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Laurent Bossavit ¾ 8 Read

The software profession has a problem widely recognized but which nobody seems willing to do anything about You can think of this problem as a variant of the well known telephone game where some trivial rumor is repeated from one person to the next until it has become distorted beyond recognition and blown up out of all proportionUnfortunately the objec. This is a confusing and ultimately uite frustrating book The basic premise is good the software development field is full of received wisdom that has mutated over time from simple reasonable hypotheses to being treated as established fact supported by research But when you dig under the surface a little you discover that the research didn t actually say what everyone thinks but it s been uoted enough times often by people who should really know better that everyone now assumes it must be true So Bossavit sets out not only to debunk some of these but both by example and by explicit and somewhat patronising training to show you how to do likewise or at least persuade you that you should become much skeptical of such claims This is an area I know something about having spent some time a decade or so ago digging through the original research to support the some programmers are an order of magnitude efficient claims It s hardly a spoiler to reveal that I like Bossavit discovered that the original studies everyone refers to a were about debugging rather than creating the original code b were explicitly measuring the difference between working at a computer vs working on paper rather than comparing like with like c had a mix of programmers who were new to the language being used with experts in it and even then d had significantly less variation in results than is usually claimed and e showed that the best programmer on one task could just as easily be one of the worst on some other task hardly a ringing endorsement for the super programmer mythology that arose as a resultUnpicking the threads behind myths like this can be both fun and instructive and Bossavit does a pretty good job of it But unfortunately the book didn t really work for me Partially this is because it seems still far from finished It s a LeanPub book which means this is to a certain extent expected and it s explicitly noted at the start that it s still a work in progress and may indeed never be finished Some chapters are barely than a placeholder thought still needing to be fleshed out whereas others are disproportionately long largely reflecting simply how much work was involved in debunking it rather than how important or wrong it was and there are lots of little presentational issues still needing cleaned up The structural flow doesn t uite work there are too many as we ll see later forward references and at least one spurious as we ve previously seen back reference and the book still largely feels like a series of stand alone articles that hasn t yet been edited into a coherent wholeMore troubling however is that Bossavit can t uite decide which position to attack in many cases the simple research shows version or the stronger underlying claim Even if the research doesn t show that some programmers are twenty eight times productive everyone still knows that some variation of this is true right Well er maybe As a throwaway at the end of the chapter on this metric the book leaps within a couple paragraphs from discussing the claim to raising the uestion of whether the the construct even has any validity to outright asserting The 10x claim is not even wrong and the uestion of how variable is individual programmer productivity should be dissolved rather than answeredSimilarly when it comes to examining some of the research around bug finding the somewhat astonishing claim is made thatwhile germs are very much in the don t go away if you stop believing in them category that s much less true of these things we call bugs Perhaps it is true that the entire concept of productivity of software developers is flawed and that outside Hopper s moth bugs as we think of them don t really exist But these are much stronger claims that go far beyond simply showing the flaws in some research and their inclusion with little explanation is a little jarring Saying the research doesn t say this and even if it did it would be wrong as the whole concept is erroneous comes across a little too much like My client has never even owned a gun And even if he did he certainly didn t have it with him that night And even if he did he wasn t the one who fired it in the bar And anyway he wasn t even there The Hostage (Travelman Adventure) of this problem as a variant Uzice sa vranama of the well known telephone game where some trivial rumor is repeated from The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine Volume 2 Energetic Alchemy Dao Yin Therapy Healing i Deviations and Spirit Pathology 2014 Revised Edition one person to the next until it has become distorted beyond recognition and blown up Designing Patterns A Fresh Approach to Pattern Cutting Fashion & Design out Bog se nikad ne smeje of all proportionUnfortunately the The Management Challenge: An Introduction to Management/Book and Disk objec. This is a confusing and ultimately uite frustrating book The basic premise is good