The Software Practitioner’s Digest: January 2012

This late issue of The Software Practitioner’s Digest, the first in 2012, highlights resources published in January in Better Software, Dr. Dobb’s, IEEE Software and Software Engineering Radio.

This digest has been the most difficult to compile so far, given how hesitant I was with regards to the inclusion of some research articles and essays which — although very revealing or thought-provoking — did not have much (or any) actionable material for practitioners. I decided not to include them in this issue, but I’d like to know whether my modest readership would enjoy finding articles that are simply interesting in future issues (rest assured that these would be backed by some evidence!). Please let me know what you think!

In this issue:

Popularity of Programming Languages in 2011

Andrew Binstock of Dr. Dobb’s analyses the latest trends in programming languages in The Rise and Fall of Programming Languages in 2011.

The author explores the causes for the decline in popularity of the most popular scripting languages (Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby), as well as the rise in adoption of languages such as Objective-C and JavaScript.

Domain-Specific Languages

Software Engineering Radio interviewed Martin Fowler and Rebecca Parsons on Domain-Specific Languages, covering topics that range from the definition to their classification, including advantages and disadvantages of DSLs.

I personally disliked the format of this interview because the host acted like a very active guest, and I was expecting Fowler and Parsons to be the only guests. Nevertheless, this 1-hour podcast is well worth listening to.

On the role of algorithms

The transcript of an interview with Yahoo’s Chief Architect David Chaiken about algorithms was published in the January/February 2012 issue of IEEE Software, under the title Excellence in Search: An Interview with David Chaiken.

In spite of the title, they discuss algorithms more broadly, including the importance of algorithms today, the use of algorithms at Yahoo! and relevant resources to stay current.

Creativity in Agile Teams

In the last issue of Better Software, Clinton Keith argued that Agile methods and creativity can work together and, in fact, Agile can help deliver a better/more realistic creative work if challenges are managed properly. The article, Creative Agility, is also freely available on

Related reading

  • Agile Development Projects and Usability, by Jakob Nielsen. User Experience is perhaps the only other aspect of software development (outside construction work) that is often reported to be challenging in Agile settings, and this essay offers some recommendations on how to address it.

Usability Testing with Users Thinking Aloud

Jakob Nielsen’s essay Thinking Aloud: The #1 Usability Tool describes thinking aloud as a cheap and effective testing technique which can help identify usability issues in many cases.

Reactions to DeMarco’s “All projects are late” article

Back in the November 2011 issue of TSPD, I talked about Tom DeMarco’s All Late Projects Are the Same article in IEEE Software. In the January/February issue of IEEE Software there’s a column to follow up DeMarco’s article, which includes different responses to the article, including David Parnas’.

The article’s highlight on Computing Now has even more comments, as well as an audio recording of an interview with DeMarco on the reactions to his article.