Software Programming as Craft

| by Dave West Follow 3 Followers on Aug 02, 2010. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

The Cutter Consortium recently published an issue of the Cutter IT Journal focused on Software Programming as Craft: The Impact of Agile Development. The issue is available as a free download. (You must register and enter the promotion code in the small orange box on the page.)

Jens Coldewey is the Guest Editor for this edition. In his Opening Statement, Coldewey traces the origin of the craftsmanship movement to an OOPSLA workshop.

Twelve years ago, four remarkable guys - Bruce Anderson, Norm Kerth, Dave West, and Ken Auer - conducted a remarkable workshop at the OOPSLA conference in Vancouver: "Software as a Studio Discipline." ... The 1998 workshop was officially focused on teaching, but reading the call for participation today makes it look like the starting point of [the software craftsmanship movement].

Pete McBreen, a participant in the workshop, published Software Craftsmanship three years later and Bob Martin, in 2008, proposed adding a fifth line to the Agile Manifesto, "[We value] Craftsmanship over crap."

According to Coldewey, software craftsmanship became a 'movement' in response to "a growing uneasiness among many agilists: that with the tremendous success of Scrum, more and more people reduced the the agile movement to the Scrum practices ... [ignoring] the ability to deliver high-quality code in a frequent and fast rythm without spoiling the code base."

Still according to Coldewey, the craftsman advocates claim:

... a good code base is the foundation for frequent delivery of valuable software, and a stable team of caring professionals in close alignment with the stakeholder's business goals is the foundation of a good code base. [and] programming is a skill that requires lifelong learning ... collaborating with skilled peers ... [and] tacit knowledge and experience. And this is where craft enters the scene: craftsmanship is the traditional means of teaching and transferring tacit knowledge and experience.


The issue consists of six articles plus the guest editor's opening statement.

  • "The Seven Dimensions of a True Craftsman" by Mathew A. Stuempfle and J. David Gibson. The article attempts to answer the question of what it takes to be a true craftsman? For them it comes down to seven key dimensions: Understanding the Necessity of the Craft; Play Multiple Roles, Realize the Importance of Mentors, Active Team Player, Understand the Audience, Know It's Occasionally OK to Fail, and Anticipate and Navigate Continual Change.
  • "Engineering: YES; Craft: NO" by Ken Orr and Paul G. Basset who argue that craftsmanship is a misguided "infatuation" and the real need is for the software industry to "mature into an engineering discipline."
  • "How Craftsmanship Survives Explosive Growth" by Lawrence Fitzpatrick, a case study of "hlow a growing software development group was able to maintain a semblance of craftsmanship in the face of serious countervailing pressures."
  • "Sustainable Agile Software Development" by Stefan Roock, a description of "the basic principles of incremental design" and how they can enable long term, cost effective, maintenance of software systems.
  • "Today's Business World Needs Contextual Craftsmanship" by Gil Broza. Broza argues that "pure software craftsmanship is impractical in today's world" and a different sort of craftsmanship, "contextual craftsmanship" is needed and possible.
  • "Who Crafts the User Experience: UI Developers or UX Designers?" by Michael Hughes. Hughes focuses on the human-computer system, usability, and why the emerging specialization of user experience (UX) design should be part of craftsmanship.


This article provides interesting and useful information about the origin of the craftsmanship movement and some of the important issues being discussed. It might be useful preparation for anyone attending the 2010 SCNA Conference.


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Hands-on software craftsmanship by 高 翌翔

I am a practicer of software craftsmanship.

I am concerned about the issue and downloaded the issue from

Practice is the sole criterion for testing truth.

Promotion Code by Jürgen Leitner

Can anyone provide a valid promotion code?

Kind regards,

Re: the Promotion Code is SOFTWARECRAFT by 高 翌翔

The promotion code is SOFTWARECRAFT.

Comment: Enter the promotion code exactly, using all uppercase letters. You can use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V :)

Re: the Promotion Code is SOFTWARECRAFT by Jürgen Leitner

Thank you!

Good point! by steve zhang

I totally agree with it. I believe the biggest problem is let our manager aware the concept of software craftsmanship and importance of clean code base. Unfortunately there are few manager that has a developer background, which is very difficult for them to accept the concept. So I will say Agile is so difficult because of the ignorance of the manager.

Re: Good point! by Manuel Palacio

Fire the manager :)

Really? Software Craftsmanship? by Jason Gorman

This Cutter publication seems to be about a different Software Craftsmanship movement to the one I've been hearing about (and participating in).

Software craftsmen and deployment automation by XebiaLabs XebiaLabs

Hi Dave, nice article. I agree that a good code base is needed for frequent valuable software delivery, and that a stable team is important. However, in order to bring a team together and keep up with the frequent deliverables that good code makes possible, we have to address automated deployment. Software craftsmen who are looking at the impact of Agile development will see that automated deployment is needed to deliver working software in the faster iterations Agile allows. Would you agree that understanding the benefits of deployment automation should be a part of their learning experience?

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