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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

Software Craftsmanship is a call to arms for programmers: an impassioned manifesto that restores the developer to a central role in large-scale projects, and shows developers how to master the skills they need to succeed in that role. Software Craftsmanship transcends "software engineering," demonstrating that quality software can't simply be "manufactured": it must be built by craftspeople with pride in their work, and a personal commitment to excellence. In Software Craftsmanship, Pete McBreen focuses on the craft of software development, explaining why current "software engineering" techniques often fail, and offering programmers a new path to excellence. Just as the modern carpenter benefits from better tools, materials, and understanding, the modern programmer can benefit from better computers, reusable components, and more robust languages -- but only if he or she is prepared to treat the software profession as a true "craft." McBreen explains what software "craftsmanship" means, how its affects users, and how it changes the developer's relationship with customers. He introduces the concepts of software apprentices and journeymen, shows what can (and can't) be learned from the software engineering movement, and presents specific steps you can take now to move towards craftsmanship in your work -- and your organization.

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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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