The tech industry has the uniquely horrible intersection of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, people who read too many bad science fiction novels, Randroids who think The Fountainhead is some sort of masterpiece of English literature, and waaaay too much fucking capital.

The fact the people in charge think the tech industry can be trusted despite a huge mountain of evidence to the contrary is scary to be honest.


As a programmer, I implore non-programmers:

Do not trust a programmer.

We make mistakes. We are an unregulated industry. People have died from programming bugs, and no programmer has ever been held to account for any of it. In fact, ask most programmers and they'd tell you that such a lack of accountability is a good thing. There is a huge issue with competence and the market being flooded with subpar programmers fresh out of incompetent university CS programs whose curriculum is largely dictated by the largest players in the industry rather than required skills.

We are not a trustworthy industry. At all.

We really do need a regulatory body for programmers, at least some sort of basic licensing requirements.

"But that costs money!" or "What about open source???"

The thing is, a lot of industries already have informal standards that actually do not allow open source code because of its provenance (unvetted programmers and unknown code quality). These industries are things like aerospace and medicine, where mistakes kill people, and the company is on the hook for all of it, cause it turns out people don't wanna die because of a kernel panic, and people really do not care about jailbreaking their pacemakers.

To give a blunt example: I do not think the average Linux contributor is really thinking about other people's lives when they send in a patch. I doubt they even really care. "Someone else will report the bugs to me." Well, they can't report the bug if they've died, now can they?

I am not saying you should need a license to do open source, just like you don't need a license to do hobbyist electronics. But I think you should need a license to work on anything where people's lives are at stake, and there's a lot more stuff out there that's critical to life than you think.

"But won't people lose their jobs if they can't past certification???"

If you can't survive accountability in a safety-critical job, you do not belong in safety-critical industry. Either become competent, or find a new industry. Lots of electricians can't pass certification and they drop out (my brother did for example). Because when an electrician fucks up, people die. And when programmers fuck up, sometimes indeed, people die.

The thing is, it may not look like it but this actually lowers the bar for programmers in some sense. The fact people think a master's degree is a substitute for competence is frightening. The medical field has examinations for this reason; a degree in no way implies competence. Meanwhile, no one expects an electrician to have gone to university.

If you can pass the exam, it shouldn't matter if you've gone to university or not.

Also, we have an established process in industry for helping others become electricians, plumbers, engineers, etc.: the apprenticeship system.

Granted, it is not without flaws, but this is a better way to make programmers than a university, in my opinion.

@Elizafox Honestly, concurrent as someone who feels screwed out of engineering.

I think industries that lives depend on should require certs.

I think any system that gates even testing for them behind expensive college degrees needs to rot out and die.

Much of a mess as tech is, that's literally the one thing I like about being able to swing in from a 'boot camp' program.

@Kyresti Degrees are not substitutes for competence, and I don't know why HR types have suddenly started believing that a degree is a stand-in for competence in the past 20 years.

@Elizafox This is a good idea, but it needs to be implemented in such a way that it does not favor those who have money over those who do not, or other gatekeeping practices.

Because that's not the goal; but it WILL be the way it gains traction among policymakers.

I'd almost say we have to prevent any English speaking countries from being involved, but I'm sure we can find some other countries that have horrific records in this area also.

@Elizafox I'd like to inform you that this does not apy to all medical IT.

For example, it might only apply to directly connected appliances used to monitor critical vitals.

I wish I could go i to more details, but existing NDAs prevent that.

Needless to say whilst some things might require certification as a medical product (i.e. questionnaires used for diagnostic purposes), most things don't and at the end of the day, common off-the-shelf FLOSS is the basis a lot of commercial SaaS in the medical sector relies on.

And no, there isn't much aside basic testing and insurance against mistakes in terms of gatekeeping.

@Elizafox @silentium I don’t think programmers should be held accountable for their mistakes (and neither should engineers). The companies that employ them should be held accountable. Everyone makes mistakes. If a bug you write ends up in the shipped product that’s not your fault but the fault of your employer who didn’t have a good enough system in place to catch that bug.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
The Vulpine Club

The Vulpine Club is a friendly and welcoming community of foxes and their associates, friends, and fans! =^^=