If you want to be a great developer

Tags: books

If you want to be a well-paid copywriter, please your client.

If you want to be an award winning copywriter, please yourself.

If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.

— Steve Hayden, found in chapter 2, page 21 of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This

The software guys and ad guys don’t often mingle in most companies, but that small piece of copy writing advice fits us well. Don’t build a resume builder. Don’t build a portfolio piece. Build a project that pleases the user and the other trappings of success will follow.

We can dazzle our peers with patterns, No-SQL databases, and the latest JavaScript MVC technology, but our success will ring hollow if the users don’t understand the damn thing. No user has once complimented me on my choice of data access technology, despite the ridiculous number of hours that I’ve spent fighting those components through the years. They just want the data to arrive quickly and correctly. Likewise, our clients aren’t impressed by thorough testing and deployment procedures, but they are impressed by rapid turnaround on bugs and feature requests.

Stepping back for a moment, why is a software guy burning time with a classic book in the advertising industry? I don’t know what got me started, but I’m glad I finished. Something somewhere on the Internet pointed me toward this book years ago, and I just found it while unpacking boxes after a move. Sixty-two notes and excerpts later, I recommend it to any developer looking to expand their education beyond a single threaded focus on technology. Old editions are still available for the cost of shipping, and there’s a new edition that is available for the Kindle.

Here’s one more of my six excerpts from chapter 2:

They’ll quickly find you boring or irrelevant if all you can speak about with authority is nginx configurations and WebSockets. Your grasp of the client’s technology situation has to be as well versed as any project manager’s. There are no shortcuts. Know the client. Know their product. Know their market. It will pay off.

— Chapter 2, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This

Wait, sorry, I copied that wrong. Can you make the following substitutions?

  • s/nginix configurations and WebSockets/Century Italic/
  • s/technology situation/marketing situation/
  • s/project manager’s/account executive’s/

Universal stuff. It just takes a little bit of mental search and replace.