Developers Are Coding for the Love of It (Plus the Money)

You know what they say about building software: It’s not just a job—it’s a passion.

Okay, nobody really says that.

Nonetheless, it’s true: when developers and other tech pros leave their jobs, they keep coding through the night and on weekends. Based on data in the annual Octoverse report, which breaks down the activity of 31 million developers on the Github platform, contributions to public and open-source code repositories dip but don’t flatten out on Saturday or Sunday, even as activity on private repositories plunges.

In other words, a significant percentage of tech pros contribute code to their companies (i.e., the private repositories) up to Friday evening—and keep merrily coding their own projects (the open-source and public repositories) through the weekend. Nor is that activity restricted to the United States; around the world, tech pros engage in similar patterns throughout their workweek.

A similar pattern dominates the workday: work in private repositories rises during the morning and falls in the late afternoon, while contributions to public and open-source repositories dips slowly throughout the night. Only after midnight does activity on all types of repositories drop, as tech pros aim to get a few hours’ shut-eye before the workday gears up again.

According to Stack Overflow’s (extensive and essential) Developer Survey, more than 80 percent of developers code as a hobby outside of work. Not only that, but those developers with extensive non-programming responsibilities, such as parenting or an affinity for the outdoors, were “slightly more likely to code as a hobby than other groups.”

In 2017, another survey by Stack Overflow (unrelated to their Developer Survey) found that developers tend to engage with different programming languages in their hobbyist work than their day-jobs; on weekends, they used Haskell, Assembly, and OpenGL, in contrast to workweeks dominated by the likes of Sharepoint, Powershell, and other, more enterprise-centric platforms.

“If we look for the tags that have increased the most in weekend activity, we see the game engine Unity3D, as well as a number of tags used for building mobile apps,” Stack Overflow noted at the time. “It looks like developers are designing more games and apps on the weekends now than in previous years.”

It seems unlikely that those trends have wavered much over the past year; many developers enjoy toying with the newest languages and platforms to come onto the market, even ones that have no bearing on their salaried work. In any case, for many developers, coding isn’t just a job—it’s a… okay, okay, we’ll stop now.

2 Responses to “Developers Are Coding for the Love of It (Plus the Money)”

  1. Robert Miller

    As a programmer with masters degree since 1993, many are dropping out of this business. The trend of lower wages, shorter job duration, and increased duties continues. These very talented individuals often find other options.
    In the early 2000’s, a programmer could contract for $80 to $150 an hour. As a contractor, they could write off expensive continued training, software tools and other valid business expenses. Today, the vast majority of companies require a W-2. This was equal to adding a 15% additional tax burden. The W-2 is often for shorter and shorter duration and the time / cost to relocate and find the next “assignment” as a “W-2 employee” grows larger.
    Regardless of talent, most contracts have fallen to $25 to $60 an hour. The average School teacher with a Masters averages $55K yearly (nationally) with amazing benefits and retirement. Programmers that pass certifications to teach Math / Science in schools can make much more.. Certified Truck Drivers are in demand for $55 an hour. The same for certified HVAC techs. Many fields that require some level of professional certification or license easily compete with unlicensed programmers or DBA.
    In Russia and China, students showing skills in math/science and programming are extended all of he benefits the US puts on sports.
    Of course there will be posts that claim “this one guy does this or that”. There are always exceptions. But, the overall trend doesn’t favor this field.
    Advice: Mothers, don’t let your children grow up to be programmers.

  2. Yes, business owners around the world no longer feel any responsibility to those that help them get rich. They want in and out as quickly as is possible, not caring a whit to fulfill their responsibility to provide a business model that enriches those that gave their heart and soul for the company. Also, I somewhat resent your implication that your degree somehow makes you more qualified than those of us that are self taught, as most of us can out design and out pace those of you with degrees, as we had to learn the hard way and come to the table with no pre-conceived notions about how something should be done. I have always used my wit and experience to arrive at solutions that are as efficient, and cost effective as is possible, so as not to break the bank, and push unnecessarily close to the raw edge of technology, which has always been ludicrous.