Great Software Engineers Fail

This is a litte unstructured rant. That just needs to come out.

I listen to some software-engineering postcasts, read some SE-blogs and generally try to get better at what I do for a living (which is developing software). But I listen to those bloggers and postcasters,  who have often developed software for two or three decades (this means 20-30 friggin’ years), and wonder if they think we all did so. No, we didn’t. And this is where they fail.

They are gurus. Nerdy heroes. They developed languages, built enterprise software, know all the technical details and some may even be able to read assembler code. They work at google, microsoft or some agile startup that will do it all right. The wiser ones tell us what the best practices are, which design patterns are more superb than others and why dynamically typed languages rule now that we’re doing test-driven development. The lesser wise ones use other buzzwords like SEO, Social, Scrum, Semantic, … S-omething. Some are talking about architectural layers, loose coupling, ORMS, SQL vs. NoSql databases, the importance of version control, team-management and the big difference between computer science and the software development craft. Dependency inversion and injection. They’re talking about a wide array of frameworks, tools, libraries and assemblies. Damn, and they still talk about command-line-tools, grep-commands and build-scripts.

But they fail to realise that the usual software-developer out there doesn’t understand what they’re talking about. I see it every day. Computer scientists that finish with a university-degree know next-to-nothing about software development. People programming everything in PHP. I mean the easy stuff and the complex stuff – and PHP wasn’t made for both. I met doctors of “buisiness informatics” with no clue about Software Development – but a good skill with word and powerpoint. Project planners who taught this at university – but fail at leading a team finishing a project in real life. I experience it in my own skills, that I may know all the ideas, but in the short time, I haven’t worked with 1% of what the gurus talk about. We didn’t get taught that at university – and if you try to teach it to yourself, you’re doomed to fail (for some time at least). Try pair programming alone. Or getting the idea behind version control – alone. Try to write structured code – if you’re the only person reading it. Try learning programming as the one guy not having programmed for 5 years besides two others who have. They won’t wait for you, and you won’t learn.

A quick overview of the Test-driven developmen...Image via Wikipedia

All just Buzzwords? Well, what about those fancy Design Patterns? Architecture? MVC? Unit-Testing? To be true, I know that the gurus are right. Many gurus also think about these issues. I work for a real guru who also understands that the fresh programmers need to learn, and he’s a good teacher and patient with us learners. And I try to get used to all the best practices, the agile development, the continuous learning, the new tools. But I think that 80% of the developers out there just want to do what they were trained to do, not knowing that at school or university, they just saw 5% of what they really need to know. And they truely have no intention to learn even more – as 8 hours of work a day certainly is enough!

But are CS-students software developers? Or do those developers come from somewhere else? India comes to my mind. But no, thats not what I meant. I believe good software developers are born from themselves – no school is gonna bring you to developing good software, the only thing that will help you is an unlimited thirst for knowledge. I heard the word “Infovore” somewhere, and thats exactly the kind of people that transcend into those good developers. Enjoying learning new stuff.

I don’t mean SuperBrains. Well, there are the few geeks that came on this world with the fun to code and which were born with a linux-kernel in mind, but please try to realise that software development tools and techniques need to be usable. And that at universities more practical work needs to be done. And people should have more basic-courses. Learn programming more. Get lessons on source control, on getting to know different IDEs. On learning using basic libraries. Get told more was object oriented means instead of giving them a definition and telling them “this is better than goto”. WTF is goto? Show them! Let them make some Basic or Pascal code. Let every wanna-be developer do a lot of projects with different focusses. And let them explain their code afterwards, so they’ll do it themselves. Instead of people from China who just earned 20 bucks.

There are only so many people speaking binary even if they’re developing software. I heard Linux has reached 1% market share. By making better GUIs. Go figure.

At the end, I want to give you the link to a really great post by one of the wiser programming guys: Confessions of a terrible programmer. You may think this is all BS. :-) See ya.

, Posted Thursday, February 4th, 2010 under Privat.

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