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The cause of the degradation of programming

By Jaqui ·
In the Discussion about MS targeting apache,


A side ceoncern about programming came out.

did ms's basic, visual basic and simple programming cause the degradation of programming from an elite skill to glorified macro writing?

after all, we all know that writing sql queries for mssql, oracle, dbase, mysql, postgresql, interbase, db2......... is now concidered high programming skill, yet in reality, it is little more than a basic part of any office clerks job.
create the queries to get the data you need from the database for the report you are generating, or correspondence you are putting together etc.

is not programming creating the application, such as orcale server, mssql server etc?

how did general clerical tasks become concidered programming?

when are we going to remind employers that macro scripting is for general office staff, programming is creating the application the script runs in?

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Well I think this began with Windows 95

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to The cause of the degradat ...

Where there was a general Dumbing Down of the user base to the lowest level possible. When 95 hit the market there was no longer the need to send highly qualified staff to classes and those that where in the higher paying Data Entry side of the business could be replaced with unskilled personal who cost much less to employ.

They no longer where required to know to actually use a program and only enter data so they became the normal end user and if they could write a Macro in VB they where the "Experts!"

I recently attended a college course where the students where leering Office and in relation to Word and they where not taught how to do a simple mail merge as that was considered as an advanced concept that should not be covered in that particular class as it was only involved in teaching the normal working of Word. I can only suppose that the same applies to other applications in Office as well like designing a template in Access writing any required Macros or whatever.

To me these people are not program users but Data Entry personal which should be treated as the lowest level possible as all they are capable of doing is enter data and not actually use the program/s to even 10% of their potential which was the considered norm when I was working for Big Business.

I now find that I'm constantly being called in to write Macros redesign templates and generally work the programs when changes are required by the so called Specialists Program Operators.

Now this is where it starts getting hard to work as what I find I need now is to lower my skill set to being what was once a entry level computer user instead of the job that I used to be doing which was fixing things when they broke now at the end of every finical year I'm being called in to reset the Accounting Packages, redesign Templates when changes are required and just general basic program user skills a lot of the time.

I've on one occasion even shown a so called Office Manager how to perform a mail merge in Word as a Christmas mail out to all of their suppliers and customers wishing them Season Greetings and she thought it was miraculous that something like this was possible as she had no idea that she could do this from grabbing the data from the already established DB and personalize their form letters. This is not an isolated case either as a lot of form letters that I see now days lack the personal touch that was a basic requirement when we where using Word Perfect 4 or 5 in DOS.

No doubt this can all be traced back to MS marketing where anyone can walk in and use a MS application without training which is what appears to be happening. Now I'm not saying that these people are not required as they are and they can run rings around me when it comes to entering data but they are at a loss when something needs changing and it is this level that is now missing from the business sector so the Data Entry people seem to think that they have far more qualifications than they actually do and the higher level education institutions seem to be catering to this by only teaching the very basics which in all honestly an adverage used could achieve on a home computer in a few days without supervision but then of course they wouldn't have the piece of paper claiming that they have undergone education in using these applications and have reached a level of proficiency that allows them to be rated as passing the subject.

A good example of where having a bit of paper is not actually a good thing and instead of Business employing a second tier of Application users who know how to work the programs they are now calling in what they seem to think of as IT Pros to do these very basic jobs and paying them the big bucks for something that should be a basic prerequisite for using any application.

Well I've got my Fire Proof gloves ready so bring on the masses of people who disagree.

Col ]:)

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Oh man, so true

by eth0 In reply to Well I think this began w ...

The GUI changed it all.

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It's like carpentry

by kjamal In reply to Well I think this began w ...

This may a very simplistic view but programming is going through what carpentry and fine furniture making has gone through.

Once carpentry was considered an elite skill and furniture cost a fortune. Then the masses began demanding lower cost goods. So the engineers brought in the assembly line, standard fit fixtrures, prefab ricated items, etc. Then the masses asked for even cheaper furniture, so the industrialists shipped production off-shores. But still, the masses demanded even cheaper goods.So the engineers created "assemble your own" stuff. And today, carpentry is largely a hobby.

That is what is happening with programming and many other once "elite" skills. Any commercialized activity (vs. artistic) is subject to the market's desire for more goods at cheaper prices. The more complex a task the less able it can satisfy this need. So it creates an opportunity to creat tools and processes that simplify the task and make production cheaper by expanding the labor pool.

Today, programming is often nothing more than "slapping together" pieces of re-usable code. There is very little real innovation.

Unfortunately, for the purist, this is continuing trend. Business want more for less and they want more people to be able to do it with less.

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Not True

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to It's like carpentry

With carpentry the way they they got around a lot of the costs involved was to make wood out of rubbish by mulching it then gluing it back together as a board hence Chip Board which incidentally falls to bits when it gets wet enough long enough.

