Developer Differences: Makers vs Menders

Andrea Goulet on December 30, 2016

When you think of a developer what comes to mind? A brogrammer living in San Francisco working 23 hours a day on the next Facebook? If so, you woul... [Read Full]
Editor guide

I don't know, I've heard of this distinction before but I have a hard time categorizing myself according to it. I love getting new projects off the ground with a huge backlog of features where the only bottleneck is how fast I can get it done. On the other hand I love cleaning up broken things and making them better. l'd much rather buy and fix a 100 year old house than a buy new house (but perhaps construction isn't the best analogy given how much better things were built long ago).


Great combination of skills!


I'm definitely a Mender, 100%. I often find it frustrating and difficult to convey the value of my work to others, particularly in interview situations, as so many of them seem to be focussed on your ability to come up with new ideas and build personal projects from scratch. It can be difficult to demonstrate (without breaking corporate confidentiality) how you have refactored and improved upon existing products.


Me too! I would much rather refactor and tweak something until it's working really well than having a blank page and a deadline.

I don't know how to add this kind of work to a portfolio either so am using my posts here to convey my experience.


If you haven't listened to this Freakonomics podcast yet, I have a hunch that you'll love it. :) freakonomics.com/podcast/in-praise...


I remember meeting with you during my senior year of college at the recommendation of one of my professors (Tyler Darden). One thing I still remember from that meetup is the discussion of makers/menders and how, at the time, I was solely a maker. Now almost 3 years later, not only would I say I've grown an appreciation for mending, but I truly enjoy both making and mending.

This bit of wisdom was truly helpful, and I'm glad to see it shared with the development community at large!


Nice to see you on here Joel! It's such a small world. :)


I am definitely more of a maker, but I could see myself evolving over time to be more of a mender. I think it can depend on the exposure you get to different challenges.


I'm kind of right in the middle, similar to where I am on the introvert/extrovert scale. Too much time on either side and I start craving the other. I love diving into the details but I also enjoy creating new things and exploring.


I feel that I'm in the same position as you Andrea. I love spinning up new projects and having complete control on all the exciting technology choices, but it certainly is nice to be working on a tried platform that is stable.

I think having that balance between the two is very important though. There are characteristics of both mindsets that are great to have when starting a new project as well as maintaining a legacy project.


I think I am more of a mender, but I'm unsure. Maybe 60% mender 40% maker?
I love refactoring old code and making it beautiful and performant. I definitely enjoy the challenge of figuring out reasons for weird bugs no one understands, and I would definitely say that I'm the tortoise with bursts of speed.

But, on the other end, I like toying with new stuff, learning new languages and approaches. I bore quite easily, so I don't like to be stuck with the same project and technology for a very long time.

What I really suck at is getting to an MVP, I'm unable to rapidly go from zero to a working application because I lose a lot of time trying to find the best technology/configuration/approach. That's why I see myself more as a mender.

About micromanagement: it happened to me once to have someone give me single tasks without giving me the whole picture. I spent more time waiting for the next task than actually doing work, and not being in control of the quality of the overall project was quite frustrating!


Amazing article! I'm a maker, 100% sure. I love to start a new project, choose what language, patterns and libs to use. It's a exciting moment, only makers can understand.

You are right about hackathons and be motivated by pressure too. Makers wish to be challenged to push their limits and learn new things.


It's great to add words to help de-find oneself. By de-find i mean identify with categories you feel close to. I'm a maker who enjoys when making is done and it's about time i become a mender :) I believe staying in either category is not a good idea...


I prefer to work in x-functional teams with a lived you-build-it-you-run-it philosophy of ownership. Their, every Maker needs to become a Mender and vice versa: Menders are part of the rapid-prototyping phase!

Hope that those, who calls themselfe "Makers" do not ignore security and scalability topics per se ;)


I think I’m more of a maker when it comes to UI stuff - mostly mobile apps because I find the process to be really fun. But more of a mender when it comes to backend work which is probably due to working on so much of existing projects at my job.


I'm more of a maker. And I love to work on POCs but working on feature addition to an ongoing project is also what I like. Participanting in hackathons and finishing tasks on deadline is what I like so much.


I am both, in certain aspects. Greenfield is always great. But I approach it with the idea that the architecture should be even better than the last project I did. I often write more test code than production code and enjoy seeing the number of tests increase. I totally hate deadlines - it's done when it's done. I want to build software that lasts and isn't thrown away once it's done. But I can't stand writing migration functions that keep persistent data alive. If I don't have days where I can just throw another 3000 new lines of code per day on the project, then I'm not happy either. So what am I?


