Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fred Brooks meets Mozart

For some reason, as I started to read this blog entry I thought that a better analogy would be that writing software is like writing music for hire.

Music has well established connections with mathematics. That doesn't mean I'm going to hold my breath waiting for my computer to compose 'The Magic Flute'.

I started to describe the idea to my friend Craig and the more I talked the more apt the comparison became. It's partly ephemeral yet can be reproduced in the real world and its acceptance is controlled by someone other than the writer.

It also depends on those who perform the instructions. Maybe coding is like writing a symphony. You can write as grandly as Bach or Mozart but if the players are terrible, so will the performance. The same goes for good players using poor instruments, or good players using good instruments but having a poor conductor, or having all the players and conductor as first rate but the audience is completely tone-deaf.

Maybe we have Code-Cowboys instead of Virtuosos or Divas.

Ok, instead of a symphony, it would be an opera. In addition to the symphony (for the music) you have a company of actors with which to contend.

My friend Craig chimes in with: and a director

Now you're getting it.

Think about estimating how long it would take to put on a production of an opera that had never been done?

The estimate would be pretty worthless because it depends on how long it takes to do the casting, figure the lighting, blocking the scenes, creating the scenery and all that is dependent upon the budget.

Craig:Yes - building the stage is like erecting the infrastructure for a platform not currently used. You have to set up sound, seating, temperature, etc

Talented individuals can create great performances, they can make it seem effortless. We even have terms for these people in the arts. An singer can be a 'diva' and a musician can be a 'virtuoso'. When we limit the scope to the talent of a single individual we can get good material but what marks transcendent art is when the creator inspires the performer using the sheer force of ideas alone.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo

Can this be the equivalent driving force behind the open source movement? There is an idea that needs expressed, the code, compiler, and CPU serving as the artist's paints, brushes and canvas. The Software Craftsmanship movement has much in common with the artistic temperament.
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