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I think I'm done with thought leaders

37 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Mar 10, 2004 4:30 PM by Steve Holden

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Isaac Gouy

Posts: 527
Nickname: igouy
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 8, 2004 1:16 PM
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> >Perhaps you should name some names
> The names aren't important

Depends whether those folk would be interested in responding to what you say.

Depends whether you are interested in a monologue or a dialogue.

Rick Kitts

Posts: 48
Nickname: rkitts
Registered: Jan, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 8, 2004 2:39 PM
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> > >Perhaps you should name some names
> > The names aren't important
>
> Depends whether those folk would be interested in
> responding to what you say.

If somebody is interested then they can respond away.

>
> Depends whether you are interested in a monologue or a
> dialogue.

Isn't this a dialoue? Do we have to say "Joe did this"? Aren't we better saying "this seems wrong"? Isn't it really the what and not the who that's important?

Michael Feathers

Posts: 448
Nickname: mfeathers
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 8, 2004 3:46 PM
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> Isn't this a dialoue? Do we have to say "Joe did this"?
> Aren't we better saying "this seems wrong"? Isn't it
> really the what and not the who that's important?

True, but it seems like the "who" is important to you. You were saying you want someone who has been working full time on a project for years with over 30 people and over a million lines of code, and it seems that that legitimizes someone's advice. I've got my long run, big project experience, but the more teams I visit, the more I notice that many of the same problems come up in big and small teams. There are differences. It feels qualitatively different to work in a 15 MSLOC C++ system than it does in 10 KSLOC one and the team dynamics and workflow are different, but many things are the same. We all edit one class at a time and things get better or worse one class at a time.

Rick Kitts

Posts: 48
Nickname: rkitts
Registered: Jan, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 8, 2004 7:18 PM
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> > Isn't this a dialoue? Do we have to say "Joe did this"?
> > Aren't we better saying "this seems wrong"? Isn't it
> > really the what and not the who that's important?
>
> True, but it seems like the "who" is important to you.
> You were saying you want someone who has been working
> g full time on a project for years with over 30 people and
> over a million lines of code, and it seems that that
> legitimizes someone's advice. I've got my long run, big
> project experience, but the more teams I visit, the more I
> notice that many of the same problems come up in big and
> small teams. There are differences. It feels
> qualitatively different to work in a 15 MSLOC C++ system
> than it does in 10 KSLOC one and the team dynamics and
> workflow are different, but many things are the same. We
> all edit one class at a time and things get better or
> worse one class at a time.

While we do all edit in the same fashion I find a team of, say, 5 is entirely different. I think this is rooted partially in what you are saying. Everyone seems to create the same source level (or design level, or process level) errors. When there are fewer people, addressing these problems is much easier.

I think, in fact, you've sort of clarified the issue a bit. All of our techniques we use to build systems leads to approximately the same result. In a smaller environments these short comings can be ameliorated by fat pipe communication, easier consensus creation and so forth. However larger organizations which suffer the same challenges do not have those advantages.

So I think my point in team size > 30, years, large system base is predicated on the notion that the problems are the same wherever you go, but the solutions for large teams are (I posit) quite a bit different and not addressed specifically by what I'm calling thought leaders. To the extent this is true, and by not calling out the (presumed) differences brought about by organization size I conclude thought leaders aren't doing me much good.

This all made sense to me when I wrote it.

Robert C. Martin

Posts: 111
Nickname: unclebob
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 9, 2004 1:14 AM
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> I dunno. Every hour of every day, 5 or so days a week?
> With a team of, say, 30+ developers? On a system over 1M
> LOC + supporting files? That's what I'm speaking of.

Oh. I thought you were talking about significant projects. ;-)

Robert C. Martin

Posts: 111
Nickname: unclebob
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 9, 2004 1:17 AM
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> Isn't this a dialoue? Do we have to say "Joe did this"?
> Aren't we better saying "this seems wrong"? Isn't it
> really the what and not the who that's important?

