by Esther Schindler

Plone Sprint: Exploring Developer Preconceptions

Jun 28, 20073 mins

Yesterday’s day at the plone sprint was somewhat of a slogging day. Everyone seems to have a task to do, and is busy doing it. That’s good from a project progress point of view, but it makes for dull blog entries.

However, before dinner last night — there’s nothing like showing up at a Japanese restaurant and saying, “Table for 20, please” — I mentioned my preconception that the plone developers would be largely 20-somethings with interesting tattoos, and my mild surprise that most people were older and more professionally experienced. How well does that map to other open source communities, I wondered aloud. I don’t think I’m alone in imagining that the open source community has a lot of activists who are relatively young.

Based on our short conversation, though, the expectations are not consistent. For instance, one plone sprinter said his expectation of a PHP programmer is a fat guy in his 50s who wore suspenders. But Joanna disagreed, saying she’d expect a PHP programmer to be a 16-year-old boy who lives in his mother’s basement. Yet another person (I think it was one of the Erics) opined that a PHP programmer would be 19… maybe there were other attributes mentioned, but I must have missed them as the sake arrived.

These observations weren’t meant to be disparaging to the PHP community (they tend to save those comments for Ruby programmers). But the opinions show that most of us do have prejudgments about other people, especially those in other communities. IT managers might lump all developers into one set of expectations, as developers do have much in common (a T-shirt based economy, for one… that is, how much programmers will do for a free shirt), but the communities are very different from one another. You don’t expect a COBOL programmer to have the same personality makeup or behavior as an Assembly language developer.

Now I wonder about your own expectations about developers, especially those in the open source community. If you’re willing to play along: describe, in a sentence or so, what you imagine a “typical” developer to be like who works in PHP, perl, Ruby, .NET, Java, Adobe/Macromedia Flash. Don’t excuse yourself because you have no experience in those communities; you probably still have some sort of mental picture for these developers. (And don’t cheat by looking at others’ responses first. Compare only afterwards.)

It would be most fair for me to start with my own list but I don’t want to do so exhaustively. That might color your statements. Besides, I’ve spent years interacting with all sorts of developers, so my own preconceptions are suspect. Tell me yours.