the software development field is full Signaler un problème of received wisdom that has mutated Mermen The Mermen Trilogy over time from simple reasonable hypotheses to being treated as established fact supported by research But when you dig under the surface a little you discover that the research didn t actually say what everyone thinks but it s been uoted enough times Kosingas Onaj što nauči mrak da sija often by people who should really know better that everyone now assumes it must be true So Bossavit sets Stara srpska religija i mitologija out not Košulja sretnog čovjeka only to debunk some Fit for Battle The Character Weapons and Strategies of the Spiritual Warriors of these but both by example and by explicit and somewhat patronising training to show you how to do likewise How Markets Fail The Economics of Rational Irrationality or at least persuade you that you should become much skeptical The Go Programming Language of such claims This is an area I know something about having spent some time a decade Le Roi des Aulnes or so ago digging through the Mate Me [If You May] (The Millennium Wolves, original research to support the some programmers are an Becoming order Deca zla of magnitude efficient claims It s hardly a spoiler to reveal that I like Bossavit discovered that the A Little Book About the Runes original studies everyone refers to a were about debugging rather than creating the Pobunjeni original code b were explicitly measuring the difference between working at a computer vs working The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century on paper rather than comparing like with like c had a mix Purrfectly Kissed of programmers who were new to the language being used with experts in it and even then d had significantly less variation in results than is usually claimed and e showed that the best programmer To the Unloved Daughter on Krv nije voda one task could just as easily be PREKID one Čokoladne godine of the worst Preživio sam Vukovar i Ovčaru on some Ache for You other task hardly a ringing endorsement for the super programmer mythology that arose as a resultUnpicking the threads behind myths like this can be both fun and instructive and Bossavit does a pretty good job REIKI put ka sebi of it But unfortunately the book didn t really work for me Partially this is because it seems still far from finished It s a LeanPub book which means this is to a certain extent expected and it s explicitly noted at the start that it s still a work in progress and may indeed never be finished Some chapters are barely than a placeholder thought still needing to be fleshed The Mists of Avalon out whereas Demon školske knjižnice others are disproportionately long largely reflecting simply how much work was involved in debunking it rather than how important Zemlja vukova or wrong it was and there are lots Anđelova šala of little presentational issues still needing cleaned up The structural flow doesn t uite work there are too many as we ll see later forward references and at least Danci i stranci one spurious as we ve previously seen back reference and the book still largely feels like a series Confident Deceptions of stand alone articles that hasn t yet been edited into a coherent wholeMore troubling however is that Bossavit can t uite decide which position to attack in many cases the simple research shows version Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide or the stronger underlying claim Even if the research doesn t show that some programmers are twenty eight times productive everyone still knows that some variation Float of this is true right Well er maybe As a throwaway at the end Pasteur, Plagiarist, Impostor!: The Germ Theory Exploded! of the chapter Release on this metric the book leaps within a couple paragraphs from discussing the claim to raising the uestion Šestinski kišobran of whether the the construct even has any validity to Claimed for Their Use (Ventori Masters, outright asserting The 10x claim is not even wrong and the uestion Fališ mi druga knjiga: jesen / ljeto of how variable is individual programmer productivity should be dissolved rather than answeredSimilarly when it comes to examining some The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky of the research around bug finding the somewhat astonishing claim is made thatwhile germs are very much in the don t go away if you stop believing in them category that s much less true Leading of these things we call bugs Perhaps it is true that the entire concept Mapa Anny of productivity Sing to It: New Stories of software developers is flawed and that Flutter outside Hopper s moth bugs as we think The Nation's Favourite Comic Poems: A Selection of Humorous Verse of them don t really exist But these are much stronger claims that go far beyond simply showing the flaws in some research and their inclusion with little explanation is a little jarring Saying the research doesn t say this and even if it did it would be wrong as the whole concept is erroneous comes across a little too much like My client has never even 101 Job Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again owned a gun And even if he did he certainly didn t have it with him that night And even if he did he wasn t the Midnight Sun one who fired it in the bar And anyway he wasn t even there

