Book Image

Understanding Software

By : Max Kanat-Alexander
Book Image

Understanding Software

By: Max Kanat-Alexander

Overview of this book

In Understanding Software, Max Kanat-Alexander, Technical Lead for Code Health at Google, shows you how to bring simplicity back to computer programming. Max explains to you why programmers suck, and how to suck less as a programmer. There’s just too much complex stuff in the world. Complex stuff can’t be used, and it breaks too easily. Complexity is stupid. Simplicity is smart. Understanding Software covers many areas of programming, from how to write simple code to profound insights into programming, and then how to suck less at what you do! You'll discover the problems with software complexity, the root of its causes, and how to use simplicity to create great software. You'll examine debugging like you've never done before, and how to get a handle on being happy while working in teams. Max brings a selection of carefully crafted essays, thoughts, and advice about working and succeeding in the software industry, from his legendary blog Code Simplicity. Max has crafted forty-three essays which have the power to help you avoid complexity and embrace simplicity, so you can be a happier and more successful developer. Max's technical knowledge, insight, and kindness, has earned him code guru status, and his ideas will inspire you and help refresh your approach to the challenges of being a developer.
Table of Contents (50 chapters)
Understanding Software
About the Author
Customer Feedback
The Engineer Attitude
The Singular Secret of the Rockstar Programmer
Software Design, in Two Sentences
Clues to Complexity
Ways To Create Complexity: Break Your API
When Is Backwards-Compatibility Not Worth It?
Complexity is a Prison
The Accuracy of Future Predictions
Simplicity and Strictness
Two is Too Many
What is a Bug?
What is a Computer?
The Components of Software: Structure, Action, and Results
Software as Knowledge
Simplicity and Security
How We Figured Out What Sucked
Why Programmers Suck
Developer Hubris
"Consistency" Does Not Mean "Uniformity"
Success Comes from Execution, Not Innovation

Chapter 41. Instant Gratification = Instant Failure

The broadest problem that I see in the software industry is that companies are unwilling to engage in strategies that only show results in the long term. Or, more specifically, that organizations are unaware that there is any such thing as a long-term strategy.

In the US, it's probably a symptom of a general cultural problem – if an American can't see an instant result from something, they think it doesn't work. This leads to fast food, french fries, and obesity. The healthy way to eat (protein and vegetables) has a delayed effect on the body (you don't get the energy for over an hour), and the bad way to eat (endless carbohydrates without nutritional value) has an instant result – immediate energy.

Software is always a long-term process.

I wrote the first version of VCI (, in about three weeks, and that was insanely fast. Any actual application (VCI is just a library for interacting with version-control systems...