Monday, June 1, 2009

"Mommamacations" & Perfect Software

My 6.5 year old son and I built a Lego Mindstorm vehicle yesterday. After constructing it, we wrote the software for it. After watching version 1.0 of our software run for about 5 seconds, we noticed a bug so we iterated, fixed the bug, and ran v2 of the software. After about 30 seconds we noticed another issue with the number of degrees the vehicle was turning when it confronted an obstacle. We tuned the software to increase the angle to 90 degrees, compiled, pushed code to the vehicle, and ran it.

This version, v3, of the software ran for awhile. It ran at home, at his grandparents house, and again this morning. It ran well, for a long time. However, a few minutes ago we found yet another refinement we could make to the turning angle to make it get out of a jam even faster, and I said "aha, I found another modification we can make!" My son replied, "let's make all of the mommamacations [sic] this time." He wanted to write the software once, without bugs, perfectly.

I went on to explain how it takes time to understand how software is going to work in the real-world and how you can't account for all of the variables and scenarios up front. As a result, you build, test, and refine; you iterate. You can't write it once and have it work perfectly forever.

He didn't fully grok it, but its starting to sink in. It was a neat interaction with my boy around what my world is all about. Ha! My daughter just yelled out "am I doing ballet today?" Gotta run.

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