Code monkey

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Drawing of a code monkey by Jawbone Len based on Jonathan Coulton's song Code Monkey.

The term code monkey generally refers to a computer programmer or other person who writes computer code for a living. More specifically, it refers to a person only capable of grinding out code, but unable to perform the more intellectually complex tasks of software architecture, analysis, and design. The term is thus considered mildly insulting, and is often applied to the most junior people on a programming team.

"Code monkey" may also be used self-deprecatingly in griping about or denying responsibility for management decisions (e.g. "Don't ask me why we need to write a compiler in COBOL, I'm just a code monkey.").[1]


[edit] Etymology & usage

The origin of the term "code monkey" is undetermined.

Historically, the modifier 'monkey' has been used to link various vocations with the medium of that profession. A "grease monkey", for example, is a low-level or non-professional automobile mechanic, while "tape monkey" has been used to refer to low-level audio engineers and computer machine room workers; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a "powder monkey" was an extremely low-level sailor, often as young as 10 years of age, who kept cannoneers supplied with gun-powder, shot, and tamping material.

"Web monkey," as in the web developer's site Webmonkey, may be a more specific derivation of "code monkey." The term is generally a pejorative implying limited skills, responsibility or ambition and may stem from the implication that the job in question is a menial one that could be performed by a trained monkey.

Alternatively, the term can refer to the notion that a programmer simply bangs on a keyboard and produces results, without understanding what they are doing. Therefore, a code monkey may be one of the many types of software programmers working as part of a larger group. The software games developer called The Code Monkeys claims to hold a trademark to the name.[2]

[edit] Self-deprecating use

Code monkey also refers to subordinate programmers who are required to produce large amounts of code. The type of code produced by those to whom this term is applied is usually simple and uninteresting. It is often used in a derogatory sense, but there are those who willingly apply this term to themselves— generally when they feel that their skills are being underutilized, and the work they do is suitable for a programmer with less skill or experience than their own. This is typified by the “I’m just a code monkey” usage referenced in the Jargon File.

Ironic self-deprecation by programmers who prefer to distance themselves from pointy-haired boss culture means that the term may in fact be one of approbation and in-group identification. In other words, sometimes the meaning can be completely reversed; it all depends on the tone and context.

[edit] Mainstream use

Jonathan Coulton’s song "Code Monkey", which became a hit on Slashdot and received mention in The New York Times, describes the frustrations of a junior programmer’s life.[3][4] Coulton's song has appeared in television commercials, and is the theme song for the G4 television network show Code Monkeys.[5]. The song continued to gain popularity in the UK when Geoff Lloyd gave it mainstream airtime on Virgin Radio.

The interface for Meebo, an in-browser instant messaging program, can be configured to display labels and prompts in one of various international or novelty languages.[6] One of these, which uses C, C++, or C# style syntax, is referred to as "Code Monkey".[7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

This article is based in part on the Jargon File, which is in the public domain.

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