The Impermanence of Software

Andy Croll


As engineers we place a lot of emphasis in the things that we build. However lots of the software we write is destined for deletion. What does this do to our definition of 'doing great work'?

Is "great work" inherent to the code you write? Is it your customer's results? Is it anything to do with the output in the first place?

Come and examine the role of teams, personal relationships and your own attitude in your day to day work, as well as in the broader cycle of a whole career and our industry.


I want to explore the history of digital things that have disappeared.

As designers/developers we place so much stall in the things that we build. Knowing the work is destined to be digital landfill, we can look at the work we do through the prism of how we affect both ourselves & other people as we perform the work rather than the products we build.

This should give us pause both in professional and personal spheres to think about how we treat those around us in our relentless search for 'doing things right' or 'doing great work'. Is our greatest work the people we lift up and memories & feelings we create in others?

(Talk Spoiler: Yes)

The process is important. The 'feels' are important. People are the most important.

I'll raise the absurdity of “rare opportunity to change the world” job descriptions. I'll examine the benefits of looking back with perspective as you move through life. I'll be looking at how as a manager (and a coworker) you can be on the front-line of mental health, both yours and others, without even knowing.

We'll end up talking about what 'happiness' even means, for you and others, and how your work can help you get there. Ideally, attendees will strengthen their understanding of how their work fits within society (and their own lives) and how perspective can let you do your best work.

In terms of timings I'm thinking broadly into thirds:

Section One: "Where I depress the audience with how transitory all their code is"

  • closed startups
  • shutdown apps
  • abandoned websites

Section Two: Where we talk about 'leaving a dent in the universe' and how a) ambitious and b) difficult that is... so what does it mean then to do good work...

Section Three: What can we learn about good work, humanity, life, building teams & products and leaving a dent in other people's universes (in a good way).


This is right at the 'least technical' end of the conference talk spectrum. But probably the most important.

We start with a fairly depressing look at the fate of most of the software we create, before asking if that is the case... and it is... what does it mean for the 'rest' of the job. We'll talk about teams, relationships and even our attitude to day to day work, as well as the broader cycle of a whole career.

The thing is... the code isn't the point. The people are the point. Both the people who will use your software and the people you work with as you create it and the people who you provide for by getting paid for the work.

Edit proposal


Ship It! Conf 2017 - Accepted [Edit]

RailsConf 2016 - Rejected [Edit]

RailsConf 2017 - Rejected [Edit]

RubyConf 2017 - Accepted [Edit]

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