Developer inequality and the technical debt crisis

Recently there have been heated complaints that the culture of programming unfairly excludes some groups. They want to join the programming elite and get a spot at the startup trough. More power to them. I really have nothing to say about this issue because I think it is a distraction from a bigger issue with far greater importance to society. The bigger injustice is that programming has become an elite: a vocation requiring rare talents, grueling training, and total dedication. The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge — and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software. The real injustice of developer inequality is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Continue reading “Developer inequality and the technical debt crisis”

The Myth of the Super Programming Language

I just read yet another recycling of the old myth of how some esoteric programming language (often Lisp or Haskell) is the secret weapon that allowed a team to outperform expectations by an order of magnitude. Paul Graham has strongly encouraged this myth (see Beating the Averages), but it has been circulating for ages. It is totally false. Worse, it reinforces the intellectual elitism that is the bane of our field. Continue reading “The Myth of the Super Programming Language”

What if Smalltalk were invented today?

To: Alan Kay
From: The Program Committee
Subject: FAIL

Dear Dr. Kay,

The program committee thanks you for the submission of your paper “Object Orientation: A New Paradigm of Programming”. Unfortunately your paper has been rejected. We had many fine submissions this year, but as you know we must accept no more than 15% of submissions to be considered a premier conference. The reviewers’ comments are attached below. Continue reading “What if Smalltalk were invented today?”

Letter to the editor of The Economist

Sir – your Nov 25 special report “Managing Complexity” asked whether the manifest failures of software can be fixed by giving developers better tools. Some of the tools you discuss, so-called Lifecycle Management, will actually make things worse. Lifecycle Management is an ill-concealed attempt to impose a totalitarian regime upon software development. As such, it will inevitably fail, but only after having first caused much damage. Experience has shown time and again that successful software development results from the freedom to innovate, not the discipline of control. Continue reading “Letter to the editor of The Economist”