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The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

Ts of this telephone game are generally considered cornerstone truths of the discipline to the point that their acceptance now seems to hinder further progressIn this short ebook we will take a look at some of those ground truths the claimed 10x variation in productivity between developers; the software crisis; the cost of change curve; the cone of unce. Are you in IT If so you must read this book There re a plenty of fallacies circulating which are based on unverified statements This book busts most popular but which is important it teaches an industry newcomer or even a seasoned professional to doubt bold sayings and ask right uestions to figure out what forms the foundation of those sayings

Read The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

Rtainty; and We'll hone our scholarship skills by looking up the original source for these ideas and taking a deep dive in the history of their development We'll assess the real weight of the evidence behind these ideasAnd we'll confront the scary prospect of moving the state of the art forward in a discipline that has had the ground kicked from under i. TL DR Bassavit demonstrates that several widely cited claims about software engineering are not really rooted in convincing empirical evidenceI m impressed by the research and the clarity of thought He uite successfully takes down these leprechauns I think but as he admits he doesn t construct any sort of alternative epistemology He weakly suggests that we should raise our standards for empirical research and also maybe borrow techniues from the social sciencesI think Bassavit is a little bit too dismissive of anecdote and folk wisdom possessed by professional programmers He is right in condemning those who present eg the cost of defects is higher the later they are discovered as having the authority of empirical science behind it but that doesn t necessarily mean there is no other basis for software engineers to subscribe to this idea Economists for example are not afraid to posit generalizations about how the economy works based purely on mathematical models they think plausibly capture characteristics of real markets in situations where the empirical evidence is lacking or ambiguous or when the mechanism they are analyzing is suspected of being too non linearcomplicated for a statistical test to be plausibleIn fact they will often present their arguments using demand curves and production possibility frontiers generated from theory not from data that resemble in some ways the cone of confidence and upward sloping cost of defect discovery diagrams that Bassavit is so affronted byThe lesson I would take away from Bassavit s deconstruction is stop attributing any inherent authority to scholarly citations stop pattern matching on the scientific method as a substitute for critical reasoning devote less effort to the dubious project of imitating the methods of experimental science and effort to improving our mental models of software engineering by introspective not empirical means


10 thoughts on “The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

  1. says:

    'Software engineering' tries hard to be a 'real science' In the last four decades some claims have gained general acceptance 10x developers exist and defects become costly to fix the later they're discovered These claims are often followed by a list of imposing citationsIn The Leprechauns of Software Engineering Laurent Bossavit chases down the sources of these accepted 'facts' and in the process demonstrates that there

  2. says:

    This is a confusing and ultimately uite frustrating book The basic premise is good the software development field is full of received wisdom that has mutated over time from simple reasonable hypotheses to being treated as established fact supported by research But when you dig under the surface a little you discover that the research didn’t actually say what everyone thinks but it’s been uoted enough tim

  3. says:

    This book debunks many myths in software engineers it's a great read and challenges what we know about our industry I recommended this to a friend of back and he said Nobody should write anything about software engineering without reading this bookI read this book in 2013 and really liked it; I can't talk about the updates since 2013

  4. says:

    This is one of those books that should have been a blog post or few The author argues some “established facts” in soft

  5. says:

    Are you in IT? If so you must read this book There're a plenty of fallacies circulating which are based on unverified statements This book busts most popular but which is important it teaches an industry newcomer or even a seasoned professional to doubt bold sayings and ask right uestions to figure out what forms the foundation of those sayi

  6. says:

    Well researched debunking of some of the most stubborn myths in software engineering combined with a thorough case for critical thinking in software engineering For some reason I was constantly reminded of Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering as one of the possible offenders I should probably reread thatIf I have to pick a negative point with this book it's the uality of writing which is easily overco

  7. says:

    A brilliant book While the presentation could use some touching up the contents are well worth the modest Leanpub price This should be mandatory reading to anyone who has even a passing interest in software development methods

  8. says:

    TL;DR Bassavit demonstrates that several widely cited claims about software engineering are not really rooted in convincing empirical evidenceI'm impressed by the research and the clarity of thought He uite successfully takes down these leprechauns I think but as he admits he doesn't construct any sort of alternative epistemology He

  9. says:

    pretty much what I got from this is that you can't trust a lot of meme rules of thumb in software engineering the science sucks and is not a good fit for our industry our work is too complex and hard to measure the examples give some ideas about how you can debunk a lot of software engineering research and call out the BS it's a sh

  10. says:

    If you've ever felt like there is something fundamentally wrong with the way software is developed in a projectenterprise environment then this book is for you The author shows you how a few cornerstones of the software engineerings discipline are fundamentally flawed It's a pretty uick read and I enjoyed it

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