One element of the modern web development movement that has long bothered me is to see how it ignores long established software development principles. Some act as though the only way to be “modern” and use modern technologies is to throw out the old and come up with all new. While development languages might improve, and we certainly learn new things over time, I don’t believe that these important software development principles, that have been figured out over years from trial and error, even from extreme failure, suddenly become invalid because of new technology developments.

The implementation of these principles may need to change, but never the underlying principle. Sadly, I would estimate that a majority of those calling themselves “developers” today don’t know the first thing about development. They have studied a language, whether it’s Rails, PHP, whatever, and they have learned it well enough to develop an average application that works. But without learning important software patterns and processes of development, all their skills with a particular language are built on a very shaky foundation. One that crumbles underneath the weight of a full size, heavily used application, and one that deteriorates over years of iterations on the same software code base.

Most developers today have never maintained the same application for years and have no concern in ensuring they can. They build it to get it out the door and get it online. They get paid. They close out with the client, and they move on. I see these apps on a regular basis and I have to fix them. Sadly, it’s usually at considerable expense to the owner, often having to start from scratch because the application’s fondation was so poorly constructed.

It’s far more important to understand these basic software engineering principles than it is to “master” a language. It’s great to think “outside the box”, but never just for the sake of doing it, or for the sake of being the person who came up with a great new concept. Solve problems that still exist, don’t solve problems again and again that already have a sound, established solution. Learn from others, particularly those who have more experience than you. Find out why senior developers work a certain why. Don’t assume that because they are “senior” their ways are the old, outdated ways, to be ignored and replaced. Sound principles and wisdom based on experience never lose their value.