The crowd at this summer’s Brainstorm Tech Conference, organized by Fortune magazine, was atwitter with social networking and mobile technologies and the myriad other ways in which we continue to tether ourselves to the Internet and one another. We were, of course, at Half Moon Bay, Calif., near the U.S. epicenter of the metaverse, Silicon Valley.
Two of the meeting’s sessions, however, fell beyond the Internet’s gravitational pull. Although these topics attracted far less buzz than some of the rest, they could ultimately have more impact on tech industries than all the current Internet crazes combined.
An all-star programming panel—”The Future of Code”—featured David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails (RoR), the highly regarded open-source Web-applications development platform; Charles Simonyi, space tourist, renowned Microsoft developer, and now CEO of Intentional Software; and object-oriented programming guru and IBM’s chief scientist for software engineering, Grady Booch.
The discussion poked at the elephant in the server room: most software projects fail; most software is more complicated and enigmatic than the problem it’s trying to solve; most software is just plain bad. So how can it be done better—a lot better?
Hansson, not surprisingly, championed small-is-better open-source solutions. He pointed out that most problems solved by software today don’t require fail-safe killer apps created by Microsoft-size teams; they require robust but properly sized small-team solutions.