How to Talk to Computer Programmers

Editors’s note: Many people think that building websites and computer programming is hard. Most programmers say that anyone can do what they do. But then why aren’t we doing it? Well, it does take some time to learn. These are questions and ideas to keep in mind if you are planning to hire a computer programmer or take a programming class. This was taken from an email to us by a volunteer programmer who helped us at Startup Weekend.

I would definitely encourage you to attend a conference on computer programming..  Even if you never personally utilize the technical information, you will come away with a better ability to communicate. Hiring computer programmers will need to involve some conversation in their language, so this will be an invaluable skill.

Programmers conversing at the Compute MIdwest Conference in Kansas City.

Programmers conversing at the Compute MIdwest Conference in Kansas City. Getting geeks to network is sometimes a bit rough.

One point of caution:  these opportunities generally present or review one particular approach. That doesn’t mean it is the best solution or approach, the most popular, the newest, or even the most broadly applicable. It simply means that the presenter felt that solution was the most appropriate for this audience (and often the one he or she felt most comfortable presenting).

Computer Programmers Often Have Many Approaches to Problems

Somewhere down the line, another group of developers might present some other technology.  I would caution against saying something like “I want to use “This” to do X.”

At best, this will lead to confusion about what you actually want; but more than likely, it will scare away people who are not familiar with (or simply don’t like) that approach.

Instead, I would suggest saying something like “I want to do X (giving a thorough description of the vision!). Now, I’ve had some opportunities to check out Y and it seems like it could be useful here. What do you think?”

At that point, you should expect a competent response, but don’t be surprised (or upset) if they suggest using something else entirely.

A good response to that is:  “Hmm. I’ve never heard of it before, but I would be happy to check it out. Y might be a better solution, though”. Really Good Response: “Well, X is good for situations like A, B, or C. But your case is more like D, so I would suggest using Y.  It has 1, 2, and 3 like Y does, but it also supports Z, which will be good in this situation.

 How do you work when hiring computer programmers?

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