Unboxed Solutions Blog The frenetic soapbox
I found a great article called The Law of Leaky Abstractions by Joel Spolsky. In case you don't have time to read the whole thing, here is an except. Otherwise, I highly recommend reading the entire article.
abstraction: a simplification of something much more complicated that is going on under the covers. As it turns out, a lot of computer programming consists of building abstractions. What is a string library? It's a way to pretend that computers can manipulate strings just as easily as they can manipulate numbers. C++ string classes are supposed to let you pretend that strings are first-class data. They try to abstract away the fact that strings are hard and let you act as if they were as easy as integers. Almost all C++ string classes overload the + operator so you can write s + "bar" to concatenate. But you know what? No matter how hard they try, there is no C++ string class on Earth that will let you type "foo" + "bar", because string literals in C++ are always char*'s, never strings. The abstraction has sprung a leak that the language doesn't let you plug. (Amusingly, the history of the evolution of C++ over time can be described as a history of trying to plug the leaks in the string abstraction. Why they couldn't just add a native string class to the language itself eludes me at the moment.) This is but one example of what I've dubbed the Law of Leaky Abstractions: All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.The law of leaky abstractions means that whenever somebody comes up with a wizzy new code-generation tool that is supposed to make us all ever-so-efficient, you hear a lot of people saying "learn how to do it manually first, then use the wizzy tool to save time." Code generation tools which pretend to abstract out something, like all abstractions, leak, and the only way to deal with the leaks competently is to learn about how the abstractions work and what they are abstracting. So the abstractions save us time working, but they don't save us time learning.And when you need to hire a programmer to do mostly VB programming, it's not good enough to hire a VB programmer, because they will get completely stuck in tar every time the VB abstraction leaks.The Law of Leaky Abstractions is dragging us down.