David Alan Hjelle

04/06/2023, 1:09 PM
The last couple podcasts connecting with programmer productivity reminded me of this article trying to trace software's impact — or not — on overall productivity. It's main claim is that software, so far, has not had the expected impact on overall productivity, and that the challenge is that it is hard and expensive to model the real world within the constraints of programming. (Maybe you read it differently!) It seems to me that this is one big challenge with end-user programming, too: many people don't want to think beforehand about all the exceptions to a rule that happen in real life, since real life allows you to address those exceptions on-the-fly.

Eric Normand

04/09/2023, 1:10 PM
Oh geez. That's a good explanation for why we haven't see ever-increasing productivity despite all of the investment on in software. For individuals and small teams, computers aren't much better than analog tech like in-person discussions or pencil and paper. I feel that in a lot of things I use computers for. So often, I'd rather do it on paper than deal with the upkeep of the hardware and software to do it.
Just today I was helping my wife with a computer issue. It took one hour and I don't think I fully solved it. There is an issue several times per week that she interrupts my work for me to solve. Companies can afford IT departments. To maintain a small fleet of household computers, I play that role. These are the kinds of costs that only are recouped in large organizations.
On the other hand, I think there are some industries/verticals that have been beneficiaries of huge productivity gains. I once was talking to an architect at a party. He was saying that before the industry was computerized, most of their time was spent erasing lines on blueprints. There was a suite of tools and tacit knowledge about how to remove lines without destroying the paper. Computerization meant they could edit the digital copy and print out a new one, at the cost of a much poorer user interface (mouse and keyboard vs pencil and t-square) for the initial draft.
Of course, things like that are a one-time win. They don't compound.