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The Mythical 5%

29 replies on 2 pages. Most recent reply: Mar 13, 2008 2:13 PM by Ebube Okafor

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John Zabroski

Posts: 272
Nickname: zbo
Registered: Jan, 2007

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Dec 31, 2007 3:23 PM
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@Stephen Freund
@You're wrong again, Bruce, because undermined morale is the number 1 cause of failed projects per Steve McConnell's list, and the myth you're propagating does just that: undermine morale, whenever it's asserted. The myth consists especially of the suggestion that there are only two levels of productivity: very high for the few, very low for the rest, and no in-between.

It seems so weird to tell Bruce Eckel that Steve McConnell disagrees with him, especially when Steve McConnell claims his company doesn't hire the bottom 90%. http://www.construx.com/Page.aspx?hid=1005 Moreover, Construx Software's career goals for its employees is even more ambitious than Eckel's. Over the course of an employee working at Construx, Steve hopes they become in the top 1/3rd of 1%. That's an extra one to two Pareto Curve's inside The Mythical 5%!

Appealing to authority, like Steve McConnell, and not actually representing that authority's viewpoint is a really poor debate tactic.

Jesse Kuhnert

Posts: 24
Nickname: jkuhnert
Registered: Aug, 2006

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Dec 31, 2007 3:30 PM
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Yep. We built software that peoples lives depended on that way in the medical field. Works great.

It's usually the golden sunshine circle jerk teams that all happily suck the same way that don't do as well. =p

> > Successful software projects are not
> > carried out by a few gifted or obsessed individuals
> > despite their colleagues, but by teams that work well
> > together. Software is not an art form for mavericks but
> an
> > engineering activity for team members.
>
> You are half right: "Successful software projects are not
> carried out by a few gifted or obsessed individuals
> despite their colleagues." However, in my experience, when
> I see "teams that work well together," there is often "a
> few gifted or obsessed individuals" who make up the spinal
> column (or insert your own analogy) of that team.

Kiran Pai

Posts: 1
Nickname: evitavonni
Registered: Dec, 2007

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 2:32 AM
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Excellent read! Should be handed out to everyone about to start a career in software development.

Larry Bugbee

Posts: 13
Nickname: bugbee
Registered: Dec, 2004

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 2:23 PM
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Amen.

Merriodoc Brandybuck

Posts: 225
Nickname: brandybuck
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 4:32 PM
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I gotta agree with cameron for the most part. On every team I've seen, whether it be a development team, a sports team or some other team, there are always people the contribute more than average and people that contribute less than average and, frankly, good teams wouldn't be as good as they are without those key good team members. A good team member not only brings their own exceptional skill level to the team but often makes their teammates step up their own level of performance. Success, like failure, can be contagious.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 4:43 PM
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> I gotta agree with cameron for the most part. On every
> team I've seen, whether it be a development team, a sports
> team or some other team, there are always people the
> contribute more than average and people that contribute
> less than average and, frankly, good teams wouldn't be as
> good as they are without those key good team members. A
> good team member not only brings their own exceptional
> skill level to the team but often makes their teammates
> step up their own level of performance. Success, like
> failure, can be contagious.

I think the disconnect is that you can have a 'rock star' but if he or she can't work well with others (including the less productive) the problems can outweigh the benefits. The age of the lone geek hammering out code is largely over.

Mike Petry

Posts: 34
Nickname: mikepetry
Registered: Apr, 2005

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 5:05 PM
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I have to agree with Bruce and his comments where on point for a commencement speech.
The point is that there are some spectacular performers in this industry, because there are people who really enjoy software development. If you hope to be successful in software and you had better be into it. It is hard to compete with folks that eat, drink and sleep something, no matter how talented you are. I look at it this way, software developers can be the worlds greatest employees because nothing pleases us more to do our jobs and to do our jobs well. If you don't fall into this category, no amount of college education will help. Also as a note, if you do not work well with others, you are not a spectacular performer.

Taylor Cowan

Posts: 10
Nickname: taylorc
Registered: Nov, 2003

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 2, 2008 9:58 PM
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>The statistics are sobering:
>50-80% of programming projects fail.

Bruce writes good books and I respect his leadership in the software engineering profession, however, this "software crisis" myth is getting old. It's an overused cliché that all well know software pundits over use. I recently heard on by Douglas Crockford, he starts the talk with the same "sobering" (say it with a quiver in your voice) statistics. The rest of the talk is great.

