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Making Software: Is It Science, Engineering, Art Or What?


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#1
JimRaynor

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So you build a piece of software whose final product is a .EXE file that sits on someone's PC.
OR
You deploy something on a web server(exe,dll, .php, whatever).. and people run this application from their web browser on their PC.

The process of making software... what is it?
Art, Science, or WHAT.

I subscribe to the Allan Cooper view that building software is an act of craftsmanship.

"Business people don’t often do best-to-market because they don’t know how–we need to show them. Many have industrial age skills. They view software as mass production.
Best-to-market only happens through craftsmanship. It’s all about quality–it’s all about getting it right, not to get it fast. It’s measured by quality, not speed. It’s a pure measurement, and a delightful one.
Craftsmen do it over and over again until they get it right."

http://benzilla.galb...te-alan-cooper/
www.Cooper.com

Allan Cooper is a god among men icon_smile.gif

Discuss.

Edited by JimRaynor, 21 May 2009 - 02:19 AM.

QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
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#2
way2lazy2care

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QUOTE (JimRaynor @ May 21 2009, 02:16 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>

engineering is science. I look at software development like archetecture. It can be a marriage of the artistic and scientific(games), or it can be a very hard science (in the case of many business applications).
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#3
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These terms are relative and mainly depend on how or what the program is being used for, and by what means and purposes it was made.

If you use a tree to make 2x4s it's engineering, however, if you make a sculpture out of the trunk, it's art.
Get the analogy?

QUOTE (Dylantendo @ Feb 25 2010, 08:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What?! An unrealistic video game?? That's absurd!

#4
Slinky

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Define art. Personally, I would say art is a work which is created with the purpose of invoking emotion or thought in the viewer. I don't think software can achieve this. The work made from software? maybe. However the software's hard lines of coding? no. (imo)

Science? I don't think so. I think people tend to throw the term science around pretty loosely.

I'd put making software in the same category as building a house.

Edited by Slinky, 21 May 2009 - 10:13 PM.


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#5
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I remember that many universities offer programs called software engineering (building programs I guess). But then theres also computer science which is just programming, which can also be called making programs.
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#6
way2lazy2care

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QUOTE (Slinky @ May 21 2009, 10:06 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Define art. Personally, I would say art is a work which is created with the purpose of invoking emotion or thought in the viewer. I don't think software can achieve this. The work made from software? maybe. However the software's hard lines of coding? no. (imo)

what? the "work made from software" is software. If you look at a videogame, you see images on a screen. Those images ARE the software. The code is just the logic that decides what the software does.

Video games are the prime example that software can be created with the purpose of invoking emotion or thought in the viewer, as you put it.
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#7
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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 22 2009, 06:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
what? the "work made from software" is software. If you look at a videogame, you see images on a screen. Those images ARE the software. The code is just the logic that decides what the software does.

Video games are the prime example that software can be created with the purpose of invoking emotion or thought in the viewer, as you put it.


Exactly what i was about to point out tbh icon_wink.gif

As a software engineer myself, I would say its all of the above. Its a science, because there are laws and rules to follow. It's an art form because you have to be creative when solving problems, not to mention the fact that the end result often requires some form of astheticly pleasing interface to the user. And it is most definatly engineering, seeing as we are called "software engineers" and often refer to the software's "architecture", IE the way it is laid out, how different parts interact with eachother etc, just like the different components of a building all interact and work together to form a single structure.

So yeh, it's not one, but all of those things tbh icon_wink.gif

#8
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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 21 2009, 10:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
engineering is science.

engineering != science

science is the acquisition of new knowledge; nothing more than that.
engineering APPLIES science to solve a real world problem or meet a real world need.
QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
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#9
way2lazy2care

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QUOTE (JimRaynor @ May 24 2009, 02:56 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
engineering != science

science is the acquisition of new knowledge; nothing more than that.
engineering APPLIES science to solve a real world problem or meet a real world need.

that's not what science is.

sci⋅ence  [sahy-uhns] Show IPA
–noun
1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
4. systematized knowledge in general.
5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
6. a particular branch of knowledge.
7. skill, esp. reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.

Engineering is very much a branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws (usually physical laws).
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#10
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This debate reminds me of Hideo Kojima's "Games are not Art" quote.

#11
JimRaynor

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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 24 2009, 04:09 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
that's not what science is.
sci⋅ence  [sahy-uhns] Show IPA
–noun
1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
4. systematized knowledge in general.
5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
6. a particular branch of knowledge.
7. skill, esp. reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.
Engineering is very much a branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws (usually physical laws).


I am referring to the ACTION of Engineering something as opposed to what appears in textbook when studying how to become and Engineer.
The ACT of developing software is considered "engineering" by some people.

Engineering definitely isn't any of the first 5 of those ...
6 is so vague it could apply to anything
now dealing with #7...

you might hear this during informal speaking ...
he has Starcraft down to a "science".
that is a colloquialism...

Another way to understand the difference between "science" and "engineering" is to examine the activities of your typical every day scientist and your typical every day engineer.
Go to a university and ask a few guys who have PHDs in Physics what is different about their primary focus versus that of say a Mechanical Engineer (with or without a PHD) icon_smile.gif

Generally speaking when you use the term "scientist" this is a person who discovers new facts.
"Engineer"s may use some of hte new facts a "scientist" discovers, but an engineers primary responsibility does not encompass the scientific discovery process.

