Brad Wilson mentioned on the TDD mailing list that the waste and inefficiency within the software industry was akin to the house building industry. I'm sure in some respects he is right, but in a more fundamental way I disagree.
An average layman off the street hiring a builder can ask them to build a wall. The average layman can see if the wall isn't straight, the average layman can see when bricks are not aligned, they can see when a house is built to a high quality finish, where attention has been paid to detail. They may not be able to see if the builder has been deceitful by using substandard materials or hiding shortcuts, but a few hundred pounds to a surveyor will tell them all they need to know.
Even the most technical of software management cannot tell if a basic 5 line piece of code is well written or not, let alone an application comprising many millions of lines of code. The best of them cannot even tell a "good" user experience from a "bad" one. It is almost accepted wisdom now that all developers write bad code, that all software is buggy, and that software projects never deliver what they promise.
It is this problem that needs to be overcome ... it is easy to spend a lifetime in a development career, without ever having written a single line of even average quality code. There is very little visibility to non-developers.
However, I assert the problem is that development is largely a creative skill, not a technical one. And creative skills are nearly impossible to quantify - you know when you like a piece of artwork, but you cannot say why in a way that means anything to anyone else. I cannot prove I am worth my daily rate, other than by people trusting me.
With that kind of stumbling block, the best we can do is to rely upon automated tests, continuous integration, and Agile methodologies to at least make us more accountable, even if we are still unquantifiable.
08-18-2008 7:26 AM