I am talking about a developer who doesn't turn a blind eye to bugs found by chance, who doesn't treat them as Somebody Else's Problem, but feels responsible for the product as a whole.

Whistle-blower comes to mind but I don't know if it is used outside government/administration context.

What's the best word to describe this soft skill?

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    Conscientious: Wishing to do what is right, esp. to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly. – dodgy_coder Aug 29 '12 at 13:58
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    They thought it was more appropriate here. I felt it met the requirements for a SWR. – Kit Z. Fox Aug 29 '12 at 14:14
  • I migrated this after checking with KitFox. At the time of closure, it didn't have an accepted answer. It definitly doesn't belong on Programmers, and there might be better answers. Either way, it helps by putting the question on the right site. – Thomas Owens Aug 29 '12 at 14:14
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    How about "A Pragmatic Programmer"? – smp7d Aug 29 '12 at 15:12

If you're just looking for an adjective to describe the sense of responsibility, then conscientious (as dodgy_coder mentioned in a comment) or diligent come to mind.

I have occasionally seen such folks referred to as "Good (Code) Citizens" (in the sense of good citizenship) or "Boy (or Girl) Scouts" (after the so-called Boy Scout Rule of Coding).

I would definitely avoid whistle-blower as it can have negative connotations and is more about informing someone else of problems rather than taking the responsibility to fix them yourself.

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I call this being Engaged and having Ownership in what they are working on.

I expect this behavior from my engineers as I feel it raises the overall quality and ensures they are making customer focused decisions about what to do with the product.

Whistle-blower is more about exposing corruption and other things that could ruin a business.

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    +1, although customer-focused decisions aren't always the case and sometimes are preceded by developer-focused decisions aimed at making the codebase more maintainable. – Bernard Aug 29 '12 at 14:00

I checked the tags for this particular question and saw that it's also a request for a phrase and not just a word.

So, I suggest the words "a person with/ of integrity."

Of course "professional integrity" means a lot of things to different people. But here's a definition I find similar to how I see it:

From Macmillan,


The quality of behaving according to the rules and standards of your job or profession. 

Here are a couple other ideas I got from a source about professional ethics:

An old labor rallying cry says, ``A full day's work for a full day's pay." Every job has its pleasant and unpleasant aspects. But in accepting a job, we agree to perform all of its duties, not just the pleasant ones. (emphasis mine)

The physician's motto is, ``First, do no harm." This means that we must assure that any product or idea that we deliver is as correct as we can make it and has no unannounced defects... Our computer program may be used as a module in a drug delivery system in a hospital or in a guidance system in a passenger aircraft. We must be sure that if our work is used as we say it can be, that it will perform as intended. (emphasis mine)

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When someone pursues a problem diligently, over the objections or neglect of those controlling the issue, she or he is often referred to as a gadfly. Compact OED defines it as

a person who annoys or criticizes others in order to provoke them into action:

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