Software Super Powers.
Yes, software is about producing work efficiently. It's an area that is all caught up in financial truths and marketing realities and human drama. Agile software in particular has human drama, cost management, risk management, and other difficult muckety bits of truth to wrestle into submission. Oh, yes, it's a business, let's not have any doubt about that.
But it's not always so stodgy, technical, and unimaginative. Software is all about giving super-powers to human beings.
I have a poor built-in compass, and have trouble keeping my directions straight. If I were more attentive and patient, or were able to keep more of a map in my head, I would be fine. As it is it takes me a long time to acclimate to a new area. For a consulting software developer, that's a tough deficiency. I remember how excited I was when I had my first (so far only) GPS and was consistently able to reach restaurants and hotels and worksites. I became fearless. Technology compensated for me, and I suddenly seemed to be an amazing dead-reckoning, direction-memorizing navigational marvel.
Google gives us a super-power by which one may research nearly any topic in seconds or minutes. We can find the closest reuben sandwich or pizza parlor. It shows us maps from our house to our new consulting gig. It helps us find other superpowers we need, like the ability to fly (or at least buy airline tickets). Not to mention recipies and cooking instructions for hot sauces or confections. We can do things that otherwise we would have difficulty doing. That's without mentioning news aggegators and rss feeds.
The portable MP3 player (or the software that plays MP3s on our handheld) gives our lives an interesting, personalized sound track. Through podcasting it also delivers new intelligence to us during our long commutes. We arrive after a mind-numbing 1.5 hour commute and have new ideas in our heads, new facts, new directions, new interests. That's amazing stuff. Normal, everyday people are suddenly transformed into publishers, broadcasters, interview show hosts, technical marvels, social activists or the like through the medium of web publishing, podcasting, and the wonders of wiki.
The open source movement gives us the ability to acquire and manufacture superpowers with the free help of existing superheroes. It is available to everyone at a very reasonable fee ($0.00), so that we can share our superpowers and share the experience of becoming super together.
But what about the business situation? When we are at the customer site, our first goal is to give superpowers to those who have trusted us with the opportunity. They want the ability to do work that would otherwise be difficult or impossible, error-prone, or at the least dull and tedious. They want the ability to do the work of a dozen earnest workers, and to have their worked checked by a tireless expert colleague. They want to be able to recall a few facts from piles of millions that may have been entered into the system by people they may have never met. They want knowledge, intelligence, integrity, and lightning speed.
Superpowers are worth money. The problem is that creating superpowers is difficult, and risky, and can be very expensive. That's why we look for more intelligent and reliable methods, better languages and development environments, less risky and less difficult frameworks. We are looking for the tools and techniques that give us the amazing superpower of embueing others with super powers. It's an amazing job, impossible not to love.
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