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Software Craftsmanship: The New Imperative

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Software Craftsmanship: The New Imperative


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  • Copyright 2002
  • Dimensions: 7-3/8" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 208
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-73386-2
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-73386-0

By recognizing that software development is not a mechanical task, you can create better applications.

Today’s software development projects are often based on the traditional software engineering model, which was created to develop large-scale defense projects. Projects that use this antiquated industrial model tend to take longer, promise more, and deliver less.

As the demand for software has exploded, the software engineering establishment has attempted to adapt to the changing times with short training programs that teach the syntax of coding languages. But writing code is no longer the hard part of development; the hard part is figuring out what to write. This kind of know-how demands a skilled craftsman, not someone who knows only how to pass a certification course.

Software Craftsmanship presents an alternative—a craft model that focuses on the people involved in commercial software development. This book illustrates that it is imperative to turn from the technology-for-its-own-sake model to one that is grounded in delivering value to customers. The author, Pete McBreen, presents a method to nurture mastery in the programmer, develop creative collaboration in small developer teams, and enhance communications with the customer. The end result—skilled developers who can create, extend, and enhance robust applications.

This book addresses the following topics, among others:

  • Understanding customer requirements
  • Identifying when a project may go off track
  • Selecting software craftsmen for a particular project
  • Designing goals for application development
  • Managing software craftsmen
  • Software Craftsmanship is written for programmers who want to become exceptional at their craft and for the project manager who wants to hire them.


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    Table of Contents



    1. Understanding Software Engineering.

    The Paradox of Software Engineering.

    The Modern Definition of Software Engineering.

    Is Software Engineering a Good Choice for Your Project?

    2. The Problems with Software Engineering.

    Can Software Development Be Made Systematic and Quantified?

    The Hazards of the Good Enough Software Approach.

    What Is the Alternative to Software Engineering?

    3. Understanding Software Development.

    Software as Capital.

    Does the Division of Labor Work for Software Development?

    One Size Does Not Fit All.

    4. Finding a Better Metaphor Than Software Engineering.

    Finding a Better Metaphor Than Software Engineering.

    The Craft of Software Development.

    Parallels with Traditional Craftsmanship.

    The Resurgence of the Craft of Software Development.


    5. Putting People Back into Software Development.

    Craftsmanship Is About Getting Better at Software Development.

    Craftsmanship Encourages Developers to Write Great Software.

    A Call to Arms.

    6. Craftsmanship Is the Opposite of Licensing.

    Craftsmanship Is Personal.

    Licensing Is an Illusion.

    Craftsmanship Focuses on the Individual.


    7. How Craftsmanship Affects the Users of Systems.

    Software Craftsmanship Works Because Software Is Easy to Copy.

    Craftsmen Have a Different Relationship with Their Users.

    Great Software Deserves to Be Signed.

    Craftsmen Need Demanding Users.

    Software Craftsmanship Leads to Collaborative Development.

    8. Customers Have a Different Relationship with Craftsmen.

    Setting Realistic Delivery Dates.

    Exposing the Fallacy of Good Enough Software.

    Allowing Software Craftsmen to Take Credit for Their Work.

    Start Exploiting the Difference in Productivity Between Developers.

    But How Do We Know How Good a Developer Really Is?

    Customers Make a Cost/Quality Trade-off When Choosing Craftsmen.

    Customers Have Long Term Relationships with Software Craftsmen.

    Customer Interests Are Aligned with the Interests of Software Craftsmen.

    9. Managing Craftsmen.

    Software Craftsmen Are Not Hired Hands.

    Good Developers Are More Valuable Than Their Managers.

    Software Craftsmen Have a Different Relationship with Their Managers,

    Managing Great Developers Is a Pleasure and a Privilege.

    Software Craftsmen Like Creating Applications.

    Managing Software Craftsmen Is Different.

    Software Craftsmen Push for What They Need.

