Developer. Gamer. Yo-Yo Thrower.

Coders aren’t Comodities Redux

A few weeks ago I posted about entrepreneurs looking at the coding of their idea as a chore meant to be done as cheaply and quickly as possible.

I found this great follow up post. He articulates even better and elaborates on the original post:

This lack of technical understanding tends to be very important. To many software engineers, programming is art; it is creation, in a pure sense, like painting or making music. Without that knowledge and understanding the programming seems like an inconvenient to-do list item.

He also quotes another apt statement by Paul Graham

What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can’t save bad people.

Although these are more aimed at entrepreneurs, it’s certainly not limited to them. Some of my experiences with digital marketing agencies reflect the same thing — 1) idea person gets an idea, 2) Implements said idea as cheaply as possible 3) Confusion as to why no one like it (or worse, why it’s not working they way they had envisioned).

Good food for thought.

Coders aren’t commodities

As I was reading Slashdot this morning I came across a very interesting post titled “I Just Need a Programmer“, it linked to a blog by a CS Professor at University of Northern Iowa who recounts his experience with “idea people”:

“Many ‘idea people’ tend to think most or all of the value inheres to having the idea. Programmers are a commodity, pulled off the shelf to clean up the details.”

This mirrors so many of my experiences working in the CPG world it’s uncanny. An idea person (or company) comes up with an idea that “will change the world”, so they go ahead and do mock-ups and creative proofs all before even consulting a programmer. The result of this was usually a frustrated coder, and a disheartened idea person. Usually through some kind of break down with how the idea person thinks something should work and the actual coder implementing it. Working together from the get-go alleviates much of these kinds of problems, but often both the idea person and coder will feel like they’ve had to compromise on their idea or implementation.

There’s a reason why the Facebooks and Googles of the world were founded by people who at least know how code works — they may not have been the ones to put ideas to IDEs, but they understand what’s involved with coding and how to effectively communicate their world-changing idea to someone who can implement it fully.

Got an idea that you think is going to change the world? “Just need a coder”? Maybe now’s the perfect time to pick up a few programming tutorials to try and see if you can experience the awesome that is bringing your own idea to life … and even if you fail you’ll at least have an understanding of what’s involved with implementation and that will help stop you from looking at other coders as just cogs in a machine.

The Difference Between Good and Great

There aren’t many projects I’ve worked on in the digital interactive agency world where I get to spend time on something and just make it better. I’m not talking about adding functionality, or style, I’m talking about polish. That extra 1% or 2% that makes something seemingly benign stick out as awesome.

We often get so far ahead of ourselves just trying to get a project done that we gloss over little details, and “getting it out the door” becomes the primary focus, while “make it awesome” takes a back seat. I’m talking about the first time you saw a text box drop down to offer you a suggestion based on what you were typing, or when you’re filling out a sign-up form and after you click off of the username field it turns red and says “Username in use” — stupid little things that make something good into something great.

Part of the problem is time/money, the other part is caring enough about a project to make it happen. Often the former is much more the problem than the latter. But in cases where we get that extra time, or by some miracle the client gets us everything we need on time — we get to do something fun, like a static background of a BBQ picnic and animate it. It’s these extra 2% things that get me excited, they push my personal limits on what is considered “regular”.


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