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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Society, Culture, Software Engineering, and You

By now you will probably agree that high credibility is far from easy to obtain. However, that does not mean there are no (or almost no) credible studies; it is just that the credible ones are almost always limited. They are far more specialized than we would like them to be and burdened with more ifs, whens, and presumablys than we would prefer. There is not much sense in complaining about this situation; it is simply an unavoidable result of the complexity of the world in which we live and (as far as technology is concerned) that we have created. And it would not even be much of a problem if we were patient enough to be happy with the things we do find out.

And here is what we believe to be the real problem: although engineers and scientists understand a lot about complexity, have respect for it and for the effort it often implies, and are still capable of awe in that regard, our society and culture as a whole do not. We are surrounded by so many spectacular things and events that we come to feel that small news is no news. A finding that requires an intricate 50-word clause to summarize it without distortion is unlikely to receive our attention.

The general media act accordingly. In order to capture attention, they ignore, inflate, or distort the findings of an empirical study, often beyond recognition. Scientists often are not helpful either and write so-called abstracts that merely announce results rather than summarizing them. ...

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