Software craftsmanship

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Software craftsmanship is an approach to software development that emphasizes the coding skills of the software developers themselves. It is a response by software developers to the perceived ills of the mainstream software industry, including the prioritization of financial concerns over developer accountability.

Historically, programmers have been encouraged to see themselves as practitioners of the well-defined statistical analysis and mathematical rigor of a scientific approach with computational theory. This has changed to an engineering approach with connotations of precision, predictability, measurement, risk mitigation, and professionalism. Practice of engineering led to calls for licensing, certification and codified bodies of knowledge as mechanisms for spreading engineering knowledge and maturing the field.

The Agile Manifesto, with its emphasis on "individuals and interactions over processes and tools" questioned some of these assumptions. The Software Craftsmanship Manifesto extends and challenges further the assumptions of the Agile Manifesto, drawing a metaphor between modern software development and the apprenticeship model of medieval Europe.


The movement traces its roots to the ideas expressed in written works. The Pragmatic Programmer by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas and Software Craftsmanship by Pete McBreen explicitly position software development as heir to the guild traditions of medieval Europe. The philosopher Richard Sennet wrote about software as a modern craft in his book The Craftsman. Freeman Dyson, in his essay "Science as a Craft Industry", expands software crafts to include mastery of using software as a driver for economic benefit:

"In spite of the rise of Microsoft and other giant producers, software remains in large part a craft industry. Because of the enormous variety of specialized applications, there will always be room for individuals to write software based on their unique knowledge. There will always be niche markets to keep small software companies alive. The craft of writing software will not become obsolete. And the craft of using software creatively is flourishing even more than the craft of writing it."

Following initial discussion, conferences were held in both London[1] and Chicago,[2] after which, a manifesto[3] was drafted and put online to gather signatories. This was followed by the development of practices to further develop the movement including the exchange of talent in "Craftsman Swaps" and the assessment of skills in "Craftsmanship Spikes"


In 1992, Jack W. Reeves' essay "What Is Software Design?"[4] suggested that software development is more a craft than an engineering discipline.

In 1999, The Pragmatic Programmer was published. Its sub-title, "From Journeyman to Master", suggested that programmers go through stages in their professional development akin to the medieval guild traditions of Europe.

In 2001, Pete McBreen's book Software Craftsmanship was published. It suggested that software developers need not see themselves as part of the engineering tradition and that a different metaphor would be more suitable.

In his August, 2008, keynote at Agile 2008, Bob Martin proposed a fifth value for the Agile Manifesto, namely "Craftsmanship over Crap". He later changed his proposal to "Craftsmanship over Execution".[5]

In December, 2008, a number of aspiring software craftsmen met in Libertyville, Illinois with the intent of establishing a set of principles for Software Craftsmanship.

In March, 2009, after ongoing conversation, a summary of the general conclusions was decided on. It was presented publicly, for both viewing and signing, in the form of a Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship.

In April, 2009, two of the companies in the software craftsmanship movement, 8th Light and Obtiva, experimented with a 'craftsman swap'.[6] The Chicago Tribune covered this event on 15 June 2009 [7]

In January, 2010, a second Craftsman Swap was held between Obtiva and Relevance


  1. ^ "Software Craftsmanship Conference". 
  2. ^ "Software Craftsmanship North America". 
  3. ^ "Software Craftsmanship Manifesto". 
  4. ^ What Is Software Design? by Jack W. Reeves - developer.*, Developer Dot Star. (2005-02-23). Retrieved on 2015-06-24.
  5. ^ Craftsmanship - the Fifth Agile Manifesto Value?. Retrieved on 2015-06-24.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Wong, Wailin (15 June 2009). "Open to the competition". Chicago Tribune. 

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