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Discussion on: Coder vs developer vs software engineer

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jayjeckel profile image
Jay Jeckel

I disagree that any of these terms carry such complicated or specific definitions.

  • Coder is just generic slang; doesn't matter what, where, when, or how much you code, if you code, then you're a coder.
  • Software Engineer (outside regulated nations) is nameplate fluff, a fancy sounding title to put on a resume or impress family.
  • Developer isn't restricted to coding, artists are developers to and have carried the title long before the tech industry became obsessed with the term.
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allthecode profile image
Simon Barker Author

Thanks for the comment, I agree that none of this should matter but as a new person coming into the industry it is confusing and being told "it doesn't matter" isn't helpful. Language changes and evolves and when searching online and looking at social media and job adverts these things have become important to understand the meaning of.

I've never heard the term developer applied to artists, I would say that context matters - words get reused all the time in English so let's not confuse new entrants any more.

When I started web dev 15 years it took me literally days to understand that a blog is just a website and not some separate entity. Remembering how confusing the tech world is for new entrants is important.

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jayjeckel profile image
Jay Jeckel

I appreciate that you're trying to inform new people, but it seems misleading to attach very specific definitions to what are actual generic terms with fairly simple meanings.

For example, your definition of coder effectively retroactively strips the title from every coder that coded before SCCS was released in 1975 and most coders that didn't fuss with subversion and other pre-git version control systems until recent years. In other words, despite all code I've written, I wasn't a coder until I started uploading some Minecraft mods to github and maybe not until a few years later when I managed to integrate unit testing into projects I worked on.

Do you see what I'm saying? Coder is a generic term that thousands, maybe millions of people have been using for nearly half a century without any of the baggage your definition attaches to it. If a new person asks what the definition of coder is, then an accurate definition would be as simple as: someone who uses code to solve problems. Any other qualifiers are at best context dependent and more likely unnecessary and perhaps misleading.

As another example, your definition of 'developer' arbitrarily declares lone developers, waterfall and other non-agile developers, non-coding developers, non-testing developers, and only-code developers as not really developers.

As a 'hey, this is what certain big tech companies are looking for as developers' it kinda works, but as a generic definition for 'developer' it ignores how broadly the word is used and has been used since before computing was a thing.

Again, like coder, if a new person asks what a developer is, the answer is as simple as: a developer is a person who, generally officially, contributes to the production of a project.

As I said, I appreciate anyone helping to educate new people, so even if we disagree, I hope the discussion useful to those that come after.