November 08, 2016
From nczonline.net, with love.

The Politics of Software

Hi everyone,

Today is election day in the United States, and while I can generally assure you that everyone is exhausted by the nearly two-year campaign, it's a good reminder that politics exist in every aspect of life, including software. And just as in governmental politics, the politics of software tend to fall into two camps: those who want to change things and those who want to keep things the same.

Those who want to changes things are those who are constantly proposing rewriting from scratch, evaluating new tools and frameworks, and pushing for to use different technologies. These developers favor learning and rely on the excitement and interest to keep them motivated at work. They are willing to take on more risk, especially when they perceive a big payoff for being right (and tend to downplay the negative effects if they are wrong).  While most young and inexperienced developers fall into this category, age and experience are not the primary drivers -- it's much more about personality.

On the other side, you have those who want to keep things the same. These developers favor stability and predictibility so that they won't feel stressed in their day-to-day working lives. They are less willing to take risks when they know an approach that already works, and as such, are more likely to make incremental progress rather than large changes. While you find this approach more frequently in older, more experienced developers, it can also be found in younger, less experienced developers.

So which side is right? As with governmental politics, it's a mixture of both. If things are constantly changing, people feel unsettled and get burned out quickly; if things aren't changing, people grow frustrated at a lack of progress on solving everyday problems and inability to take advantage of new and emerging techniques and technologies. Every software development team (and other types of teams, as well) need a good mix of both personality types to succeed. It's the back and forth of debating of advantages and disadvantages of approaches that leads to a higher quality of solution.

Be well.

-N

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