End-user programmers are at least half of all programmers

January 20, 2016 at 8:13 am 8 comments

I was intrigued to see this post during CS Ed Week from ChangeTheEquation.org. They’re revisiting the Scaffidi, Shaw, and Myers question from 2005 (mentioned in this blog post).

You may be surprised to learn that nearly DOUBLE the number of workers use computing than originally thought.  Our new research infographic shows that 7.7 million people use complex computing in their jobs — that’s 3.9 million more than the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports. We examined a major international dataset that looks past job titles to see what skills people actually use on the job. It turns out that the need for complex computer skills extends far beyond what the BLS currently classifies as computer occupations. Even more reason why computer science education is more critical than ever!

Source: The Hidden Half | Change the Equation

ChangeTheEquation.org is coming up with a much lower estimate of end-user programmers than did Scaffidi et al. Why is that? I looked at their methodology:

To estimate the total number of U.S. citizens who use computers in complex ways on the job, CTEq and AIR examined responses to question G_Q06 in the PIAAC survey: What level of computer use is/was needed to perform your job/last job?

  • STRAIGHTFORWARD, for example using a computer for straightforward routine tasks such as data entry or sending and receiving e-mails
  • MODERATE, for example word-processing, spreadsheets or database management
  • COMPLEX, for example developing software or modifying computer games, programming using languages like java, sql, php or perl, or maintaining a computer network

Source: the Hidden Half: Methodology | Change the Equation

Their “Complex” use is certainly programming, but Scaffidi et al would also call building spreadsheet macros and SQL queries programming. ChangeTheEquation has a different definition that I think undercounts significantly.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  January 20, 2016 at 9:51 am

    The problem is that MODERATE covers way too much ground. Most people I knew in industry who worked with spreadsheets and databases did so at a very rudimentary level. Many managers I worked with used Excel mainly as a replacement for Word rather than as a quantitative tool. Lots of people use Access in their jobs, but never run SQL queries. Many database users, in fact, use canned interfaces that shield them from the database. On the other hand, in areas like finance, spreadsheet usage is very sophisticated. I have also met managers who could code SQL queries. I think the MODERATE category needs to be split up. Overall, I would guess that the majority of spreadsheet and database users are not doing anything close to programming.

    • 2. Guy Haas  |  January 20, 2016 at 10:51 am

      I agree… My nephew has little experience with ?real? programming, but does a lot of scripting in Ansys. It’s been a while, but I remember reading Bonnie Nardi’s book (A Small Matter of Programming) years ago. She dug deep into programming involved in spreadsheets and CAD systems. Although the advanced users would not have considered themselves programmers, they were using moderately complex concepts. One example I specifically remember was use of IF expressions in assignment commands.

      • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  January 20, 2016 at 2:36 pm

        I spend a good bit of Chapter 5 in my new book talking about how ridiculous the term “real programming” is and about the damage we cause by using it. Let’s not.

        • 4. Guy Haas  |  January 20, 2016 at 3:04 pm

          I agree… that’s why I put the question marks around “real” – to emphasize/question that there is such a thing.

    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  January 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Of course MODERATE is not all programming. My point is that there is some programming in there.

  • 6. carpetbomberz  |  January 20, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Reblogged this on Carpet Bomberz Inc. and commented:
    I’ve known web designers who merely layout pages in CSS and mark up “copy” with HTML tags. In their view they are “coding” even though they are just formatting and marking up. The use of that term amongst the creative types for web, and mobile apps is a long slipperly slope. A scope creep to be sure.

    • 7. Mark Guzdial  |  January 20, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Why do we have to say that HTML is not coding? Tom Park showed us how students can learn about computing through HTML and CSS, and about how similar the misconceptions are between HTML/CSS and traditional programming. How about if we instead talk about what we can do with each kind of formal notation? HTML and CSS can be used to define structure and appearance, but not process, algorithm, data, or behavior.

      Let’s talk about helping people to do more, and not diminish what they do know.

  • […] reality. For every professional software developer, there are four-to-nine end-user-programmers (depending on the study and how you count). Most professionals will likely use some form of programming in the future. That’s an […]


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