Parameter parser

Hal Goldfarb codewell at
Wed Dec 4 04:37:56 CST 2002

On Tuesday 03 December 2002 11:42 pm, you wrote:
> No! Please post your reply - I'd like to see it, and like I said, it's an
> open question.

Well, OK.  But I am afraid I will not be quoting any famous or infamous 
people on anything.  Anything said here is strictly my own (possibly) (OK, 
probably) ignorant ideas.

I am a secret champion of regulation and licensing for our industry, which 
squarely puts me in the minority I think.   After all, if most people in the 
industry agreed with me, it would have been a done deal by now.

Yes, I agree using "strict" and other pragmas in Perl is probably a good idea 
for many reasons, although I doubt that will do anything for Perl's built-in 
obfuscation.  I wrote 1 entire C++ program once about 12 years ago, got a 
terrible pounding headache, and promptly cleaned all of my disk space of any 
trace of that awful language.  But I always liked things like objects, 
modules, packages, and other methods of segregating code along (hopefully) 
logical lines.  I like Perl because it has an extremely simple OO mechanism 
compared to that horror better known as C++.  I think we agree on this much, 

My real issue is not with programming, ongoing religious/philosophical wars, 
or the multitude of standards you are supposed to follow these days.  I 
simply hate the field of software and I.T.  Please brace yourself for this 
next part; it is brutal and unforgiving.

Having worked with computers and software for about 20 years now, my overall 
impression is that it is a lot like working in a giant kindergarten.   All 
kinds of people running around screaming and yelling, using words they really 
don't understand, calling others names and ruining them by making 
up stories about them, fingerpainting with shell scripts and basic and 
calling that art, having great big embarrassing accidents that are excused 
because "they just don't know any better", and probably even more analogies 
than I can think of at the moment.

When I was in business school, I was selected for an interview with one of 
the Big 8 accounting firms, and they offered me the position.  It paid rather 
well, too, I might add.  I had a class conflict so I did not take it 
(although later, my professor told me I could switch to his other section, 
damn it.  Oh well).  Now here I was a first-time nobody, with no professional 
experience, and absolutely no real background in either accounting or 
business.  And I am offered a job.  Why?  Because the interviewers 
acknowledged how smart I was.  (Sorry, I have to admit I am pretty fucking 
smart, book-wise I mean).  They also could tell that I was capable of doing 
the job.

I quit business school because I really did not like it much, and I had 
always had a liking to computing (I had had a chance a few years earlier to 
write FORTRAN 4 and watfiv programs at Technion, which is one of Israel's top 
schools).  After transferring to another university, I started a career in 
computer programming.  Here I was, again, a first-timer, know-nothing 
student.  I applied for a position as a "consultant", after seeing other CS 
students doing so, thinking that I knew about as much as they did.

I did, in fact, know as much as they did.   In fact, one day when finishing 
up helping several other students in the computer lab, I looked up to find 
that a queue had formed!!!  Imagine my surprise as they told me I had been 
more helpful to them than the "consultants", people who were paid far more 
than my meager job as a drug store clerk.   One consultant, with whom until 
then I had had a good relationship with, stepped into the lab and screamed at 
me:  "Hal Goldfarb!  You are NOT the consultant, I am!   Leave, now, or I'll 
have you thrown out.   All of you, back to your seats, or see me if you have 
a problem".   Or something very close to that.  I tried to argue with her, 
but there was no getting a word in edgewise.   I explained that I didn't even 
KNOW that these people were lining up for help.

Needless to say, I begged the computer department manager for a consulting 
position (although I wonder why I was not recommended instead).  They told me 
there were no openings, while I watched literally dozens of other CS students 
get consulting positions, some of them not lasting for more than a few days.  
Gee I wonder why.

I did get a good job with a company shortly after finishing up school, which 
I was thoroughly sick of at that point.  But most of the positions I got were 
either lousy money, or I didn't get to do coding, or I was forced to work for 
a complete moron.  Later, when I started consulting (about 10 years ago), I 
had to work with placement and recruiting people who had no clue what I do 
for a living.

