process theory · API design


Many debates in software development are underpinned by whether the speaker has a DirectingAttitude or an EnablingAttitude. These different attitudes affect choices over languages, designs, tools, processes, and lots more.

Here's some examples of this dichotomy:

These aren't hard-wired attitudes. Often people are directing in some cases and enabling in others. But I think there is a deep strain running through here, often a personality issue, that runs underneath much discussion on how we do software. (I'm very much in the enabling category, as if you can't tell.)

You might think that all restrictions on what a developer does imply a directing attitude, but it's not that simple. As an example, consider memory management. You can think of this as a directing feature: programmers can't be trusted to manage memory correctly so take away their ability to allocate memory. But I look at memory management as an enabling technology - it takes away something I don't want to worry about, so I can concentrate better on those things I do care about. Steve tied this thought nicely onto the difference between problems and difficulties.

reposted on 11 Mar 2014

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