Sunday, July 19, 2009

How To Teach Software Development: Why Good Developers Should Care - Part Two

How To Teach Software Development
  1. Introduction
  2. Developers
    Quality Control
  3. Businesses
  4. Students
  5. Schools

What's the Point?

Some opinions, while held, are held softly. I believe the understanding is the opinion changes nothing and you aren't doing anything about it, so giving a damn is pointless. You may call it apathy, but I call it misunderstanding the nature of information. Information spreads from those who have it to those who do not and those in agreement grease the wheels of that distribution.

Of course, there are good developers who don't care if there are bad developers. I'm not convinced they're still reading, at this point. If they are, then the reasons we can make a difference should help convince you to care about that difference in the first place.

The more widely held the beliefs that we can and should do something to improve the quality of this industry, the more likely anything will happen. You might not be lecturing in the classroom, but I'm sure you've pointed something out to a colleague, new or old, so remember that education never ends and we're talking about life-long improvement, not what people start with.

Your opinion spreads like a bad rumor... but, good! While you could point out to that guy in the next cubicle that the subprocess module is a cleaner solution than the popen*() functions, many may think it doesn't matter for the code that already exists, so don't bother him about it. We might ignore that cleaning up code makes it easier to come back to for fixes and improvements down the road. We can't ignore that pushing him to do the right thing today makes it more likely he'll think about it twice tomorrow. It also makes it more likely he'll return that push to you when you slip or to the next person he notices with room to improve (we all do). We have a collective momentum and together we decide if it goes up or down.

The issues at hand are more than the initial state of entry levels. We have an investment in our fellow coders, graphic designers, UI experts, testers, and managers, like it or not. Without your own teams the need for quality is obvious and makes your job better when you have better code to work with, more understandable managers supporting you, and an environment that supports more than just good enough.

Our group motivation carries outside of our own bubbles, as bubbles are mostly illusion. Think of every third party tool or library you've had a problem with and remember Kevin Bacon. Think of every new member of any team you've had a problem with, too. All of these frustrations come from people and those are people you have influence over, because we are all connected. Maybe you don't believe there's anything you, personally, can do to improve our sad state of affairs. Remember that we all have an effect on everyone else, even in the most indiscernible, indirect manner. It is very easy to downplay and completely ignore those many but tiny influences we all make, and we do it in nearly every context of our lives, but I want you to know that you do make a difference. You make a difference because we all make those small differences together, and when they are in alignment they are more powerful than even the most public figure with a metaphorical bullhorn.

Even if you will only grease the wheels of change, if you care about the change at all do not let those wheels squeal!

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I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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