React to the Software Shift

I’m going to answer two responses at once.

‘”Curing the software shortage problem” is a meaningless metric. What would it possibly mean? Software that writes itself?’

Paraphrasing the slogan of the 1968 NATO conference on “software engineering” http://homepages.cs.ncl.ac.uk/brian.randell/NATO/NATOReports/index.html “self-writing software” is not far off what keeps being promised. If you’re a snake-oil sales droid, an impressive but meaningless slogan is a perfect element of your presentation.

There is no doubt that there’s a bootstrapping effect at work, making it easier to produce software as time passes. As soon as you have a good file system, it’s easier to keep source code organised. Then it’s possible to keep track of maintenance.

An online editor, even one as evil as “ed”, makes it easier to produce ed, vi, and then Vim. Unix made the Internet practical. Lower levels of the software stack get laid down and levelled, so the next level has more powerful units to organise, Exponential declines in hardware costs make it economic to use the tools.

“I’m staying interested in what is HOT and NOT in programming languages, frameworks and techniques.”

Where is there something I can hurl, hard?  “Hot or not” is a concept that belongs in gossip columns, dating sites, and similar ephemeral nonsense. There are no free lunches. Promotion or accidental mention by someone influential gets software development thundering off in some random direction, until it becomes obvious that there’s a cliff-edge in that direction. The survivors then mill around bleating until someone yells “The promised land’s that way”, and the process repeats.

Tools and techniques take time and effort to learn, and the more features they have, the greater the burden they impose. If you don’t know any tools, then there may be no difference between the effort/reward ratio of learning whatever is currently fashionable vs the old way, but the new shiny is unlikely to repay the cost if you already know how to do something.  

 

Coast Guard seeks 8(a) bids for $400M software engineering contract

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