I pondered this question today: How do you Objectively Decide Yea or Nay if someone is a Great Programmer?
What do I mean by “great?” I mean someone who is passionate about programming, someone who constantly learns the best techniques for writing code, and someone who stays on top of the latest and greatest technologies. You know the type; he’s the one that all the “just-drawing-a-paycheck” programmers go to when they can’t figure something out or when they need a tool recommendation. For example, Scott Hanselman would be one of my best examples of a great programmer.
Evaluating a programmer’s skill can be pretty difficult because it is so nuanced. But after some contemplation I devised an incredibly simple litmus test to help determine if someone is a great programmer. Certainly it’s not foolproof, but I’ll bet you’ll find it to be pretty accurate:
Do they frequently buy programming books and magazines with their own money, and do they read them on their own time?
Hopefully my little test doesn’t cause anyone who fails to get too annoyed with me; hey, I’m just the messenger! Where someone spends their time and how they spend their money is probably the most reliable indicator of your true values. So if you really are a great programmer you’d have already proven it by putting your money and time where your mouth is as! ;-)
P.S. I have no financial affiliation with O’Reilly Media, Apress, or any other books publisher or reseller for that matter so don’t think that saying I’m just trying to get you to spend money will get you off the hook cause it won’t! The evaluation begins with you. :-)