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Why Does Software Suck?

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Why Does Software Suck?

As humans, we just don’t have much empathy for our fellow human beings, and it’s reflected in the tools we have built to write software.

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Software is ubiquitous, and yet it sucks. Linux and Windows crash every time the temperature fluctuates above or below some unknown range or if you just look at the screen the wrong way.

Some segment of the programmer population thinks the answer is more types, more logic, more math, more discipline, and more whatever you think there should be more of. Another segment prefers shuffling bits and bytes because sometimes performance and deadlines are what matter and the only thing you are familiar with that gets the job done is C. Extending the deadline to deliver better software is the right thing to do, but as the byte slinger, you don’t really give a sh*t or want to invest three more months learning another shiny new thing. Your personal productivity and business needs trump everything else. You’re not a communist, and those bastards lost anyway. So what if a few people get an extra dose of fatal radiation?

I actually don’t really have any horses in this race. I enjoy solving problems and software seems to be the one place where I can do that and get paid for it. I think a lot of other programmers feel the same way, and that is a big part of the problem. I would have stuck with math if it had paid any better or if I had an actual talent for doing research-level work and putting up with the terrible bureaucracy and salary. Contrary to what that previous paragraph seems to imply, I actually agree with both segments. That seems like a cop out, but it’s not.

I don’t want to learn yet another programming language to not kill a few more people. Plus, that’s a really melodramatic take on software safety. More people have died from ill-designed bridges, roads, and buildings than ill-designed software. That sounds really terrible, but there is no reason to sugarcoat it. We have gotten this far with C and JavaScript and the segment of the programmer population that wants more safety is not making a very compelling case. How much safety do you really need to blow up an atom bomb or sling some JSON over a socket? Just like we can continue burning oil until dinosaur farts raise world temperatures to levels detrimental to human well-being, we will continue writing software in C and JavaScript until every buffer in every deployed piece of software everywhere has overflown.

I think the problem is that whatever segment of the programmer population you identify with, there is no escaping the fact that everyone is just a selfish a**hole. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a purely human problem. All the cool kids are coming at it from the wrong angle. I’m looking at you, Rust. I have to give props to my boy Anders Heljsberg, though. I think he’s the only one doing it right.

Here’s the punchline: As humans, we just don’t have much empathy for our fellow human beings, and it’s reflected in the tools we have built to write software.

davidk01:understanding-tail davidk01$ cc abc
clang: error: no such file or directory: 'abc'
clang: error: no input files
davidk01:understanding-tail davidk01$

Thanks, clang. That was very helpful. I can take it from here.

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Topics:
software quality ,agile ,software development

Published at DZone with permission of David Karapetyan, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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