Peer effects and software developers

Anyone who knows me knows that I love soccer/football. And this month is special as the UEFA EURO 2012 Championships started on June 8 and runs until July 1. This tournament will decide which national team is the best in Europe. So needless to say I am enjoying myself immensely. (In case you are wondering on who I am cheering for see my Windows Phone 7 app Forza Azzurri).

With this tournament there has been some insightful writing on the state of the game in Europe. One writer who consistently publishes excellent work is Simon Kuper. A writer for the Financial Times he has a passion for soccer and he publishes pieces on the economics of soccer. Yesterday Kuper posted a piece on the site eZonomics by ING entitled Did you know … Why the German women’s football team is all-conquering in Europe? In this article Kuper talks about the idea of peer effects.This is defined as the idea of catching the habits of people around you. He uses an analogy of the German women’s football team and how they have excelled by modelling their behaviour on that of the German men’s football team.

This idea got me wondering about our profession of software development. As software or web developers we cannot help but look around and see what other people are doing all the time. As constant technology users we notice good and bad design – when an app, internet site or piece of desktop software functions correctly and when it could have been made better.

This idea of peer effects translates to other methods of learning for developers. We are looking for better ways to accomplish our tasks quicker or more elegantly. We attend user groups, conferences and hackathons, follow Twitter streams for new information regarding our preferred software languages and search through code repositories like GitHub, CodePlex or Google Code to see what others are building, how they did it and how it might benefit us.

All of these tasks help us become better developers and all of these are due in part to peer effects.

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About Ken Cenerelli
I am a Programmer Writer, .NET Developer, Microsoft MVP - Visual Studio and Development Technologies, Public Speaker, Blogger, and Microsoft Azure Nerd. I blog regularly at kencenerelli.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter via @KenCenerelli.

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