Home > C++, technical > Misapplication Of Partially Mastered Ideas

Misapplication Of Partially Mastered Ideas

Because the time investment required to become proficient with a new, complex, and powerful technology tool can be quite large, the decision to design C++ as a superset of C was not only a boon to the language’s uptake, but a boon to commercial companies too – most of whom developed their product software in C at the time of C++’s introduction. Bjarne Stroustrup‘s decision killed those two birds with one stone because C++ allowed a gradual transition from the well known C procedural style of programming to three new, up-and-coming mainstream styles at the time: object-oriented, generic, and abstract data types. As Mr. Stroustrup says in D&E:

Companies simply can’t afford to have significant numbers of programmers unproductive while they are learning a new language. Nor can they afford projects that fail because programmers over enthusiastically misapply partially mastered new ideas.

That last sentence in Bjarne’s quote doesn’t just apply to programming languages, but to big and powerful libraries of functionality available for a language too. It’s one challenge to understand and master a language’s technical details and idioms, but another to learn network programming APIs (CORBA, DDS, JMS, etc), XML APIs, SQL APIs, GUI APIs, concurrency APIs, security APIs, etc. Thus, the investment dilemma continues:

I can’t afford to continuously train my programming workforce, but if I don’t, they’ll unwittingly implement features as mini booby traps in half-learned technologies that will cause my maintenance costs to skyrocket.

BD00 maintains that most companies aren’t even aware of this ongoing dilemma – which gets worse as the complexity and diversity of their product portfolio rises. Because of this innocent, but real, ignorance:

  • they don’t design and implement continuous training plans for targeted technologies,
  • they don’t actively control which technologies get introduced “through the back door” and get baked into their products’ infrastructure; receiving in return a cacophony of duplicated ways of implementing the same feature in different code bases.
  • their software maintenance costs keep rising and they have no idea why; or they attribute the rise to insignificant causes and “fix” the wrong problems.

I hate when that happens. Don’t you?

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