    10. Becoming a Software Craftsman.

    Software Craftsmanship Is a Rejection of Narrow Specialization.

    Craftsmanship Requires Dedication.

    How Does a Person Become a Software Craftsman?

    The Craft Tradition Has Endured for Centuries.

    11. Mastering the Craft.

    What Does a Master Software Craftsman Look Like?

    Use Your Old-timers.

    Mastery Implies the Use of Stable Technologies.

    Developing Mastery Takes Time.

    Mastery Implies Taking Responsibility for Passing on the Craft.

    12. Apprentice Developers.

    We Must Reverse the Decline in the Quality of Developer Training.

    Becoming an Apprentice Is a Significant Step.

    Apprenticeship Instills Lifelong Learning.

    The Role of Apprentices.

    An Apprenticeship Is a Significant Investment of Time and Energy.

    13. Journeymen Developers.

    Where Journeymen Fit in the Craft Tradition.

    Journeymen Developers.

    Journeymen Are Focused on Delivering Applications.

    Journeymen Play a Key Role in Software Craftsmanship.


    14. Software Engineering Projects.

    Software Engineering Is Designed for Large Systems Projects.

    Software Engineering Projects Are Diverse and Varied.

    15. Hazards of the Software Engineering Metaphor.

    You Cannot Do Software Engineering on a Low Budget.

    Software Engineering Encourages Scientific Management.

    Software Factories: The Production Line for Software.

    Reuse over Time Is Hazardous.

    The Myth of the Standardized Software Development Process.

    Software Engineering Forces Us to Forget the Individual.

    We Need More Variety in Our Development Processes, Not Less.

    16. Learning from Software Engineering.

    Size and Complexity Matter.

    Applications Need to Be Well Structured.

    Change Can Be Expensive Unless You Allow for It.

    Communication Inside the Team and with Users Is Crucial.

    Producing Accurate Estimates Is Very Expensive.


    17. Experience— The Best Indicator of Project Success.

    Choose Software Craftsmen Based on Their Reputations.

    Evaluate Craftsmen Based on Their Reputations and Portfolio.

    Auditioning a Software Craftsman.

    Let Your Software Craftsman Pick the Rest of the Development Team.

    Collaborative Development.

    Avoid Bleeding-Edge Technology If At All Possible.

    Paying for Experience.

    Be Prepared to Be Amazed.

    Design for Testing and Maintenance.

    Think Applications, Not Projects.

    Maintenance Teams Should Refuse to Accept Bad Applications.

    18. Design for Maintenance.

    Software Craftsmen Prefer Nonproprietary, Open Source Tools.

    Great Software Is Global.

    Software Craftsmen Need to Fight Back Against Planned Obsolescence.

    Great Software Needs to Be Given a Great User Interface.

    Maintainable Software Is Easy to Diagnose.

    The Hazards of Outsourcing.

    You Can Still Use Outside Craftsmen to Create Your Application.

    Maintenance Is the Most Important Part of the Life of Any Application.

    Not All Software Has to Be Maintainable.

    Design for Testing and Maintenance Is Not Rocket Science.

    19. Perpetual Learning.

    Creating a Learning Environment.

    Mastering the Craft of Software Development.

    Choose Training Courses Very Carefully.

    Encourage Your People to Be Visible in the Software Development Community.

    Becoming a Reflective Practitioner.

    Index. 0201733862T08072001


    Craftsmanship is a return to the roots of software development: Good software developers have always understood that programming is a craft skill. Regardless of the amount of arcane and detailed technical knowledge that a person has, in the end, application development comes down to feel and experience. Someone can know all of the esoteric technical details of the Java programming language, but that person will never be able to master application development unless he or she develops a feel for the aesthetics of software. Conversely, once a person gets the feel for software development, the specific technical details become almost irrelevant. Great developers are always picking up and using new technology and techniques; learning a new technology is just a normal part of the life of a software developer.

