Wednesday, May 01, 2013
http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/04/developers-age/ Older software programmers have long complained of age discrimination. But according to study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, companies should think twice before hiring a young hot-shot hacker over a seasoned developer. Emerson Murphy-Hill, an assistant professor of computer science at North Carolina State University and co-author of the study, says that veteran developers have more going for them than you might think. “We know certain things get worse, like your eye sight,” he says. “But it’s not all bad. You get better at some things, such as social and emotional intelligence.” He says that we tend to think of programming as something that’s only practiced by the young: you spend your 20s working 80 hours a week, and then you give it up and go into management. But that may not be the best way to play it. To determine whether programmers get better or worse with age, the researchers looked at the top ranked programmers on StackOverflow, a site where coders can ask and answer questions about programming. Users rate answers from fellow developers, and then the site uses those rating to generate a reputation score for each developer. Comparing these reputation scores to the age of each developer, the researchers found that these ratings tended to increase as developers moved into their 50s. The study also they tried to rate the breadth of each developer’s knowledge by tracking how many different subjects they had written about. The researchers found that younger developers replied to questions in a smaller number of subject areas, and that the range of subjects broadened as developers got older. Finally, the study looked at how many questions developers answered about technologies less than 10 years old, and it found that older developers were more knowledgable than younger users about newer mobile platforms such as iOS and Windows Phone. For other technologies, there were was no significant gap between younger and older users. The researchers concluded that any bias against older developers is unsupported by the data on StackOverflow. But the study has its limits. Many StackOverflow users don’t report their age, and it appears that older programmers are under represented on StackOverflow, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Older programmers who use the site may making a conscious effort to keep their technologies skills current and to promote themselves. Or they may use the site because they know they are knowledgeable, while their less knowledgeable peers may stay off the site, skewing the results. And, of course, StackOverflow reputation scores don’t necessarily correlate to programming skills. The paper detailing the study, Is Programming Knowledge Related To Age?, will be presented at the Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories in San Francisco on May 18. But it’s just a start. In an effort to draw better conclusions, Murphy-Hill says his team hopes to look at a wider variety of programmer populations. He says they’re also interested in finding out why younger developers contribute more to open source than older developers.
at 11:13 AM