Stack Overflow of the “full stackoverflow programmer” fame just published a developer survey. Among the items was a question asking developers, what they prefer for indenting their code: Tabs or spaces?
The majority of developers prefers tabs over spaces by a reasonable margin. What worries me, though, is the conclusion or the “trend” that the summary writer sees in the data: That more experienced developers prefer spaces over tabs.
The author of the summary is somewhat cautious to avoid saying this, but the casual reader might be led to believe that experience leads to choosing spaces, which is of course a jump to conclusions not warranted by the data. Maybe these are just older developers, still using vi? You may notice elsewhere in the survey that Notepad++ is the preferred editor of choice (though it is not clear to me whether IDEs were in the running for this question). We don’t know, not enough information is given.
Ultimately, it all boils down to understanding cause and effect or, more academically, correlation vs. causation. I’ll pick up this topic in my research class, Nailing your Thesis, this coming winter. The textbook of choice for the topic is Angrist and Pischke, “Mastering ‘metrics: The path from cause to effect.”