Monday, January 17, 2011

Software Craftsmanship: What it's all about.


I've gone from Dan North's post, to Gil Zilberfeld's to Michael Feather's to Jason Gorman's and back. And I'm at a loss.

Why is there a software craftsmanship movement?  What motivated it?  What drives it now?  One thing; and one thing only. 

We are tired of writing crap.

That's it.  The fat lady sang.  Good nite Gracy. Over and out. 

We're tired of writing crap. We are tired of embarrassing ourselves and our employers by delivering lousy software.  We have had enough of telling our customers to reboot at midnight.  We don't want bug lists that are a thousand pages long.  We don't want code that grows more tangled and corrupt with every passing day.  We're tired of doing a bad job.  We want to start doing a good job. 

That's ... what ... this ... is ... about.  Nothing else.

What we are not doing:

  • We are not putting code at the center of everything.
  • We are not turning inward and ignoring the business and the customer.
  • We are not inspecting our navels.
  • We are not offering cheap certifications. 
  • We are not forgetting that our job is to delight our customers. 

What we will not do anymore:

  • We will not make messes in order to meet a schedule.
  • We will not accept the stupid old lie about cleaning things up later.  
  • We will not believe the claim that quick means dirty.
  • We will not accept the option to do it wrong.
  • We will not allow anyone to force us to behave unprofessionally. 

What we will do from now on:

  • We will meet our schedules by knowing that the only way to go fast is to go well.
  • We will delight our customers by writing the best code we can.
  • We will honor our employers by creating the best designs we can.
  • We will honor our team by testing everything that can be tested.
  • We will be humble enough to write those tests first.
  • We will practice so that we become better at our craft.  

We will remember what our grandmothers and grandfathers told us:

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Measure twice cut once.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.

I suppose that some people might look askance at our code katas and our code retreats, and our practice sessions.  They might think that we're turning inwards and abandoning our customers.  They might think that we've given up on the real world and have yielded to the temptation to entertain ourselves.  I can see how someone might come to that conclusion.

But they are as wrong as the day is long.  We are doing this because we care about the customer.  We are dedicating time and effort to being the best that we can be so that our employers will get the best possible value out of us. 

Do you think the only time musicians play their instruments is when they are on stage?  Do you think the only time that batters hit balls is during games?  Do you think the only time lawyers give a closing is at trial?  Of course not.  These people are professionals; and professionals practice!  Professionals study the minutia of their disciplines.  Professionals know all the little tricks and quirks.  They know the history, the theories, the anecdotes.  They know techniques and methods.  They know good options and bad options and how to tell them apart.  And they know all this stuff because they practice, practice practice.

So when you see someone wearing a green wrist-band that says "Clean Code" or "Test First" or "Test Obsessed", it's not because they've joined a movement, or signed a manifesto, or that they somehow feel superior to everyone else.  They aren't participants in a holy war.  They aren't trying to join a tribe and huddle around a campfire.  The green band is a personal thing.  It's a promise made to one's self:  "I will do a good job.  I will not rush.  I will write tests.  I will go fast by going well.  I will not write crap. And I will practice, practice practice so that I can be a professional."




  1. *yawn* non-statement.
    I am going to do my job.

  2. Yep, but there is a long hard road out of hell to change developers mentality.

  3. The real work is going to be to change managers' metality.

  4. Gotta love'em ... those METAL managers.

  5. The meetings in our Israeli software craftsmanship group are about not writing crap. I've presented about TDD there. People are interested in better software. Yet almost no one makes the connection between great code to business results.

    It's about perception. And that's how developers are perceived by the business people. The good intentions (and practices) are not communicated well to the business owners, and therefore all these talks about SOLID, TDD, etc. seem as "time wasters". It may be that it's the manager fault for not separating the "craftsman" from the "artist". But it doesn't matter - this just widens the gap between the two sides. It brings suspicion and negative feelings all round.

    Craftsmen may not be carrying flags. But they sure seem like that from a far.

  6. @Gil Zilberfeld
    Do you have any cure for such situations?

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