Book Notes – Hackers & Painters

This is a book written almost 15 years ago that makes some comparison to the workstyle painters has and how it correlates to programming. A case study is shown about Viacom, one of the first pieces of software to be served via server side code.

A lot of the ideas presented in this book talks about the perks of serving applications via the web, which is common today. Also, a lot of promotion towards using Lisp.

A lot of this seems obvious to me now, but it definitely wasn’t at this time. Some of the points including:

  • Programming is more painting or gardening then it is engineering (software is constant work in progress)
  • Outsourcing IT might be a good idea (kind of what happens when using a vendor as opposed to being in house).
  • Get version 1.0 out ASAP, improve in iterative steps, and use your own software.
  • Software is best written in small teams (<10)
  • Always work to have working code.
  • Many new trends fade away – don’t always need to try and adopt everything

Lastly, the book makes a point of promotion dynamic typing, and as someone that prefers static typing, it makes an interesting point. Dynamic typing allows for more flexibility and using tools in ways they may not have been intended.

That makes for someone like TypeScript having a certain appeal. I still think having specific types makes for cleaning up APIs and such, but an interesting viewpoint.

Another interesting idea is the fact that wealth is no longer a zero-sum game. Making software that makes loves better is a form of “creating wealth” per say. Wealth isn’t just money, so there’s definitely some value in that. I think with software, a lot of that comes in automation and saved time.

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