Friday, January 27, 2006

fanaticism in the software industry

I recently made a silly comment on the oracle-wtf blog regarding the use of htmldb as a serious web application tool. Now in hindsight I really shouldn't have, as it was not directly related to the post in question, but it was in the new year, I was bored, and It seemed funny at the time. What I was wasn't prepared for, though, was the nature of the response! Very quickly it became an argument about whether going a j2EE/.Net route was preferable to a purely oracle solution. The bias really came out as it was obvious that the respondents hadn't really bothered to actually read and understand my comments correctly ( I’m guessing this was the case as I was consistently misquoted ), but instead simply made the assumption that I was being a pro Java zealot. I was even accused of changing my stance at one point , which is particularly odd as the comments used to justify this was in fact a rather cruel sideswipe at the programming skills of one of the posters ( which I fully take back, btw )My main point was that I didn't think it was the best option to use the RDBMS as the environment to host your presentation code. Even when I stated this rather explicitly one of the posters had the temerity to state that this wasn't my point after all!Since that little exchange It has occurred to me that this is not a new phenomenon but has been around for years in various guises. e.g. the windows/unix debate, the java vs C debate, the Oracle vs SQL server debate, the Mac vs PC debate etc etc.What amazes me about these little 'religious wars' is the sheer fanaticism of either side.Richard Dawkins  ( of Selfish Gene, and the Blind Watchmaker fame ) has recently presented a TV show entitled 'the root of all evil?' which takes a look at religious belief and how this is directly opposed to a scientific outlook. ( Im guessing this is based on an open letter that Dawkins published after the 11th of September terrorist attack, as a lot of the arguments used are the same ).After watching the programme, and my recent flaming on oracle-wtf,  I was struck by the similarity between the blinkered view of religious fanatics and the blinkered view of those on either side in these pseudo-religious wars in the IT world.    

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The end of media as we know it?

I recently came across the following little movie at

Apart from being very well put together, the movie raises some interesting questions. Does the increasing use of blogs ( recent survey suggest 52% of US teenagers blog ) spell the end for traditional journalistic and editorial process? In all honesty, I think that people are becoming less trustworthy, more cynical about what they read on the internet an this will lead to a increased reliance on traditional news oulets. I for one usually use the bbc as my canonical source of information, as I trust that some sort of research and vetting will have been done on any article before it is published.

I don't think it is news stories that we need to worry about. The real problem is probably more to do with factual information. The wikipedia, for example is a quality control mess ( as recently admitted by the founders )

google and other search engines make it very easy for people to find information, but there is no guarantee that this information is in any way correct. This is especially worrying in the case of medical advice.

Some of the points, in the movie, on targeted marketing and pulling together disparate pieces of information on an individual are very well made. I'm one of these people however who does not necessariy see this as a bad thing.

I especially liked the 1984 reference ( the individual being profiled on the identity card is called Winston Smith , for those who missed it )

To broaden the scope slightly , googles recent developments are truly amazing, it really shows what you can do with a large information base and an innovative approach to using this.

Google base looks interesting, especially as google state ' Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google Base' . But that will need to the subject of another post....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Software, what's so hard about that, then?

One of my great bugbears in my professional career is that everyone thinks they can design software systems.

Why is this?

The profession is held in very low esteem. Despite IT professionals holding the efficiency of an organisation in their hands, the IT professional is often seen as a geek who adds no real value.

Most IT managers do not differentiate between the tech who comes and fixes their monitor and the system architect who designs their corporate IT systems. How often have we heard our spouses or family members say when asked what we do for a living :-

'Oh, Something to do with computers'

The ease of use of modern computers in some way has had a detrimental effect on the common perception. Microsoft XP and Word are easy to use, so they must be easy to develop, right?
Indeed as anyone in the industry knows the reverse is often the case!

In truth, as IT professionals we do not help ourselves. We have no real professional bodies of any significance, in that it matters not a jot whether one is in the BCS, ACM or IEE to ones employment potential, indeed in some cases it can hinder as the members of these groups can be seen as a little too 'beardy' or academic.

I was once conducting an interview that I thought went rather well, and that the candidate was suitable for the role. The Project manager however thought that the candidate was 'too academic' and the 'just because he knows the theory doesn't mean that he can do it in practice'. To which I retorted 'yes, but if he doesn't know the theory then he has no chance of doing it in practice'. I think however the point was lost on her.

And this, I think, Is the point. IT professionals are seen as technicians or tradesman whereas they should viewed as engineers or architects. Iain Duncan Smith in his short reign as the Conservative Party leader made a speech where he said that the country needs less people to go to University and more people to take up trades like 'Plumbing, Carpentry and Computer Programming'.

This betrays a total lack of appreciation of the field.

Computer Science is an intellectual disciplines requiring as much theory and study as physics or biology. Software engineering is the application of this theory in the field, requiring an understanding of computer science as well as sound methodology and discipline.

The industry does not help itself, how often have you come across large IT projects where the software engineers are graduates from some other field ( English or Economics typically) who have been on a couple of weeks in house training at one of the big 4. The same would just not be the case if the project was building a bridge. To push the bridge analogy, I have heard it said that if software engineers were to build a bridge, they would build it drive a tank across it and see if it fell over. Sadly I think this is often the case.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What the ?

I thought that as I have been too busy reading other peoples blogs and web sites of interest ( oh yes , and working ), that I would post some links...

One of the more recent blogs I have encountered ( started by a coleague and some ex colleagues ) is the excellent, if a little sparse, oracle-wtf ( ) it is based on the daily-wtf (, but is more specialised in the wonderful world of Oracle.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First post

I thought it would be fun to start my own blog to air some of my views on the software industry.

This blog will most probably meander from technological comments to social commentary to outright ranting.

Anyway, I hope someone finds what is about to evolve an educational, enlightening and most of all entertaining read.