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Programming as Art vs Engineering

Geoff Gasior
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OSOpinion has an interesting editorial up examining the state of open source software and how it’s generally ‘messier’ than what is professionally designed. With some calling for all software to be open source, the opinion piece gives an interesting perspective on how programmers treat coding as art vs. as engineering. An interesting read, and sure to be one that ruffles some feathers in the open source community.

There is a lot to be said for art, but there is still more to be said for craft. The hard fact is that the important parts of writing a good program are the boring parts — the “sexy” stuff is usually less than 30% of the project. Unfortunately, Open Source projects tend to stall when the “sexy” stuff is done. The developers lose interest and move on to other “sexy” stuff. If you consider the high-profile projects (Mozilla, AbiWord, Samba, etc.), you discover that about 10% of the developers do 90% of the work — in other words, all those legions of programmers do essentially nothing for the project.

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