A pointless exercise

I caught this last night from Scott Hanselman on Twitter:


It’s a side-by-side comparison of the time to create a simple web app for:

  • Ruby
  • Perl
  • Java

The website compares a few other frameworks to compare which languages and frameworks are the fastest to develop against.  Not that it matters, but ASP.NET came out on top for the simple application profile, while Python/Django came out on top for the three-tier application profile.

While viewing the screencast, all I could think was “Holy jeebus, is there a more pointless exercise than timing the creation of software?”  Creating software is easy (some would say too easy).  If our problem was “how fast can we whip out software”, the issues of today’s software developers would have been solved decades ago.

The problem is that software maintenance dwarfs the cost of software creation, by a factor of at least 3 to 1.  So if we’re trying to optimize software development, isn’t it the most expensive aspect, maintenance, what we should focus on?  We use ReSharper to optimize responsible code creation (i.e., micro-codegen vs. macro-codegen), but it also helps with responsible code maintenance through automated refactorings.  Many other responsible engineering practices, such as those espoused by XP, aim to reduce the maintenance costs of software development.

In the end, I could care less how long it takes to slap out some sample application.  In six years of professional development, no one has ever paid me to write an application on the level of what was demonstrated.  Some managers will care how fast you sling code, but the smart ones care about:

  • Can the software you created be easily changed?
  • Can the software you created be easily tested?
  • Can the software you created be easily deployed?
  • Can the software you created be easily diagnosed for bugs?
  • Is the software you created correct?
  • Is the software you created what we actually need?

I’d love to see those issues in a screencast, but who would want to watch a screencast that lasted for weeks or months?

Developers or engineers?