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I am searching for some charts, tables and other empirical evidence on how a typical programmer's activities are distributed (per day, per project, etc). Example activities are programming, phone calls, reading documentation, writing documentation, fixing bugs, requirements engineering, tests, meetings, etc.

In particular I am interested in the amount of time a programmer actually works on executable stuff.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's highly unlikely that you'll find representative empirical data on this subject, as it highly depends on the programmer's environment.

  • Does he maintain and support an existing application?
  • Is he programming a new application from scratch (and has he got domain knowledge)?
  • How big is the company? Do they have dedicated testers, technical writers or requirements engineers and analysts?
  • How big is the team?
  • What kind of development methodology is being used?
  • What other processes are there in the company?
  • What kind of software is he working on? Is it life-critical? Is it governmental or military software?
  • This list is by no means complete ...

Moreover, there're often different phases in software development. Spending 90% of the day coding today doesn't mean you'll spend 90% of the day coding next year, next month or even next week.

All these factors vary from company to company and no two places are truly the same. Therefore you can at best find some data for a very narrow perspective of time and environment. If you want such data, go ahead and survey the company or the specific project you want that data for. But be aware that it's likely to be useless for any other company or even the next project.

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Extra bullet point: has he heard of StackOverflow or StackExchange? :) –  Benjol Aug 5 '11 at 12:36
Thanks, I asked this questions, because I could not find relevant information on the net - and your answer is a likely explanation. –  miku Aug 5 '11 at 13:24
@miku: Feel free to accept my answer if you liked it :) –  Falcon Aug 5 '11 at 13:26
@Falcon, I'll do, just curious if something else pops up. Just a little Geduld :) –  miku Aug 5 '11 at 14:11
@miku I don't think you're going to get a better answer than "it depends", because there really is no other answer. People can share their personal experiences, but like Falcon said in his answer, it's going to be completely different for each person because there are so many factors involved. –  Joel C Aug 5 '11 at 14:21

A small survey can be found here:

In essence:

enter image description here

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That's not an empirical study. It's not even a study. It's a survey. Big difference. –  Eric King Apr 27 '13 at 4:01
You certainly got a point. s/study/survey/. –  miku Apr 27 '13 at 4:56

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