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Be a Craftsman

By Steve Jones,

Is software engineering dead? That's what Tom Demarco, an amazing software mind, said in this recent article (PDF) at IEEE. After being stunned and almost refusing to read it, I decided to go through it carefully, and I found that I tend to agree with him. I highly recommend this short piece if you develop software (it's two pages); it's very thought provoking.

I came across it in a post from Jeff Atwood, who commented on it at his Coding Horror blog. He talks a bit about how he's realized that he's not a software engineer, but rather a craftsman instead. So what's a craftsman?

I think many people would say Sam Maloof is a craftsman. Craftsman is a highly respected brand of tool, and perhaps even well brewed brand of beer. But in software, I think this generic definition fits well:

"...a professional whose work is consistently of high quality."

I've seen it also defined as someone who is skilled in some trade and practices it. And while all of those definitions seem to fit, I think they are missing one important fact. It's one that Jeff Atwood seems to recognize, and it's one that you might want to make sure you're working on.

The craftsman are those professionals that work on their craft. Beyond just showing up, writing code, even finishing projects, the craftsman are those that seek to improve their skills over time. Or as Jeff put it, "suck less every year."

Steve Jones


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