Your software just isn’t mission critical

Programmers love to invoke the vocabulary of importance. We don’t just have guidelines, no, we have fucking LAW OF DEMETER. Good and bad ideas alike are dressed in big words so we can all seem oh so clever.

And it’s not just the concepts that attract grandiose dressings, it’s also our purpose. If it isn’t CHANGING THE WORLD, then clearly there’s something wrong with the ambition calibration! Get with the mission, man!

Speaking of mission, I doubt that yours is all that critical. At least not in the sense the term “mission critical” was actually invented to describe. You know, shit like if there’s a bug in the lunar module, the fucking space ship might be stranded on the moon, and the astronauts are going to float around in zero gravity with their tongue out before long.

The trite truth is that most software is utterly mundane. Void of any potential for major, human catastrophes. Loss of some monies, sure. Loss of some customer trust, definitely. Should you take it all seriously? Sure. But you can do so without invoking the criticality of human life.

If that makes your life seem less meaningful, maybe it’s time to fall in love with something else than complexity or criticality. There are plenty of options for blowing dandelions here! I can get my sugar rush from saving a couple of keywords on a sweet refactoring. All without pretending that I’m saving the gawd damn universe in the process.

You can write lovely software without standing on your tippy toes trying to clear some bullshit bar of importance. So what if you’re not working on the lunar module. So what if you don’t have a red cape. Accept the workaday lot and learn to love what you actually have, not what you wish you could pretend to be.

But above all, shut the fuck up about mission critical.



Your software just isn’t mission critical was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original post by DHH and software by Elliott Back