re: Is generalization killing creativity in the software industry? VIEW POST


Don't get me wrong: software engineering theory is important for anyone who wants to program professionally ... creativity is crushed by formal education.

This is sad to hear. I have no formal education in computer science or engineering; I have two degrees in the highly practical discipline of European Philosophy. What I would point out is that 'engineering' has the same linguistic route as 'ingenuity'; if your engineering degree isn't teaching you how to solve problems creatively then it's failing you.

Industrialization targets efficiency, normally by providing ways of automating processes or making them more efficient, so they can be executed in batches.

This analysis is correct, but I think your pivot to targeting 'formal education' is a misstep.

Automation requires generalization

If you were to ask me for examples of generalization in software development that stifle creativity...

  • Java
  • Angular
  • React
  • Spring
  • Material Design

'Enterprise' frameworks and languages. When a business invests heavily in one or more of these technologies they're ensuring that very little actual engineering will go on; all solutions will be worked on within these technologies, eventually all problems will be seen through their prism. Developers will become fungible - one Spring developer is pretty much the same as the next Spring developer for a certain class of business. Consistency is achieved both in terms of product and in the way it's produced.

That consistency is prized above simplicity and innovation.

Simplicity goes out of the window when SPAs are regarded as necessary in situations where serving up plain HTML would be enough.

And woe betide anyone who would try and solve a problem without using a standardised framework, you're going against "best practice", "nobody will understand your code", "you're just going to end up writing your own framework"... all from developers who are all, dare I say, perhaps suffering from Stockholm syndrome having worked within a framework for too long?

Is full of examples in the comments.


I am not sure if framworks stifle creativity.

Creativity does not mean doing whatever you want. You always need an outer frame that you normally do not leave but inside of which there is room for creativity.

Think of music. Most of it adheres to very strict rules of harmony, rhythm, form and so on. Still, composing and even performing music is undoubtedly a creative activity.

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