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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Software Craftsmanship: The New Imperative
Author:
Pete McBreen
ISBN:
0 201 73386 2
Publisher:
Addison-Wesley
Pages:
188pp
Price:
£22-99
Reviewer:
Francis Glassborow
Subject:
management
Appeared in:
13-6
Every now and a gain I come across one of those books that I feel should go on everyone's must read list, well at least every software developer's one. This is one of those books.

It is well written in English that is a pleasure to read. The text is nicely presented which makes the process of reading reasonably easy. But what makes it a must read is that the author is trying to shake up your ideas as regard to what is often called software engineering.

It is difficult to summarise such a lucid text without being simplistic. His main theme is that software engineering was invented to deal with the software element of large engineering projects. If you are designing a plane then all the elements must be engineered. That includes the software that is incorporated into the controls. That seems self-evident.

However when we move onto products that are purely software, such as word processors and picture editors we are in a different field. We are in a field where there are no strong market requirements for engineering precision. It is led by marketing departments with a need to get the product onto the shelves earning money. What now happens is that engineering gives way to good enough. What McBreen is addressing is how we bring quality to such amarket. Engineering is not going to do it anymore than engineering impacts on the production of furniture or chairs. Yes, of course, we should consider the engineering aspects but what we look for is people who use experience and a feel for their materials; we look for craftsmen (of either gender).

Basically he contends that the best qualification we have is that we can point to something successful that we participated in. If we cannot do that we need to be able to use someone who has that reputation as a referee. This sort of reputation-based qualification drives the film industry and it also drives the games programming arena. And if you think about the prevalence of Easter Eggs we know that good programmers want to be recognised. Think about hit films (we have a couple around at the moment) do you care which company produced them? Or are the actors, producers and directors more important? If you want to direct films what matters most? Yep, what your current track record is.

Read this book and think about what the author writes. Engineering has its place but it certainly isn't the only driving force for quality in software.