Part-Time Programming Doesn't Equal Mediocrity

The stereotype that hobbyists perform mediocre work is damaging. Value comes in delivering solutions in a timely manner, regardless of the tools, steps, or people used to achieve it.

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Part-Time Programming ≠ Mediocrity
I'm writing in regards to Michael Caldwell's arrogant response to Kathleen Dollard's Guest Opinion, "Save the Hobbyist Programmer" [April 2004], and would like to refute his assertions stated in his response [Letters to the Editor, June 2004 ].

First, his idea that a part-time programmer (I hate the term hobbyist, because it implies that I do this just because I like it) equals a mediocre programmer—nothing could be further from the truth, and is just the sort of stereotyping that damages our profession to the general public. In reality, I have worked with many business professionals who do not devote their entire day to programming, but do excellent analysis and coding, and I would put their work up against a full-time programmer any day of the week. In today's "post-bubble world," as Mr. Caldwell puts it, profit and productivity are paramount, and that means many people wear many hats in an organization to ensure that business objectives are met. At the end of the day, we are simply attempting to meet business objectives with the resources available, and there are never enough programming resources to accomplish the business objectives at hand. The part-timer might not necessarily use the latest technique or tool, but chrome on the engine doesn't make it run any better. This doesn't mean there aren't bad programmers in the group, because there definitely are, but the same is true for full-timers. Just drop the elitism, and stop stereotyping your fellow workers.

Second, celebrating complexity and change as a tool for job security is the realm of the insecure. The primary reason for Microsoft's success with its toolset has been its ease of use. Having worked with VB from version 3 to .NET, I can safely say that Microsoft always improves the capabilities and performance of the toolset without sacrificing ease of use until VB.NET, and even then it didn't completely drop the ball, but just fumbled it a little for the sake of the framework. It's important to remember that new doesn't always equal better, and ease of use is just as powerful an attribute as performance. If Mr. Caldwell wants complexity, I suggest he move to other toolsets and languages.

The common theme across Mr. Caldwell's diatribe seems to be about job security, but keeping the part-timers out of the IDE and keeping the complexity and learning curve high will not protect his job. The only thing that will do this is providing a measured value to the company you work for, and value to a company is delivering solutions to business problems in a timely manner, regardless of the tools, steps, or people used to achieve it.

Matthew Sidden, North Wilkesboro, N.C.

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