The other day I got into an argument with someone about programming languages and their users. I don’t know why – it’s one of those conversation topics like religion or politics or the Yankees that will only end badly for all involved. I guess I was in the mood for a fight.
The basic premise of the argument was that VB developers are somehow “dumber” than C++ developers. Having long ago written a book on Visual Basic (don’t buy it, it’s not a good book) I took umbrage. And I was in the mood for a fight. So while my opponent was making a bunch of assertions about how all VB developers are self-taught and don’t understand basic computer science principles like semicolons, I stared blankly into space awaiting my turn. Then I dusted off my marketing hat and began to cite a bunch of Microsoft internal research.
You see, Microsoft does a huge amount of research into its customers and a lot of that research centers on developers and who they are. We spend a lot of time doing pretty solid worldwide research (well over a dozen countries, an overall sample size exceeding 11,000, etc.) and we ask a lot of questions that help us shape product.
So here’s what I said to my biased friend.
If you ask VB developers how much education they have, about the same have college degrees as C/C++ developers (we ask what their primary language is and cross reference by level of education attained), and only negligibly more C/C++ developers have graduate degrees. More than that, more pro developers who primarily use VB say they have an undergrad CS degree than pro developers who use C/C++ primarily (though more C/C++ primary devs say they have an engineering degree). In other words, C/C++ pro devs are more likely to have an engineering degree than VB devs (it's outside the margin of error, but just barely).
Granted college education isn’t a sign of how smart you are (Bill Gates, for example, dropped out and he’s pretty smart). But in lieu of direct quantitative data, it’s a good proxy, and it shows that VB developers aren’t as dumb as my argumentative friend thinks.