Not only does "Science" != "Engineering", also "Scientist" != "Engineer"

Edited by JimRaynor, 24 May 2009 - 06:16 AM.

QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
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#12
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QUOTE (Personal @ May 24 2009, 04:18 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This debate reminds me of Hideo Kojima's "Games are not Art" quote.

well the thing i find most interesting is...
we have hundreds of thousands of people who "make computer software"
and a great many of these "developers" aren't clear on the essence of what it is they are doing...
it is difficult to hit a target you cannot see....
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QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
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#13
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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 23 2009, 03:00 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
what? the "work made from software" is software. If you look at a videogame, you see images on a screen. Those images ARE the software. The code is just the logic that decides what the software does.

Video games are the prime example that software can be created with the purpose of invoking emotion or thought in the viewer, as you put it.

I meant visual art from photoshop etc.

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#14
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QUOTE (Slinky @ May 24 2009, 10:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I meant visual art from photoshop etc.

There's plenty of software that is art too though. Like I said, video games are a prime example of software being used as an art form. There's also a good number of websites that have very creative and visually appealing layouts.

@JimRaynor

so the application of science isn't science? I bet you'd get slapped in the face if you said that to any of the physicists that work for NASA.
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#15
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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 25 2009, 02:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There's plenty of software that is art too though.
Like?

QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 25 2009, 02:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
video games are a prime example of software being used as an art form. There's also a good number of websites that have very creative and visually appealing layouts.
Just because you can loosely define games as art doesn't mean that all software engineering is art. I would also argue that the artistic elements of a game come from the design and narrative, not the code. You paint a picture. The picture that you paint could be considered art. The paint you used is not. imo.

QUOTE (ViRuS52 @ May 24 2009, 02:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It's an art form because you have to be creative when solving problems, not to mention the fact that the end result often requires some form of astheticly pleasing interface to the user.
A programs most important quality is to solve a problem, no? Whether it is aesthetically pleasing, or the code is at all beautiful, is secondary. I think that's what separates it from being art, since arts primary goal is beauty/emotional response.

Edited by Slinky, 25 May 2009 - 09:56 AM.


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#16
JimRaynor

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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 24 2009, 12:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
so the application of science isn't science? I bet you'd get slapped in the face if you said that to any of the physicists that work for NASA.

if the physicists were performing experiments to test new theories and publishing their results for peer review then they are indeed in science.
if the physicists were working in quality control of a manufacturing process of a part of the solid fuel rocket booster then they are involved in engineering and their job is NOT as a scientist.
how these theoretical NASA employees "feel" about their job titles has no impact on the facts.
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QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
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#17
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QUOTE (way2lazy2care @ May 24 2009, 12:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There's plenty of software that is art too though. Like I said, video games are a prime example of software being used as an art form. There's also a good number of websites that have very creative and visually appealing layouts.

if, sometimes, a piece of software can be viewed as a "work of art"...
what does that make the activity of making that piece of software?

"i'm an artist... i'm drawing unemployment"
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QUOTE (Slinky @ May 24 2009, 09:50 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Just because you can loosely define games as art doesn't mean that all software engineering is art.


Here is an interesting comparison between software development as a "craft" versus software development as "engineering"...
http://www.roodyn.co...Engineering.pdf

Because of the detailed interactions between a digital product and its user i'm inclined to view software development as a craft.

in 1975 i think software development followed the traditional "engineering" methodology...
i don't think it does any longer...

Edited by JimRaynor, 25 May 2009 - 01:36 PM.

QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
If Tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy

#18
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Depends on the program, it can easily fall into a science for like say a server that needs to handle hundreds of thousands of requests without keeling over, or it could be art, like the perl version of 99 bottles, it can fall in the realm of both in the case of programs like games, or even productivity, or it could fall in the valley of neither(which I'll refer to as hell) for a yet another database frontend

TBH though does it really matter?

#19
JimRaynor

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QUOTE (eedok @ May 25 2009, 02:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Depends on the program, it can easily fall into a science for like say a server that needs to handle hundreds of thousands of requests without keeling over, or it could be art, like the perl version of 99 bottles, it can fall in the realm of both in the case of programs like games, or even productivity, or it could fall in the valley of neither(which I'll refer to as hell) for a yet another database frontend
TBH though does it really matter?

When a software project is behind "schedule" and things start to go wrong during development ... a thorough understanding of what the software development process is is beneficial
this is a great example of that: http://search.barnes...e/9780672316494
if you have a 10,000 foot bird's eye view of the task at hand it helps to see the forest through the trees.

and when making software ... i encounter a lot of trees icon_smile.gif

"Know thyself"
"is the unexamined life worth living?"

Edited by JimRaynor, 25 May 2009 - 01:48 PM.

QUOTE (James Madison @ Aug 25 1781, 11:48 AM)
If Tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy

#20
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QUOTE (JimRaynor @ May 25 2009, 12:44 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
a thorough understanding of the software development process is beneficial

Will classifying software as a science or an art help or hinder this? My guess is that it's as pointless as me changing your quote to say the same thing in less words.




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