A Fresh Cup is Mike Gunderloy's software development weblog, covering Ruby on Rails and whatever else I find interesting in the universe of software. I'm a full-time software developer: most of my time in recent years has been spent writing Rails, though I've dabbled in many other things and like most people who have been writing code for decades I can learn new stuff as needed.

Currently I'm unemployed and starting to look around for my next opportunity as a senior manager, team lead, or lead developer. Drop me a comment if you're interested or email MikeG1 [at] larkfarm.com.

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Double Shot #472

After a rough start with rubyforge, github, and lighthouse all being down, yesterday saw the release of a batch of software:

  • ConfigToolkit - Extensive and flexible code for reading file-based configuration information in ruby.

  • Programmers: Before you turn 40, get a plan B - As a programmer about to turn 50, I'm a bit leery of the notion that age discrimination in the field is as pervasive as some people say, but this blog post does a reasonable job of laying out the issues.

  • RubyGems 1.3.4 - Another point release.

  • Google Quick Search Box - Looks like Google wants to replace QuickSilver.

  • Wagn 1.0 - Milestone release for this slick-looking wiki. I need to find some time to dig in.

  • RedCloth 4.2.0 - New release with some formatting changes. Check the changelog before you update if you use bulleted or numbered lists.

  • Devver - Run tests in the cloud and get them back faster. Looks interesting.

  • Blocky - Crowdsourced spammer blocking for Twitter.

Reader Comments (6)

As a programmer who turned 50 a few weeks ago, I'm not convinced about the ageism thing. Certainly nobody appeared concerned about age when I interviewed 3 years ago.

I think most programmers enter the industry ("craft"?) at a relatively early age and a good number eventually decide that they're not happy and leave. As we all know, it's seldom the really good ones that go, so quality and employer confidence should tend to increase as applicants get older. OK, there will be those legacy skill dinosaurs - I have a friend who has only recently given up trying to reach retirement on his Adabas/Natural experience - but they'll tend to be ghettoised anyway.

The pay/irrelevant skills argument may hold some water. I can't see anyone paying me extra for those 12 years of COBOL, for example. The old'uns will have to accept either that they will plateau, income-wise, or develop other marketable attributes. I would ascribe part of my not-uncomfortable income to the domain knowledge I've accumulated over 20-odd years of working in the investment banking industry.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Woodhouse

Whoa. Weird. I turn 40 today...and this shows up at the top of my RSS feeds. :)

'Course I'm also currently unemployed, so maybe...but I'm comfortable still assigning it to the economy, given that I haven't seen a new job listing in weeks.

Still, the coincidence has me chuckling...

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

Yes, domain knowledge is good. So is actually getting 20 years of experience, instead of 1 year 20 times.

To my mind, the real problem some older developers have is that they learn one system and stick with it forever, instead of continuously learning new things.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Gunderloy

I think that the programming aging post missed a key point. Sure, very few people are going to be hired for a Ruby/Java/... job right now based on a large number of years of Fortran experience way back when. On the other hand, I think that this kind of thinking is symptomatic of too much attention being given to how many years of experience one has in the trendiest technology, rather than to how much total experience one has and how good one is. I know that recruiters and hiring managers often are very eager to check off all of the boxes (A years in language 1, B years in language 2, C years in DB 1, ...), but this unfortunately makes them miss the really good programmers who can't check off all of the boxes (due to having spent A + B + C + ... years working with less trendy technologies) but who could do a fabulous job working with anything. Beyond a small number of years (something between 1 and 3), I don't think that extra years spent programming with a particular technology necessarily separates one from someone without that extra experience in terms of ability to use the technology. Extra years of programming *will* make a good programmer better in general, however, whatever the programmer is working with.

For what it's worth, the best programmer by far that I've ever had the privilege of working with was in his late 40's/early 50's, never wanted to do anything but develop (indicated that he had no interested in being "promoted" into management), and was off the charts good. His quality was not evident from deep knowledge of any given language (although he had deep knowledge of several) but rather from his ability to produce amazing software (in terms of what it did *and* how it was written) in a very short amount of time.

Thanks for mentioning the Config Toolkit.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTony Strauss

Those statistics are so poorly drawn; this has a lot more to do with programmers moving up through management and into executive leadership (CIOs, program mangers, and more). Besides, most people would prefer to get away from programming within 10 years of leaving college. Personally, if I'm still writing Java when I'm 40 I will have to conduct a major review of my life.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

LOL @Chris! :) As I noted, I just turned 40, and I have _no_ desire to 'get away from programming'. Now when I started, I was doing assembly language and C work, and I've gone through C++, Java, and Ruby since then (not to mention the dozens of other domain-oriented lesser languages in between). What I'm saying is that the language you're using is going to change, but the thrill of programming hopefully won't.

For many of us programming isn't a 'stepping stone to something better', it is the best job we could imagine doing. For me, that's why the article worries me. Not finding new programming jobs would be like being cast out of the Garden of Eden.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

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