John Wood

Hi my name is John Wood. I'm lead developer for a small startup project which aims to provide effective peer-peer data backup.

What Does Software Craftsmanship Mean To Me?

I think Malcolm Gladwell says it well in his recent book (Outliers), that 10,000 hours is the time needed to become a "master". I think that sounds pretty sensible (and for the record I'm no way near that yet :-) ).

I also think that it's important to hone the "soft skills":

  • Communicating ideas effectively
  • Managing your time and resources
  • Striking the balance between commercial pressures and our urge for perfect code

I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this this last comment: are you a master craftsperson if you knowingly produce non-perfect software in order to meet deadlines? Or perhaps true masters can do both?
Maybe a "master" is someone who knows when something is "good enough"?

PS: Why has no-one yet subscribed to the conference listed themselves as a "master"? Please don't be modest! Someone must hold that title…
(I don't think you looked carefully enough… John Daniels)

I suspect it's because we don't have any sensible way of detecting mastery. Anyone who seriously claimed that distinction would suddenly find themselves having to explain why they were better than everyone around them. Someone could attempt it but they'd need a lot of ego and a diminished capacity for self-doubt and self-awareness.Ade Oshineye

That's rather rude, Ade. See my defence here. John Daniels

JohnD: if what I wrote came across as rude then I apologise. It wasn't meant to be rude but merely a distillation of my experiences. Most people find that claiming mastery is easy but justifying it is hard. This is especially hard if you are reflective enough to be aware of the road you took to achieve your current level of ability and I think it's that journey which introduces the self-doubt that helps keep us learning.

I've never met Ken Thompson but I've seen his CV. It's this incredibly spartan page that simply lists his undergraduate and post-graduate degrees and the handful of companies he's worked for. When I compare that to my CV or that of many of the people I know I'm somewhat embarrassed and end up thinking about the lines from Keats's The Second Coming:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. "

Thanks for documenting your claim to mastery. I found it educational and I suspect it's going to be something I point other people at in future. Ade Oshineye

Apology accepted :-). Just to be clear: it would never have occurred to me that I should describe myself as a master until I saw Jason do so - it came as a shock. But hey! If doing so starts a discussion about the definition of mastery then it will have been worthwhile, and I can slink back to lacking conviction. John Daniels

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