Impostor Software Architects

From all the different kinds of developers I met over the years there is one that I really hate. The impostor architect kind. They are an absolute plague to any developer environment and the community at large.

You can easily spot one by this quote:

I don’t like working with algorithms, optimizing the database and writing regular expressions. I love designing application architectures though,
making thing work together.

Sometimes the person will also mention that their code is SOLID and that they use patterns extensively, but will fail to explain even 10 of those and confess to have never had read the GoF book. Usually the also consider UML diagrams useless and unit tests a waste of time. Sure UML is useless if the apps you have been designing all your life have less than a hundred classes. Every time you get a new legacy project on your hands, don’t you wish you had a nice annotated class UML diagram of it? Imagine how many hours of debugging that would actually save you, and such architects are the reason you don’t have it.

In such cases usually the reason behind not liking things like writing performant SQL queries comes from lack of
required knowledge. Such problems require at least some theoretical background and actual experience while talking about
general application design is possible without them. In this case not liking is in fact a well-known coping mechanism, where a person tries to devalue something he or she doesn’t posses or cannot attain. For example I have some friends who really hated the IPhone until they actually got one themselves.

As an experiment try going to a programming IRC channel and asking a question about writing an A*-search algorithm. Usually
you will get useful responses that help you to get the job done. Later ask about how to better structure your code and you will
most likely start a small flame war and get your own opinion criticized to death.

I think the reason for this is the developer title inflation I blogged about earlier, that makes easy for people with little theoretical background to end up in charge of architecture design. Logically the person in charge of architecture should be the one who has a solid grasp on all components used and therefore can efficiently design their interaction.

You can draw a pretty accurate parallel with actual architects. You wouldn’t trust a guy who has been building shacks all his life, says he doesn’t like math and geometry, build a cathedral, would you? How about one that considers blueprints useless ?

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