February 23rd, 2009

all buckled up

Time to move on...

...but I'm not sure where to go.

For thirteen years I've made something approximating a living from a passion that dates back into my pre-teens, but as time has passed I've become increasingly disillusioned and disinterested. Gone are the days when I could reliably find mad little companies looking to do improbable things, bending ones and zeroes to their will. Gone the demand for programmers with skill and art.

Everywhere I've turned in recent years I've been dogged by the shadow of agile development, something I've ranted over more than once in these pages. In a sense I've been hoist by my own petard as in the late 1990s these were the techniques I told my clients to use if they wanted their underskilled graduate development teams to be vaguely effective. Little did I dream that a decade later the industry would not only have adopted the core principle of testing their code properly before unleashing it on an unsuspecting world, but that it would have gone to the other extreme of building ever more burdensome test suites.

It's as if the world's architects all agreed that every single strut and support had to incorporate a strain gauge and that during construction each addition of a brick to the edifice required that every gauge be checked. The technology exists to do this - sensor networks and intelligent buildings have been mooted many times over the last two decades by futurologists - but to date no one has demonstrated that there is any practical gain in doing this.

In a recent exchange on the LRUG mailing list I explained some of my qualms with the current fad for Test Driven Development, which I'll probably blog about when I've fleshed the argument out in greater depth, but as usual people who are into that fad don't get why it's a fool's errand. I guess I could write this off as being a generational thing - I routinely meet web developers who weren't even born when I cut my first Basic programs - but that presumes that building flexible and reliable software is a new innovation which it most emphatically isn't.

Anyway be that as it may I'm sick to the back teeth of developers with at most five years of experience telling me what constitutes good practice or second guessing instincts that I've honed over almost thirty years of chasing the bleeding edge. As such I'm strongly considering leaving the industry altogether and restricting my future involvement to after-hours hacking on projects of value to me along with the occasional conference.

My decamping is probably no real loss to the industry anyway as I'm a truculent curmudgeon and not much of a team player, but more worrying is that in a recent conversation with a recruiter he mentioned that quite a few of the people on his books had already jumped ship. I guess I'm not alone in disliking cultish impositions on my working life.

I guess the next few days I'm going to have to think long and hard about the future.
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