What the Maker movement brings to the concept of mastery in software

This post is part of my 200 words per day challenge that I am sharing publicly on Twitter in order to improve my writing and develop a writing routine. Feel free to join and comment.

The historical craftsman is a skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft.

In the historical craftsmanship model, a journeyman can become a master by delivering a masterpiece demonstrating his technical expertise, and considered as such by already established masters. A master is also an owner who can take on apprentices, employees and create a business in his name: a business owner.

Now, the software industry does have an official craftsmanship manifesto, called the Software Craftsman Manifesto. This manifesto does reflect some values of the craftsmanship spirit: the quest for technical mastery, and the search for harmony between individualities and collaborative environments, “to produce a whole that transcended the purely mechanical side of the construction” (The Pragmatic Programmer, by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas).

But when we try to define what is a software master, this writing is incomplete: it emphasizes too much on the technical expertise required to become a master.

Here is what the hacker/maker movement brings: software ownership. Nowadays, anybody can own a tech startup, a software product, or a part of it, whether it is open source or not. Yes, solo tech founders are a contemporary thing, thanks to all the tools and frameworks and services available to decrease the overall time-to-market.

This ownership brings leadership problematics: software craftsmen ARE becoming business owners, to varying degrees.

This possibility provides us with a way to define what a masterpiece could be in software: a product that is 1) the result of a technical mastery, 2) solving a problem and 3) in an innovative way.

Such products can no longer be judged by “fellow masters”, but by users instead.

A software master is a creator and owner of a highly technical and successful original piece of software.

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