Mei’s tweets have caused some of the manifesto’s adherents to reconsider its name. Bob Martin has become a vocal defender of keeping the old name, but his old associates at 8th Light now refers to their software developers as “crafters” rather than “craftsman.”

Many groups and conferences centered around Craftsmanship have also made the change. The SoCraTes conference changed from “International Software Craftsmanship and Testing Conference in Germany” to “International Conference for Software Craft and Testing” this year. CodeCraft in Glasgow changed its name in November, stating ” We were happy to do it if even one person feels more comfortable.” And Cambridge Software Craftsmanship changed its name to Cambridge Software Crafters. “The name issue has never caused me personally a problem and there are some obvious reasons why,” says Alastair Smith, one of the organization’s leaders.

Smith says he’s seen a shift in new members since changing the name. “New members joining the community are a much more diverse crowd,” he says, “and the meetups are more diverse as well. It’s such a simple change and had such a big knock on effect.” Smith says community has become much more important than the name or even the technical concepts behind it.

Members of his community talked to me more about the friendships they formed than about code. In a world where not all jobs allow you to do high quality work, the idea of software as a craft provides an oasis. And also a place for mentorship and professional development—other things developers told me they fail to get at work.

Paul Pagel, now CEO of 8th Light, says he sees apprenticeship as the future of the movement. It’s a crucial issue as many junior developers find companies unwilling to hire them. They want fully trained developers, but who will train them? Pagel’s company 8th Light created The Weirich Institute of Software to help bring up the skills of junior developers.

Crap or craft?

These efforts at mentorship all sound great, but they are also far smaller than the goals of the original manifesto, which hoped to create this culture across the industry.

Our software might break a little less, but the industry has if anything moved further away from treating software developers as craftspeople. I once heard a CEO say that software development is just a “commodity” now. Meaning he didn’t see the value of cultivating software developers or culture in the company. Why bother when he could just replace the team with a rotating cast of contractors? And he did.

It’s still not easy to convince businesspeople or customers that poor quality software will cost them in the long term. All they see is the short-term savings.

I also worry that when companies do focus on “craft,” their focus is in the wrong place. Job candidates are forced to prove they don’t write crap by completing hours of tests, homework, and pair programming challenges. It’s a shame, because all of this interview testing shows companies have an inkling that craft matters. It just seems to be a skill that want developers to already have, rather than one they cultivate.

During the break I took from professional software development—which ultimately lasted about six months—I received many messages from other software developers who had quit or wanted to. They said that, like me, they felt forced to produce “crap” rather than “craft.”

According to a Kapor Center study on tech quitters like me, “workplace culture drives turnover, significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups, and costing the industry more than $16 billion each year.” Crap—rather than craft—software, I believe, contributes to that culture.

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