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Software Craftsmanship: The New Imperative Paperback – 23 Aug 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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From the Back Cover

By recognizing that software development is not a mechanical task, you can create better applications.

Today’s software development projects are often based on the traditional software engineering model, which was created to develop large-scale defense projects. Projects that use this antiquated industrial model tend to take longer, promise more, and deliver less.

As the demand for software has exploded, the software engineering establishment has attempted to adapt to the changing times with short training programs that teach the syntax of coding languages. But writing code is no longer the hard part of development; the hard part is figuring out what to write. This kind of know-how demands a skilled craftsman, not someone who knows only how to pass a certification course.

Software Craftsmanship presents an alternative―a craft model that focuses on the people involved in commercial software development. This book illustrates that it is imperative to turn from the technology-for-its-own-sake model to one that is grounded in delivering value to customers. The author, Pete McBreen, presents a method to nurture mastery in the programmer, develop creative collaboration in small developer teams, and enhance communications with the customer. The end result―skilled developers who can create, extend, and enhance robust applications.

This book addresses the following topics, among others:

  • Understanding customer requirements
  • Identifying when a project may go off track
  • Selecting software craftsmen for a particular project
  • Designing goals for application development
  • Managing software craftsmen

    Software Craftsmanship is written for programmers who want to become exceptional at their craft and for the project manager who wants to hire them.

  • About the Author

    Pete McBreen is an independent consultant who actually enjoys writing and delivering software. Despite spending a lot of time writing, teaching, and mentoring, he goes out of his way to ensure that he does hands-on coding on a live project every year. Pete specializes in finding creative solutions to the problems that software developers face. After many years of working on formal and informal process improvement initiatives, he took a sideways look at the problem and realized, “Software development is meant to be fun. If it isn’t, the process is wrong.” Pete lives in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada and has no plans to move back to a big city.


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    3.5 out of 5 stars
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    By A Customer on 29 Oct. 2001
    Format: Paperback
    Software Craftsmanship is a very interesting book about the culture behind writing software, which I bought after having it recommended on the eXtreme Programming mailing list. He argues that Software Engineering has grown out of very large projects, yet what most of us do is small projects. We'd be better learning how to organise these projects from the old craft model of apprentice-journeyman-master than from normal software engineering texts.
    It is a very thought provoking read. Reading this book won't give you practical ways of being a better developer, but will give you new ways of thinking about the profession of software development, and how this can be managed in a more people-centric way. I'd recommend it to anyone involved in the process of managing software developers, or who likes to think about these issues.
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    This book is very well researched and contains references to myriad books and studies to back up what is being said.

    The essence of the Software Craftsmanship model is to stop trying to control a large number of average developers and instead employ exceptional developers who can self-organise. There is plenty of advice on how to organise a team around a master-craftsman and how to give the novice developers the path to becoming journeymen and eventually master craftsmen.

    Anyone who has worked in companies with lots of warm bodies who cannot reliably get quality software shipped will understand why there is a need to change our attitude towards software development. This book is only controversial if you rely on the hierarchy of software engineering or want to sell certifications.
    Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    This book has made me reflect on how I consider software development, I have experienced both software engineering projects and less formal variants and to a lesser extent software craftsmanship. The book certainly makes you think about who you should be putting on software development projects and to a large extent I agree. This book is certainly worth a read.
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    Format: Paperback
    The author bases his argument on the premise that software engineering is appropriate only to very large projects: 'This systematic, disciplined, and quantifiable approach has proved to be very effective at developing safety critical systems.'
    He contrasts SE, as he has defined it, with an individual craft approach to software development, using the language of guilds, apprenticeship, masters, and the like.

    This premise is false. SE, correctly applied, selects the appropriate development processes and techniques for individual projects and tasks, large and small. SE is about selecting horses for courses. The simplistic 'SE bad, craft good' thesis put forward misrepresents most of what SE is about.
    Disappointingly, the book contains hardly any experimental or anecdotal justifications that support the idea that the suggested craft approach is superior. It's unsubstantiated opinion.
    The book comes over as the extended grumblings of an ageing 2- or 3-GL language programmer, passed over for promotion or technical preferment.
    If these softer aspects of software development interest you, I'd recommend Gerald Weinberg's ageing 'The Psychology of Computer Programming', or his 'Becoming a Technical Leader', or DeMarco and Lister's 'Peopleware'.
    Comment 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

    Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 24 reviews
    4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Software Craftsmanship is a "must" read for software professionals. 5 Nov. 2005
    By Robert Bogetti - Published on Amazon.com
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    An excellent comparison of software engineering and software craftsmanship. Pete McBreen clearly illustrates the the traits of software craftsmanship and details the steps required to go from apprentice to journeymen and possibly to master craftsmen if desired. After reading this book, you'll begin to appreciate the finer skills of software development along with the knowledge of knowing when the "classical" software engineering approach is more appropriate. The concepts covered include: achieving quality, selecting a team, mentoring others, requirements, maintenance / extensibility, and estimation / scheduling.

