Software Engineering State of the Practice: An Interview with Jerry Weinberg


our courses (very little sitting and listening). And, as with last year’s conference, there will be sharing of experiences, too. People came with problems, for example: "I was trying to get this done and it didn't work and I don't know why.” Other people will comment on what they have done and advise. There will be some models presented, but mostly models of social architecture. I’m doing a session with Bob King on “getting a project started right." It's about stuff that people do before they even realize they’re starting a project that gets them off on the wrong or on the right foot. And we will do something that let’s them pretend they are starting a project and notice what they do and what it leads to. We have another session on life cycles. But instead of giving the theory of life cycles, we're going to actually act out various life cycles and trace not just the product life cycle, but the life cycle of errors in a product; where they start, with people playing the role of errors and seeing where they are introduced and where they are found. And also the life cycle of the people doing the work. How does it affect their careers, and how does it affect what they learn and how they improve? So, we’ll actually be walking through those together.

SQP: Sounds entertaining and different.
JW: It is. People have lots of fun, but they also come back with things they can really use.

Weinberg On Future Directions In Software Engineering

SQP: It seems that nonprofessionals are creating more and more software and systems, and that "programming" is being accomplished at higher levels of abstraction (for example, spreadsheets, GUI generators, wizards, and so on). What are your views on how the expansion of software development to an "every man" activity affects software quality results and software quality practice?
JW: Of course, you mean "every woman," too?

SQP: Of course!
JW: I guess my answer is, "It's the best of times and the worst of times," to quote Charles Dickens.

The best of times is because, well, think about the restaurant business. I used to travel around with my father when I was a kid, and he introduced me to the concept that certain towns were good restaurant towns and others were not (of course, this was before chain restaurants; I’m not sure it's that way now). But, what the determining factor was, in certain towns, the people who lived there were not very discriminating diners. And, where you didn’t have discriminating diners, you didn't have good restaurants. There was just nobody there to demand better food. An example from today is, you have hotels at big airports and the hotels have a restaurant. Now, the only people who stay at these hotels are the people whose flights have been cancelled. They are stuck there, they don't have a car, there's no place to go. So, they eat in the hotel restaurant and they are never very good because the customers don’t have a choice, they have no way to express dissatisfaction, they would never come back anyway, and if they don't eat there, they don't eat.

That's similar to the way it was thirty years ago. If you didn't like what you were getting from your computer/IT department, that was just too bad. It's like you just didn’t get to eat. And now, there are lots more choices including, "Well, I can just put a spreadsheet together myself and it may not be great, but I'm in control of it.” Whoever proposes

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