Code as craft

Posted by on February 10, 2010

At Etsy, our mission is to enable people to make a living making things.  The engineers who make Etsy make our living making something we love: software.  We think of our code as craft — hence the name of the blog.  Here we’ll write about our craft and our collective experience building and running Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.

In The Pragmatic Programmer (the one programming book I think every engineer should own), the authors beautifully explain the notion of code as craft and the intersection of craftsmanship and engineering:

The construction of software should be an engineering discipline. However, this doesn’t preclude individual craftsmanship. Think about the large cathedrals built in Europe during the Middle Ages. Each took thousands of person-years of effort, spread over many decades. Lessons learned were passed down to the next set of builders, who advanced the state of structural engineering with their accomplishments. But the carpenters, stonecutters, carvers, and glass workers were all craftspeople, interpreting the engineering requirements to produce a whole that transcended the purely mechanical side of the construction.  It was their belief in their individual contributions that sustained the projects:  We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals. (Quarry worker’s creed).

At Etsy, we approach what we do with the same care and inspiration as the makers in our marketplace.  We talk about the tools we use, celebrate the experiments that worked, and learn from the ones that went awry, always learning new things to improve our craft.  With this blog, we plan to make some of those discussions public.

Most importantly, craftsmen sign their work.  Think of this blog as us signing ours.

Posted by on February 10, 2010
Category: philosophy


I’m so thrilled to see this up; there’s so much amazing talent on the team and I’m excited to see not just your work but the thinking that goes into it shared with the world!

I couldn’t agree more with the message from this site.

How refreshing it is to see a shared vision of people passionate about the work they do and inspired by the greater goal that their individual contributions are focused on.

I fully expect to see a cathedral of dreams fulfilled by craftspeople who love making things enabled by you, the codemakers.

Such energy could be used in other contexts. Local government, nonprofit board building and little league management come to mind. I’m sure they could use a cathedral or two.

Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer