We do not study software engineering

The term “Software Engineering” is flawed, according to Neil Ernst, and I agree completely: it is a metaphor that conveys all sorts of incorrect connotations about the diverse and complex nature of software development. I don’t use it anymore if I can avoid it, and neither should you.


About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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10 Responses to We do not study software engineering

  1. Greg Wilson says:

    What should one use instead?

  2. Jorge says:

    I think we should simply use “software development”. It is more accurate and less subject to bias.

  3. mcyclops says:

    So, all my friends from the ITESM studying Software Engineering, are they screwed?

  4. Jorge says:

    ITESM doesn’t offer software engineering programs! The closest they do is computer systems engineering.

  5. mcyclops says:

    You have yout mouth stuck with true, my bad. I just realised that even my old degree is not offered anymore, but I was under the impression that they offered software engineer in the 95-05 cycle… couldn’t verify it.

  6. Robert says:

    I do not understand this point. “software development” as I understand it, is the activity of developing software (designing, programming, maintaining), while “software engineering” is (for whatever reasons, historic, pathetic, and naively optimistic) the term for the scientific field studying software development. We do not take the word literally, but take it for the compound has come to mean.

    Were you to boycott it for being misleading, you would also have to boycott “United States of America” and a whole lot other words.

  7. Jorge says:

    The term “software engineering” is used by practitioners and researchers alike. The field of study is commonly called “software engineering *research*”.

    Perhaps you do not take the term literally. I know that many researchers do. And even for those that do not take it literally, the term suggests activities and strategies that work on an engineering domain, but not in ours –the term biases our understanding of our own field.

    I do not want to boycott anything, though. Perhaps I’m the one in the wrong. But it’s funny you mention “United States of America”:.see for instance some of the effects of the term in Latin America here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_Doctrine#Criticism

  8. civilclub says:

    Thanks for this great post.

  9. Pingback: I’m a Software Engineering Intern (EIT) « Normally-On

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