The Origin of Best Practices


According to Richard Stallman, hackers have love of excellence and programming in common. The enjoy the creative challenging to overcome technical limitations and achieve things not thought possible before. People who are good at hacking are indispensable in todays technology-driven society. Hacking is a key skill, and we need people who are good at it. Without doubt, hacking is a useful skill in programming. Python is an excellent language to hack things in.

However, I don't think hacking is a great approach to programming in general. I give three reasons for that.

  • First hacking focuses on novel, difficult, or otherwise challenging problems.
  • Second, hacking has a strong connotation of excellence.Hackers are often considered an elite, a community that requires an unspoken skill level to belong to. But in programming ,there are many problems that do not need an expert to solve. Often, an average programmer is sufficient, where a hacker might become bored.
  • Third, not everybody wants to devote themselves to hacking. Many of us have other things to do than figuring out in all details how computers work; we have data to understand, websites to crate, a business to run, and families to take care of. In my option, programming is far too important to leave it to a small group of devoted experts.

Software engineering

Opposed to hacking, we find software engineering. Software engineering is concerned with a systematic approach to building software, usually in a corporate environment. Instead of focusing on the individual, software engineering is about controlling the entire process of building programs: its techniques cover finding out precisely what is to be built, designing a program with clearly defined opponents, verifying that the program actually works correctly and, finally, maintaining the program once it is being used.

The drawback of the software engineering approach is that it is too big for most Python projects.


The notion that software engineering is a rather heavy methodology is not new. When asking for an alternative, the answer you will often hear in 2017 is Agile. Agile is a philosophy dedicated to improving the software development process. Its core values are individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and responding to change. agile promotes rapid, evolutionary development of programs and working in short iterations.

Agile is a philosophy, not a set of tools. Agile tells us why we might want to program in a certain way (to crate working software quickly and have satisfied customers), but it does not tell us what to do when in front of a keyboard. Also, Agile frameworks are often difficult to implement in practice.

Software craftsmanship

Software craftsmanship acknowledges that a big portion of programming consists of simple task that need to be done. To do it well, we need to have the right tools, we need to have the right skills, and we need to apply both in practice. Programming being a craft like masonry, carpentry, or confectionery suggests that

  • Purpose matters. We are creating programs as a means to an end. Programming is not an art; we want to write programs that are used.
  • Planning matters.
  • Tools matter.
  • Skills matter.
  • Community matters.
  • Size does not matter.
  • Practice matters.

1 thought on “The Origin of Best Practices

  1. I agree with your statement that ‘practice matters’. This is something I constantly remind my students when they ask me how they can improve their python or other coding skills. Great post!

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