What makes a good programmer?

Anyone can program, but, only some people will learn to program well. Some people learn to program well very quickly. These fast learners find ways to work with the concepts that build the systems of thought that software is. What causes one person to "get it" and another to "miss it" entirely?

There is an art to programming. You've got to keep it DRY, you've got to be terse but not too terse, you've got to be lazy in the right way. Some people get it in a short time while others never seem to understand programming. What magic formula of personality, intelligence, and determination makes the difference between those who learn to program and those who learn to program well?

What makes good software? What makes a good programmer?

I contend that Software is the encoding of thought and if I stick to my resolution then I must also contend with the implication that good software constitutes thought that is also "good" in some way. The idea of a "good" programmer therefore is anchored in the idea of "good" thought and that means that a "good" programmer must also be a "good" thinker and a "good" communicator.

Whatever "good" in this context means. Albeit the idea of "good" thought is a little subjective. The idea of a "good" communicator is also subjective. Some people would find Jeff Foxworthy a "good" communicator others no so much. Some would prefer me to use Lou Dobbs as an example of a communicator. Others would prefer Jesse Jackson. All three of these people I've deliberately chosen because they communicate well to each of their respective audiences.

The definition of the "good communicator" is dependent on the audience that the communicator is communicating with. Each of the three examples I've picked communicate with a group that each has their own definition of "good" thought.

The definition of a "good" programmer is probably just as changing depending on the three audiences that a programmer communicates with: the computer, other programmers, and the end-user. These three groups are radically different for different kinds of programming projects. Know your audience.

Just as Jesse Jackson's jokes won't play well on Lou Dobb's audience... and Jeff Foxworthy would not play well to an audience gathered for Jesse Jackson. However I am confident that all three of these men could prepare and change up audiences if they wanted to. They could each entertain the other's audience in a way that avoided real catastrophe... because all three of them are good communicators and know how to pick a message to suit an audience. It would be harrowing but I think any one of those men could pull it off.

With programming your device driver, database developer, and web designer don't play well against each other's audiences. A good programmer can learn the audience and play to it well. Because the good programmer is a good communicator.