Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Joy of Programming

I was having a conversation with Big-Headed Simon on Friday, about what it meant to be involved in the software industry.

As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of writing all this software is solely to improve people's lives. Solve problems, automate repetitive tasks - generally remove the clutter and periphery from the process at hand, so that there is more time spent at the intention, than is spent on the surrounding process. Ultimately, that should translate into people having more time to enjoy their lives, and less time poking about shuffling paper and arguing with bosses.

So for me, actually writing code is something of a necessary evil. I don't much like it, and as long as something works, I'm not really concerned with how horribly inelegant it is. Computers are fast, they get faster all the time, and If I was honest with myself, I would say that I really couldn't give a toss if my code has an elegantly defined OO hierarchy, or if it's just one enormous chunk of procedural code filled with thousands of nested IF statements . Because, to me it's all just a means to an end - not an end unto itself.

Simon on the other hand, views his work as an art form. He's always striving to write more and more perfect code, and appreciates the code itself, probably slightly more than the problem he's solving. He likes languages, and the subsequent innovation and difference between languages, whereas to me it's just the difference between "Abracadabra" and "sHazzam!".

Obviously well written code is easier to maintain, test and share - which are all great reasons to pay close attention to your code - and for those reasons, whenever I write code I always force myself to refactor (Constant Vigilance!) , even though I really don't want to. I wish I could actually care as I go, but the sad reality is that I don't.

So, as with most things, I guess you need a balance. Hiring a developer who understands the Joy of Programming is a very good thing to do. But, hiring a whole team of them could mean that you miss the whole point of developing software in the first place - you need people focused on the ultimate outcome too.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you, Gord. Coding is one of those things that is a means to an end. My problem is probably worse than most. While I can code in everything from c++ to prolog, java to python, as soon as I can see a solution, I get totally bored with finishing the code. I'll jump to the next problem quick smart.