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Study Shows Programmers Get Better With Age

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the practice-makes-perfect dept.

Programming 352

mikejuk writes "It's a prejudice the young and old both share, but with opposite conclusions, of course. Young is best or old is best — most have an opinion. Now we have some interesting statistics ingeniously gathered and processed by Peter Knego, 'big data' style, that 'proves' older is better when it comes to programming, at least!"

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Known this one for a long time... (5, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788284)

Claims of agism always seemed funny to me in the context of programming (or really most industries).

Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

It's not like the "olden days" where how many years of service you'd get out of someone mattered. Now people are lucky if they have the same job for 5 years. Manpower requirements fluctuate so much in today's industry that the days of "get a job out of school and stay there till you retire" are long gone.

And there is value in young blood as well, but you really need a mixture of people out of university with new ideas and people with experience to make them work (or who understand why they won't). Even if a person loses touch with current technologies, it is worth having people around who have seen a lot of shit fail and know the warning signs.

This of course assumes we arn't talking about someone who learns to program at the age of 40 or something.. then all bets are off I guess.

A guy where I work is retiring in two months. We have known this for like a year and we are _still_ scrambling to get all the info out of his head (we maintain some very old systems... and he was around when they were _designed_). If I retired tomorrow no one would give a shit. "Just hire another c/c++/java guy with a little asm". Obviously this more more related to knowledge than skill.. but still.. that's value!

Also.. interesting (yet pretty thin) way of getting the stats! And I can't be the only one who was pleasantly surprised not to find some huge 50 page report at the pointy end of that link.

The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788348)

People are only realizing this now, having been burned time and time again by young programmers who don't have a fucking clue what they're doing.

Yes, most of them are proponents of using Ruby and Ruby on Rails. In fact, those are the only tools in their toolbox. The solution to every problem is a web app. Then again, that's exactly what we should expect from 18-year-olds who have no university-level training, and merely picked up their "craft" by reading blog posts.

Well, it turns out that writing anything larger than a blog using Ruby and Rails just isn't a good idea. It's not maintainable, the performance is absolutely shitty, and the product itself doesn't provide any value. Unfortunately, many customers didn't find that out until well after these Rubyists had made a mess of the situation.

These days, it's only safe to trust developers who know languages like C or C++. Even if you're having them use Java, C#, Python or even Perl, at least they have a wide base of knowledge that lets them make sensible and correct decisions.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788376)

Yes, because surely the answer to incomplete, buggy web apps is bloated, insecure native apps.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788428)

I've been in the industry for over 30 years now. I've witnessed first-hand the transition from COBOL-based systems from the 1960s and 1970s, to C-based systems of the 1970s, to C++ applications of the 1980s, to Java systems of the 1990s, to C# apps of the 2000s, to today's web apps.

Users today are worse off than they've ever been. Web apps, especially those hosted externally from an organization, are among the most inefficient, ineffective software systems ever created.

Ask any long-time computer/software user in a given organization how software has helped their productivity. They will immediately tell you that the software they had to use was much better when it was actual native applications, rather than the web apps they have to use today.

Native apps are always better. That's why smart people still use real email clients, rather than GMail and other webmail systems.

You can always add network connectivity to a native app. You can't add quality to a web app.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (2, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788456)

I actually think web apps are a good idea. The problem is in their execution.

Specifically the problem is that while web apps are becoming popular for "real applications" .. they are still being developed in a style suitable for your personal blog.

Which is where I think the mixing of experience with new ideas needs to come into play. You need old experienced guys getting young "web types" to go through proper program design, development and testing. You also need web technologies to evolve from their "copy+paste from the web and modify as needed" state into something designed for real work.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788592)

Theoretically, that's a great idea, and probably the way it should be done. However, that's not possible in reality.

Most web technologies are far too cobbled-together to be salvaged. HTTP handles basic stuff like compression and caching very poorly. HTML is a mess, and it's only getting worse with HTML5. JavaScript is a poor excuse even for a scripting language. Cross-browser compatibility has always been a disaster.

Without a proper foundation, it's just not possible to build reliable, usable software. The web development field lacks a good foundation. That's why web apps have been around in some form or another for 20 years now, and they still aren't as usable as many C applications from the 1970s.

Advanced programmers can't help here. The only advice they'd bring is to scrap what's there, and not create web apps. That's the only reasonable advice that they can give, given the context!

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788610)

Native apps are always better. That's why smart people still use real email clients, rather than GMail and other webmail systems.