    If you are looking for directions on how to become one of the software programing elite, this is the map. This book is also an excellent guide for those trying to staff software projects with quality talent in that you'll know who the true craftsmen really are. Perfectly edited, filled with solid references, clear examples, and easily readable text.
    0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars author is on to something 13 July 2016
    By Misha N. Sawangwan - Published on Amazon.com
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    this is a real nice read
    10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Describes what an agile world might look like 3 Jun. 2004
    By Matthew Heusser - Published on Amazon.com
    Format: Paperback
    The book starts by making several good observations:
    (1) Software Engineering, with it's focus on big-up-front design, is not working well in the business world.
    (2) Emergent Design and Iterative Development actually work for business systems.
    (3) An apprentice/journeyman/master system relying on communication and OJT will be more effective than a BS in CS and a one-week course in SQL.
    (4) The focus on buzzwords and bleeding edge technologies is actually harmful to our craft.
    (5) The idea that learning is somehow bad because it implies the learner doesn't know everything is bogus and wrong. In fact, the idea that there is a single 'right way to do it' is equally bogus. We should instead grow developers with a wide knowledge of different techniques and allow them to find the right technique for each project.
    (6) The mobility and job-hopping of developers is counter-productive to effectiveness. People are not cogs. Therefore ...
    (7) Developers who are widely successfull and stay at a company long enough be of real value should be highly compensated; the author suggests up to $250,000/year and that super-stars should be paid higher than the managers (and possibly executives) who they report to. Without this, ambitious developers are forced into becoming consultants, trainers, or managers.

    ---> That said, there were a few things that make this book less-than-five-stars:
    (1) The work isn't really 'new.' The book is a neat combination of the work of Deming, DeMarco, Dave Thomas (The pragmatic programmer, not the Wendy's CEO), and the XP/Agile Crowd. A lot of the book is Deming applied to software, but readable and enjoyable.
    (2) While some of the book is clearly ideas the author does consistently and knows work, some of it seems to be neat theoretical stuff that hasn't been tried. The thing that hit me was the ideas that developers should make $250,000 per year or they will be 'forced' into consulting ... the author is a consultant. How to even make it possible to create an environment where the developer makes more than his boss is worthy of a chapter or two, but it is not covered in depth, and I get the feeling that is because the author has never actually seen it in real life.
    In short, if you have tried traditional charts and diagrams and design documents and big-test-plan 'Software Engineering' and you think 'there has got to be a better way' - try this book. If you are a big agile/XP/Scrum person looking for a book to give away to friends, this might be the one. If you are allready convinced and want more deep, practical guidance, you are probably better off going to the sources: Deming, DeMarco, Jeffries, Beck, Cunningham, Brooks, etc.
    12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST-READ for frustrated software developers 6 April 2002
    By Erica Rowe - Published on Amazon.com
    Format: Paperback
    Ever wonder why all the talk of "software engineering" left you feeling cold, as if all your brain power, your creativity, your pride in your work, could be reduced to a mathmatical formula? I did. I wanted software engineering to be the answer, but the more I studied, and the more I experienced, the more I believed that software development was essentially a human activity, not an engineering activity. Pete McBreen's book, Software Craftsmanship, finally crystalized my thinking. I spent the entire book saying "Yes, I've been there, seen that, thought that, yes, yes, yes." Not only does McBreen clearly define the problem, he goes the critical next step -- which is to offer a solution. Software Craftsmanship offers a new model for thinking about software development, a model that fits in beautifully with the "agile" community, and gives a refreshing alternative to the "software engineering" community's insistence that software development will be reliable, repeatable, and produce excellent results as soon as we can eliminate humans and their messy judgement and flaws from the picture. Thank you, Pete McBreen, for giving my profession back to me.
    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars The industry needs this honesty 7 Jan. 2004
    By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
    Format: Paperback
    Software is written by people - competent software is written by competent people. How did the programming business ever forget this?
    I once worked for a company where one manager used "craftsmanship" as his vilest epithet. He truly wished that developers would be as interchangeable as wingnuts. He wasn't the one who assigned a power supply designer to e-mail maintenance, but he was close. It's no suprise that the company was bought not long after - by one of its own spin-offs!
    Maybe it sounds old-fashioned, but this book is really about the moral statement that engineers make by signing their work. Doing a job well is not just a paycheck (though doing the job badly should be reason to lose that paycheck). It's a personal statement, and embodies the creator's values. Is it strong? Is it durable, in a world of changing requirements? Does it really keep working once the creator turns it over to a successor? Properly viewed, software development is part of the human interaction, between provider and purchaser or between co-workers. With corporate loyalty dead, as a working social force, the software industry needs new standards of behavior and social worth. I really think McBreen is on the right track.
    The idea of apprenticeship is still strong today, especially in life- and safety-critical professions. Doctors serve their internships, and commercial passenger pilots spend a lot of time in the right seat. A few years back, a blaster's license in California required five years of apprenticeship. When software is in your pacemaker, antilock brakes, and even in a building's "active compensation" for earthquake, programming is in well into that same life-critical category. As he says, the best programmers really do serve unofficial apprenticeships (I know I did). The only problem is in making it visible and respectable.
    I can't stand the cult of personality, but that's not what mastery of craft is about. It's about a sustainable, living culture of service, and of personal and professional excellence. Yes, tools like CMMI can help. Without a basic, personal belief in the value of one's work, reinforced by the work environment, they're just scraps of paper to push around.
    McBreen is really writing about the cultural value of competence, and about creating more of it. Whether or not you agree with his means, I can not imagine any argument against that basic point.
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