Chapter 29. Don’t Rely on “Magic Happens Here”

Alan Griffiths

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IF YOU LOOK AT ANY ACTIVITY, process, or discipline from far enough away, it looks simple. Managers with no experience of development think what programmers do is simple, and programmers with no experience of management think the same of what managers do.

Programming is something some people do—some of the time. And the hard part—the thinking—is the least visible and least appreciated by the uninitiated. There have been many attempts to remove the need for this skilled thinking over the decades. One of the earliest and most memorable is the effort by Grace Hopper to make programming languages less cryptic—which some accounts predicted would remove the need for specialist programmers. The result (COBOL) has contributed to the income of many specialist programmers over subsequent decades.

The persistent vision that software development can be simplified by removing programming is, to the programmer who understands what is involved, obviously naïve. But the mental process that leads to this mistake is part of human nature, and programmers are just as prone to making it as everyone else.

On any project, there are likely many things that an individual programmer doesn’t get actively involved in: eliciting requirements from users, getting budgets approved, setting up the build server, deploying the application to QA and production ...

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