Email clients which take 5 seconds to start up, invent their own non-system UI scheme, fail to scale with DPI settings, remain out of date on 98% of installations, crash unexpectedly, bundle malware with installers, waste CPU cycles while running in the background, are incompatible with older-version data formats, randomly corrupt the db after a serious error, fail at unicode & localization, take weeks to learn, have an interface control system more complex than a nuclear power plant's, invoke executables sent by botnets, use non-documented encryption methods on the db, are a horror to sync with other devices, and so on and so forth?

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788648)

Sounds to me like you've just described GMail perfectly. So, what do you think about native mail clients?

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788706)

If you only read the first listed problem, then yes... that would describe web mail... however, the other 14 problems are nearly exclusive to native clients. And that was by no means an exhaustive list. Anyone who has used Outlook or Thunderbird can bitch about them all day long.

btw, Gmail is a helluva lot faster than Microsoft Outlook ;).

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (2)

Plombo (1914028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788708)

Outlook is not the only native email client, you know.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788750)

Beat me to it. Thunderbird works wonderfully here.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

fred911 (83970) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788784)

Yea, but it's the only one I always disable or delete.

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788860)

why did you install it in the first place then? That was pretty dumb, wasn't it?

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

kbrasee (1379057) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788722)

In other words, get off my lawn?

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788866)

"That's why heavy email users still use real email clients, rather than GMail and other webmail systems."

FTFY

Webmail fills a HUGE need, dont be so quick to disparage it. The right tool for the right job, remember?

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

mtm_king (99722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788878)

I totally agree. Web apps have to run in a browser. Native apps get the whole operating system. It is very difficult to get a web app to have the usability of a native app. It takes a lot more resources (cost) to create a good web app. To do a PHP web app you need to use PHP, Java (for Ajax), HTML, Apache configuration, and some database and worry about security. Replace PHP with whatever and Apache with IIS - still it is a mess compared to a native app. Give me client/server any day. If you are not sure how I feel about this, wait - 'Hey, you kids get off my grass.'

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788534)

The solution to every problem is a web app.

I've known some ASP.NET developers like that. One was given the task of creating a process to download a file via FTP every day and insert the data into Oracle. He wrote a web app so someone would have to click it every day. When I asked him why he didn't create a service or console app that can be automated so that someone didn't need to actually click on the file, he gave me blank stares.
 

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (1)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788832)

You can automate a click on a web page. E.g. simply wget the url

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (4, Funny)

mwlewis (794711) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788916)

Yeah, but then you still have the web app that kicks off the wget. It's web apps all the way down!

Re:The 18-year-old Rubyist isn't a good programmer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788842)

You sir, are a fucking idiot.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788390)

And there is value in young blood as well, but you really need a mixture of people out of university with new ideas and people with experience to make them work (or who understand why they won't). Even if a person loses touch with current technologies, it is worth having people around who have seen a lot of shit fail and know the warning signs.

This so much this!!! Those new ideas are seriously good ideas. Most are. But you also need someone who can say 'oh that is a good idea' or 'thats crap' then back it up with 'if you want that it will take 2-3 months and 8 people'. Then back it up with a plan that can really do it. And/Or 'hey we did that before and here are the 5 things that got in the way last time, lets plan for those'. Then the young guy can help out on it and learn how to do his cool idea.

However, there are companies out there who think 'move up or out'. So they end up taking really talanted programmers/whatever and making them managers. At that point they are rookies again. They may be a seriously good engineer but the may not be a very good person to work for. This comes from people who are managers and can not understand how people do not want to have their jobs. That programmer/whatever may make a good manager someday, but it will take years.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788500)

The so-called "new ideas" that you talk of are stuff that we tried 20, 30, or even 40 years ago, unsuccessfully.

NoSQL is a really fine example of this. We had all sorts of non-relational databases in the 1970s. Even after the Relational Revolution, we still had non-relational databases throughout the 1980s. By the 1990s, however, enough experienced developers realized that they were a bad idea about 99.999% of the time. There are, literally, a small handful of organizations around the world that can benefit from such techniques. Everyone else is much better off with a relational database.

Yet today, we see young developers proclaiming how great NoSQL techniques are. Then we see the subsequent failures of the software systems they craft. The smart ones discover relational databases, and learn what everyone older than 30 already knew.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (5, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788410)

Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

I'm 50 and have been coding (for a living) since about 20. I'm not up on the new maths but I think that counts for 30 yrs doing software.

yet, I can't find a job right now. been looking more than I'd like to admit. I'm in the bay area, I have been a serious software (and now, self-taught hardware) geek, I've worked for a who's who of silicon valley. but I can't find jobs or offers and occasionally I'll find contract 'offers' but they are lowballs, below market rate and somewhat insulting. I've been in the bay area for nearly 20 years (started at DEC back in maynard before that). yet I can't find a job.

so, you tell me. ageism? the onsite interviews I've gotton, most of the group members are all young (20's and 30's).

one female member that I interviewed with actually, literally, said this "hmm, you've been 'everywhere'. and, wow, you've been working longer than I've been alive!" she was in her early 20's and so, yes, I have been programming longer than she has been breathing.

