Just what is a developer?

Technologies making it easy to build and deploy apps means almost anyone can be a developer, whether they know anything about computer science or not

In late January, startup Code School -- you can guess what they do -- was purchased by Pluralsight. (I'll save you a Google; it does online learning for designers and software engineers in service to the idea of capital-C capital-L Code Literacy.) Code Literacy, of course, is the notion that learning to read and write code is the new learning to read and write. 

That notion is catching fire: No less than President Obama has called for more code education in schools, while New York-based code school General Assembly takes in funding and turns out newly-trained developers. It's all aimed at feeding the Silicon Valley tech machine, which has been shouting about a tech talent (and diversity) shortage for some time now, and pushing for immigration reform to get more skilled developers into the country.

Developers, many in tech argue, are rare beasts and must be valued, elaborately courted and pampered.

But there's this other thing happening in Silicon Valley, too: A boom in technologies making it easy to build and deploy apps with the selling point that anybody can be a developer, whether or not they know anything about computer science or even own a hoodie.

Thus, a dichotomy emerges: One side says, "We need more developers!" The other side says "Everybody's a developer!" Who's right? Well, it's complicated.

A common thought, often repeated in Silicon Valley, is that you can teach someone to code, but you can't make them a coder. Plenty of people can run through a tutorial online, learn to write basic web scripts (see also the term "script kiddie," a pejorative for those who use rudimentary coding skills to orchestrate brute force attacks on websites), or even attend a Code Academy. But they don't have the lifetime of experience or history of passion that makes one great.

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