    The term software engineering was coined in 1967 by a NATO study group that recommended a conference to discuss “the problems of software.” The report from this 1968 conference, which was sponsored by the NATO Science Committee and took place in Garmish, Germany, was titled Software Engineering.1 In the report, Peter Naur and Brian Randell stated, “The phrase ‘software engineering’ was deliberately chosen to be provocative, in implying the need for software manufacture to be based on the types of theoretical foundations and practical disciplines that are traditional in the established branches of engineering.”

    In the same spirit, it is the intention of this book to be deliberately provocative in implying the need for practitioners to start paying attention to the craft of software development. Software craftsmanship is important because it takes us away from the manufacturing metaphor that software engineering invokes and makes us pay attention to the people who do software development. Craftsmanship brings with it the metaphor of skilled practitioners intent on mastering their craft, of pride in and responsibility for, the fruits of their labor.

    Software craftsmanship is not the opposite of software engineering or computer science. Rather, craftsmanship is a different tradition that happily coexists with and benefits from science and engineering. Just as the modern blacksmith benefits from better tools, materials, and understanding, so software craftsmanship benefits from better computers, reusable components, and programming languages. Just as blacksmiths transcend science and engineering with their skill and artistry, software craftsmanship can transcend computer science and software engineering to produce great programs, applications, and systems. UNIX and the modern-day GNU Linux are probably the best-known examples of this—systems that are thriving due to the craft, skill, and dedication of their creators.

    Software craftsmanship is a response to the problems of trying to force-fit software engineering into commercial application development. Software engineering was developed to meet the needs of NATO in developing very large defense systems. Commercial application development differs from the development of defense and government systems in that applications are a whole lot smaller and normally have to be up and running in less than 18 months. It is rare for a commercial application to be developed by a team of more than 20 people, and most application developers work in teams with fewer than 10 members. Software engineering is good at handling the problems of really large teams of 200 or more people, but it has little to say about how the individuals in a team should practice their craft.

    Software engineering encourages the “human wave” 2 approach to software development. Rather than solving the problem of how to develop highly skilled developers, software engineering attempts to deskill software development by suggesting that every problem can be solved by throwing more people at it.

    Although this approach sometimes succeeds, the resulting software is junk. Slow and bloated, it just never feels right. Users are dazzled by the graphics and animation but never really manage to come to grips with the software. They are thwarted by their inability to learn the software and use only a small fraction of the available features.

    Software does not have to be like that.

    All too often I see application development teams shipping valuable applications that provide real, measurable business benefit, but apologizing for not following software engineering best practices. For me, the real test of a team is whether it manages to ship and then enhance and extend the application for years afterward. Timely shipping of the first release is important, but it is more important that subsequent releases occur in a timely fashion and that each new release improves the application.

    Whenever I’m asked about hiring developers, I tell people to look for developers who have shipped a few applications successfully and then stuck around long enough to handle the next enhancement or maintenance release. Shipping proves that the developer can make something work; staying around for the next release allows the developer to experience the effects of the way that he or she built the application in the first place. If a developer has done this three times, my guess is that he or she is skilled and experienced enough in the craft of software development to be successful again.

    Software craftsmanship is the new imperative because many members of the software development community are starting to chase technology for its own sake, forgetting what is important. The purpose of software development is to create high-quality, robust software applications that deliver value to their users. What matters is growing a new generation of developers who can do that.

    Software craftsmanship stands for putting the joy and excitement back into creating applications for our users.

    1 Naur, Peter, and Brian Randell, (eds.), Software Engineering: A Report on a Conference Spnsored by the NATO Science Committee,NATO, 1969.

