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Programming is a Craft (And that's a good thing)

Programming is a craft. You are building something. The modern languages have given the programmer great ownership of the craft. Before it was more like an assembly and one programmer was responsible for one cog in a big machine and few programmers, the elite, saw the whole machine, understood the whole craft. But now with languages like Ruby and Python, the massive power at the hands of the programmer bring the whole thing back to a craft. It is something you do with your hands. It is creative, like writing and while not physical or tactile, it is built piece by piece.

The connection is deep and actually obscured by the way programming is taught. Because programming originated from a mathematical discipline and math has mostly lost its craft origins and now is taught more as an intellectual pursuit, it is often forgotten that math is but a tool itself. Not an end goal. Math is used to do things with it. Calculous to measure trajectories of objects. Geometry is essential for architecture and building. Because Math as a tool, or tools, have become so important, it is a discipline onto itself. And it can solve problems we haven't asked yet. Computer Science is a bit like that, but programming is more like building something. If computation science is like geometry programming is beyond architecture to include building.

The beauty of a program comes from its functionality as much as its cleverness. Like a house. It can be beautiful and architecturally brilliant, but if it fails as a house it fails, however if the architecture enhances the house, then it's a masterpiece. Too much emphasis can be given to the algorithms of computation and not enough at honing the craft.

The care you take for a program is a beautiful thing. The desire to build it right, is a beautiful thing. To see it survive updates with minimal changes, to see it endure, to have its construction push you to learn new techniques and new ways to look, new paradigms, is a beautiful thing.

And like a craft, you hone it bit, by bit, each time raising your level once more. But the skill is not in how much you know, or even how much you've mastered, but in how you hone that craft. Do you value it? Do you express yourself through it honestly? Does it open you up like a meditation, or challenge you like a competitor?

Craft is a beautiful thing. Yet how do you convey that beauty to a potential employer? How do you avoid those clog-maker-seekers that will crush the beauty of your craft, thinking the programmer an interchangeable cog as well?

Come to think of it. What is not craft in one way or another?

Maybe I'm just a craft-man, and what I do is craft... one way or another...


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