Why most software is substandard

Programmers are condemned by the nature of programming itself to make bad software

I just watched a great presentation at a virtual conference. The presenter, Daniele Procida, supported this thesis:

  • Programming is intrinsically pleasurable.

  • Most software is substandard.

  • Most software is substandard because programming is intrinsically pleasurable.

Technically we program in order to solve the user’s problem. However, we get absorbed by the pleasure programming gives us, and therefore we focus on our pleasure rather on someone else’s (the user’s) pain. At least that’s what Daniele says. The problem is worsened by the fact that bad software usually doesn’t result in serious damage—it usually causes irritation or inconvenience. Therefore, programmers have the luxury to not care much about the actual problem they’re supposed to be solving.

Many of these observations apply to science also. Scientists do science because it gives them pleasure. The outcome of bad science is rarely life threatening. Is this the reason science is often substandard? I have some doubts on that but it’s certainly thought-provoking.

(If the recording of Daniele’s presentation becomes public I’ll update this post’s page with the link.)