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How do you identify poor performing coders?

Lines of code: the best technique for identifying developers to cut?

Now that Facebook as well as Twitter is cutting engineers, and with Google likely to follow, the question of the moment is how you identify engineers to cut. At Twitter, as well as at some banks, the answer appears to be lines of code. - Good engineers produce a lot of them.

At Twitter, Elon Musk's first instinct (or at least the instinct of someone on his team) when it came to selecting who to chop, appears to have been to look at how much code developers had produced. 

This technique for appraising developers was subsequently dropped, but some senior engineers in banking say it's not as bad as it looks. 

One executive director in the engineering team of a US bank says lines of code (LOC) are an important part of the calculus when appraising a developer's competency and the value of keeping him/her. "Almost always, top performers have a high LOC count relative to the team or a high number of projects contributed to. Low performers tend to have low LOC relative to the team," he says.

Other methods of measuring the quality of engineers have been tried, but they haven't always succeeded. JPMorgan, for example, introduced a system called BlueOptima to monitor the efficiency of its developers in late 2019, but it was discontinued after complaints. After plugging in a 'productivity analytics platform' for its developers, Credit Suisse showcased the following chart in its long-forgotten 2017 investor day presentation. It suggests that a few top performing teams do most of the work.  

Source: Credit Suisse

Nonetheless, when you move away from simple LOC measures of developer productivity, things can become complicated. The senior banking engineer says it's difficult to adjust or the complexity of projects and languages.

As technology jobs everywhere suddenly look precarious, LOC has suddenly therefore become a far bigger issue than before. Not everyone agrees, but at this stage it's something everyone should probably be aware of. 

 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
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  • ro
    rob
    18 November 2022

    This is pure insanity. Simply, I can use a for loop and write 3 lines of code or I can write thousands of lines to do the same thing.

  • Da
    Dave
    14 November 2022

    Loc is about an effective a measure of programmer ability as their success in solving leetcode questions

  • Si
    Simon Hawkin
    13 November 2022

    LoC is not a good measure of any meaningful aspects of a programmer's performance. Every software engineer knows it, every manager knows it, it has been established and accepted by the industry for decades now. But it is easy to measure, and so easy to use as a tool to control and govern over people.

    That's what it is, in the end, and nothing else.

  • Th
    TheTomatoes
    12 November 2022

    Using LOC is a bit like using the amount of printed papers to determine if a sales is good at their job

  • Et
    Ethan Stan Del
    12 November 2022

    What an offensively stupid take. I started with a new client this year. I originally started on a product team where I wrote tons of code. But after 6 months it was determined that I should be a bit higher up and making more architecture decisions and helping to implement such designs. I now write maybe 5% of the code I would be writing on a product team, now with far more complex responsibilities. Everybody in this field knows that this is how it works.

    Oh and because I've been on the same contract, they still pay me the same amount as when they hired me to do product work. So it's not even like, "oh well this fat cat gets paid a bunch to not write code!"

    Are LoC used to determine performance? Yeah, by know-nothing executives reading dumb articles like this. Are they a good measure of talent and value of your engineers? No, absolutely not.

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