Coding Horror

programming and human factors

The Programmer's Bill of Rights

It's unbelievable to me that a company would pay a developer $60-$100k in salary, yet cripple him or her with terrible working conditions and crusty hand-me-down hardware. This makes no business sense whatsoever. And yet I see it all the time. It's shocking how many companies still don't provide software developers with the essential things they need to succeed.

I propose we adopt a Programmer's Bill of Rights, protecting the rights of programmers by preventing companies from denying them the fundamentals they need to be successful.

The Bill of Rights

  1. Every programmer shall have two monitors

    With the crashing prices of LCDs and the ubiquity of dual-output video cards, you'd be crazy to limit your developers to a single screen. The productivity benefits of doubling your desktop are well documented by now. If you want to maximize developer productivity, make sure each developer has two monitors.

  2. Every programmer shall have a fast PC

    Developers are required to run a lot of software to get their jobs done: development environments, database engines, web servers, virtual machines, and so forth. Running all this software requires a fast PC with lots of memory. The faster a developer's PC is, the faster they can cycle through debug and compile cycles. You'd be foolish to pay the extortionist prices for the extreme top of the current performance heap-- but always make sure you're buying near the top end. Outfit your developers with fast PCs that have lots of memory. Time spent staring at a progress bar is wasted time.

  3. Every programmer shall have their choice of mouse and keyboard

    In college, I ran a painting business. Every painter I hired had to buy their own brushes. This was one of the first things I learned. Throwing a standard brush at new painters didn't work. The "company" brushes were quickly neglected and degenerated into a state of disrepair. But painters who bought their own brushes took care of them. Painters who bought their own brushes learned to appreciate the difference between the professional $20 brush they owned and cheap disposable dollar store brushes. Having their own brush engendered a sense of enduring responsibility and craftsmanship. Programmers should have the same relationship with their mouse and keyboard-- they are the essential, workaday tools we use to practice our craft and should be treated as such.

  4. Every programmer shall have a comfortable chair

    Let's face it. We make our livings largely by sitting on our butts for 8 hours a day. Why not spend that 8 hours in a comfortable, well-designed chair? Give developers chairs that make sitting for 8 hours not just tolerable, but enjoyable. Sure, you hire developers primarily for their giant brains, but don't forget your developers' other assets.

  5. Every programmer shall have a fast internet connection

    Good programmers never write what they can steal. And the internet is the best conduit for stolen material ever invented. I'm all for books, but it's hard to imagine getting any work done without fast, responsive internet searches at my fingertips.

  6. Every programmer shall have quiet working conditions

    Programming requires focused mental concentration. Programmers cannot work effectively in an interrupt-driven environment. Make sure your working environment protects your programmers' flow state, otherwise they'll waste most of their time bouncing back and forth between distractions.

The few basic rights we're asking for are easy. They aren't extravagant demands. They're fundamental to the quality of work life for a software developer. If the company you work for isn't getting it right, making it right is neither expensive nor difficult. Demand your rights as a programmer! And remember: you can either change your company, or you can change your company.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror