Martin Fowler @ NEJUG: Software Design in the Twenty-first Century

I attended the NEJUG meeting in Lowell last week that Martin Fowler spoke at. I was the guy in the back furiously typing notes, which I’m presenting for your pleasure here, revised and polished.

Martin started out by saying that he didn’t know exactly what to talk about, and then he launched into a discussion abou the completely new version of UML very near to completion, UML 2.0.

· newest version of uml has alot of revisions to the metamodel,
— in lieu of people thinking that uml is all about diagrams and people not really caring all that much about diagrams
— 3 ways in which uml is commonly used: sketches, blueprints and langauges

· sketches
— draw diagrams to communicate ideas about software
— not precise, just an overall picture
— main idea is to convey ‘ideas’
— most books that use UML are completely wrong in their use of uml (and almost all are sketches)
— martin’s favorite uml drawing tool? a printing whiteboard
— no whiteboard? then use visio (templates are available on martin’s webpage of links)
togetherJ (an ide?) has built in UML support for sketching

· blueprints
— software development as an engineering process
— martin doesn’t agree w/ this metaphor
— one body of people who “design” and make all the important design decisions, hand off to another group for implementation
— reality is that no one cares if the software matches the diagram
— in real civil engineering the designers check to make sure that the end result matches the original design
— both parties need to be intimately familiar with the intracacies of the UML specification for blueprints to work

· uml as a programming langauage
— “excecutable UML”
— “model driven architecture”
— graphics matter less, the meta model takes precedence in this way of thinking

· the people that are driving the standard are both heavily involved with the blueprints and Uml as a programming language direction…, which means that not many people are thinking about people that use uml as a sketching tool
— thus, almost all the changes in uml2 are for uml as a programming language
— these people think that in 10/20 years no one will be programming in java/c#, but rather in UML
— CASE people said the same thing in the 80’s

couple arguments that might make this possible
a) UML is a standard where case is a company (examples: SQL, Java..)
   1) however, it’s a pretty complex standard and not everything is agree upon
   2) alot of things are open to interpretation
   3) subsets of UML aren’t made all for execeutable UML
   4) digrams can’t be transferred from one tool to another without a loss of data

b) malapropism for platform indepedence
— build a platform independent model (without regard to programming language)
— then do a build to a platform specific model that would then build the source code
— uml people think of platforms as “java” or “.net”

c) uml hasn’t yet approached the discussion of the libraries
— ie: it can’t write “hello world” yet

sequence diagrams were so easy that anyone could understand just by looking

interaction diagrams, which are new to 2.0, are much more complicated

mf doesn’t think that code generation will *really* be all that much more productive than regular programming in Java or C#?

mf quotes an engineer who said: “engineering is different from programming in that engineering has tolerance while programming is absolute.”

uml’s success as a programming language hinges on it’s ability to make people more productive

mf thinks that there will be a growing divergence between the sketchers and the blueprinters/executeable people

prescriptive vs. descriptive
— uml is increasing becoming descriptive, not prescriptive

structural engineers use no “standard” drawing diagrams, but simply follow “accepted” rules… a trend that MF thinks that UML will probably folllow, we’ll all use UML, but not necessarily according to the specification

questions that came from the audience

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