“Glitter and Sparkles…”
Ethar Alali

Hi Ethar. Good post. I’ve been doing some initial work on a STEAM lexicon (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) - and just to get things rolling I’ve started with what I could find on WordNet. On that esteemed resource (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)- engineering and technology are broadly synonymous, and ‘science’ is a parent term for the two of them. Then you have also have various other “applied sciences”, such as electronics and computer science, in the mix, too.

So I believe it’s academically that computing and engineering get conflated, and both as branches of science. Proper engineering should be undertaken in scientific enquiry mode, after all - either inductively (experiment, measure, hypothesise about the outcome) or deductively (hypothesise, design an experiment, measure the outcome). And of course, all good computing ought to be done that way - or preferrably both ways: spike (experiment), hypothesise (i.e. design a model), plan tests (UATs), build and (unit) test in tandem, and then test some more ‘at the end’ (i.e. further hypothesise and test around the things that happened that you didn’t expect once the system you’ve built is in the wild)…

The problem is: people that understand and follow this mode of academic enquiry are rare in computing. Though, as you know, you don’t need to be an academic to get it - hence many of the very best people we know in computing not actually having an academic background at all… But even the ones who’ve never had the have time for adademe still work like proper scientists, because it makes the most sense to work that way - by systematically batting out all the unknown quantities until you’re in as much control of the system as you need to be.

The sad fact is, however, that there are a lot of people in IT who don’t get it, at all. Many of them did go to uni and have bits of paper to prove it, too. In fact, if I’m completely honest, I didn’t learn how to make testing a fundamental part of my work until after I’d left Uni (the second time) either - learned that on the job. And I have a certain engineer we both know to thank for that…

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