Adequacy is Inadequate «

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This post started as a comment on Reg Braitwaithe’s post Certification? Bring it on! and metastasized into a post of its own.

It sounds like you’ve given up on software development. You’re drawing a line in the sand at the outside edge of a program to say, “Here, this far and no further, here is where I can objectively judge software. This is my one firm place from which I’ll move the world.”

You’re not wrong, it’s a good place to make a stand for quality. But you’re not right when the nicest thing you can say about a program is, “Well… it works.”

I don’t want to be poisoned when I go to a restaurant, yes, that’s the minimum bar. But I want fine food, not just fast food. I want to be delighted by my meals, not merely satiated. The software market suffers from a staggering demand and the barely competent who have stumbled up to meet it. If the marketplace could decide quality, the Daily WTF would not exist, but it’s a market for lemons.

I code because I love writing good code. It keeps me up at night — hell, it wakes me up at night. I don’t code so I can tell myself I’ve adequately performed my duties, I code because I love writing the best code I can and then pushing the definition of what my best is.

Maybe I’m ranting away at a false dichotomy. A certification based on testing is a great idea and I’d hit the books to earn it. I just don’t think it’s enough.


  1. “A certification based on testing is a great idea and I’d hit the books to earn it. I just don’t think it’s enough.”

    Well, it wouldn’t be enough for me, so we are probably in violent agreement! But if we are talking about certification, we are talking about dictating to business who they can hire and who they cannot hire.

    I don’t want to eat at McDonald’s, and I don’t want to work there. But I don’t want to legislate them out of business either: I just want to be sure that if I buy some fries for my son from time to time, he won’t get sick.

    I personally have a standard for software I produce. It goes beyond quality. But that’s one of my personal values, and I am loathe to force it on someone else.

    That being said, if you give me the legislative hammer, a lot of people who write unsafe, buggy crap are going to feel like nails.

  2. I think it’s clearly not enough, but rather a baseline. Reg’s chef analogy is an adequate one (though I wouldn’t take it too far) in that simply because a chef has their papers doesn’t mean they’re fit to work in a 5-star restaurant or mean you want them at yours.

    It does mean they weren’t an out-of-work actor yesteday who picked up a cookbook yesteday and baked themselves some muffins before coming by to waste your time interviewing to be sous chef (yeah web “developers”, I’m looking at you).

    What’s “enough” is then defined by us, our needs, and our tolerances.

    Hmm, perhaps we need a Michellin guide for development companies…?

  3. perhaps we need a Michellin guide for development companies…?

    Interestingly, has a feature where companies can brag about their “Joel Test” score. So if you don’t want to work for a three out of twelve…

    You don’t have to.

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