In the interview with Charles Petzold I mentioned in my previous post, Petzold talks about the sharp decline in programming book sales. At one time, nearly every Windows programmer owned a copy of Petzold’s first book, especially in its earlier editions. But he said that now only 4,000 people have purchased his recent 3D programming book.
Programming book sales have plummeted, not because there is any less to learn, but because there is too much to learn. Developers don’t want to take the time to thoroughly learn any technology they suspect will become obsolete in a couple years, especially if its only one of many technologies they have to use. So they plunge ahead using tools they have never systematically studied. And when they get stuck, they Google for help and hope someone else has blogged about their specific problem.
Companies have cut back on training at the same time that they’re expecting more from software. So programmers do the best they can. They jump in and write code without really understanding what they’re doing. They guess and see what works. And when things don’t work, they Google for help. It’s the most effective thing to do in the short term. In the longer term it piles up technical debt that leads to a quality disaster or a maintenance quagmire.