Software kitchens

There’s this thing about universities and software engineering. Which is that, at universities, there is no such thing.

All right, it may be different in some places. But by and large that’s how I experienced it.

At universities, there seems to be an assumption that software engineering is not “proper science”. Most researchers believe that the real brainwork is in concepts, formulas and algorithms. When that’s done the implementation will automatically fall into place, or can be done by students. Who haven’t got a clue either, since nobody bothered to teach them.

It’s not that researchers don’t know about software engineering. They just imagine that it doesn’t apply to their work and is a waste of time.

It’s like a gourmet kitchen where nobody cleans up. Everybody seems to think the kitchen boys could do it, but nobody tells them how. Professional cleaners are much too expensive anyway.
After all, being a chef is about food. And not about cleanliness. Right?

Imagine what will happen in such a kitchen. Say, a chef has an idea for a new, groundbreaking dish. Absolutely pukka, as Jamie would say. So he jumps right in and starts cooking.

Unfortunately, he’ll spend his first day shopping for fresh spices: The ingredients in stock are, um, a little suspicious, and nobody really knows where they came from in the first place.

Also, one of the other chefs experimented with the chicken stock. It involved a lot of banana flavouring, and none of the original stock was saved. Which means our chef will have to spend another few hours making chicken stock.

We don’t even want to get started about the pans, which haven’t been cleaned in ages and must be de-crusted. Or the knives that have never been sharpened.

The result is predictable. Preparing the meal will be a frustrating experience of several days. And when it’s done, it may not even be edible, due to lack of hygiene.

That’s university software development in a nutshell. No wonder that computer scientist from universities can get all excited about simple software engineering techniques.

Just imagine how they must feel: A kitchen with a spice rack. And sharp knives. AND a dishwasher.



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