Developers Question Everything

Developers Question Everything

When given a task do you carry through without hesitation or do you first question whether the task is even worth doing? Or maybe you’re the type that tends to just disregard and ignore any expectations set by others from the get go?

When you set a goal for yourself do you follow through and accomplish what you set out to do? Or are you the owner of an ever-growing list of unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions?

In short, how do you deal with expectations?

To answer this question, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin developed a framework to examine how we tend to respond to expectations and groups people into four main personality types: Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

Curious to see which group most devs fit into, we recently polled nearly 900 software developers on CodeProject and asked them to tell us which of the four personality types they identify with most when it comes to dealing with internal and external expectations.

The results (perhaps unsurprisingly) show that most developers tend to question everything.

Personality types of the “Rubin Tendencies” framework

Whether they be internal expectations (sticking to a new diet, writing that novel you’ve been thinking about) or external expectations (meeting work deadlines, showing up to appointments on time), the way you respond to them can say a lot about you. Rubin defines the four different personality types in her framework as follows:

  • Upholders – “Respond readily to outer and inner expectations.”

  • Questioners – “Question all expectations. They’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense; essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations.”

  • Rebels – “Resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.”

  • Obligers – “Meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.”

Which category do devs fit into?

According to Rubin’s observations, most people fall into either the Questioner or Obliger categories. She found that Rebels are the smallest category and – identifying as an Upholder herself – was surprised to find that Upholders followed as the next smallest group.

For the most part, these conclusions match our own findings. Just 8 percent of the developers we surveyed see themselves as Rebels, while the majority (47 percent) identified as Questioners; only meeting an expectation if it makes sense to them.

What differs is the fact that 28 percent of the developers that participated in our poll associate themselves with the Upholder personality type, followed by 17 percent who put themselves in the Obliger category. But why does this matter to you as a marketer?

Developers are Questioners

The fact that most developers identify with the Questioner personality is perhaps no great revelation. But it is important for marketers to understand because it shows that developers won’t take everything you tell them as gospel (and this especially true when it comes to advertising).

Claiming that your product will help developers save time and make their lives easier? Tell them how. Developers need to know why something is the way it is. You need to back up any claims you make with hard proof.

Devs want facts. Devs want tangible evidence.

It’s interesting that the second most prominent personality type among devs was the Upholder category instead of Obligers (as Rubin noted in her own observations). This tells us that not only will devs strive to achieve the expectations that others set for them (assuming they’re sensible), but they also find it important to live up to the expectations they set for themselves. They hate making mistakes and they really don’t like to let people (including themselves) down.

Lastly, it’s important to note that developers are not rebels. There’s the old stereotype that casts developers as “rebel hackers” or shadowy figures that seek to steal government secrets, empty your bank account, and cause chaos in society. These stereotypes linger on and are perpetuated by movies and television, but these survey findings just go to show that those notions are largely inaccurate.

Sure, there are black hat hackers and collectives that do take part in illicit activities, but for the most part developers are a bunch of smart, sometimes nerdy, engineering-types who just want to push the boundaries of what technology can do and create cool stuff… all while meeting and exceeding the expectations of those around them.

These observations are important, because if you want to get developers to do something (say sign up for a free trial or attend that conference you’re hosting next month), it’s vital to understand what motivates them.

So remember: developers question everything.

2 Responses to “Developers Question Everything”

  1. Great article. I’m more of a Obliger. I look back over the past 10 years of software development and can see how I really do question everything. Most people are fine with knowing that the light turns on with a switch. I pull out a schematic and trace the electrical current all the way back to the power plant. If I don’t find out how it works in detail, I constantly think about it. Hey….who wants to talk about how the Universe works??

    Reply
  2. erin wells

    Old wine in a new bottle! Having been in the IT industry for over 45 years …. these categorizations are recycled every decade. Back in the 80’s, it was Analytics, Drivers, Expressives, and Amiables. Programmers generally fall into the Analytic category. To satisfy an Analytic’s need for analysis, you need to feed them facts and details. The more the better until they get on side. I wonder what the categories will be next decade? Cheers

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