I'm not getting offers and its even hard to get a phone interview.

(just one datapoint, if you care)

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

vgerclover (1186893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788550)

Even when I understand that as people grow older it gets harder due to circumstances of life, why don't you move somewhere where your talents are needed, appreciated and paid for?

Re:Known this one for a long time... (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788586)

leave the bay area? but I do really like it here. climate, culture, food (especially the food; one of my weaknesses). I'm also too accustomed to just running down to the local surplus stores (bay area has quite a few) and being able to build and hack on my hardware stuff (places like HSC electronics kind of keep me locked to the bay area; and if you're into hardware, you understand what I'm saying).

it would be a very sad state of affairs for a data networking guy (my core field) to have to move *away* from silicon valley to find a job. I guess I'm not ready to say 'uncle' quite yet.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788646)

Austin...

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788892)

What's your idea of a lowball offer? While I'm certain there is ageism in software development, a common problem is when older people expect their salary to go ever higher and ask for money based more on their expectations than based on their skills. The difference between someone fresh out of college and someone with five years job experience is usually tremendous, while the difference between someone with ten years experience and twenty years experience is more subtle -- and yet the one with twenty years experience is going to expect noticeably more money. I wouldn't be surprised if you're overvaluing your skills in the current market; if you're not, then you have to figure out how to demonstrate to companies that you're worth the money. After all, the companies making lowball offers are hiring someone; they're not offering you a job just so they can laugh at the video of your reaction later.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

mtm_king (99722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788914)

That pretty much describes me. Except my resume gets me interviews - with people younger than my daughter and I never hear from them. I hate to say it. Our mistake was not moving to management.

Experience or repitition? (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788430)

You have to be careful when you talk about "experience". Some people who have been working for 20 years genuinely have 20 years of experience. Others just have 1 years experience, that they've repeated 19 times. Typically where experience matters, it's not in the ins-and-outs of a particular product/language/method as most of these haven't been around for long enough to gain any impressive amount of experience in - and probably won't be around for long enough in the future to make it worthwhile, anyway.

Where experience counts is in the "soft" areas: recognising approaches that will or will not work, as they have or haven't in the past. Knowing where your limits are and knowing being able to tell when others need help (even if they don't have the experience, or are too vain to know or ask, themselves). And knowing whether an unknown problem will take a couple of days to solve or a couple of years.

The problem with experience is that those who have it frequently end up working for those who don't, but who display the "can do" attitude that attracts lots of employers - as opposed to the "that'll never work" which can be the voice of experience, itself. As there's nobody as unswervingly certain as the truly ignorant, the experienced people have learned not to try to "advise" these individuals as they will only resent it, feel threatened by it and become even more steadfast in their refusal to accept advice.

Re:Experience or repitition? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788652)

Where experience counts is in the "soft" areas: recognising approaches that will or will not work, as they have or haven't in the past. Knowing where your limits are and knowing being able to tell when others need help (even if they don't have the experience, or are too vain to know or ask, themselves). And knowing whether an unknown problem will take a couple of days to solve or a couple of years.

spot on, you have it completely right.

but you know what, the things they ask in interviews are memorization questions. recite this or that algorithm and write it on the board. tell me - how does this show anything about experience? if you are closer to college age, you remember all the tricks and algorithms and can reproduce them much more easily than those of us who last saw many of these 'classic' problems decades ago.

if you have a good experience base and can *function* - but if you don't have the ability to recite things from memory - you fail interviews. I think they are mostly testing for different skills even though they might not even realize it, themselves.

when I run into older engineers at job interviews, they know this and they ask me about my work experience and ask me to tell some stories about what worked, what was a problem, how we solved it, etc. conversational and BS-detecting. I like that. otoh, when I run into younger guys, they ONLY ask compsci101 level things and pretty much ignore your whole resume and experience base. if you can't rattle off this or that fact, or if you can't program 'live' in front of them on the whiteboard, you're toast in their eyes. its SO different between younger and older interviewers, it really is.

Re:Experience or repitition? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788844)

And the places most likely to be hiring, ((sub-)sub-)sub-contractors to some overly outsourced brand name or startups, are likely lead by the younger ranks.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788458)

Claims of agism always seemed funny to me in the context of programming (or really most industries).

