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The term “code monkey” refers to a person who writes computer code for a living, specifically those who grind out fairly routine code rather than performing the more intellectually complex tasks such as software architecture, analysis, and design. As such, the term may be considered by some to be derogatory, and it is usually applied to m ore junior programmers.
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. Coulton’s song has appeared in television commercials, and is the theme song for the G4 television network show Code Monkeys. The song continued to gain popularity in the UK when Geoff Lloyd gave it mainstream airtime on Virgin Radio. The song has also inspired a musical of the same name, featuring a number of Coulton’s other songs, which had its world premiere at Boston College in October 2009 under the direction of Luke Jorgensen.
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. One of these, which uses C, C++, or C# style syntax, is referred to as “Code Monkey”.
“Code Monkey” also applies to anyone held back from proper systems development lifecycle methodology and flow, simply by time constraints or the office political spectrum, more specifically ad hoc environments. If planning and design phases are done in haste, requirements are not outlined clearly or assumptions are made, everyone in the organization suffers. Code Monkeys are more prevalent on Death March projects.
“Code Monkeys” are considered to lack intellectual capability in seeing the “Big Picture” and are often myopic when it comes to business sense. They are typically characterized to be content with their insignificant status and are often depicted to be bad with women, lacking basic social skills.
“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”).