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Does it really matter what you call it?

At the university I attended, the Computer Science program shifted from the Engineering department to the Science & Mathematics department during the course of my studies. Incoming freshmen were still handed copies of SICP and Introduction to Algorithms at the door.




The vast majority of college degree programs don't teach the core skills necessary for success in the field, regardless of naming, but that's a different problem.

Nevertheless, naming has a powerful influence on understanding. If people think that software development is a science, they'll treat it that way, similarly, how they treat it will change if they think it's an engineering discipline or an artistic effort.

I've come around to the idea that software development is partly engineering and partly creative, much like architecture. Treating it like a science is the surest recipe for failure, as you'll be lucky if you ship anything worthwhile on schedule. Treating it like engineering will result in a much higher rate of success, with higher quality, and greater scheduling certainty, but will frequently result in mediocrity and developer dissatisfaction. Treating it like pure art sans engineering will probably result in lower quality, and unpredictable scheduling. But giving proper respect to the importance of both sound engineering and creativity seems like the sweet spot to me.


What we call things shapes our preconceptions about how they work. But I agree, it's not very important what we call it. We have to go beyond preconceptions anyway.




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