Actually programmers with 10 years of experience are more employable than those with 5. Programmers with 25 are expensive. If you don't have a strong enough need for the extra expertise the best business decision you can make is to find those guys in the middle area say 10-15 years of experience. They're going to give you the best expertise return on your dollar. Additionally, if I do have a need for a true guru (let's call it 25 years) I can probably give him a bunch of 5-10 years and he can make them better at the normal parts of the project and just do the hard parts himself (kinda the way renaissance masters didn't sculpt their entire masterpieces themselves but instead used a bunch of apprentices to do the grunt work). These unpleasant truths (specifically that the guru's experience isn't needed for many jobs or that if it is 10 of him aren't necessarily more effective than one) are what make ageism a valid claim. Now whether that should be something we regulate against is a whole other issue.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788688)

Programmers with 25 are expensive.

another spot-on comment (man, this is spooky).

I'm expensive. its one reason I'm not finding jobs or at least job offers. they know they don't want to offer what I was usually getting and they don't want to even bring me in if we are off as much as, say, $20k in salary. yes, its true, being too experienced and having a matching salary is a detriment in today's workforce.

being in the middle is better. catch is: you can't STAY in the middle. you can't fight getting older. so this problem affects 100% of us, just some sooner than others.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (2)

kifwebe (939474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788822)

Well - what a funny post. I have made my living writing computer programs since 1970 - when I was 21. And so many languages: machine code, assembly, fortran, cobol, c, basic, sql, rpg, c++, java, php and so many libraries and constructs. Right now I am working on converting all our servers to guests on debian/kvm and vmware in a cloud, and our sites to drupal 7. knowing php helps with drupal, so I do all I can to teach it to the noobs. but who knows what tomorrow will bring? the predicted end of programming no doubt. someday my shortterm memory will go, and my longterm as well. but until then, i will push our people to think, solve, and code.

Re:Known this one for a long time... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788896)

Someone with 25 years experience is far more employable than someone with 5 years because they... have more experience?

That depends on the person. While that is almost always true, it doesn't always have to be (unless you were talking about the same person).

Bias/self-selecting sample (5, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788292)

Unfortunately the data might just prove that good programmers continue to older age while their less skilled kin get promoted out of it. I also hold the opinion that older programmers who were typically maths graduates are far more skilled than the younger "computer science" graduates (I include myself in the latter group).

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (1, Insightful)

X10 (186866) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788508)

older programmers who were typically maths graduates are far more skilled than the younger "computer science" graduates

I second that. The kids I've hired right out of school hadn't learned decent programming in school, they had all been doing their own projects on the side. When I started my career as a programmer, there was no computer science department at the university, so we did math or physics, or astrophysics, which involves a lot of programming and a lot of problem solving.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (1)

X10 (186866) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788528)

Unfortunately the data might just prove that good programmers continue to older age while their less skilled kin get promoted out of it.

That would explain why IT managers are mostly clueless.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (4, Interesting)

vidnet (580068) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788542)

I did some research on this, namely read TFA. The summary is extremely misleading.

The actual story is "Old programmers have better reputions on stackoverflow. They don't write better posts, they just spend more time there."

The "study" says absolutely nothing about programming skill. Just stackoverflow profile statistics.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788660)

Parent post should be modded through the roof. An excellent reminder to always have a look at what was measured and to ignore the conclusions that the authors, or reporters, and especially /. summary writers, present.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788674)

That should have been the original summary. Old people have more free time. Go figure.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788766)

That should have been the original summary. Old people have more free time. Go figure.

It depends on what you mean by "older", but in general people have the most free time in their youth. College students have huge gobs of free time (though mostly don't realize it). Young, unmarried professionals have a little less. Married people with young children have even less, but still quite a bit. Married people with teenage children are typically the busiest of all, so the free-time "low" is generally around 45-50. After that, kids start to be less of a burden and free time returns to a bit better than the "young, unmarried professional" level (better because of greater earned vacation time and the established lifestyle).

This is all generalization, of course, but I think it's a sufficiently common trend to invalidate your explanation of the data.

I think the "older programmers know more stuff and can more easily provide useful answers to questions" is the simpler and more logical explanation.

Re:Bias/self-selecting sample (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788812)

It seems to me that there's a glut of new programmers who are of varying degrees of skill. It used to be that to be a programmer required a lot of work and people who weren't passionate and talented gave up. Now you have courses that sugar coat it, they try to find the easiest language and they graduate people who can't code a lick.

In other words, the best programmers are as good as they used to be, but there are more and more bad programmers out there dragging the average down.

