“What Is Code” Review
Technology changes faster than anyone can keep track of, unless tracking technology is their full-time job. Understanding at the level needed to determine whether implementing a change in technology is a big deal or a minor adjustment can be very time consuming.
The June 11, 2015 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek devoted the entire issue to a single essay by Paul Ford titled "What Is Code". In his 32,000 word essay, Ford tries to give non-programmers a sense of what code is and how software is built. Ford does a good job explaining some concepts that can be difficult to grasp. Ford's explanation for why code looks so strange and unlike spoken language was clarifying for the average non-tech user – possibly even enlightening.
Ford lists some of the 1,700 different programming languages and discusses why languages are different. He helps the reader understand the idea of "abstraction" and why some languages are more suited for specific problems than others.
One of the more interesting ideas that Ford presents is the "tribal aspect" of many software developers. Open source versus Microsoft technology battles can be witnessed every day in large software development organizations the world over. These are generally in the form of "jabs" or offhanded comments from one developer to another while discussing a problem.
These “turf battles” can be opportunities for managers to hear the pros and cons of different technologies and to get developers to challenge each other in positive ways.
In general, the article attempts to bridge that literacy gap between the layman and the expert who has years of software development experience. But just as a medical textbook is not a substitute for an actual medical residency, there is no substitute for software development experience.
I recommend this article to anyone involved or interested in software development – it is definitely worth the read!