7.04.2011

Summer reading: The Clean Coder

It’s a short book you can read at the beach. And like being on vacation at the seashore, Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin’s newest book is quite refreshing, if a bit pricey.

Bob Martin, one of the key figures behind agile software development, thinks a lot about software craftsmanship. He has spoken many times about software development as a profession. It’s not just a job, something where you put in the hours and collect money, or complete the project and send in an invoice. It’s bigger than that, with a thread of ethics and big-picture behavior such as you’d find with other professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers.

(In my opinion, one reason why many programmers fail to get the respect they think they deserve as “software engineers” is that they don’t behave like professional engineers. But that’s a post for another day.)

“The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers” which arrived on my desk in May, is a distillation of Bob’s thinking on craftsmanship and professionalism. The book is idealistic, and in many ways is not realistic: Managers and executives want the programmers in the IT department to crank out code, integrate silos, deliver mobile apps, build website, just get the job done as fast as possible, and as cheaply as possible — often with no appreciation for how great software gets created.

In Bob Martin’s aspirational world, developers will have intelligent conversations with stakeholders about costs, about requirements, about tradeoffs, about testing, about healthy collaboration.

Developers will learn how to say yes, and will also learn how to say no. Presumably, the folks who write the checks (managers, customers, whatever) will listen. If they don’t listen, developers will pull up their stakes and move on.

Idealistic. But Bob Martin’s vision is beautiful.

Pick up one copy of “The Clean Coder,” read it, and then route it around your department. This is a “read once” sort of book; unlike a coding reference, it’s not a voluminous tome that everyone on your dev team should own. Also, given its $39.99 cover price, it’s too expensive to justify purchasing multiple copies. Will all due respect to Bob, this should be a $15 book.

If more of us understand Bob Martin’s vision of what software professionalism should be… together, we can build that better world.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I have to disagree with you about the idealism, Alan. The "fast as possible" that most executives and managers want is more short-sighted and unsustainable than "management by quarters." Categorizing it as idealistic promotes and supports that point of view implicitly. The practices Bob promotes lead to faster long-term sustainable delivery and viability. Most companies don't even get over the learning hump to realize the benefits.

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.