What does ‘productivity’ really mean for software developers?


Developer working at his computer
min read time

The term "Developer Productivity" has received negative feedback from some software developers, and understandably so. Many have expressed concerns that traditional performance measurement approaches and tools fail to capture the metrics that are truly meaningful in software development. Additionally, some have criticized the term as a means of employer surveillance. Unfortunately, there is some truth to these criticisms, particularly in the past.

The good news is that several years ago a forward-thinking team of developers began working with universities, freelance developers, and development managers on an approach to solve these problems. The result of this work was a tool called Codealike, which helps individual developers understand how they work, compare their behavior to that of the most productive developers in the world, communicate to peers and managers the value of their output, and ultimately improve their own productivity in the process.

You might be asking why Torc, a talent marketplace for developers, is interested in developer productivity. The answer is that we’re more than just a talent marketplace. The two main drivers for our business are to help companies find the perfect development talent for their needs and to help developers thrive and build meaningful careers. That’s why we acquired Codealike and made it available to every developer in the world to use for free.

Codealike changes the game for developer productivity.

Codealike is focused and that’s why it is so powerful. It’s focused on individual performance and on software developers. This level of focus and specificity means the insights it generates aren’t watered down or genericized to be relevant to every type of worker or even every developer. Codealike integrates with your IDE (seamlessly and in the background) to analyze your individual coding behavior using metrics that matter for software developers and generates insights just for you.

The metrics that matter.

Let’s start with defining productivity for developers through an exercise. Send a message to 10 of your developer colleagues and ask “Was today a good day? What did you accomplish today?”. You’ll likely get a range of responses, from pretty good:

Today was great. I didn’t have many interruptions (ugh … meetings are terrible) and was able to really focus on my project. I built the API we need for our big release and testing seemed to go well. We should be ready to deploy soon.


… to not so good:

Ehh, it wasn’t the best day. I finished building the API I’ve been working on but when I was ready to deploy it I had to waste a bunch of time debugging the database since it’s on a legacy environment. We could probably deploy this big release in half the time if we upgraded our infrastructure.

… and even worse:

It was whatever. I put in my 8 hours and went home. I had a few meetings, wrote some code, and debugged a few issues. The day went by so fast I don’t even remember exactly what I worked on.

The ‘pretty good’ response shows the developer understands when they’re productive (no distractions) and is focused on the outcomes of their work. The ‘not so good’ response shows the developer is being held back by things outside their control. And the ‘worse’ response shows a developer who is disconnected from their work and the impact they have on their team.

Consider instead the following responses:

Today was great. I only had 2 interruptions that killed my focus (ugh … meetings are terrible) and beat my focus-time record! I built the API we need for our big release and testing/approval was 50% faster than my team’s average. Based on our progress, we’re moving up our big release by a week.
Ehh, it wasn’t the best day. I finished building the API I’ve been working on but then I had to spend 4 hours 🤯debugging our legacy database just to get everything to work right. And it’s not just me. Every dev on the team spends at least 25% of their time dealing with complications from outdated infrastructure just to make things work. We’re definitely creating more tech debt with so many people making changes to the core database. I’m going to show my manager the data so we can prioritize infrastructure updates.
Today flew by! I had to look at my dashboard to remember what I worked on. I had less meetings than usual and was able to spend 25% more time coding today. Plus, the code I submitted today didn’t require any fixes or debugging. I do think I probably spent more time than I should have working in one of my files but I’ll pay more attention next time to make sure I don’t hold up deploying this big release.

How do you go from the first set of responses to the second set? Data. And not just any data–the data that matters for software developers. This is what Codealike provides developers. It’s not just the lines of code you write or the time you spend at your computer that matter. Sure, those are inputs, but what really matters is what you produce as a result of your work, how good those outcomes are, and how your outcomes impact your team’s ability to achieve their objectives.

Codealike's approach differs from traditional developer performance measuring tools in a few ways: 

  • First, it captures a wider range of activities beyond just lines of code or number of commits, allowing for a more holistic view of your work.

  • Second, it focuses on the process of development, rather than just the end product, which can help identify areas where improvements can be made. 

  • Third, Codealike emphasizes the human-centric aspects of development, such as your level of engagement and focus, which can help improve job satisfaction and work-life balance. 

  • Finally, Codealike provides insights into the social and collaborative aspects of development, such as communication patterns and interactions with teammates, which can help improve team dynamics and productivity.

Your (meta)data is yours.

Codealike measures your productivity by analyzing metadata from various activities, such as coding itself, but also debugging, systems management, building code, editing code, and reading code. Importantly, Codealike doesn’t capture or analyze your source code. 

When you install the Codealike plugin for your preferred IDE and web browser you have ultimate control over what types of activities, files, websites, etc. to include or exclude from your Codealike analysis. Codealike looks at the way you work, not at the code you’re writing.

When it comes to sharing your individual insights, things are pretty simple. Codealike is a tool for developers. Full stop. We do not give your employer, your manager, or anyone else access to your metadata and we don’t sell it to third-parties. 

Don’t get us wrong–we believe there’s value in sharing your insights with others, we just believe they are yours to use how you wish and share with whom you wish. You can think about Codealike like a FitBit for developers. It makes sense of all the disparate data streams and metrics that impact your coding “health”, structures that data in a way that you can easily understand, and enables you to share relevant bits with colleagues if and when you want. 

In additional to using your personal insights, Codealike enables you to:

  • Create a team so you and your team members can see the impact of each of your outputs on the broader team’s objectives and identify areas of potential technical debt
  • Compare your high-level stats with those of any other Codealike user to see how you stack up and identify areas to improve
  • Embed a high-level insight widget on your own personal website to show off your performance
  • Download your raw data to run additional analysis and share with others

Any developer can use Codealike and if you become a member of the Torc community, you will get access to premium features at no cost.

Our goal is to help developers thrive and build successful careers. We do that primarily through connecting companies with talented developers from around the world who struggle to get a seat at the table during the hiring process. If you’re interested in remote job opportunities, join the Torc community so you don’t miss out on your dream job. And don’t forget to start using Codealike to generate your own personal insights for the chance to win Torc-exclusive access and awards!

Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, we’re here to help you succeed as well. All of the benefits of using Codealike are just a click away. Signup and start using Codealike today.


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