Programing on the other hand might still be largely tool based but a lot of it while being moved offshore has not got any cheaper. I think I paid something like $80.00 AU for DOS and currently I'm paying $242.00 AU for an OEM version of XP Pro the same applies for the different Office programs that we used to use I think that Word Perfect 3 - 5 was somewhere around the $120.00 AU mark and the current price of MS Office is $385.00 AU for the SBE and $495.00 AU for the Pro Version both OEM. In its hay day I know I was paying about $140.00 For the Complete Lotus Suite and something like $200.00 for the original Word Perfect Suite when Novel had it. Now the latest WP Suite which has a lot less is around the $1,200 AU mark about the same as the Retail copy of MS Office and it is no better and in some things a lot worse. When you add to that price the extra costs involved in hardware which really has got a lot cheaper over the years the software has got more expensive in comparison. We used to think that paying $100.00 AU per MEG of Storage or RAM was a great price now $100.00 AU will buy a 512 MEG Stick of Cosair SDRAM or a 80 GIG HDD.

At a slightly latter time we where paying $25.00 AU per blank CDR which we can now buy for only a few cents even a DVDR is less than 50 cents AU.

The Carpentry Analogy may be correct when applied to hardware but not when applied to software which if anything has got more expensive while at the same time becoming less reliable.

Col ]:)

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oooohhh I like that..

by Jaqui In reply to Not True

programming and wodd/materials for furniture
old way, use REAL WOOD
new way
use glued together bits that will break easily!!!!

sounds like and excellent reason to stick large objects up the boss' hind end for suggesting using new ways.

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The carpentry analogy refers to programming not the software purchased.

by kjamal In reply to Not True

My carpentry analogy referred to programming and programmers not the commercial software. Around 2000 , average rates for programmers went for around $100/hr, Today, thanks to reusable code, development tools, and greater processing power, I get the same output for $25/hr. I charge more for my software and keep more than I did before. Is the code any better. Not a chance.....It's just rehashed.....Programming is more like an assembly line than a craft today.

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by Tony Hopkinson In reply to The carpentry analogy ref ...

thanks to reusable code, development tools, and greater processing power, the big mass of boom time developers that these fetched in have to take naff salaries because the market is glutted with them which effectively de-valued the entire industry.
Quality is coming back though, so those laurels you are sitting on are about to become brambles.

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Not sure

by tagmarkman In reply to The carpentry analogy ref ...

I don't think I completely agree with you. I understand what you are trying to say (today is about reusing what developer made for them yesterday). I agree with that and that has degraded this engineering field.

There is no separtation between skill sets. A construction worker that builds framing for a house does not get lumped into the same category of the architect that designed it. or even the material engineers for that matter. They are distinct. In development... the assembly line developer is lumped into the same category as the innovative software engineer.

Rates in 2000 was not because programmers were good. The waters were well mucky by the time the bubble got that big.

I also don't think that the lower cost of development was because of resuable code, the development tools, or processing power. A lot of it has to do with the market. More developers are willing to work for less.

Do you get the same output... from 2000 probably... from 1992 I doubt it. It might be the same (numbers) that are produced but not the same innovation. If the majority of development today had the innovation of the late 80's and early 90's (and sooner), I would expect a lot more from development today.

What I see improvements recently have been in are: patterns, processes, diagrams, usability, and open source (which is not coding) and questionably (security and error reporting). I'm sure there are others but that is what was on the top of my head. Note that none of those are achieved through drag and drop.

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Bits and Drill Bits

by tagmarkman In reply to It's like carpentry

Lets say that it is "like" funiture making.

I have several antiques in my home. They are of outstanding quality. They survived me moving, if they get a scratch they can be buffed out, I always have got my moneys worth out of good funiture.

However, the assembly line funiture doesn't survive moves very well, scratchs are pretty much permenant, and they are not very pleasing to the eye (most of them at least).

If we are talking quality... we really screwed up with the funiture industry... if we relate that to software... well, I suppose you can expect the products not to be high quality... You can expect more bugs, more security issues, slower, bloated, unfriendly, and less productive.

If we are talking cost then part of it is the cost of the materials but it is also about the automation and the assemble your own as you stated above and distribution and a whole lot of other factors.

Software doesn't fall neatly into this catagory because it has no "physical" inventory. The production is really about brain power and "residual" sales. A lot of entrepenures then treat the intellectual labor pool as a commodity. In other words they treat it like inventory or an expense instead of the best asset the company could have...

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Commoditization is the real problem

by kjamal In reply to Bits and Drill Bits

I agree commoditization of intellect and creativity is a big part of the problem. However, programmers are largely resposible for this. Many programmers undervalue thier skills and will "Hawk" them at any price. This invites a price war and the only loosers are the programmers themselves. Thus, an attitude of "Just make it work" proliferates the profession. There are very few programmers that I come accross today with the fortitude and foresight to embrace that "Anything worthwhile doing is worthwhile doing perfectly. No matter how small". BTW: They all work for me.

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