Tool Users vs. Tool Makers

Listening to these John Morris podcast episodes yesterday. John talks about “pure coders” and the future of Web development. He was debating with a listener about the pros and cons of using tools such as WordPress and Bootstrap vs. hand coding Web sites from scratch. In the end, he boiled things down to two groups of developers. Tool users. And tool makers.

I believe (and John has agreed with me on Facebook) that a tool user who also has the skills to be a tool maker would be the ideal developer. Using the right tools makes you more efficient. Understanding what’s going on under the hood can help you use the tool more effectively. Using WordPress and being able to “roll your own” plugin if you can’t find one that suits your needs should be golden.

It’s like a corporate pilot who is also certified to work on the jets he flys. Very valuable. He’s able to recognize potential issues sooner and in a pinch could fix them himself rather than wait to fly in a mechanic to some remote area.

As a developer, you know that you rarely write anything from scratch. No good coder does. You find something that you have used in the past that works and is close to what you need, copy it, and tweek it to meet your current requirements. This process is the most basic developer tool. Object oriented development has taken this to the next level. As you gain experience as a developer, your class library grows and your reuse tool becomes more valuable. I becomes your “code DNA”.

I always get a kick out of news that some new tool or class of tools (like WordPress) will allow clients to develop a system “without programming”. And some developers are threatened by this and think their job is going to go away. That may be true for the simple boring projects. But for the more interesting and complex situations the tool is simply going to end up being a new “language” for a knowledgeable developer. And maybe the tool allows you to turn the finished product over to your client to keep it running while you concentrate on newer bigger better things. A good developer will add value based on his experience, both in coding from scratch and in using the tool.

I’ve been a developer for probably longer than sone of you have BEEN… alive. Over 35 years. Using languages and tools that most of you have never heard of. Like PL/1, Telon, and ABAP. First IBM mainframes and then SAP ERP. Now I’m transitioning to Web development and tools like WordPress and Bootstrap should allow me to make the transition and get up to speed more quickly.

What do you think. Let me know in the comments.

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