The magic of software development

People think I have a magical talent. It’s funny seeing the difference between what I know and what others think I know when it comes to debugging stuff.

Simply put, I know how to tinker. I have clues, hunches, and insights. But that stuff is useless to a developer not willing to roll up their sleeves and engage in ten solid hours of trial and error. Often times, that is what makes or breaks a demo or a customer feature.

clock-with-a-questionDid I mention ten hours? Sorry, I meant ten days! Or sometimes it takes ten weeks to push your way through a mountain of integration, setup, and labor. Whatever it takes. But it isn’t solved by “knowing the answer” when you sit down at the keyboard.

We software devs work in the strangest field. First, we pursue a degree in either Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Ever seen a scientist and an engineer talk? Polar opposites. So what is software development? A science or an engineering trade?

My buddy Russ Miles has likened this to R&D, since there is no real sense of “can you have that ready in a month?” Building a bridge between two fixed endpoints is much easier to estimate than “can we have this website operational by next year?”

Experiment: Find your most non-technical friend, and ask them if they have a clue what you do. Then try to clarify when they say “no.” And try, and try, and try.

Solving software problems can seem foreign to both science AND engineering. On many days, it’s just tinker, tinker, tinker. And yet, our world’s dependency on it is growing.

HamletSoftware is really just organizing a set of patterns to respond to information. We need certain behaviors triggered automatically, and software is a giant stack of rules meant to handle that. As we collect more information and link more things together, the need to manage this grows.

A good visual of what software really entails is a hologram. Remember that limited-response hologram from I, Robot? We are just tinkering to put together a set of rules to better manage everything around us.

This requires tinkering, not magic. Good ole elbow grease is sometimes the best tool.

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