Age or experience? (2)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788300)

Is it age or experience that makes the difference? I am going with the latter.

Assuming it's someone not stuck in 1972 and only knows cobol

Re:Age or experience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788462)

Is it 6 or half a dozen? I am going with the latter.

Re:Age or experience? (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788776)

People who have been doing it wrong for 10 years are less useful that people that have been doing it partially wrong for 5 years.
Age is not a free pass for being better, but generally experience should make you better. So start as early as possible with developing software.

Re:Age or experience? (4, Insightful)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788520)

Experience definitely counts for a lot in programming. I certainly think I'm a better programmer now than I was ten years ago. I've learned a lot in that time!

On the other hand, I do think there's some truth in the suggestion that better programmers are more likely to stay in the field. The best programmers are the people who love doing it, who come home from a day of programming at work to spend their evening doing their own programming projects, who are always learning about new subjects and techniques just for the fun of it. And those are precisely the people who are most likely to turn down that promotion to management; who, if they get laid off, don't even consider switching fields because why would they ever want to do something else? Mediocre programmers leave the field as they get older, leaving only the better ones.

Re:Age or experience? (2)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788556)

I'm not so convinced by that argument, even if it has some appeal.

What I think happens (as someone who's been around the industry for a few years now) is that you become less interested in the technology, and more interested in making things. ie, I can no longer get enthused about the current cool framework, or how easy the new language can make things. I do get excited about making the products that we sell to our customers though, and doing a good job of it. I guess I'm just maturing a bit and starting to do the job rather than playing with the toys.

The ideal is probably a good mix of ages, you want the older guys doing designs and architecture, coming up with the requirements and user stories, and the younger guys slapping together the code - which is really what they like. As long as management stops promoting the young guys into positions where they decide how things should be put together, then we'll keep on with rewrites and poor code that's oh-so-cool but oh-so-useless.

Or maybe I'm just spouting nonsense and the real industry is filled with all sorts of people in all sorts of roles, no matter what age they are :)

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788304)

This is hardly news. Practice ALWAYS makes perfect, you can master anything if you practice, period.

Another possibly expensive study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788306)

To prove what everyone with more than two neurons already knew. Thirty years ago.

Re:Another possibly expensive study (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788436)

To prove what everyone with more than two neurons already knew. Thirty years ago.

Well, that seems to exclude HR departments. But then, we already knew that.

Re:Another possibly expensive study (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788762)

To prove what everyone with more than two neurons already knew. Thirty years ago.

Well, that seems to exclude HR departments. But then, we already knew that.

Well, he did say TWO neurons.

Re:Another possibly expensive study (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788780)

Maybe in the larger HR departments.

Bullshit. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788312)

I've managed programmers for almost 20 years. You want to catch them in middle age. Too young, and they are inexperienced and likely to fall prey to the latest language/paradigm/etc. Scripted or uncompiled languages are a prime example. I'm sure Python's great; I don't want it anywhere near my project however. Anyone over 50 is likely to lean towards C (or C++) whether it's required or not - when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The sad fact is, weighing the lesser of the evils, I can't afford to pay 50 year old C-jockeys $100k+ per year, when I can find a Python kiddie to do it for $40k.

I call bullshit on you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788352)

>I'm sure Python's great; I don't want it anywhere near my project however.

>I can't afford to pay 50 year old C-jockeys $100k+ per year, when I can find a Python kiddie to do it for $40k

I find it unlikely that you're someone who's even in a position to make those sorts of calls.

Re:I call bullshit on you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788432)

I'd buy it. Stupid are the promoted. Not to mention I'm in a similar position. Of course we can't afford to pay anybody really so it ends up being done by me. And it sure as hell isn't done well. My skills suck not being the sole job I do. I'd much prefer to pay someone else. But not 100k.

Re:Bullshit. (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788362)

I like to think you need a mixture of the extremes.

You need the "fresh outa university" types who want to re-write everything in executable UML and shift to SCRUM. That's where a lot of your new ideas come from.

You also need the guy's with 25 years experience seeing this shit go wrong to keep them in check.

You can't change your development paradigm with every graduating class.. and you need the old-timers to keep things moving in the right direction. That said, I wouldn't want to have a whole company of them. We'd still be using COBOL.

Re:Bullshit. (4, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788468)

You also need the guy's with 25 years experience seeing this shit go wrong to keep them in check.

Yes, but you need the right sort of guy with 25 years of experience. You don't want the guy who says "we tried that: it didn't work." You want the guy who, as somebody above said, says "This is why it didn't work last time. Can we find a way of dealing with that this time?" The other thing the right guy with 25 years experience might be able to do is spot connections: "You want to do that? Hmm, that seems to tie in with this thing I worked on 15 years ago. Maybe some of the ideas from that will help."

