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BFA in Programming

01/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/01/08.html

Another good suggestion from the fertile mind of Joel Spolsky: make programming a degree level course in its own right by pulling it out of the computer science domain.

 

5 comments

Comment from: dena [Member]  
dena

*laugh!*

That’s Ritchie already! BA majoring in German, minoring in Mandarin, with lots of fun along the way including courses in Genetics, Organic Chemistry, and once even Modern Dance. ;)

He and I have argued a lot that his attractions to languages is another manifestation of his love for code (he denies it, can you believe it?!), and he would be right on board with you that *really* good programming is indeed art. :D

BFA could be a good choice. :)

01/10/08 @ 11:27
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  
Nimble

Well, I got to take Microbiology, but not Genetics (would have loved to, though! Got a Genetics textbook from UBC on a visit to the bookstore out there). I didn’t end up having the prerequisite biology due to missing the midterm - silly me thinking that it would be, like all other courses, on the same day as the class (!). I was too shy to protest and I suppose considered myself lucky to have avoided the large time overhead (5-6 hours including transit) involved in attending labs.

I deny that it’s another manifestation of my love for code for a very good reason: my love for languages precedes any of my coding by about four years :) So if anything, it would be the other way around, but they use different-enough skill sets that I wouldn’t even imply that connection.

As a counterexample, I would point to the very low incidence of multilingual capability in the programmers, including very good ones, that I have met over the years ;)

Good programming is an art and a craft. There is a lot that can be done to improve the way “regular” programmers program. There are also things that you just can’t impart to people if they don’t have some natural talent, like debugging intuition and coming up with the best way to solve problems.

I sure haven’t met any really good programmers who didn’t like programming.

One thing that was really tough back in the day was that with the programming experience I had from ages 12-17, once I got to university, it was going to be mid-way through year three before a challenging course would appear. I even took the “philosophy of logic” prerequisite course, and it was so incredibly Mickey-Mouse that I couldn’t stand it. Group projects because “everyone gets the same answers anyhow", etc.

Should I have just tried to challenge all the courses and gotten a CS degree? Well, perhaps. I wouldn’t have been able to challenge them outright, but I didn’t actually like the prospect of a month of courses and three months of nothing each semester.

I swear it wasn’t because there were no girls in the courses :)

I read that article by Joel and I’ve got to say that I agree. Working in a group is fairly desirable in this industry, but you do have the problems of uneven contribution that plagues most group projects in educational settings.

I’m still pretty uncomfortable with the Software Engineering moniker that has been attached to a lot of these courses. There is such a potential thing as Software Engineering, but in order to have it have the same sorts of qualifications as an engineering discipline would have, we would be talking programmatic cogs in a wheel - the programmers that take part in 10,000-person strong projects with really tight specifications. Banking and aerospace projects come to mind.

All other software development is an exercise in compromise. You can’t do Clean Room development with a small budget and a tight time-to-market.

Steve McConnell’s After the Gold Rush book is an example of the worrisome implications of the moniker “Software Engineering". I disagree most strongly with his conclusions. That’s perhaps not what Joel is talking about, and I hope it’s not what Waterloo is talking about, but I’m not sure.

A good rebuttal to Steve’s book and ideas of software engineering is found in a book by Pete McBreen - who I believe is a native of Cochrane. It’s “Software Craftsmanship: The New Imperative". The book itself is not all that great in spots, but most of the ideas are absolutely spot-on.

Anyhow, sorry, soapbox issue :)

01/11/08 @ 14:30
Comment from: Adam [Member]  
Adam

Anyhow, sorry, soapbox issue :)

You do know that you could make a nice post of your own with that rather than just hiding it away as a comment. I would :)

01/11/08 @ 14:46
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  
Nimble

I suppose I could, but now it just seems awkward :)

On a side note, Slashdot just popped up with a link on “How To Recognize a Good Programmer": http://www.inter-sections.net/2007/11/13/how-to-recognise-a-good-programmer/

01/11/08 @ 16:22
Comment from: dena [Member]  
dena

I deny that it’s another manifestation of my love for code for a very good reason: my love for languages precedes any of my coding by about four years :) So if anything, it would be the other way around, but they use different-enough skill sets that I wouldn’t even imply that connection.

I am not arguing “chicken and egg” with you, buddy. And while there are of course differences in the skill sets, there are similarities as well!

As a counterexample, I would point to the very low incidence of multilingual capability in the programmers, including very good ones, that I have met over the years ;)

Yeesh! I am not talking about all programmers/software architects, I am talking specifically about *you*!

…but we’d better not get into generalizations vs specific case studies, or we’ll just go ’round and ’round…

(And I don’t want to start up another Ritchie soapbox issue.) ;)

<3

01/12/08 @ 22:49
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