this is just clickbait to get us all riled up (again) over what's essentially a silly question. It's all a #define, isn't it? If I say I'm a "Web Dev" and you say I'm not, or I say I'm a "Dev" and you don't believe me, it's just a difference of opinion, because there's no standardized definition of what a {Web} Dev is.

For instance, I'm a (mostly) hardware guy, so I write code in the Hacker style (as in "Building furniture with an axe"), but I wrote some Python code to build and update the following webpage:

(Pictures scraped from webcams in the Turks & Caicos, using limited bandwidth, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.)

It's a website, I developed it, therefore I'm a Web Dev. And since I wrote the Python code that refreshes the pictures, I'm a Dev. Plus I have an account on so I'm definitely a Dev. 8*)

But as anyone who looks at the source of that webpage, or anyone who has seen my code knows, I'm nowhere near a Real Dev and I'd even admit my code isn't produced very professionally.

But I don't care, because it's just a label. Dev, or JOAT, or Technology Consultant, or whatever...

Enjoy, don't let the trolls rile you up. I've been around since the days of Serdar Argic (been there, done that, and actually really did get the "Screaming Through The WIres" T-shirt!) and there are always going to be flame wars and clickbait, and trolls. But there's always going to be everything else, so ration your attention and spend it on the important stuff, like 8*)


I think that the "real developer" discussion is a sort of "strawman fallacy" that moves the discussion from "good and bad software". I knew engineers that build very bad software, and self-taught guys with strong knowledge of software development. There's no a rule, but certainly there are good and bad pieces of software.

That said, it is a real issue that some environments are more mature than others. While there are well-known tools and conventions for Java environments, there are a lot of open discussions about conventions and principles within the web environment. Same occurs with communities, while some communities born as enterprise solutions to enterprise problems which led to standardization in a hierarchical business structure, other communities like the JavaScript ecosystem born in a very different context.

But despite the specific concerns about software environments and communities, computer science created a lot of patterns and tools to measure the quality of software. And they are usually based on practice and years of experience, like the SOLID principles1. I think the challenge is to take the existing principles and try to implement them in any software development environment. Of course, there's always a little of "faith" involved in these decisions. You have to "believe" that certain principles lead to good software, and you need to trust someone with more experience than you in order to learn that.

So I think it is very important you never believe the statement "you're not a real developer", but it is equally important to accept that sometimes your opinion is not based on experience while other people positions are, and learn until you are able challenge other people positions based on facts.


It's the same as with "artist". Who is a real artist, who isn't? Is everybody an artist?
Just with "artist" I understand there's some privileges and historic context coming along with the title. But arguing about "developer"? It's like trying to define who a "real accountant" or a "real pilot" is. You do the thing for a living? You are it. You don't? You're probably not it, or at least a hobby-it. It's just a job dammit.


I agree with this completely. Sadly, usually people tend to feel they 'must' follow certain tools or protocol without knowing why they need to. With this way of thinking i think those things just become a ceremonial stuff that needs to be done other than help us solve some problem or create some feature better and faster.


Developer: a person or thing that develops something.

This has nothing to do with code. You can be a part of development in numerous ways.


You can tell someone how to improve their code AND still consider them a real dev :)


Links, sources, please. This is new to me, but does not sound unfamiliar.


I think that in the case of the latest outrage, some of the offensiveness of the original statement was overstated as it was taken from an image of a slide posted out of context. The person who posted the image and PPK himself (who was the one who presented the offending slide) have followed up with more context.

Given the full context, there is some merit to the concern about an over-reliance on tools and to the larger point he was making even if his words were somewhat intentionally incendiary.

Thanks for the perspective. If you're curious, I shared my own perspective about this as well.


Hi Brian,

Thanks for your reply.
I do agree that sometimes things gets taken out of context, but I have seen the same tendencies so so many times through my career - in many different forms.
Sometimes its about approaches and methods, other times its about which language(s) you use (that REALLY riles people up).

I just don't think its any universal right or wrongs in this - and we should not try to label or invalidate anyone of our peers - instead support them and contribute to a better tech community :)


This sentiment is shared by at least some amount of developers that operate at a layer of abstraction below those they feel are not worthy of the title "programmer." To many, the web in any capacity is but a toy. You don't understand the technologies that browsers are built on? You're not a real programmer. We can keep going deeper and deeper until the only real programmers are the engineers who design the processor die.


I hear you, and if you read my full response in the link, you'll see that I am certainly not subscribing to that point of view.


I have no idea about the situation that you guys are talking about but I'd still like to speak my opinions. I'd say if the language you use isn't used in normal human interactions but can be understood by a machine or browser for that matter, then that is a programming language and you are a developer.

Doesn't matter if that language is Kotlin, CSS or Swift.

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