Real Engineering

Glenn Vanderburg has put up a great article about the flaws in some of the simple-minded comparisons that sometimes get made between software development and "real engineering". I reminded of some of those shows put out by the Discovery Channel about gigantic civil (usually) engineering feats. I don't have a TV so I ony really see any when I'm travelling and want to zone out for a bit, but I always look for these shows. What I love about them is that, in amongst all the impressive toys and hurculean efforts there is drama. This is really why they make good television, almost more than the spectacle. And they have drama because these big engineering projects always go wrong. They overrun their budgets, miss deadlines, assumptions turn out to be false and invalidate plans, tools don't work as advertised, techniques turn out to be misapplied, and when you get right down to it, it turns out to be the collective inventiveness of the teams doing the work that makes the project a success. Real engineering. The difference between us inthe IT industry and those folks is not that we have spectacular failures and they don't, it's that they learn from theirs.