[Edu-sig] Software Engineering for everyone?

Dinu C. Gherman gherman@darwin.in-berlin.de
Thu, 23 Mar 2000 12:05:23 +0100

Greg Ward wrote:
> (Yes, it *is* something that needs to be taught to prospective
> professional programmers as part of their undergraduate degree: the
> ability to write solid, maintainable code is at least as essential as
> the ability to understand quicksort.  Good coding practices are
> certainly the first step on the road to full-scale "software
> engineering", and good coding practices are something that CP4E should
> emphasise.  But there's no need to go all the way -- after C++, the best
> way to discourage people from programming is probably forcing them to do
> requirements analysis or write test suites.  *yaawn*)

I would consider this an interesting interpretation of the
concept of "extreme programming" ;-), but this is certainly 
not what you mean, programming without testing, without know-
ing what you're trying to accomplish, is it? 

The difference is a matter of scale and formalism, it is not
one of not doing something on one level (say, your homework 
at school), but on another (say, a phone billing system).
Moreover, drawing the borderline might not be always easy to 

> Remember, the "E" stands for "everyone", and full-bore,
> industrial-strength "software engineering" is most definitely 
> not for everyone.

I never forgot that. I just noticed that there are papers 
being written at SEI that replicate some of the motivation
behind CP4E as you can read in my original posting.

> Dinu Gherman wrote:
> > Recognizing this I wonder if there would be any reason to 
> > get in touch with SEI, or maybe not, given the fact (well,
> > rather my own estimate) that they are better known for a 
> > solid, systematic, academic, engineering-like approach to 
> > software development than for one more based on soft qua-
> > lities like playing, exploration, self-discovery?

The paragraph above which you have not cited, simply asks if 
it would be reasonable to approach SEI? Then, I added some 
concerns originated in SEI's "industrial professionalism" 
image. I asked if there was anybody having contacts already.

Now I'm adding that SEI is most likely sitting on a huge pile
of money and might be willing to know how to spend it more
effectively. The question is, do we have something to offer?
I would firmly say: yes, we do! CP4E tries to raise the bar
for "everybody" (whatever that will mean in practice) to be-
come more literate in expressing some of his or her problems
in terms of programs/scripts/algorithms -- "in software", so 
to say.

There's no reason to believe this will do any harm to SEI's
goals of getting companies and individuals to produce better
software systems, but there is *every* reason to believe that
CP4E will actually help them achieve their goals more quickly!

In this light I find it hard to believe there haven't been
contacts already. This is all I wanted to say.

Kind regards,


Dinu C. Gherman
"The thing about Linux or open software in general is that 
it actually tries to move software from being witchcraft to 
being a science," [...] "A lot of the programs you see today 
are actually put together by shamans, and you just take it and 
if the computer crashes you walk around it three times... and 
maybe it's OK." (Linus Thorvalds, LinuxWorld 2000, NYC)