Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Toiling in Obscurity

As a professional software developer, it is sometimes hard to explain to people just what it is that I do. Although at times I have been able to point to a screen or hand people a disk containing something I've created, I have to admit that the product of my work is somewhat nebulous and ephemeral. At least when I was a tech writer I could point to a set of manuals and say, "I wrote that."

The fact that I was writing manuals to instruct programmers in how to use software tools that enabled them to write other software was a bit murky to many.

Later I was working on software that "explored" networks, cataloging resources (documents, mostly) it found so that one could search for them. Still, pretty obscure, particularly to those who don't actively use computers or who just use them as glorified typewriters.

And now I work in the realm of enterprise middleware, meaning we write software that helps other software share information. Worse yet, I work on the software tools that enables other programmers to configure and program said middleware. So once again, I'm on the obscure edge of a pretty obscure place.

So this morning I found this article from Red Hat:
That got me thinking and sent me to Google to look for a short definition of middleware. I found a lot of them, but they mostly were either too vague or too dependent on the reader already having some knowledge about middleware.
And ultimately, he comes up with this answer:
Middleware is plumbing.
It's a fairly amusing metaphor, which the writer thankfully only extends to input sources (water pipes and faucets), rather than the output system.

In any case, the next time my mother tries to figure out what it is I do, I think I'll tell her I'm a plumber.


Laura E. Goodin said...

And hopefully it only applies to the pipes and not the contents thereof. (I remember learning the crucial difference between "sewage" and "sewerage.")

Chard said...

I hope you didn't learn that the hard way.

I did have a boss once, when I was writing, who passed out copies of an article titled "Shitty First Drafts." The idea was to encourage us not to be too wedded to whatever popped out of our word processors first.

Good advice, that. Revision and editing can be your friends.

Laura E. Goodin said...

As I'm in the middle of Script Frenzy, I identify very strongly with the concept of shitty first drafts....