Older programmers ARE better!
Written by Janet Swift   
Friday, 15 July 2011

It's a prejudice that the young and old share, but with opposite polarities of course. Young is best or old is best - most have an opinion. Now we have some interesting statistics ingeniously gathered and processed in "big data" style that "proves" older is better.

A blog entry by Peter Knego is responsible for reporting the very clever use of data available from StackOverflow.

The basic idea is very simple StackOverflow users can supply their age as part of their profile and their reputations, i.e. how much other users rate their posts, is also recorded. A few scripts later and a sample of 37,400 users' age and reputation was ready to chart.

The first shock is that the age profile revealed that the number of people using StackOverflow fell markedly with age with a peak at around 25 to 28. The number of developers halves every 6 to 7 years. This could be due to being promoted out of the developer pool in to managment or architecture.

The second surprise, but not if you are over about 40, is that average repuation increases almost linearly with age. This means the older you are the more you contribute valued solutions and comments to StackOverflow. A little more analysis revealed that older programmers most likely achieved their high reputation by asking fewer questions and supplying more answers. Again the number of answers by age increased linearly with age and the number of questions decreased with a linear trend. You can interpret this as older developers simply know more stuff and don't need to ask for help as often.

 

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This is the main conclusion of the statistics if you would like to read some of the finer points then visit It's official: developers get better with age. And scarcer.

Of course this doesn't settle the matter - there are far too many ways of throwing in explanations for the data that have less to do with age. What it does seem to show is that, for StackOverflow at least, the young learn and the old teach.

 

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