Skip to main content

Theory P or theory D?

Whichtheory fits the evidence (Raganwald):

Theory P adherents believe that there are lies, damned lies, andsoftware development estimates. ... Theory P adherents believethat the most important element of successful software development is learning.

Maybe I'm an extreme P adherent; I say that learning is everythingin software development.  The results of this learning are captured incode where possible, human minds where not.  Absolutely everything elseassociated with software development can and will be automated away.


To date, Theory P is the clear winner on the evidence, and it’s noteven close. Like any reasonable theory, it explains what we haveobserved to date and makes predictions that are tested empiricallyevery day.

Theory D, on the other hand, is the overwhelming winner in themarketplace, and again it’s not even close. The vast majority ofsoftware development projects are managed according to Theory D, withlarge, heavyweight investments in design and planning in advance, verylittle tolerance for deviation from the plan, and a belief that goodplanning can make up for poor execution by contributors.

Does Theory D reflect reality? From the perspective of effectivesoftware development, I do not believe so. However, from theperspective of organizational culture, theory D is reality, and youignore it at your peril.

So this is a clear contradiction.  Why is it that theory D is sosuccessful (at replicating itself if nothing else) while theory Planguishes (at replicating)?  Perhaps D offers clear benefits to itsadherents within large organizations -- status, power, large reportingtrees...  and thus P can't gain a foothold despite offering clearorganization-level benefits. 

But I suspect that it's simpler than that; I think that people simplydon't really evaluate history or data objectively.  Also, it may bedifficult for people without the technical background to really howdifficult some problems are; past a certain level of functionality,it's all equally magic.  The size of the team that accomplished a taskthen becomes a proxy for its level of difficulty, in the way that highprices become a proxy for the quality of a product in the marketplacefor the majority of consumers.  So small teams, by this measure, mustnot be accomplishing much, and if they do, it's a fluke that can beexplained away in hindsight with a bit of work.

Somebody should do a dissertation on this...


Popular posts from this blog

The problem with creation date metadata in PDF documents

Last night Rachel Maddow talked about an apparently fake NSA document "leaked" to her organization.  There's a lot of info there, I suggest you listen to the whole thing:

There's a lot to unpack there but it looks like somebody tried to fool MSNBC into running with a fake accusation based on faked NSA documents, apparently based on cloning the document the Intercept published back on 6/5/2017, which to all appearances was itself a real NSA document in PDF form.

I think the main thrust of this story is chilling and really important to get straight -- some person or persons unknown is sending forged PDFs to news organization(s), apparently trying to get them to run stories based on forged documents.  And I completely agree with Maddow that she was right to send up a "signal flare" to all the news organizations to look out for forgeries.  Really, really, really import…

Why I'm No Longer On The Facebook

I've had a Facebook account for a few years, largely because other people were on it and were organizing useful communities there.  I stuck with it (not using it for private information) even while I grew increasingly concerned about Facebook's inability to be trustworthy guardians of private information.  The recent slap on the wrist from the FTC for Facebook violating the terms of its prior consent agreement made it clear that there wasn't going to be any penalty for Facebook for continuing to violate court orders.
Mark Zuckerberg claimed he had made a mistake in 2016 by ridiculing the idea of election interference on his platform, apologized, and claimed he was turning over a new leaf:
“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.  This is too important an issue to be dismissive.” It turns out, though, that was just Zuck ly…

My faxed letter to both my Senators this morning

My faxed letter to both my Senators this morning.

Senators Grassley and Graham, this morning, engaged in an obvious act of witness intimidation. They leaked a letter to the Justice Department referring criminal prosecution against Mr. Steele for alleged but unspecified false statements to, apparently, the FBI.

This is on the heels of Senator Grassley refusing to release the testimony of Fusion GPS, refusing to allow the public to evaluate the claims of Simpson vs. selective and apparently inaccurate leaks of said information from the Republican members of the committee.

This is outrageous.

It is unacceptable. It is un-American. These Senators are trying to achieve in then court of public opinion what they have no chance of doing in a real court. They are themselves engaging in witness intimidation & obstruction of justice.

I call on you to denounce this desperate and illegal act by your colleagues and to introduce a motion to censure these two sitting Senators who have demeaned th…