I work in a large “enterprisey” company where craftsmanship is, unsurprisingly,
not the dominant model of software development. However, a craftsmanship ethos
still exists in some of the remaining pockets of in-house development, and if
anything appears to be strengthening.
For the first few years of my software career, I treated it very much as a day
job. I turned up; I wrote some code (or, for a horrendous proportion of the
time, some documents); I went home. I learned just enough to enable me to
complete whatever I was working on, but no more. I used the tools I was given,
or those I was familiar with, regardless of their suitability for the task at
Then I started working with someone who was trying cool new stuff. Dependency
injection. Automated testing. Continuous integration. I realised how
out-of-touch I was in my ideas of how software should be developed, and started
trying to put that right. I read about XP and Agile, and started following
blogs and reading articles. I went to XPDay, and turned up at the odd XTC pub
night when I happened be in London on a Tuesday.
More importantly, I started caring about my code. Instead of thousand-line
procedures, I started separating concerns and following OO principles. I wrote
unit tests, and after a while I got the hang of TDD. Month-long manual testing
and bug fixing phases gave way to an automated nightly build and a quick
confidence check, and eventually to something approaching continuous
Of course, the more widely I look at what others are doing, the more aware I am
that even when I think I might be doing something reasonably well, there are
always people out there doing it much, much better. I may never approach their
level, but I can learn from their work and thus improve mine. In turn I hope I
can pass something on to others.
So, to finally get to the point, I agree with earlier contributors that
craftsmanship is about caring, learning, practicing and sharing. Underpinning
all this though is community. Not ‘the’ software craftsmanship community, but
the community of other developers you work with; the communities around the
languages and tools you use; the agile, lean and XP communities; the community
of random people you met once at a conference – or maybe have never met at all
– and started following on Twitter.
Without these communities, we become isolated, and may start believing that the
way we currently work is ‘best practice’. We need our fellow professionals to
compare ourselves against and to learn from, otherwise we can lapse into
complacency and let our skills (and our profession) stagnate.
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