    2 Levy, Steven, Hackers, Penguin Books, 1994, p. 88.



    4GLs technology, 87


    Agile Alliance, 115
    Agile Methodologies, 115
    Analysis paralysis, 129
             lifetime commitment, 98-99, 170
             members of development teams, 167
             responsibilities, 100-102
    Apprenticeship, 82
             defined, 34-35
             duration, 102-103
             initial steps, 97-98
             training and mentoring by journeymen, 108
             transition to journeymen, 103, 106
             versus school, 81-82
             versus training, 93-97


    Best practices
             contrasted to role in engineering, 40
             hindering process innovation, 125-126
             one best way, 124-125
             standardized development, 123
    Bleeding-edge technologies
             appropriates uses, 169
             avoiding, 148-149
    Borland Software Craftsmanship, 30, 49, 60, 109-110, 152-153


    Capital goods, software as, 18-20
    CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) tools. See Computer Aided Software Engineering tools
             craftsmanship as opposite, 37-38, 41-43
             versus licensing, 39-41
    COBOL programming language, 88-89
    Collaborative software development, 54
             team members selections, 147-148
    Computer Aided Software Engineering tools
             automating software development, 26
             speeding development process, 33-34
    Customer relationships with software craftsmen
             alignment of interests, 67-69
             cost/quality tradeoffs, 63-65
             developers' moral rights, 59
             evaluating developers, 61-63
             long-term relationships, 65-67
             quality issues, 56-59
             realistic delivery dates, 55-56
             view of maintenance, 66-67


    Defect potential/defect removal efficiency, software engineering
             basics, 12
             defined, 11
    Defined software development process, 13-15
    Design for maintenance, 158-160, 169-170
    Design for testability, 157-158
    Division of labor, 123-124
             mechanical versus intellectual tasks, 20
    Documentation, 135
             effect on development process, 6
             out of date, 135


    eXtreme Programming software development process, 23
             human centered process, 26
             unit testing framework, 63


    Faster, better, cheaper, 118, 125
             low budget software engineering, 117
    Failing differently, 125
    Faking rational processes, 127


    Global software, 161-162
    Good enough software, 51, 53, 64-65
             exposing the fallacy, 56-59
             hazards, 15-16
             mass market challenges, 49
             software engineering for masses, 8-9


    IEEE, software engineering definition, 7
    Incremental software development, 147
    Intellectual tasks, 20-21, 25, 130
    Internationalization (I18N) initiative, 161-162


    Journeymen, software craftsmen, 82-83
             role in development process, 106-108
             teaching others after mastery, 90-91
             transition from apprenticeship, 103
    JUnit, unit testing framework, 63, 158
    Kramer prize, 27-28


    Lessons from software engineering,
             cost factors, 133-134
             documentation, 135
             estimating time/costs, 136-137
             interteam communication, 135-136
             project size, 131-133
             structure of applications, 133
             software craftsmanship role, 41-43
             versus certification, 39-41
    Lusers. See also users
             defined, 48
             self-concept, 50


             as high status activity, 167-169
             designing for, 158-160, 169-170
             diagnosing problems, 164-165
             hazards in using Java, 160
             need for automated testing, 157-158
             Open Source versus software engineering views, 66-67
             outsourcing alternatives, 167
             outsourcing hazards, 165-167
    Managing software craftsmen
             developers as knowledge workers, 71
             neo-Taylorism management model, 69, 71-72
             planned obsolescence, 75-76
             PSP (Personal Software Process), 71
             relationships, 71-73
             retaining experienced developers, 73-75
             scientific engineering, 69-70, 119-122
             setting expectations, 76-77
             value of developers, 70-71
    Mass-market challenges, 48-49
    Master craftsmen
             achieving mastery, 76, 89-90
             mastery requirements, 81-82, 85-88, 173-174, 178
             longevity, 73-74
             passing on craft, 90-91
             small development teams, 60
             taking on apprentices, 90-91
    Mechanical tasks, 17-20, 72, 113, 119, 123
             contrasted with intellectual tasks, 121, 130
    Mission profiles from customers, 65
    Modular decomposition, software engineering, 132
    Multilingualization (M17N) initiative, 161-162


