Great Hackers Make the Worst Developers

By | April 19, 2006

Good programmers are what make a software company. Not just good programmers, mind you, they have to be great hackers, rock stars, the best. Great hackers are three times, five times, maybe even 10 times more productive than the merely average.

At least that´s the common wisdom. Joel Spolsky founded a software company based on hiring the best programmers; Martin Fowler regularly blogs about hiring “the very top fraction of software developers” for his company ThoughtWorks; and Paul Graham—a blogger, painter, entrepreneur, and LISP hacker— loves to write about what makes “great hackers.”

The thesis that good programmers pay for themselves is true—but it hinges on the definition of a “good programmer.” Too often, we think of good programmers strictly in terms of their technical skills—how well they know object modeling, design patterns, and a particular development platform. But being a great hacker (paradoxically) takes more than just programming skills. Being smart and technically savvy adds no value to an organization without a little business sense and a lot of industry knowledge.Read Full Story

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