Well, yes. However you didn't say: "this is wrong", you said: "I think I'm done with thought leaders." So the whole thread is about who and not what. I'm still not sure I know what the what is.

I suppose your intent was to say: I'm done with thought leaders who've never written any code in the real world. That's a sentiment I can sympathize with.

Bill Venners

Posts: 2250
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 9, 2004 3:05 AM
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> I suppose your intent was to say: I'm done with thought
> leaders who've never written any code in the real
> world.
That's a sentiment I can sympathize with.

I can sympathize too, but I'm not done with those guys yet.

A happy side benefit of doing the interviews I do is that I get to grill a lot of so-called thought leaders face to face. I try to read their book and articles ahead of time. When I find an idea I like, I ask them about it, because that way I get that idea onto Artima. When I find something that sounds suspicious to me, I challenge them on it. Often (not always), I get a new perspective on what they said that makes more sense. In other words, often it doesn't quite come across in their book, but in person, I can be made to understand it.

I've learned something from everyone I've talked to, even the ones who haven't done real work in a while. And I try to pass those insights along in the interview articles. That's why I'm not done with them. They have something to teach me if I look, even though some of what they have to say doesn't help me much.

In 1996, I took a year off and wrote a book. It took me a year, almost full time. I don't how anyone writes a book while they are working a full-time job with real responsibilities and deadlines. I assume some people do it, but I can't imagine how. So I think to some extent there is an intrinsic problem in that the people who have time to write, don't have time to do real work, at least while they are writing. Nowadays my time is filled with sales, marketing, contracts, writing, editing, and programming, quite a bit of programming. Guess what I don't have time to do? I don't have time to write. Actually, I do. I force myself to get one article a week out, but it is almost always an interview. My design book, which has been on the back burner for years, gets no attention. My blog gets no attention.

Last fall I interviewed Ward Cunningham, a thought-leader who has started a lot of snowballs rolling that ended up being rather large. When I asked Ward about wikis, one of the things he mentioned is that wikis let people who do real work have a voice. Ward said:

What you get as a wiki reader is access to people who had no voice before. The people to whom we are giving voice have a lot of instinct about what it's like to write, and ship, a computer program. Our industry honors certain traditions in its publications. If you want to contribute to a scientific journal, for example, you should be peer reviewed. Part of peer review is that you're familiar with all the other literature. And the other literature somehow that spiraled off into irrelevance. What was being written about programming didn't match what practicing programmers felt. With wiki, practicing programmers who don't have time to master the literature and get a column in a journal that's going to be read have a place where they could say things that are important to them. The wiki provides a different view.

What Ward said about wikis I also find true of weblogs. Weblogs give voice to programmers doing real work. I honestly am not sure how some bloggers find so much time to write, either, but I'm glad they do, because I learn from them. When I met you at the Jini Meet-up, Rick, I kept hearing you talk about how this XP practice or that agile practice doesn't scale or doesn't work well in your situation. You sounded like one of these people that Ward was talking about, people who know what it's like to write and ship a program, and that's why I wanted to bring you in as a blogger. You have contributed some reality checks on some popular, trendy ideas. It helps us figure out how to apply those ideas.

I'm not done with thought leaders, because I like that Kent Beck and Martin Fowler and Scott Meyers and Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt and Grady Booch and Erich Gamma and whoever else are out there building castles in the air. They give me lots to think about. But I also like to balance what those guys say with input from people who may be less famous, people who spend their days building real buildings on the ground that have to survive hurricanes and earthquakes. I learn from them as well.

Steve Holden

Posts: 42
Nickname: holdenweb
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: I think I'm done with thought leaders Posted: Mar 10, 2004 4:30 PM
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Put another way, and I'm getting really stuck on this theme, there is a lack of humanity in what I've been reading. Perhaps I want a developer physchology book.

I take it you have read Gerald Weinberg's "The Psychology of Computer Programming"? Not a great work, but far better-connected with the real world than many abstract design books.

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