When interviewing candidates for programming jobs, one of my favorite interview questions is, "How would you describe your approach to software development?" I give them examples such as carpenter, fire fighter, architect, artist, author, explorer, scientist, and archeologist, and I invite them to come up with their own answers. Some candidates try to second-guess what I want to hear; they usually tell me they see themselves as "scientists." Hot-shot coders tell me they see themselves as commandos or swat-team members. My favorite answer came from a candidate who said, "During software design, I'm an architect. When I'm designing the user interface, I'm an artist. During construction, I'm a craftsman. And during unit testing, I'm one mean son of a bitch!"
I like to pose this question because it gets at a fundamental issue in our field: What is the best way to think of software development? Is it science? Is it art? Is it craft? Is it something else entirely?