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Comment The Answer: Learn how to hire better ones! (Score 2, Interesting) 543

I really agree that bad programmers dont change much. Some can program, some cannot, and time spent on the people who really just don't get it is pretty much wasted time. However, I think that expecting management to fix the problem is rarely going to work.

The answer? Make sure you (as the senior dev/team lead) get involved in hiring, and ask people to code on a whiteboard in front of you, a simple problem like a linked list etc. This will have the mildly negative consequence of weeding out some good people who get stage-fright, but it will also weed out those who just cannot write any code at all. And the people who get stage-fright are also likely to suck in code review, where being unafraid of having your code publicly disected is a crucial skill. And people who don't get much review are unlikely to be great coders.

So ask the person to code a simple data structure/utility program whatever. Make the person take their time, comment their code, and ask them harder questions, language specific questions. So for example, I am currently coding Java, so I might ask them about a clone function for the list, synchronisation, serial form etc. For c I'd be looking to ask about pointer issues, and in particular work in a question about the difference between pointers to pointers vs multi-dimensional arrays with declared sub-array sizes.

You can't change what you have, but you can sure make sure the next set are better. For what it's worth, I don't think Brooks' law applies to this situation. Replacing someone who cannot code with someone who can will cost some time, sure, but it will also generate some code. I once heard it suggested that on any project of 10 or more people, you can sack one person and the code will be better quality and delivered faster. The longer I work, the more I believe it is true. And replacing that person with someone good is always a win.

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