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The Power of the Software Engineer

The Power of the Software Engineer

In a world of commodity hardware, and screen after screen after screen, what power does a software engineer really have?

Steve Marshall

October 17, 2012

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  1. 1 Wednesday, 17 October 12 Me! - Twitter - Dev

    evangelist at EAN - Coding since ~8 - “The Power of the Software Engineer” - Whistle-stop tour of why I think software engineers are awesome
  2. 3 Wednesday, 17 October 12 This is BBN-TENEXA and BBN-TENEXB,

    the first machines to send/receive email. - 1971 Since then, we’ve changed the way the world communicates…
  3. 6 Wednesday, 17 October 12 … and over again, more

    times than I care to count. - Never been this easy to communicate this quickly/directly - Social influence used to be local, now trivial to be global Some of this is hardware, bulk is software. Speaking of Twitter…
  4. 7 Wednesday, 17 October 12 Spacelog! - Wanted to make

    transcripts of early space exploration as easy to discover as Twitter - Disclosure - Built in a week But there are countless ways software engineers are contributing to actual, current events in space exploration. My current favourite is…
  5. 8 Wednesday, 17 October 12 planethunters.org: - graphs solar brightness

    measurements - community involvement to identify exoplanets. Software engineers: - we’re finding new planets - classifying galaxies - commoditising satellites - tracking solar storms (and their impact on earth). Similar software-enabled efforts closer to home, too…
  6. 9 Wednesday, 17 October 12 OpenStreetMap’s Project Haiti (http://itoworld.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/ito-world-at- ted-2010-project-haiti.html)

    Visualisation by ITO for TED conf based on OpenStreetMap data of January 2010 Haiti earthquake OSM, CrisisMappers, lots of community members collaborated - January 14th, high res satellite images made available - Mappers traced roads, damaged buildings, camps of displaced people into OSM - Each flash: new edit. Primary + secondary roads (green/red), then smaller streets, then camps (blue) - Map used by crisis management teams, aid workers, and the UN to get around - People the world over can meaningfully contribute to well-being of others half a world away - Aid in form of time and money
  7. 10 Wednesday, 17 October 12 Who remembers these? BRIO trains,

    made in Sweden since 1958 Had them (including this one!) as a kid Beautifully crafted toys; lots of affordances • Exude train-ness without being a train • Magnets to link them • Wheels that run on tracks "A lie-to-children is a statement that is false, but which nevertheless leads the child's mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie." —Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, see also: Wittgenstein's ladder Good toys do this • Simplify concepts so we can understand them, but show us the edges so we know where the lie stops • Because we discovered the concepts ourselves, they really stick with us What if you could give someone a toy planet to play with? What would they learn about biological dynamics (food webs), geological controls, and so on? We can make any thought tangible. - Not just the physically possible ones; we can make impossibilities, dreams, we can connect with people on base, visceral, emotional levels.
  8. 11 Wednesday, 17 October 12 Video games let software engineers

    do this, over and over Portal teaches you physics, then tests your knowledge, all whilst you have fun playing with physics Video games can be amazing toys (but aren’t always) • Show you the rules, then let you play with them. • Can let you play with things that would be impossible with normal toys (particle physics, biomechanics, evolution, …) Will Wright (creator of SimCity, The Sims, Spore) talked about games as toys at TED (https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3NA-aKpgFk)
  9. 12 Wednesday, 17 October 12 “[The computer is] the most

    remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”—Steve Jobs, 1990 - Look around; computers are commonplace - Hardware is everywhere, but is tending towards “commodity” of screen + keyboard or even just screen, so software becomes differentiator - In a world where everyone uses bicycles, bicycle repair men are superheroes (Python?) - In what other field can you move, with relative ease, from being world-class toy-maker to making the world's largest communication system to being involved in the world's largest librarianish?! systems not over the course of a lifetime, but within the space of a day or less? (Cf. Crockford) - Software engineers can—and have to—know every industry, and can—and have— revolutionise every industry - Software engineers hold the keys to the future, and all the power