The Software Industry Can’t Have Nice Things?


I’m still very much enjoying Robert Glass’ The Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering1

I’m still making my way through it, but I wanted to call out a corollary to one of the facts he covers (which even he calls out as possibly controversial):

An Australian colleague, Steve Jenkin, suggested to me his view of the rate of progress of the software profession. It’s average experience level, he said, has tended to remain constant over time. … [W]hat he meant was: with the explosion of newcomers arriving in this fast-growing profession, the increasing experience level of the growing-olders is more than overcome by the low experience level of the hordes of newbies. As I thought a bit about what Steve said, I came to this thought that I would like to introduce as a corollary:

The wisdom of the software field is not increasing.

If our experience level is not growing, then neither is our wisdom level. In fact, in our mad rush toward the new, we tend to discard much of the old. (For example, software’s newest and most popular methodologies, like Extreme and Agile, tend to make a point of rejecting the accumulated wisdom of the older methodologies.)

This insight particularly spoke to me.

It may be the local environment in which I work, or maybe the (professional) [echo?] chamber I choose to put myself in. Maybe it’s a pattern in the history that repeats every four-to-five years2, or maybe it is a fundamental shift in the industry.

In any event, the “DVCS solves all developer problems” and “Cloud solves all infrastructure problems” and “NoSQL solves all scaling problems” and “Rails is the only way to develop a website”-cacophony I often find myself in the middle of… may just be an indication that Glass’ corollary is, indeed, right.

Fred Brooks wrote almost 25 years ago that despite claims to the contrary, no silver bullet exists to reduce complexity of the software development process. And yet it’s become almost fashionable in the space to proclaim as loudly (and proudly) as one can: “Here’s a statement that implies I don’t know the history of the industry in which I practice my craft.”

If true, that’s certainly another point in support of Glass’ corollary.

I’m apparently not the only one who’s noticed the industry may be waking up to what Glass posits was true all along.

What do you think?

1 Thanks again for the reco, Ali!
2 What I tend to refer to as “an Internet generation”