My career in computing is very sad.  I have had to settle for working with 
utter morons and idiots.  Worse, some of the supervisors I had were worse 
than that, some of them were outright liars, backstabbers, and ghouls.  One 
supervisor I had caused me to get a case of shingles; she would not let me 
finish my doctor-ordered quarantine.  And there was a pregnant lady working 
with us at the time.  She and a certain SA continually changed the OS level 
of the Unix box I worked on so I could not complete my work (semaphore bug in 
the OS, ever heard of this?  Ran into similar problem a few years later in 
another place).

NOW ...  the point of all this.

What if, what if ... there was testing, licensing, and regulation of the 
software/IT industry?   Wouldn't that just be horrible?  Microsoft and Sun 
certifications are entirely inappropriate, because their exams and 
qualifications are designed to promote their commercial agendae.  Now, the 
IEEE Computer Society does have a test, but having looked over some of the 
sample questions on their site, I cannot say that this would be the 
consummate test of ability, but then again, maybe it is the best thing out 
there so far.  Every other area of engineering has testing, licensing and 
regulation.  Architecture (AIA), Accounting (AICPA), Medicine (AMA), Law 
(ABA), and so on, all have an examination and licensing process.   Some 
fields even have continuing education and retesting requirements as well.

The most common argument I have heard so far about my fascist plan for the 
I.T. professional world is that it would somehow impede progress and 
creativity in the field.   As far as progress, seems to me that engineering, 
medicine, and accounting are all making very good progress.  As far as 
creativity, yeah, that might be impeded a bit.  Or maybe a lot, an unbearable 
lot.  Perhaps once all the artsy-fartsy was removed from programming, we 
could actually start creating maintainable code that meets the needs of 
users.  If you want "COOL GRAPHICS MAN!" then maybe you should consider a 
career as an artist of some type.  If you want to be sloppy and arrogant 
toward customers, you could go work for a car dealership, they specialize in 
that sort of thing.

I didn't suddenly become less smart when I switched from accounting to 
computers.  My personality did not somehow become less tolerable, or my looks 
less attractive.  There is something fundamentally different between the 
fields.  Something fundamentally less mature, less professional, and with 
less integrity.

Recently, I began taking classes at community colleges here in the valley, 
thinking there might be something else I would like to do instead.  One area 
I am exploring is paralegalism.  Now, here is a field which is young, about 
30 years old, and already about half its membership is pushing for 
professional qualification.  Another area I am studying is home inspection, a 
field only 25 years old and has had regulation and licensing (in some states) 
for some time, with expansion coming in other states soon.  AZ is one of 2 
states requiring Home Inspection licensing, just in this last year.   The 
national organization has been providing credentials for many years now.

I am not claiming, at all, that somehow examining, licensing, and regulation 
(EL&R, for short, OK?) will solve all the problems facing us, particularly 
with regards to employment, but moreso in regards to producing maintainable 
code.  No system is perfect, but we don't got no system, so it can't work, 
can it?  Back to kindergarten.

Even without EL&R, there are things we could be doing already.  Like 
demanding that recruiters and HR people have at least 5 years, preferably 10 
years, working in the field doing actual work.   We could demand that they 
keep job ads SHORT, avoiding a ramble of skills lists, kind of the same way 
they would like to see our resumes.  And know how to sPeLl and use ReAl GoOd 
GraMMar.  Or maybe even proofread copy before posting to a mailing list.  
Just like they have to sift through 400 resumes to find the one candidate, I 
have to read hundreds of job ads every day to find one job.  Fair is fair, 
don't you think?  This would be a major step in the right direction.  And 
send those kiddies working for recruiters and temp agencies back to Burger 
King and Pizza Hut.  Especially now, with so many qualified software people 
looking for work!

Ready for flaming, SIR!!!


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