Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

No, I don't agree with the manifesto

Posted by Pete McBreen 29 Dec 2010 at 13:41

Having just been reminded that there is a Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship I have to point out that although I wrote the Software Craftsmanship book I have nothing to do with the manifesto.

Part of my disagreement with it is that it is a not very well disguised take off of the Agile Manifesto. I can leave aside the fact that they did not even keep the sequence the same, but to suggest that Software Craftsmanship is something beyond Agile is taking the idea to places where I do not think it belongs. Craftsmanship is about our individual relationship to the work that we do, it is not tied to a particular way of doing the work.

For me, Software Craftsmanship is about putting the individual back into the activity of delivering software. I have no interest at all in a community of professionals, the passionate amateur is much more likely to create interesting and valuable software. Professionals are too serious, amateurs get the idea that Software development is meant to be fun. One now very famous amateur has since written about something being Just For Fun.

In part my book was a rant against Software Engineering, mainly because several institutions were trying to take ideas from mechanical engineering and manufacturing practices and apply them to software development. But it was also a rant against the idea of professionalism. Rather than try to emulate the buttoned down professionalism that kills productivity and creativity, I wanted software development to become more skill and experience based. Yes, there are some practices that help in certain circumstances, but not in all. The professionals who spout about Best Practices and Certification do us all a disservice since they lock us into things that worked one time in one circumstance.

In the end, Software Craftsmanship is about producing great software. In the old traditions of craftsmanship, to be accepted a journeyman had to produce a masterpiece. Something that their fellow craftsmen would acknowledge as being worthy of the craft. For me, this is what Software Craftsmanship means, the ability to create Great Software and have fun while doing so.

Introductory Programming Texts Need Work

Posted by Pete McBreen 10 Dec 2010 at 21:55

Had a need to look at Python textbook recently and got confused several times by the examples that were needlessly obfuscated (slightly paraphrased code):

>>> def actions():
...     acts = []
...     for i in range(5):
...         acts.append(lambda x, i=i: i **x)
...     return acts
>>> acts = actions() 
>>> acts[3](2)
  1. For a newbie, it would not be obvious that acts inside the function is NOT the same variable as the same variable acts outside of the function.
  2. The i=i is designed to be confusing, the first one is a new name in the scope of the lambda, the second is from the for loop. The first should have had a different name to make it obvious what was happening.
  3. The name of the function actions just does not communicate anything.

I’m going to have to think on this more, but maybe my next project is going to involve creating some material for newbies.