Mending is awesome and I'm definitely a mender! No one likes working in a messy codebase, and menders like to make things cleaner. There is no better feeling in programming than transforming 1k loc into 150 loc without breaking the system.


I'm a new programmer and I have no idea if my natural abilities fall in as either mender or maker since all I've done is experiment with code (maker). I think I need to shift over to mender and learn how other peoples' code work and how others write code.

Thanks for the article. It's given me a different view about programmer life.


I always feel more like a maker than a mender, but when you develop for instance, your own product, you have to evolve it over time switching from one perspective to the other. That's an experience I enjoy!


Say during an interview, how would you know if the person you're interviewing is the mender type? What kind of questions would you ask to glean that kind of information from them?

I find myself in-between, more a maker type that gets giddy about testing and debugging, however in the short term! I want to develop my own apps as services but the idea of supporting them for years on end myself fills me with dread lol! I much rather a business model where I develop the idea and get it stable for market release, support it myself for a limited time and when it's earning enough, hand over the reigns to a support developer. I obviously need a mender for that.


I'm a little in both camps. I also don't that people who are exclusively makers or exclusively menders are good for a project's success. The early making needs to be done with mending in mind, else we quickly end up with an unmaintainable mess. Also, the menders in the later phase of a project need to have the creativity and imagination to see things like emerging frameworks. Sometimes the solution to the problems a mender has to fix is an entirely new tool or a DSL. It needs a bit of a maker's mindset to see and implement that.


Nice article.

I use similar division. product vs technology orientation. Product is what you would call maker, and technology is more similar to mender.
It is the type of task that gives the specific dev the opportunity to display her or his skills. Some tasks like 'build a new tool in only 2 days' will probably take out the product guy out, and leave the technology guy in.
While the task 'stabilize the system' will take the technology guy out, and leave the product guy hidden.

As many devs are in the spectrum, we need both. Only a few devs would be happy to fix defects in the same area for 2 years. I would also think that writing projects that are never used can't be good for a dev.

I try to combine between the two. Yes, there are defects to fix, but you can also write a new feature (especially in a new area).


For me it depends what I'm doing. When it comes to UI work, I'm far more of a mender. I prefer to take something existing and modify it to suit what is needed. That includes creating whole new sections of it.

I love creating things from scratch when it comes to just hacking around with node stuff though, be it backend stuff or even completely decoupled from websites. I have a habit of coming up with way too many projects!


I asked the same question on Twitter just this week


I am finding myself more of a mender, and less of a maker... Maybe it is because I can not type and learn as fast as I used to... but the cleaning/refactoring/re-architecturing brings a joy within me


I'm a maker who loves mending.



I think I am a mender...but not dealing with support tickets as such...breaking down the old wall and possibly renovating it. But I do have tendencies of making...I guess its time to introspect...


I think i am a maker


I believe that mending experience contributes to becoming a better maker.


Thank you for this perspective. It helps me look at some things from a different angle.


This is such a great distinction. I'm a maker, hands down. Fixing broken things drives me insane, I'd rather make something new. Excellent article!


I think I am more of a maker. I like spinning up new projects hoping that I finish them. I don't mind mending as long as I know what I am doing.


Mender, myself. Doesn't feel like it at times when refactoring affects foundational components of the application.


Looks like I am a Maker :D


Oh freak! I never thought there were people out there who love maintaining and fixing old code. Nonetheless, this is a great piece of wisdom.


Seems like there's potentially a room for a 3rd camp. Surely someone out there revels in A/B testing, but I don't think it's the Makers or Menders.


Hmmmm... maybe "measurerers"? :)

I tend to think of A/B testing as a form of continuous improvement and I think it varies by project. If you have something that's bold and exploratory, that's likely to excite a maker, but if you've nailed down the concept and now you're in the refining phase of testing, a mender might enjoy that more. It's really subjective and depends a lot on context.


I'm on both extremes of the spectrum, although not sure if it's good or bad, as I can be under the influence of the mood of the day! Anyways, nice article!


That was such a nice read. 100% maker here.


I am more of a maker. I really love building stuff from the ground up. I get the opportunity to learn new tools and new ways of doing things.


I'm more of a maker but I also enjoy fixing bugs, specially if they are challenging. Also, I think no one should ever be micromanaged.


I hate micromanagement, too. That's why I think it's important to identify people's strengths and learn what they enjoy working on. When someone finds pleasure in their work, it's amazing how much more productive they are.


Nice article! I think I fall into the makers half, never thought of a programmer from this perspective!


Great post! Definitely I'm a mender. But I discovered that after 8 years of programming, before that I was not aware of this distinction

Code of Conduct Report abuse