[Edu-sig] RE: [Tutor] Off topic musings

alan.gauld@freenet.co.uk alan.gauld@freenet.co.uk
Tue, 21 Aug 2001 18:28:15 +0100

On 21 Aug 01, at 10:26, Morris, Steve wrote:
>  > On 20 Aug 01, at 22:06, Morris, Steve wrote:
>  > > Maybe. Really I'm just interested in what exactly a 
>  > > theoretical basis for software engineering would look like. 
> I think my problem with this discussion, and the cause of the different
> approaches, is that you ask your question in ambiguous terms. You ask for a
> "theory of everything" in the generic category of software engineering.

Sure but as Insaid in another pist thats because the SOTA papers 
I was reading were headed "Software Engineering". It is the 
generally used term, although I note that there does seem to 
be a trend to other names such as Infomatics. This is probably 
a good thing, where SE is a subset of Infomatics.

> Software engineering is not a science but a discipline, or perhaps a skill,
> or maybe just programming. 

With this I disagree however. The original concept of SE was to get 
away from that view, to industrialise the production of software, 
eventually to automate it in the sameway that other engineering 
disciplines automate production.

When an electrical engineer takes a basic requirement and 
transforms it into a soecification which in turn is synthesised 
as a circuit the entire process is built on a fundamental 
understanding of the nature of the raw materials.

The point made in the papers was that in SE we do not have that 
basic understanding. We do not really know the materials with 
which we work.

> the process of writing programs with the imputation that these programs
> match some standard; whether it be correctness, or matching the specs, or
> merely being useful. 

That is one aspect but it neglects areas such as the study of 
softawre entropy, maintenance, performance and automatic 
production. Arguably these are related to software production, but 
they are much more than just writing programs.

> What else would a theory of "software engineering" address.

Indeed, thats why I probably should be saying CS or Infomatics.
But the basic question remains valid.

> I would like you to restate your query with a better idea of the specific
> questions you are trying to answer. 

OK, I'll try again. Basically I was asking two questions:
1) Given the SOTA papers repeated insistence that to make further 
significant progress we need a better understanding of xxxx where 
xxxx is whatever fundamental subject matter underpins CS. I 
therefore ask, What would xxx look like so that we might study it?

2) My personal guess is that xxx is "information" and that one 
approach would be to model it ina layered fashion. Has anyone 
else done this? OIf so where can I get a reerence?

Is that any clearer?

Alan g