engineers as gardeners


There is a common belief in our culture about making software. In the same way as one imagines an architect working. You know, designing the building, in all its details, and then having that constructed. We've built an entire school of thought around the concept of software architecture. Like many people, I had assumed that we develop a product by following these principles. Indeed there was a point in the mid of the century XX century where we needed it. But things evolve.

A century later we are constantly fighting to shape the landscapes of our culture. Nobody wants to admit that things have changed. What once was right now doesn't have a meaning to exist. And we have built a lot on top of our past beliefs. But all things must end. We come from a time when shipping a new version literally meant shipping it. Putting the new floppy disks in a box, load the truck and send it to our clients. Where new releases or patches were yearly releases. Where bug fixes were sent with the "urgent" tape on the envelope. Ponder about this for a second. Nowadays we are releasing changes straight to production multiple times per a day. How things have changed. We are already a couple of decades into the era of cloud computing. Microservices architectures in the form of service meshes. Or in the form of giant pub/sub orchestrations. Most of them started from a quick MVP written in Python or Javascript. So yes, things have changed. And will continue to do so.

We need to abandon the idea of a program as something that we perfectly plan ahead and reproduce. We are not building a bridge to last two hundred years. We are not building a pyramid. We need to understand that software behaves like a living being. A multicelullar organism. It grows, falls sick, reproduces… it dies. We build products by programming seeds and watching them turn into something. We prepare our fields by configuring a cloud provider like AWS or a Kubernetes cluster. We build pipelines to irrigate our infrastructure with new code. Watch it grow and fight the bad weather. Use pesticides when bugs appear. And proudly see how our clients reap the fruits of our hard work.