Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Software sculpture

Developing software is a craft that aspires to be an art.

It is both additive and subtractive. As we add words and letters to our formal documents, we build up declarations and relations; descriptions of logic and process. As this happens, we carve away at the world of possibilities: we make some potentialities harder to reach. The subtractive process is *implied* by the additive process, rather than directly specified by it.

If this subtractive process proceeds too slowly, we end up operating in a space with too many degrees of freedom: difficult to describe; difficult to reason about; and with too many ways that the system can go wrong.

If the subtractive process proceeds too quickly, we end up eliminating potentialities which we need, eventually, to realise. This results in prohibitively expensive amounts of rework.

The balance is a delicate one, and it involves intangible concepts that are not directly stated in the formal documents that we write; only indirectly implied.