“I’m going to cover the whole range of human emotion, from the heights of creative ecstasy all the way down to the depths of technical despair. And, as you’d expect, we’re going to start with the latter.”
That’s how Douglas Crockford began his talk on software quality as he concluded our annual (internal) frontend engineering conference in March, and things only got more interesting from there. With his penchant for setting the concerns of the moment in the longer context of software engineering and its history, Douglas starts with a discussion of the software crisis, a topic of deep concern to engineers in the early days of the industry when computers and their programs began to increase in complexity. The software crisis of the 60s was marked by software projects that went over budget, went over time, and were beset by failure. Douglas contends that the software crisis never went away; we just learned to live with it. After awhile, it was no longer news, but rather part of the software engineering landscape. Says Douglas: “It’s not reported [today] in the same way that we don’t report that the sun will exhaust its supply of hydrogen.”
If you want to know what San Jose’s Winchester House can teach you about software, if you want to know why software engineers are by necessity optimists, if you want to know why computer science has failed to teach us how to manage software projects (and what you can do about it), if you want to know why legacy software (“the crap we did before we knew how to do things right”) is a liability, this presentation is for you.