Re:Bullshit. (1)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788714)

Considering that in the field of programming, the performance difference between the worst and the average (not the best) is infinite(1). Wouldn't $100k vs. $40k be a small price for getting even the average instead of the worst?

1) Some people simply can't write software at all, even they are paid for doing it. Zero result causes the difference to be so big.

Made my day! (1)

veryoldgeek (1591389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788320)

Love the headline, even if the real story is a bit more nuanced...

bad generalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788334)

TFA purports to show a correlation between age with perceived quality of programming forum posts, which is not necessarily a measure of programming skill. In particular, youngsters might have a greater tendency to pop off on topics they don't know much about, or lack the skill and experience to craft an effective response, and thus get lower ratings than their greyer colleagues.

Better than the alternative. . . (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788344)

This is as it should be. I mean, who would stay in a profession in which one got worse with time?

Re:Better than the alternative. . . (2)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788372)

Sportsmen and women, almost universally.

Re:Better than the alternative. . . (0)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788682)

Being a woman is a profession? /troll

Re:Better than the alternative. . . (0)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788724)

I didn't realize, "woman," was a profession.

Re:Better than the alternative. . . (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788772)

I wish I had mod points....

Re:Better than the alternative. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788392)

This is as it should be. I mean, who would stay in a profession in which one got worse with time?

Managers, politicians.

Volume.. (4, Informative)

hhr (909621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788360)

I believe that. The older programmers that I know have a better sence of what is neccessary, what works, and what doesn't need to be done. The young guys out code them by number of lines, the old coders write much more code that survies for years and doesn't need to be rewritten six monthes from now.

Re:Volume.. (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788864)

and that touches on a different issue, using lines of codes as a metric for productivity. Sadly the hardest problems may never show up on that metric, as it may be solved with a single line. But that single line may hide days of grappling with the problem in the first place, mapping all its twists and turns.

Older coders are better at their area of expertise (0)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788380)

..but not necessarily better at picking up new skills or techniques (I speak as someone in his 40s). So its a trade off. Yes , if you want a C++/Java/Cobol expert who knows the language inside out to work on a huge system for years then someone older is probably better , but if you're a start up who wants someone who'll quickly pick up new stuff and can shift gears in no time as your company grows and morphs then you really want someone in their 20s.

Re:Older coders are better at their area of expert (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788514)

I think older programmers might be more adaptable than you think. The more languages I've learned (at least to a basic level) the faster I pick up new ones because I recognize stuff I've seen before and only have to pick up the deltas.

Better metric (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788402)

Average age of WINE developers.

Sorry, Fallacy. (4, Interesting)

retroworks (652802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788412)

"Bad programmers get fired, and do not continue to have reputations as programmers once they are taxi drivers 20 years later". Programmers who don't get fired, after years and years, have more respect. The same curve would show up with race car drivers and bagel bakers. People in their 20s outnumber other new applicants, and as someone who hires a lot of people, most applicants are not qualified to begin with. I'm a budding codger, but sorry guys, this is data trickery.

Re:Sorry, Fallacy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788736)

> Bad programmers get fired

Have you actually seen this happen? I have only seen bad programmers getting more salary than I do.

Re:Sorry, Fallacy. (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788834)

Actually, in a lot of cases "bad programmers" get promoted out of programming jobs. Sadly, into placed where they can do even more damage,

Yeah, no shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788470)

And I get better every day. Fuck you to any manager that says otherwise.

Here's a last fuck you to the managers, just because.

I dislike the metric... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788496)

That this person is using in order to determine what is 'best' exactly?

He's using something very subjective and taking only part of a set. There are also other factors in play - such as the age of the person's account (which also goes up with age) and that sort of thing.

Hey! (1)

a-yz (1974868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788522)

You kids GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Hey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788710)

Hey, it's that comment again!

Hell, that should be obvious (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788524)

I look at code I wrote a few months ago, and I cringe. I look at code I wrote years ago, and I feel like inventing a time machine just so I can slap past-me in the face for being so stupid.

I mean, seriously, why did I use #DEFINES so much for constant variables? And goto... I still have nightmares about some of my older code. And I'm sure that 2 years from now I'll look back at the code I wrote now and feel just as ashamed.

Programming skills don't really age. Some of my best code styles have come from looking back at ancient stuff - LISP in particular, but I have style quirks I picked up from almost every language I know. Sure, I write everything in more-or-less modern languages (C++ is still modern, right?), but that's just syntax. If you know the heart of programming, you can only get better as time goes on.

