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Re: Blind software engineers, specifically UML

This has been covered before, so check the emacspeak list archives. 

There has been a bit of work in the org mode community on this. In fact,
I believe org mode supports two methods for generating diagrams from
text representations. One is graphviz and I can't remember the name of
the other, but from memory, it was specifically for UML style diagrams. 

While this would give you a method to generate UML diagrams, I have no
idea how you will access/read such diagrams. 

Many years ago, I use to tutor a 2nd and 3rd year software engineering
course. I think that experience has left a very bad taste in my mouth
when it comes to software engineering. On the few projects I've worked
on which attempted to apply rigorous software engineering principals, I
was less than impressed. It may have benefits on extremely large,
mission critical systems, but for the majority of projects I've worked
on, it has ended up being a huge time wasting largely bureaucratic
process which got in the way of producing working systems more often
than it helped. I tend towards the lean and agile methodologies, which
tend to rely on refactoring and adapting over time rather than
attempting to engineer a big solution to start with. 

My philosophy with regard to which degree is to focus on the core
competencies that you will get in a comp. sci degree and develop
additional skills as required. For example, comp. sci is not about
learning how to program (IMO). It is about learning the science of
computers - what is computable, what isn't, what are the limits,
abstraction, complexity, correctness etc. Programming skills develop
along the way. For me, developing software is still primarily a problem
solving process, not an engineering process. 

Many of the software engineering concepts and principals can be valuable
and I don't want it to sound like I'm dismissing the whole software
engineering discipline. However, I don't believe we are anywhere near
the point of being able to think of software engineering like civil
engineering or even electrical engineering and have degrees which solely
focus on that area. More research and experience and developments in
computing science may get us there eventually, but for now and for me,
it is still a bit too much like the AI stuff of the 70s and 80s. It all
sounds really promising and some excellent ideas, but there is still a
long way to go until we get there. In the meantime, we can cherry pick
some of the good ideas and incorporate them into our existing processes.
For example, the use of UML and some basic software engineering
principles can help with communication and provide a shared vocabulary
which can reduce errors arising from misunderstanding or hidden
assumptions etc.

After more than 25 years, I still find the concepts and ideas I learnt
doing my comp. sci degree very relevant and useful in understanding the
changes and developments in the software industry. Ironically, nearly
all the software engineering techniques I used to teach back then are
now considered outdated. On the other hand, I'm not 100% up with modern
software engineering principals. I am familiar with what is being used
'out in the wild', but not what the pinnacle of theory and research is
for software engineering, so my ability to evaluate the benefits of such
a degree are limited - its just one old coders view. 


On Mon, 2013-07-15 at 12:57 +1000, Daniel Dalton wrote:
> Hi everyone, 
> Firstly apologies if this is slightly OT - feel free to respond off
> list if you think that's better, but I know there are a lot of very
> knowledgeable people on here so thought it was a good starting point. 
> At University I'm studying computer science. I'm looking to take a
> software engineering subject called "Introduction to software
> engineering". 
> The problem: UML diagrams are heavily used throughout this subject
> especially for assessment purposes. Specifically, UML class diagrams and
> UML state active and sequence diagrams. We'll need to both read and
> create these diagrams. I also believe we may need to work in small
> groups with fellow students (who obviously aren't vision
> impaired). Apparently the UML is the language of the subject and it's
> not really avoidable. So does anyone have any ideas about how to handle
> this sort of thing? I'd be interested to hear what other blind software
> engineers may do to get around these problems. 
> Finally, just a bit of a general sort of question. I'm currently
> studying bachelor of computer science, but have considered changing into
> bachelor of software engineering. I've been told software engineering is
> much more visual - with more of this UML stuff coming up. Has anyone
> else taken a modern software engineering degree opposed to computer
> science - and how did you find it? 
> Thanks for any advice! 
> Best regards, 
> Daniel 
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