Showing that fear of mediocrity can make the world a better place.

Craftsmanship to Industrialization Continuum

The recent talks about craftsmanship in software development have seemed to focus strictly on the one craftsmanship end of the scale. Many of the arguments are about making everyone a craftsman and preventing the industrialization of development.  Taking the craft/art/science of software development and turning it into a mass-producible and soulless industry is the other end of the spectrum. Maybe we should look at the industrialization of other industries to gain some insight.

Look at how the pharmaceutical industry has grown from humble beginnings. There were passionate people experimenting and innovating new products and offering them to consumers. Progress…Progress…Progress. Now we have enormous billion dollar a year heads of industry who have highly skilled (PhD level) workers come up with the products and then license them out to middle men who handle consumer demand. To some degree there might still be craftsmanship in the pharmaceutical industry but it is now contained to certain areas such as drug R&D. The average pharmacist might not be the medicine hacker of days past.

Maybe what we should fear is the industrialization and cheapening of labor that almost every industry goes through. At some point you become a commodity that is expected to “just do your job” and leave the thinking to the highly skilled. When Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other industry heads set the direction and the job of every other “developer” is to prescribe what the industry recommends (take an ORM, 2 ESBs, and 500mg of SOA) the software industry may have moved foward into a (to me) dystopian future. Hopefully there will always be a place for craftsmanship that is accessible to anyone with the drive to achieve it. There will always be hackers toiling away for the fun of it it’s just a matter of whether they are sanctioned and can earn a place in development or whether they will operate outside the Walmart-esque code factories.

Although if development is commoditized and industrialized then maybe there will be less snake oil 😉


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