Monday, 3rd May 2004
Programmers hate programming.

That sounds like a contradiction, yet it is true.

This efficiency saves seconds, yet cost hours of effort during maintenance. That does not matter, as programmers love to puzzle. An hour of puzzling is far better than a few seconds of typing. Congratulations.

The puzzle-type contradiction magnifies in software development projects. A programmer that retypes the same statement twice immediately goes off puzzling for an hour. Image you'd waste a few seconds on typing a similar statement on the third occasion! It would be unheard of.

All too often the solution is something generic.

The generic solution

The generic solution is usually a bunch of parameters in a file or database table. It can be quite complex to build a generic solution. Programmers embrace this type of lovely puzzles. To the project leader they sell it using the argument: In future this will save us a lot of time.

Nobody takes the effort to compute the actual number of saved seconds, as it would just spoil the fun. There is big enthusiasm, the generic solution is on its way.


Oops, somebody has to fill the file or table. Unfortunately this appears to be a boring type job, that costs seconds. The solution is simple: Let's shift this typing to a system controller.

The system controller is in for an unpleasant surprise. Odds are high that the solution seems only suitable for programmers. So, in comes a short training and somebody has to write a user manual. Shuzbuz, some more boring type work.

In production

At last, after a lot of effort the generic solution starts to work. It is a struggle, as the test effort is more than doubled: Finally the whole bunch goes on to the production system. Nobody does the aftermath on the real costs of the generic solution. The original number of seconds typing are left unmentioned.

Up and running

The real world appears more tricky than anticipated. All kinds of exceptions arise that make the generic solution less and less generic. The set of parameters start to look more and more like a new programming language.

The original programmers have moved one, replaced by new ones. To the new ones find the generic solution troublesome, a YAPL (Yet Another Programming Language):

The cycle

Three years later the whole development environment and programming language are outdated. The future was shorter than expected. The whole lot ends up in the dustbin, replaced by something new. The expected savings were never achieved and never will be. Nobody knows about the original reason: saving time. And maybe that is not too bad...

The programmers work with their new environment. And... they notice they are retyping the same thing over and over again. Mm, how about a generic solution?


Does a programmer propose a generic solution?

Till next, hand typed nut,