Re:Hell, that should be obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788566)

I mean, seriously, why did I use #DEFINES so much for constant variables?

Why wouldn't you?

Re:Hell, that should be obvious (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788650)

Because using const means you get actual type-safety. Along with being able to debug it better.

Re:Hell, that should be obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788580)

As for your first paragrapg:http://thecodelesscode.com/case/13

But most employers don't want "good" (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788560)

Most companies want employees who are cheap, easily coerced into working late/weekends and who won't answer back or rock the boat. It helps if they feel insecure about the work environment, don't know their rights and haven't built up enough savings that a period "on the bench" would be financially ruinous to them.

That neatly describes new, young, callow graduates coming into their first job. It doesn't describe many people over 35 with family commitments, a good network of professional contacts and an impressive array of successes under their belts. Hence, companies are not very likely to rate "experience" highly as it tends to make employees who will question decisions, undermine authority with "suggestions", know what their employment record is worth and have developed the ability to promote their skills.

Never mind that experienced people can produce better results. The quality of their product is ultimately defined by the quality of the design decisions - good implementations don't matter if the underlying basis of the product is rocky - either from a technical point of view or that it simply doesn't address any needs that would make it sell profitably. Companies would argue that it's better to have fast workers, doing 60 hour weeks with no time off and get a shaky design out the door quickly, since then the failure comes to light sooner. That the young workers also get paid a lot less helps too as it makes the failures even cheaper - though it does make them a lot more probable, too.

Re:But most employers don't want "good" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788888)

"...easily coerced into working late/weekends and who won't answer back or rock the boat."

Yes, the prevailing attitude is they give the work and the expectation is to just get it done. Doesn't matter if the tools aren't readily available. Doesn't matter if the work takes more than 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week for hourly employees. Just get it done.

Re:But most employers don't want "good" (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788900)

Most companies want employees who are cheap, easily coerced into working late/weekends and who won't answer back or rock the boat. It helps if they feel insecure about the work environment, don't know their rights and haven't built up enough savings that a period "on the bench" would be financially ruinous to them.

True, true. I'll add some advice for those people:

- Do what they ask and take the initiative to do more. For example, if they ask you to organize parts or eat a shit sandwhich, do it and ask for more. Nothing's worse than an employee who bitches and moans about what's not in their job description - there's not such thing in this economy, guys! Be patient, negotiate, and finally relax after you have more clout.
- Alternately, if some shit task needs to be done but nobody wants to do it, take the initiative to do it. This is doubly so for advanced or especially difficult classes of problems or procedures. Offer to ask others to do it for them. People will love to see you make their job easier, and at the same time they will become dependant on you. That is key. That will help you build clout and cred.
- In case you haven't yet figured out what I'm trying to say, I'm trying to say that you must make others be dependent on you. Doing the above looks like you are being helpful, taking the initiative, and doing hard work. You want to be the guy that everybody asks for help, especially in a realm with much tribal knowledge.
- Don't take any shit. If you're in an abusive or unhealthy situation, go to HR. HR are there to keep things quiet, but if you go to them enough they will change things for the better. A business doesn't want the hassle of dealing with retaliation arguments and would rather work with less static.

Asinine (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788562)

The linked article proves nothing, and in fact outright says it doesn't matter, because the data's inconclusive. Again, the summary's misleading.

The data used was based on StackOverflow users' ages and reputation scores. The correlation is that users with higher recorded ages have better reputations. That hardly equates to being a better programmer. Perhaps, after 20 more years of dealing with society, those older users have learned that writing a thorough response with proper grammar is better than "u shud look 4 the widget lib." Perhaps the older users have simply seen more of the world, and can infer more about the question's actual meaning without being given explicit details. Perhaps those users who are young and knowledgeable have lied about their age, to avoid the ageism that pervades the professional world. Perhaps those younger users don't bother building up a reputation, because of objections to establishing permanent identities.

Even if we we accept that the StackOverflow data shows a correlation between age and actual programming ability, we still need to define that ability in a meaningful sense for each workplace application. Consider, for example, the current biases surrounding the use of NoSQL storage systems. To someone with a background in traditional RDBMSs, this NoSQL fad is ridiculous, because it abandons ACID, seemingly only to avoid SQL. To someone with a more theoretical background, a database unfettered by ACID is more flexible, and if using that flexibility requires a different means of expression, then so be it. Which approach is correct depends entirely upon whether the business needs flexibility or consistency.

If someone is looking for "good" programmers, they should first be able to define exactly what "good" means to them. StackOverflow reputation isn't really a very good metric for each personal opinion.