    Neo-Taylorism management model, 69, 71-72. See also scientific management


    Obsolescence (planned) in software development, 75-76
    Open Source software development
             developers' reputations, 42-43
             managing software craftsmen, 75-76
             tools preferred by craftsmen, 160-161
             view of maintenance, 66-67


    Planned obsolescence in software development, 75-76
             craftsmen point of view, 163
    PolyBloodyHardReuse, 121
    PSP (Personal Software Process), 71


    Quantified software engineering, 13-14
    Quattro Pro for Windows development team, 152-153


    RAD tools, 87
             discouragement of collaboration and reuse, 95
             hazards of reuse over time, 122-123
             PolyBloodyHardReuse, 121
             software factories, 122-123


    SAFEGUARD Ballistic Missile defense System
             example of software engineering, 3-4
             large projects, atypical, 4-5
    Schedule chicken, software delivery dates, 56
    Scientific management, 69-70
             denigrating anecdotal evidence, 120
             encouraged by software engineering, 119-120
             problems of best practices, 124-125
             software factories, 121-122
    SCRUM software development process, 13
    Software craftsmanship
             basics, 47-48
             characteristics, 86
             focus on individuals, 41-43
             inspiration to developers, 35
             learning environment, 171-173
             longevity of craft tradition, 83
             monetary compensation, 149-152
             practicing craft reflectively, 178
             quality product results, 152-153
             resurgence, 29-30
             signing our work, 52-53
             software, ease of copying, 48-49
             specialization's narrow role, 80
             traditional craftsmanship, 28-29
             value of experience, 86-87
             versus software engineering, 83, 108, 111-112
    Software crisis, identified at 1968 NATO conference, 1
    Software development
             automating, 14-15
             CASE tools, 26
             CASE tools, attempting to speed process, 33-34
             software engineering, alternatives, 25-26
             software engineering, limited applicability, 23-24
             software engineering, versus software craftsmanship, 83
    Software engineering
             Agile Methodologies alternative, 115
             alternatives, 16, 25-26
             approach questioned, 1-2
             approaches, standardized, 123-126
             budget constraints, 117-118
             COBOL programming language, 88-89
             criteria for choosing approach, 8-9
             defect potential and defect removal efficiency, 11-12
             definition, 7-8
             effective methods, 109-110
             example, SAFEGUARD Ballistic Missile defense System, 3-4
             limited applicability, 23-24
             low budget, 117-118
             maintenance, Open Source view, 66-67
             modular decomposition, 132
             neglect of people component, 126-128
             pitfalls, 178
             problems, 11-13
             projects, diversity and variation, 114-115
             projects, size, 112-114
             projects, small teams unsuitable, 130
             requirements, documentation, 6
             reusable software fallacy, 122-123
             scientific engineering management, 119-122
             software factories, 121-122
             specialization, 80
             stages, 4-5
             systematic and quantified as characteristics, 13-14
             versus software craftsmanship, 83, 108, 111-112
             waterfall development, 113, 128-130
    Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK), 39
    Software Engineering Institute, limitations of software engineering, 23
    Software factories, reusable software fallacy, 122-123
    Specialization, software engineering, 80
    Standardized software development, 123-126
    SWEBOK (Software Engineering Body of Knowledge), 39


    Teamwork in software development, 20
    Testing software
             design for testing, 157-158, 169-170
             development team role, 149
             eXtreme Programming, 63
             good enough software, 57
             JUnit, unit testing, 63, 158
             project length assessments, 22
             quality trade-offs, 63
    Training, software craftsmen, 81-82. See also certification; licensing
             course selection criteria, 96, 174-176
             decline in quality, 93-94
             learning programming versus writing applications, 95-96
             university courses, 94-95


    Users. See also lusers
             accepting bad software, 53-54
             relationship with software craftsmen, 50-51
    User interfaces, 163-164


    Waterfall software development, 113, 128-130


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