Writing by Peter Hilton

Software development quotations

My favourite insights from articulate programmers; send me yours! - 03 September 2014 #programming

The mark of great writing is its occasional ability to express an idea so well that the prose stands alone, out of any context. As a tweet, even. Here is a short collection of my favourite software development quotations.

‘Anyone who says “and using this tool I can remove the programmers” just became the programmer’

- Allan Kelly

Allan Kelly a.k.a. @allankellynet on the reality of the snake-oil that is irresistible to so many business managers, who appear to think of developers as a principally a huge inconvenience.

Intriguingly, some technologies, such as business rules management systems, can take advantage of this by bringing programming to business analysts (or other people who could have been programmers if they wanted to), while being very careful to avoid calling it ‘programming’.

‘HTML is not just one output format among many; it is the format of our age’

- Mark Pilgrim

Mark Pilgrim on how HTML is not just another technology, hinting at why template frameworks that attempt to replace HTML with some kind of DSL are so misguided.

‘Programmers are typically stereotyped as non-communicative individuals who like to sit in darkened rooms alone with their computer screens. It is not a true stereotype, though. Programmers just like to communicate about things they like to communicate about.’

- Alistair Cockburn

Alistair Cockburn a.k.a. @TotherAlistair, in Agile Software Development, on the misconception that programmers are uncommunicative. Ironically, these are the three most awkwardly-phrased sentences in an otherwise well-written book about how you can see software development as a co-operative game.

‘Life in a big or small company is an information game where you are judged by the amount, accuracy, and timeliness of your information.’

- Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp a.k.a. @rands, in Being Geek, on how you can also see software development as an information game.

‘A common fallacy is to assume authors of incomprehensible code will somehow be able to express themselves lucidly and clearly in comments.’

- Kevlin Henney

Kevlin Henney a.k.a. @KevlinHenney on the scarcity of good writing among programmers, and the relationship between good code and good comments.

‘If a day goes by, and I haven’t dome something that was publicly visible to someone in the world, then I get really nervous… I feel like I haven’t done anything that day’

- Jeff Atwood

Jeff Atwood a.k.a. @codinghorror, in Stack Overflow podcast 15, on continuous delivery.

‘You spend the last years and 1000s of Euro hiring project managers, and now you’re surprised you have projects, but NOT products?’

- Vasco Duarte

… a.k.a @duarte_vasco on the difference between project-based software development and product development.

‘The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed’

- William Gibson

William Gibson a.k.a. @GreatDismal, in this quotation that risks being more well-known than any of his novels, is not really talking about software, of course. However, it is chilling to imagine than he is really talking about enterprise software development.

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