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The cause of the degradation of programming

By Jaqui ·
In the Discussion about MS targeting apache,

http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=85&threadID=175795&start=0

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 What you

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Optimizing something that

drag and drop certainly has a bearing on usability.
I did five years as a data entry clerk though, so I don't neglect that side of the job.
Also I'm allergic to things like db aware components and I write my own components in preference to using an unsuitable one.

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Responsible

by tagmarkman In reply to Well I don't know whether

"I think the tools and the boom went together, probably the slump as well."
Great observation. I suspect this is true.

"Based on the evidence I've seen a lot of them should have been prosecuted for fraud."
I've brought this up in the past as well. If an architect screws up your house, he's responsible. If a car manufacturer produces lemons, they are responsible, if a company's toy, injures a kid, they are responsible. I don't understand (aside from the difficulty with audit), why this has never (to my knowledge) happen in the software industry. Shouldn't Software engineers be held to the higher standards of engineering instead of those of a technical writer? (no disrespect to technical writers intended).

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It's all in the fine print

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Responsible

Which basically says use this at your own risk. Well from the Big Software Houses anyway and even places like Debian only offer the code as a usable option with no guaranties that it will actually work for your needs.

Now in the case of a place like Debian where there are no companies involved but just a bunch of coders writing code they tend to come up with a better offering in the stability, security and usability stakes. But if the individual coders where held responsible for something that they spent their time on and then gave away for the benefit of others all that holding them responsible for writing bad code would achieve is these people no longer submitting code for inclusion in the Debian range.

However places like MS and their ilk are a totally different story you pay through the nose for their products, generally you also pay for any required support other than the very basic stuff like how do I install this on my computer and then you pay to upgrade every few years to the newest and latest offering just so you can have anything that you put out from a business point of view readable by whoever you need to forward it to. It is places like this who need to be held to much higher standards that they currently are.

Currently MS virtually owns the Desktop in the corporate World and we are stuck with all the shortcomings of a system that was originally built for ease of use at the expense of security.

Even 2003 which was supposedly rewritten from the ground up seems to have its first consideration on ease of use and security a secondary issue as they included IE6 in the offering with already known massive leaks built into that part of the OS so their claim of being a complete rewrite sought of fell a bit flat with me when I heard it. If it truly was a complete rewrite we would have had IE7 made available with 2003 along with a multitude of other little nice and totally unnecessary things that come included in the package.

With the Market Dominance of MS I personally think we have seen a reduction in the really advanced items being integrated into the new versions of the software. Like why would you find it necessary to move from Office XP to Office 2003? There are very few improvements in the individual programs and the addition of One Note hardly makes it a worthwhile upgrade.

Word Perfect has had a tool since version 8 called "Make it Fit" where you can enlarge or reduce an entire publication down to a certain size it was originally intended for those letters that ran a few lines over a page so you could reduce the letter down to full pages and not waste paper for only a few lines of text on the last page. This is yet to be included on the Word Offering offered by MS. Along with the fact that you now have to download plug ins to read some of the older items that have been produced in what is effectively the same program instead of having this option on the install CD to load as required to me seems a backward step. With the almost universal use of MS Office in the latest forms in most of the business around the western world at least I find it had to reconcile the lack of backward compatibility built into the newer programs or even if it is hard which I know it is why not include the plug ins with the install ion CD? Could it be MS attempt to dispose of any of the documents produced on previous versions of one of their or their oppositions products?

Now I think that MS should be held responsible for their OS's and any Service Packs that break things the same applies to patches but this has improved markedly lately and we don't offed see patches recalled because they break more things than they are supposed to fix. But SP2 for XP was a good example of something that did cause problems to quite a lot of people and in all honesty it was more like a rewrite of XP rather than just a security update now there appears to be no visible difference between the Home and Pro versions of XP to the untrained they both look the same on boot up with exactly the same messages being shown on the XP Splash screen.

Col ]:)

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The fine print

by tagmarkman In reply to It's all in the fine prin ...

"Which basically says use this at your own risk."
Of course... and that bothers me.

Commercial products need to stand behind their product and communities should stand behind open-source products. This is where closed souce and profit software should make their stand, "use this product as our risk." It would certainly buy my support.

As far as feature drop and such, this is not limited to Microsoft nor do I think that it's a bad thing. Word Perfect has dropped features with new versions as well. Also, attempting to support older formats can be counter productive... as some point support has to be dropped which in itself is a huge problem "Dark Ages II". A lot of good features are dropped because they were causing problems or were difficult to maintain compared to the number of poeple that were actually using it.

Saddly, there are a number of features in different programs that were dropped even though I appreciated them.

