Respected Software Experts

This page first arose as RichardDrake was impressed by SamGentle's mature attitude to EdYourdon and Y2K.

Has the number of people that can fairly be described at RespectedSoftwareExperts increased or decreased of late?

Is there any global consensus on the issue at all in fact - or are we simply at the mercy of fad, fashion and fortune(s)?

Nominations as well as observations are extremely welcome. Some consensus is surely going to be necessary for software engineering or "just programming" to be thought of as a mature discipline by outsiders.

If the goal really is to be thought of as mature by others, anyone commenting favorably on the LordOfTheFlies page is right out of contention. Playful maturity is generally considered an oxymoron. No, I don't agree, I don't think you've understood the basics of DisciplineEncapsulation?. The interface is very different from the implementation. Both can be fun but there is (or should be) a responsibility involved in the former that is inescapable. The word respected has to do with how you are thought of by others. That external interface is part of what I want to explore here.

-- RichardDrake


GkChesterton once said that it often seemed as if the arguments in favour of civilization were weak. Because if someone asked you "why is civilization worthwhile?" you couldn't immediately come up with a snappy answer. Because there were so many important reasons and it was so obvious that one tended to stumble in response...

One way to look at this is by analogy with other established professions. I'll let others do that if they wish...

One question back though: where should governments have looked for guidance about how to assess and approach the y2k situation? BillGates as the person that "the marketplace" has clearly said understands the most about software? If not Gates, then who?

This is what got me thinking about this issue eighteen months ago, as I tried to talk sensibly to senior businessmen. There's a real crisis of authority in our business, in my view, and that reflects its immaturity. But when you are living in the Wild West and enjoying the experience I guess you might well ask "why?" to more law and order. You'd partly be right. But not totally. -- rd

The correspondence on the following got restarted on RespectedExpertsOfAnySort.

Respected Medical Experts can't even agree on whether meat and fat is good or bad for the body. Respected Physics Experts can't even agree on the angular momentum of the planets close enough to decide whether Velikovsky's theories work or not. Respected Architectural and Economics Experts disagree with each other as a matter of fad. Respected Experts in every field have been more wrong than right for as long as they have existed. I have no idea what a resolution to the "crisis of authority" could look like, but it scares me just thinking about it. -- AlistairCockburn

It shouldn't frighten you. Among other things, it should mean more interesting, better paid work that allows the hard lessons that you have learnt to do much more genuine good for those not within your discipline.

The frightening resolution I was pointing to above I guess was "some consensus". I am saying that, compared to medicine, physics, architecture, economics, most forms of engineering, law, accountancy and education we have less practical consensus than is needed for maturity. In civil engineering bridges used to fall down much more regularly than they do today. We're not as far along the route to maturity in that sense. There will never be total consensus (or total respect come to that). Of course it would be frightening and very boring if there was. And I would have to be expelled first.

But why do you think that not a single name has been suggested so far as a possible Respected Software Expert? Is it too risky or embarrassing to think about the issue in concrete terms, so we prefer abstract objections? -- rd

Isn't there a famous quote to the effect that if a respected expert says that something is possible, he or she is almost certainly right, but if they say that something is impossible he or she is almost certainly wrong?

sounds good, except when the "something" was y2k disaster I guess

It's (approximately) the first of Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws. (Second: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. Third (and most well known): Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.)

This page may actually be about ProgrammersIadmireAndCouldWishToEmulate? - but it seems not.

That's exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. Not just programmers, perhaps even (shock horror) consultants, methodologists, interaction designers, journalists, managers, salesmen even. Who has the right combination of widespread respect, inside and outside the industry, and the genuine understanding to make a valuable contribution? Has FredBrooks been in academia too long? Does JeffBezos really understand software? Where does JonUdell fit in? Are ToddCoram and TomStambaugh willing to nominate DonKnuth to get the discussion going? (He says, reaching for RecentChanges.) Where do TheThreeExtremos fit in, or more interesting, where might they fit in five years time? (Warning: false humility will be severely dealt with...) -- RichardDrake

I'm getting confused, reading this page... do you want to see




?? -- Alistair

Thank you, I want both and then I want some sensible categories within each. -- rd
Yes, the list of software experts that I respect includes (but is certainly not limited to!) the following: I view DonKnuth's texts (TheArtOfComputerProgramming) to be for a practicing software engineer what Newton, Einstein, and Maxwell are for a physicist.

I view the GangOfFour text as the most influential and powerful book written during my career. It measurably and dramatically raised my expertise, even though I thought I had been doing OO design and implementation for over ten years when I first read it.

I view MartinFowler's text, "Analysis Patterns: Reusable Object Models" (AnalysisPatterns), to be an invaluable resource in applying the GangOfFour to the real-world day-to-day environment of my clients.

WardAndKent have been associates, friends, mentors, and leaders for over ten years. They were fellow professionals who I admired, liked, and respected long before they became RespectedSoftwareExperts. It has been a pleasure for me to see and perhaps even in some small way contribute to their success.

-- TomStambaugh

SoftwareExpertsWeHelpedBecomeRespected? Now that's a really interesting subject on Wiki.





May I respectfully add EliotMiranda and EricClayberg? to this list even though I've never worked (directly) with either of them? -- AnthonyLander

Do I see the surprise nomination of a Brit?

How about DennisRitchie?

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