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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • My personal favorite high-level comparison (which I first heard discussed in depth by Neal Ford [nealford.com]) contrasts programming to civil engineering.

    In civil engineering (e.g. bridge building), construction costs dramatically outweigh design costs. Civil engineers aren't cheap, but their proportional cost relative to the bridge materials and construction labor are small.

    In contrast, the construction steps in software are largely automated: compilation, packaging, making installers, downloading, installing. Your program is just the blueprint. Consequently, software is the engineering field where the design vs. construction cost is most heavily skewed towards design. Since cost of design is usually less predicatible than cost of construction, software development as an engineering disipline is less predictable than other engineering niches.

    I think that design-centric quality is what makes software compared to art more often than other engineering fields. Architecture, being more design-focused, often is recognized for its artistic qualities too. Just as software design is much more than pretty GUIs, architecture is much more than pretty buildings.

    • Just as software design is much more than pretty GUIs, architecture is much more than pretty buildings.

      Architecture is also a craft though. It doesn't matter how pretty anyone considers the Portland Building [wikipedia.org] or the Stata Center [wikipedia.org] if the buildings don't actually work.

      Compare that to The Rite of Spring [wikipedia.org], which I don't like, but few would claim it doesn't meet the definition of art due to any functional flaws (and what are those anyway, dissonant bassoons?). De gustibus non est disputandum, tamen de laboratum

    • With the rethinking of the relationship
      between design and construction brought about
      by radical approaches like XP,...

      I wonder what the present status of architectural
      analogies like those based on Alexander's
      Design Patterns is.