Faceoff! Haack vs Hanselman - It Gets Real

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Faceoff Recently, Maxfield Pool from CodeSqueeze sent me an email about a new monthly feature he calls Developer Faceoff in which he pits two developers side-by-side for a showdown.

It’s an obvious attempt to gain readers via an appeal to vanity of the featured bloggers who have no choice to link to it. Brilliant!  :)

Seriously, I think it’s a fun and creative idea, but I have no credibility in saying so because I’m obviously biased being featured alongside my longtime nemesis and friend, Scott Hanselman. So check it out for yourself.

Some of my answers were truncated due to the format so I thought it’d be fun to elaborate on a couple of questions.

5. Are software developers - engineers or artists?

Don’t take this as a copout, but a little of both. I see it more as craftsmanship. Engineering relies on a lot of science. Much of it is demonstrably empirical and constrained by the laws of physics. Software is less constrained by physics as it is by the limits of the mind.

Software in many respects is as much a social activity as it is an engineering discipline. Working well as a team is essential, as is understanding your users and how they get their work done so your software helps, rather than hinders.

Much of software is based on faith and anecdotal evidence. For example, do we have scientific evidence that TDD improves the design of code? Do we have empirical evidence that it doesn’t? Research is scant, in part because it’s extremely challenging to set up valid experiments. Much of software research focuses on retrospective research, the sort that sociologists do.

So again, back to the question. Crafting a sorting algorithm is engineering. Building a line of business app that delights all the users is an art.

8. What is the biggest mistake you made along the way?

My first year as software developer, I deployed a reset password feature to a large music community site. A week or so after we deployed, a child of a VP of the client (or maybe it was an investor, I can’t remember) complained she couldn’t get into her account and hadn’t received her new password.

I was “sure” I had tested it, but it turned out I hadn’t done a very good job of it. There was a bug in my code and a bunch of users were waiting around for a regenerated password that would never arrive.

Needless to say, my boss wasn’t very happy it and for a good while I tread lightly worried I’d lose my job if I made another mistake. In retrospect, it was a good thing to get such a big production mistake out of the way early because I was extremely careful afterwards, always triple checking my work.

Tags: Software Development

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14 responses

  1. Avatar for Darren Kopp
    Darren Kopp December 20th, 2007

    So... based on the picture... which is you and which is scott? XD

  2. Avatar for Ryan Smith
    Ryan Smith December 20th, 2007

    That's really the biggest mistake you made along the way? For a first year software developer, a minor password reset failure seems pretty trivial.
    Reading that makes my mistakes seem a whole lot worse, especially in my first year of professional software development.
    Even now about 6 years into my professional software development career, I recently made a password reset mistake for an international site. When I got back the translated email text, the translators actually translated the <%=UserName%> and <%=Password%> text to Korean, and I was under such deadline pressure, I launched it that way and didn't even realize. I didn't find out until a conference call about 2 months later when the international administrators complained that it wasn't working.
    Still, that's hardly the worst mistake I've made in my career as a software developer. I suppose your just better than me.

  3. Avatar for Steven Harman
    Steven Harman December 20th, 2007

    @Darren, obviously Scott is the taller one as Phil is, well... not vertically gifted. Rob Conery actually once referred to Phil as "Phil of the Shire". :)

  4. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked December 20th, 2007

    @Ryan - it felt pretty bad at the time. I may have deleted a bunch of records in a production database once for a fortune 100 company during a merge replication migration, but my memory is hazy on that one and we had backups. :)

  5. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked December 21st, 2007

    @steven Dude, I'm 5'9"! Hardly vertically challenged. Rob only calls me that because he's ginormous! He makes the Brobdingnagians feel like Liliputians. Remember Jack and the Beanstalk? That was Rob up there.

  6. Avatar for Scott Hanselman
    Scott Hanselman December 21st, 2007

    Dude, you're insane. I'm 5'10". You're like 5'7".

  7. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked December 21st, 2007

    I'm 5'9"!

  8. Avatar for Scott Hanselman
    Scott Hanselman December 21st, 2007

    Then I'm 6'2".

  9. Avatar for Sameer Alibhai
    Sameer Alibhai December 22nd, 2007

    When you guys figure out your height give us a call

  10. Avatar for wife
    wife December 22nd, 2007

    it's a code-off, everyone, it's a code-off! let's keep it simple. old school rules.
    but honey, I want another baby so please don't pull a zoolander...

  11. Avatar for trixie nation
    trixie nation December 27th, 2007

    @ wife: ahahahaha! your husband is not as young and limber as he used to be.

  12. Avatar for Christopher Steen
    Christopher Steen December 28th, 2007

    Link Listing - December 28, 2007

  13. Avatar for Christopher Steen
    Christopher Steen December 28th, 2007

    Announcements Secret Server 4.0 has shipped! [Via: thycotic ] Christmas present - BlogEngine.NET 1.3...

  14. Avatar for Adron
    Adron January 2nd, 2008

    Ha... that's a nuthin oops.
    I brought down a 1200+ person network for 45 minutes once. I gotta say though, I think it was probably less expensive than yours. But only less expensive because it was at a Government Base, thus no one was really doing anything anyway. :o
    (j/k - I know some of you Guv'ment types work hard out there)