Poetry That Pays

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In Silicon Valley the other day, an engineer clenched his teeth and declared "Software is like poetry. It can't be rushed." In 30 years of IT meetings, I've heard a lot of engineers emboss their efforts with similar 'high art' statements. The "poetry claim" occurred after a reformed etymology major, now saddled on a MBA, attempted to corral a group of software engineers. Being a novice, she used the prod, "Your jobs are at risk if you're late."

The herd turned. One engineer stampeded out, bellowing "Writing Software is like glass blowing or metal working, not an assembly line cattle butcher." Dressing the MBA's saddle sores I thought about the artisan-author metaphor. Writing software is like being a poet. Few understand what we write, publishers never like our first draft, and like most artists, our creativity is under a constant influence of new movements.

A recent raucous meeting took place about whether we should adopt cloud computing. In the software world, this is the equivalent of introducing free verse. Cloud people want no restrictions and no containment. The earth bound feel old structured forms of poetry like sonnets can do the job. Confused, our MBA had the look of a baby bird threatened by cat sounds.

"It's like Google", I reassured her.

"Oh Google," she peeped up, thinking of nesting in dollars rather than flying in a cloud. That's our industry.


MBA's make money off of poetry they can't understand, and why not? When software artists get it right, the whole world wants a copy, copies MBAs are happy to sell. The Valley's in recession now. Like many industries, our efforts are reduced to Excel spreadsheets. People who never typed a line look at a computer and make decisions about moving dollars to favor foreign writers over the local. What's crazy, if it wasn't for the software poets publishing their incomprehensible snippets, the spreadsheets, the computers, and the cappuccino machines that keep MBAs alert would never be move and never hum.

With a Perspective, I'm Stan Pisle.