Snake oil and “everybody can program”

Everyone can program, but not necessarily code – I fully agree with Quicy Larson: Coding isn’t easy.

I believe that all of us are capable of programming, that all of us can – in the Socrates Meno dialogue way – we have the ability to describe a set of procedures to apply in a given order.

We’re all capable of writing novels, but very few of those who do will make a successful novel.  That is to say: “It is not as easy as it looks or sounds.”

All of us can cook, though we’d be pressed to get a Michelin star.

Not all of us can write these procedures in a programming language, and – of those who can – not all should. And not all software should be written in a procedural/imperative style.

Some will throw together programming language correct grammar with no regards to the task being solved. I’m not sure this should constitute as programming. It is true that working software provides value to the user, but with little understanding of the needed solution in both behaviour and coding, there is so much more value to be had by doing it right (but there are so many more ways to do it wrong).

If they had worked the same level in the restaurant business, it is likely Gordon Ramsay would have called it a Kitchen Nightmare. As no one can see the internals of the code fewer customers turn away from the business, and the parallel fails in that we usually eat every day, we don’t get a new software product served every day.

In the business world scarcity with increased demand means prices will go up, leading to more resources being applied. In software development, this leads to people who really shouldn’t program are being hired to hack away at the next big thing.

As a society we are not better off having poorly constructed “cathedrals” forced upon us. If everytime we need to go through a door, we will have to use jump through hoops, we would be quick to remedy this odd contraption, but in the software world, there are usually no such way.

The pursuit for infinite savings allows for expenses now, but apparantly not investment in solid work, nor the hidden value by improving the software.

I am still wondering why there is so little regulation in a field so wide and with so far reaching consequences. Why do people accept snake oit?

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