Programmer or Developer?
A comment on a recent post of mine made me think more about the distinction between a Software Programmer and a Software Developer. To me there is a subtle, but important difference. Let me give you my definition:
A Software Programmer is someone who really knows the environment he is programming. He knows everything there is to know about the language, the API and the Framework he’s using. He can do low level optimizations because he knows in detail what the compiler does behind the scenes. He is indeed a Wizard and a Guru of his domain. A Software Programmer usually starts with the implementation (probably because that’s what he is doing best) and work his way outwards.
A Software Developer on the other hand is a specialist at giving the customer (user) what he wants and what he needs. He doesn’t waste time on premature optimizations; he prioritize maintainability over performance, unless the performance is proved to be unacceptable; he has great testing skills, designing skills and communication skills; He is empathic, knows his HCI, and cares more about the user than he cares about his code. He cares so much that he usually becomes an expert himself of the users domains. A Software Developer starts with the interface (probably because that’s what he does best) and work his way inwards.
A person can be both, or more of one or the other. In a team you want both kinds but they are rarely found within the same individual. I, for instance, consider myself a great developer but an intermediate programmer. One simple way to test what type you are is to ask yourself this question: Do I care more for the interface (GUI or Programming Interface) than I do for the implementation? If you think the implementation is unimportant as long as it does what you want, and is reasonably maintainable, then you’re probably a Software Developer. If you find the previous sentence a blasphemy, you could be a Software Programmer. Which one is it?