What Makes a Developer a *Real* Developer

Finally, some criteria to determine who is one of us and who is the imposter.

Did you know that it is illegal to call yourself a doctor if you are not, in fact, a doctor? It’s true. You also can’t say you’re a cop if you’re not a cop, and you can’t say you’re not a cop if you are a cop. So why is it that we allow people to call themselves developers when, in fact, they are not developers?

Can we not? We can.

It may sound ridiculous to most, but how many times have you tried to have a conversation with someone who said they were a developer but then it turns out they had different opinions than you? It happens all the time, and it’s only diluting the respectability of our community.

As our jobs are just about as important as doctors (some may say more, given that U.S. healthcare now hangs in the balance of a single Obamacare website), it’s a good idea that we follow their process. There are two things we need to make sure that fake developers do not parade around as one of us: criteria and enforcement.


We need a checklist that each person needs to meet the requirements of in order to be a certified developer. There are countless neurological studies that have been done on developers to compile such a list, but the oldest testament of what a developer is just happens to be a research text from Dr. Joan Merriam-Webster, who listed the criteria of a developer as:

A page right from the “Compendium of Neurological Characteristics Of the Developer” by Dr. Joan Merriam-Webster, 1929
  1. a person or company that builds and sells houses or other buildings on a piece of land;
  2. a person or company that creates computer software;
  3. a chemical that is used to develop photographs

So anyone who does not meet all three items on that checklist should be singled out as imposters. Next is when enforcement comes into play.


Let’s go back to the doctor example. Let’s say someone joins a surgical team but they are not a licensed surgeon, but say that they are. If they continue with surgery, someone will probably die. Regardless of death happening or not, when they are found out to be an imposter, they go to prison. Now, replace “surgical,” “surgeon,” and “surgery” in that scenario with “development,” “developer,” and “a developer project.”

Sound a bit too extreme and scary to you? Well, this happens every day. There are people who have written maybe a line of code, which makes them a coder and even a programmer, but they haven’t built a single house or been used as a chemical to develop photographs.

If you find someone who has written less code than you, or writes in a language you don’t know (but say you don’t like because who actually likes the things they don’t understand), or has an unpopular (to you) opinion, then it’s important that you run the above checklist on them — and call 911 if they do not meet all three requirements.

Lives may certainly hang in the balance.

Jenn Schiffer is a house-flipper and amateur photographer in the .NET community. She has written the Pulitzer-prize winning biography of Dr. Joan Merriam-Webster, entitled Talk Wordy to Me.

Like what you read? Give Jenn Schiffer a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.