Suggestion (0)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788576)

Slashdot should maybe hire a few octogenarians to fix some of the weird glitches we've been seeing lately.. I mean, what's up with that giant gray box along the entire right side of the page?

Re:Suggestion (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788790)

A coffin?

ridiculous claim ... (3, Insightful)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788584)

The "study" that doesn't deserve to be called one claims that people who write more answers and ask fewer questions on SO are better programmers. That is as dumb as saying that business consultants are better CEOs or football trainers are better football players... As far as I am concerned, I am 38 now and I'd say that I've become more experienced and much lazier, but I wouldn't pay myself a higher salary for a programming job than I'd have for the younger me at 25. Among other things, because I could spend 20 hours in a row trying to solve a particular problem back then, i.e. what I lacked in experience, I more than made up for with persistence and enthusiasm.

Re:ridiculous claim ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788680)

So you would actually prefer to pay MORE for your "younger self" then for the same output. Which is to say, pay the same wage but have the more inexperienced "younger self" take 20 times longer to solve a problem... And probably write uglier code, not code with the thought of someone else needing to maintain the code 10-20 years into the future, etc, etc. I didn't RFTA so I can't comment on if tis study per se is crap or not but the notion that experience (in any job) is worth more seems to be a no brainer, really. Which isn't to say you shouldn't look at talented folks in their 20s but in my experience- while they may be TECHNICALLY very good and are up on the latest software engineering ideas and whatnot, they tend to lack some crucial non-technical experience that will lead to mistakes if not in a team with more experienced coders who have "been there, done that" and can offer advice on what pitfalls to avoid, etc.

Andd probably #1 on the list of things young programmers need to learn is pragmatism. Whether it's simply underestimating time requirements and the scale for a fully QAed end product, or learning not to just throw the latest greatest fad at every problem or that you can't refactor everything every single time you think it needs to be a bit better to fir the ideal world.

Re:ridiculous claim ... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788728)

what I lacked in experience, I more than made up for with persistence and enthusiasm.

As I'm sure your former girl friends will attest, that doesn't always help. :-)

But younger is cheaper! (3, Informative)

SwedishChef (69313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788614)

"Nuff said.

Re:But younger is cheaper! (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788672)

Cheaper on a time basis, not on a work basis... This article makes me feel soo good about the imaginary candles on my hypothetical birthday cake.

What it proves: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36788690)

Programmers don't continue in their line of work unless they're above average in ability.

Re:What it proves: (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788886)

Another factor is that with increased experience you don't do the same mistakes again.

A young programmer may be very good and specialized in a detail making the most of a single building block while an old programmer also has the ability to break down a problem better and get it structured. And an old programmer has gained the experience that tells him where it is important to focus on problems and where it's less important. This will be extra important when you do multi-threading and concurrent access to data. It's easy to screw up those parts - especially if you are inexperienced. A young programmer can get something that works perfect as long as it runs as a single task but when there is concurrency the whole world gets into a brain hemorrhage. An experienced programmer can figure out ways around problems like that and still allow for a solution with good performance - sometimes with simple "ugly" tweaks that ensures that concurrency won't occur frequently. Those tweaks may mean that the system that should have been perfectly symmetrical in distribution of load isn't in reality but it's not visible unless you know what to look for.

An example analogy would be a motorway scenario where you have four lanes of traffic. The "ideal" scenario would have been to spread traffic on all four lanes and allow lane changes whenever necessary if one lane gets 'full'. But a lane change means interaction between lanes and can slow down the overall traffic. If traffic was locked to a single lane then the overall speed might be higher since a 110mph lane won't get interference from a 25mph lane.

Or as a system I have been working on - the previous generation had 4 threads sending commands and expecting responses from several devices (let's say 40 devices). These threads were always running, and commands for a specific device could show up in any thread. As soon as one device got "sick" and didn't answer or was slow in response this affected commands to all the other devices. A revised way of doing it was to start a device dedicated thread instead for each of the devices that were of interest. Since not all devices were of interest all the time threads could die after a time and be started when needed. This way a single malfunctioning device wouldn't have an impact on all the other devices.

Well sure... (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788712)

...our lawns are less cluttered with errant youngsters. Gives us space to think more clearly.

I believe it (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788810)

I fall under the "young" category, and while there seem to be some advantages to it, I have the utmost respect for the elders in my workplace. I would like to think, however, that my youthful enthusiasm allows me to better absorb the knowledge and experience the gray-beards I work with are willing to share, so that next generation's "old programmers" will be better than the current one.

When you spend so many years locked in the cellar, (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788846)

you're bound to be good. All the finest improve with age.
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