Oct 26, 2009

Software Engineering is ...

You know, Dijkstra is really awesome.

"Ours is the task to remember (and to remind) that, in what is now called “software engineering”, not a single sound engineering principle is involved. (On the contrary: its spokesmen take the trouble of arguing the irrelevance of the engineering principles known.) Software Engineering as it is today is just humbug; from an academic —i.e. scientific and educational— point of view it is a sham, a fraud."

"Universities are always faced with something of a problem when there is a marked discrepancy between what society asks for and what society needs. In our case the need is clear: the professional competence of the Mathematical Engineer, familiar with discrete systems design and knowing how to use formal techniques for preventing unmastered complexity from creeping in. But said war “out there” all but prevents this need from being perceived, and what our immediate industrial environment overwhelmingly seems to ask for is different brands of snake oil, Software Engineering, of course, being one of them. And as, with the recession lasting longer and longer, the external pressures on the Universities to do the wrong things only mount, it is only to be expected that part of the campus is going to be included in the battlefield."

"The task of the first-class University, however, is absolutely clear. Industry being its customer, consultancy must tell industry what it wants to hear; it is the task of the first-class University to tell industry what it does not want to hear, whereby it is the rôle of its scientific authority to ensure that the sting of the academic gadfly really hurts."

-- Edsger W. Dijkstra, http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/transcriptions/EWD11xx/EWD1165.html


It's interesting just after I read Dijkstra's article, Joel Spolsky published a new blog post "Capstone projects and time management", to some extent on the opposite side of Dijkstra. Joel wrote lots with wisdom, but this new post just looks like an april fool's joke. A smart guy wrote a perfect answer to Joel already.

Oct 9, 2009

The Correct Refactor Flow

  1. Get assigned a task to implement a new feature.
  2. Refactor the code until that feature is as easy to add as possible.
  3. Add the feature.
  4. Submit.
Read this enlightening piece here.

update: I found this is indeed originated from Martin Fowler's amazing book "Refactoring", which is filled with ideas originated from practices of smalltalk. It's a shame I didn't read that book earlier :-( "Refactoring" (or "Refactoring: Ruby Edition") is a must read.