Cameron Purdy

Posts: 186
Nickname: cpurdy
Registered: Dec, 2004

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 3, 2008 11:17 AM
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> Bruce writes good books and I respect his leadership in
> the software engineering profession, however, this
> "software crisis" myth is getting old. It's an overused
> cliché that all well know software pundits over use. I
> recently heard on by Douglas Crockford, he starts the talk
> with the same "sobering" (say it with a quiver in your
> voice) statistics.

I guess it depends how you define "fail". In big companies, I would guess (just from what I've seen across many companies) that over half the projects are still-born (i.e. started but never go all the way to end user production use).

If you define "failure" more loosely, as in "funded projects that make it past the initial 90 days (first trimester) and get finished enough that they could theoretically be deployed", then the failure rate is probably 10% or 15%.

On the other hand, if you define "failure" more strictly, as in (a) significantly over budget, (b) significantly late, (c) failing to achieve major requirements, (d) failing to show return on investment, (e) failing to meet a reasonable quality level, and (f) lacking the ability to be cost-effective maintained or survive the departure of key personnel (i.e. risk mitigation), then I would guess that 95% or more of software projects "fail".

Peace,

Cameron Purdy | Oracle
http://www.oracle.com/technology/products/coherence/index.html

David Halonen

Posts: 5
Nickname: dhalonen1
Registered: Oct, 2007

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 9, 2008 6:42 AM
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"We are in a young business. Primitive, really..."

A colleague mentioned reading an article that was asserting that TDD & Unit Tests have diminishing returns and, in fact, can hinder productivity. I guess the point was to discard unit testing.

Contrast this w/ the notion of building a jet airplane comprised of millions of parts. Where does one stop testing in that arena? Primitive thinking abounds!


"This is because they focus more on the issues of people working together and less on technologies."

Lets see, my competition has the same access to technologies, gov't regs, financial concerns, etc. What do we really, really have the most influence on? The people we work with! Marcus Buckingham's "First Break All the Rules" is an excellent read.

Sean Landis

Posts: 129
Nickname: seanl
Registered: Mar, 2002

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 10, 2008 10:30 AM
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Damn you Bruce! Just kidding! I was planning on a University presentation, coincidentally in the same state, and I was planning on covering many of the topics you covered in your speech. Well, that gives me some confidence and says that I most of what you said.

Do you have a reference to the Mythical 5%? I agree that a small percentage of developers are much more productive than nearly all the rest, but I would have guessed different numbers. Maybe the 5% is close, but the 20x seems too high to me.

Sandesh

Posts: 2
Nickname: stattit
Registered: Jul, 2004

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 11, 2008 3:22 PM
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With regard to the "shopping bag" incident, it is interesting to note how a lot of software developers seem to confuse "causality" and "correlation". Most of us would, on reading the text on the shopping bag would assume that this is a case of causality rather than that of correlation. Whereas, as Bruce explains, this is a case of the latter. This would also explain why a lot of developers are content fixing the symptom rather than the root cause.

Excellent article.

Regards
Sandesh

Andy Dent

Posts: 165
Nickname: andydent
Registered: Nov, 2005

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Jan 14, 2008 5:00 AM
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> A colleague mentioned reading an article that was
> asserting that TDD & Unit Tests have diminishing returns
> and, in fact, can hinder productivity. I guess the point
> was to discard unit testing.

Huh?

That seems a somewhat mischievous interpretation to me, like saying that exercise having diminishing returns means you should give up exercise!

FWIW I agree, beyond a certain point I've found that TDD and unit testing is not helping produce robust designs and can in fact add inertia to change when you need to radically refactor. The issue surfaces when the API level at which unit testing is going to be severely disrupted.

I find it hard to quantify things like this but suggest a way to decide is to think is the way I write tests still helping me think about the problem]

Amol Jadhav

Posts: 1
Nickname: amoljadhav
Registered: Feb, 2008

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Feb 25, 2008 3:47 AM
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Bruce's speech are always expected to be very nice and please to say this is not an exception.

Well, I liked the first part of the speech where you recommended book reading. However I'm bit confused about the order in which to go about reading (this doesn't mean I avoid reading). There are very nice book available on Language, programming practices, processes that developer can follow, books on design and so on. How to chose the order? where to start from?

Another problem is once you start reading about a language and you are forced to change the platform what to do in such situation, stop reading what you have spent time on? or simply start reading about new technology that you have to work on?

Please Bruce help me out.

Ebube Okafor

Posts: 1
Nickname: ebubep
Registered: Mar, 2008

Re: The Mythical 5% Posted: Mar 13, 2008 2:13 PM
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I object to the use of the word "struggle" to refer to the efforts made by programmers at self-improvement. I feel the word "work hard" is more appropriate.

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