For Breezier Binary, Hire a Hipster

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In writing this, I’m making an assumption. I’m assuming you’ve felt your brains slosh around like a Shake Weight while sitting across from The Developers, struggling to comprehend exactly how they’re going to turn that million-dollar campaign concept into a coder's paradise. They’re walking you though some cross-platform Ruby on Rails fantasy; you’re picturing a Dorothy look-alike blowing lines as she treks across Oz; things are mostly lost in translation but c’est la vie. That’s the internet for ya.

If that assumption is a fair one, I’ll also assume you’ve experienced the frustration of trying to dig out of a development situation gone south. The deadlines missed; the bugs unsquashed; the communication barriers that actually got in the way of something turning out the way you promised a client it would. The nasty frustration of not knowing if you asked for something impossible, or were delivered something half-baked.

This lack of common tongue doesn’t just lead to verbal black holes, it’s also a common culprit behind bad executions of good digital concepts. The first time I experienced this, I was working with two contracted developers that quite smugly reveled in the binary secrets guarding their lifestyle from my deadlines. The navigation was clunky. The type hung in unbalanced text boxes ripped out of some beta version of Myspace. And PS: “we generally work between 11pm and 4am.” I wanted to fucking kill them. And I wanted to kill myself for not having the basic coding knowledge it would take to fairly call bullshit.

That, mind you, was before marketing campaigns could just as easily stretch into the mobile web as the traditional one, and right around the same time when the social web was still narrowing clients’ eyebrows (in the what is this crap kind of way). And while building truly awesome technology required just as much expertise back then, you could argue that it didn’t require such diverse expertise. Today, we’re not only required to speak the language of web developers, we need to communicate with mobile developers, HTML5 developers, Ruby developers, the geeks in the CGI department – the list goes on. Yep, we’re living in a dork’s oyster, and when it’s your responsibility to manage the execution of projects that rely on developers’ skill sets, speaking their language(s) is about 80% of the job, with another 20% going to knowing how to hire the right crew in the first place.

But I think the job’s about to get easier, and here’s why: Those ponytailed, Warcraft-loving, communication-challenged developers are starting to fade out, and they’re being replaced by a new breed. These newbies keep fairly normal working hours and are even more obsessive about the quality of their work. A handful of them are even graphic designers and coders, and really good at both. Most pleasantly, they speak English – very well.

This transition doesn’t just mean that translating concepts into code is going to get easier for Advertising people, but also that the very line between geeks and everyday humans is getting blurry. Sounds promising, yeah? But here’s the tradeoff: This shiny league of nerd nouveau – they’re hipsters, goddammit.

The reason for this shift is obvious enough: most grownups are intimidated by the internet; hipsters think they invented it (alternate answer: I hear geek badges are suddenly helping dudes get laid). But before you lose your lunch, let’s cover the perks of this trade-off with some disgustingly swooping generalizations:

• Unlike yesterday’s developers – who often have lush histories with a handful of outdated coding languages – Hipsters are hyper-sensitive to “emerging shit.” Thanks to this snootery, your website will never be built on a rusty coding language that no other developer will want to touch.

• Hipsters are more likely to bring some design sensibility to the table, which can translate into a better user interface and experience for your client’s customers.

• Hipsters are automatically qualified to give you legit feedback on applications involving social or mobile functionalities, because inside of each of them is a Social Media Expert (PS: Don’t use that term around them, they’ll walk out).

• Not being of the underworld, they are accustomed to real-life situations like deadlines, punctuality and daytime meetings over Skype.

• Formerly, Developers were difficult to find, typically requiring heavy Google-ing, a flashlight and some Cheetos. Hipsters, on the other hand, can be found in most coffee shops and are multiplying like rabbits.

In other words, this transition marks the beginning of a very good thing. So when you tell one of these next-gen developers what language your client’s website is built on – only to watch their eyeballs roll behind a pair of eyeglass frames they probably found in a dumpster (Drupal, really?) – hang in there. A little condescension beats a lack of communication any day, at least in the ad world.

Comments

Case in point, the Quick Left squad. Am Appy explosion. http://quickleft.com/

This article makes me want to go through all my old blog posts and re-write them to be more entertaining.

Fortunately, where I work we hire the hipster programmer, as well as the traditional world-of-warcraft version. Which makes for a nice mix.

A fantastic read, thank you.

Pffft... Just because some designer can operate Garage Band on an iPad and grow a neck-beard, a mobile developer this DOES NOT make.

Love the visual storytelling in this post. And, great observational hilarity. Some hipster developers are going by the on-the-verge-of-abandonment-because-we've-all-heard-of-it "creative technologist" title.

Having worked with both... together they make a great mix. You're right on some of the communication issues but you can't knock expertise 'cause they didn't have nearly as cool of a high school experience as you. I've noticed the "hipster" developers love to put a lot of attention of the front-end as opposed to the back-end while "yesterday's developers" tend to do the opposite.

Besides, at the end of the day, look at those creating that "emergent shit"... they might resemble "yesterday's developers".

Overall... funny but not necessarily true. Bummer your experience sucked. It might have been late and not entirely what you wanted but at least you didn't have to pay what those hipsters love to charge. I mean, how else do they afford their collection of Ray-Bans and boots that look like they were thrown out by "yesterday's developers" grandparents?

I think a developer's experience, much like a lot of digital occupations, is relative to the history of the coding language and the intended use of the application.

For instance, some of the best developers I know are in their 20's (and have built and launched killer apps like Foodspotting or Path). You'd have a tough time finding "more experienced" developers than them, probably because of a combination of two factors: 1) They're working in relatively new coding languages; and 2) their decisions are guided by a very in-tune perspective of today's web and today's web user.

I guess what I'm saying is, technology moves very quickly, and freshest developers tend to be most aggressive about staying on top of things. Just like baby vampires.

PS LUV U NEIL.

Dressing stylishly doesn't mean you're able to develop something. Nor does an inability to dress stylishly mean you're able to develop something. It may mean you're more able to design something stylish, but that is a completely different set of skills that take just as long to build as it does to develop something.

Exchanging one set of archtypes for another will not lead you to better software developers. Look for people that have actually built things rather than sterotyping people based on how they like to spend their free time.

I love you too Carmel! I like some of my old developers and stand by my "front-end, back-end" statement... so just lookin' out for them! And yes, I know who you are talking about that are really kicking ass with what they do and they do just that... kick ass! Boulder is home to some really fresh developers.

@anonymous

dressing stylishly? you do know this is addressing hipsters and know what a hipster is, right? because when i hear hipster, "dressing stylishly" is certainly not a phrase that jumps into my head. by the way, if you want to crush a hipsters soul, tell them they are looking exceptionally stylish these days. if you listen closely it will sound like a pbr can being slowly crushed by a 70's running shoe.

loved the read carmel, thanks.

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