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Higher standards

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Responsible

and culpability.
Well bisiness's have in the past forced me to produce what I consider very poor code. If they employ me and choose to ignore my knowledge then that's there fault.
If they employ/use someone for a task they are not capable of it should be both parties fault. However, when both parties are ignornt of the skill requirement assigning 'blame' would be pointless and difficult.

Personally I put much of the blame down to greed.
I've applied for jobs in the past with a stated requirement of my level of experience to be turned down in favour of a cheap recent graduate.

I've never yet met a recent graduate who can write a decent application, they aren't taught how to do it.
You only learn that by doing it wrong and that's where the boom cost us.

The bust howver means that, that code hasn't been fixed, some of the examples I've seen are so bad they have me rolling around on the floor.
When I get up I use them as useful examples for mentoring junior devlopers. My juvenile mistakes were in technologies that the poor fellas haven't heard of and think are irrelevant.

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Be there

by tagmarkman In reply to Higher standards

I've been at companies like that. The problem was that I simply couldn't sleep at night unless I was comfortable with what I produced. So I would spend countless (unpaid) hours getting it at least to the point to where I wasn't embarrassed. I eventually left the first company that was like this, but luckly at other companies I was promoted to the point to where I could put more pressure on change.

Companies should be held responsible for the product that they sell. Employees should be responsible for their credentials. In my company, I can tolerate a whole lot, I've keep on employees that I shouldn't have do to their work but they were good team players. However, I do not tolerate deceit and will be the quickest way to get fired - good developer or not.

I agree you must learn by doing. I personally never met a recent graduate who can write a decent app (front to back) though, I have seen some that are quite good and show tremendous potential. I put more weight into the persons personality, thirst for knowledge, and willingness to work hard more than what they have on their degree.

Still, I do put wieght on degrees as well (ex: I toss out the first 2 years of college and then do a 2 to 1 ratio: 4 years of college equates to 4 years experience, 6 years of college is 8 years experience, 10 years of college = 16 years experience.) I know they are not exact and in many cases I have found the opposite to be true but in general that seems to be true for a least 60% of the time. However, give me a dev with a 4 year degree AND 2 years experience and chances are, I'd choose them over a fresh master's student.

I've seen some pretty bad code out there. I mean REALLY bad code. You could randomly slap keys and produce better code. And I've seen some code that was so awesome and amazing and did such a good job only to be "obsoleted" because of a compiler or architecture change.

I know what you mean about fellas that think old technology is irrelevant. They don't understant you need to know where you are comming from and "WHY" the industry evolved the way it did. Then again I suppose the is the difference between the degrees, bachelors: I know the basic, please give me a job... Master: I know how to implement everything at least in theory and to some degree practics... Ph I know where we came from, and why, and I have a good idea where we are going and why.... However, they all still need "practical" experience to equate to a anything in industry.

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too true,

by Jaqui In reply to Be there

people learn from thier mistakes is another way to look at it.

this is why when hiring someone it's hand them the 300 page printout and livecd and park them in front of a workstation with no partition structure on hard drive. if they can set thier workstation up on the first day they definately understand 3 things.
1) how to follow direction
2) linux
3) how to use compilers

they may not be great programmers, but if they can't get this done in a day then they won't really be a benefit to an open source os only company. learning more programming skills is an expected part of working, you never know everything. ( don't you hate getting a "know it all" applicant? specially just ot of school? )

my own formal training was only a few months long.
( back when 286 was new ) but it gave me the foundation I needed to be able to learn as the tech changed.

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Lol

by tagmarkman In reply to too true,

That's pretty good with the "set up your own workstation" bit. I bet that works absolutely great at a smaller company. I may actually "borrow" that technique from you. At the bigger one it's not that easy, too many controls and oddities.

Even though I would never expect a sales person to perform that task, I'll use them as an example if I did... The salesforce at my company is completely run on Blade servers. They have no physical access to the machine, just the input devices, the keyboards don't even have USB extentions. This is done to help protect the company information theft and to reduce maintainance cost. It's worked so well compared to standard desktops we are considering it for most of the departments (IT, Dev, GA departments are excluded). This is just and example... other controls are in place that would make it extreamly difficult for a person to get their box up and running in my company without sometype of IT governances.

Also... once in a blue moon, I'll come across a brilliant developer or software architect that either refuses to set up their own box or is so far removed from it that they would weeks get it up and running the way the need it (usually they have a strong background in larger companies where that was always done for them).

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go ahead

by Jaqui In reply to too true,

the idea of proving practical skills isn't my property.

it does present interesting problems with the setup you describe, but think of the fun you can have tormenting people that really shouldn't be in it.

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So much fun

by tagmarkman In reply to too true,

"but think of the fun you can have tormenting people that really shouldn't be in it."
And so much fun it would be... Luckly, I get all of my tormenting out during the interview ]:). After I hire them, it's a little hard to kick them out so I better make their lives at that point as smooth as possible.

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