Wednesday, October 7, 2015


This article is one in a series. See the introduction here.

Everyone is driven by a desire to succeed, but for some, success does not come through superior skill or intellect; for some, success comes through will-power and determination. In the field of software development, such people can often be described as code-fiddlers. There was a time when I looked down on code-fiddlers, but I've since come to realize that they can perform better than me in some ways. To the untrained eye, code-fiddlers are hard to spot. They are able to meet goals and create working products just like everyone else, but we engineers understand the big underlying difference.

Code-fiddlers, you see, don't really know what they are doing. Okay, that's a bit extreme, but at its heart there's some truth to it. They obviously have some clue about programming. They know enough to be able to get their code working, but they don't fully understand why or how it works. You may be thinking that sounds absurd--how could anyone write complex functioning software that they themselves don't understand?! If you are incredulous, let me assure you, it's absolutely true. I have worked closely with many developers over the years that fit this very description. At first, I didn't believe it either. I still don't fully grasp how code-fiddlers manage to pull it off, but I assure you, they do. Perhaps it will make more sense by way of a metaphor...