Sunday, March 28, 2004

A picture named LawsofSoftwareProcess-thumb.jpgThis book hooked me with a simple statement from the first chapter that seems completely obvious in retrospect: but i'd never thought of it that way, and it's profound.

"Software is not a product ... Software is a medium." (p. 1)  In particular, it's a knowledge storage medium, and software development isn't a manufacturing process, it's a knowledge acquisition process. "The 'product' is the knowledge contained in the software", which is a kind of "executable knowledge."

Why don't programmers include comments, or test things that should fail? Those things aren't crucial to getting your software to execute on a few test cases, but they're critical aspects of encoding the knowledge that someone will need later to understand whay you did, why, and how to fix it for the cases you didn't anticipate. 

Why are progrrammers such lousy estimators? Because we typically don't know everything we need to know in order to solve a problem (Armour calls this "First Order Ignorance"), and furthermore, we don't know what we don't know ("Second Order Ignorance"), and we don't have a process for acquiring the knowledge we need ("Third Oder Ignorance"). It's not that we don't know how to code: it's the unpredictably nature of the work required to to acquire the critical knowledge that we then translate into code.

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A picture named SpiritualInnovators-thumb.jpgI'm always interested in biographies, because of the way they show the embodiment of abstract principles in real lives. We often wonder if what we do really makes a difference: books like this confirm that they do.

The book is a reflection on "seventy-five extraordinary people who changed the world in the past century." I've only just begun, but i wanted to share a quote, and a factoid from the preface.

The quote is from Paul Tillich to his Harvard seminar students:

"The Bible's prophets were not theologians: they were storytellers, determined to give us all much pause."

I still have a lot to learn about telling God's story in a way that gives others "much pause."

The editors polled "journalists, authors, book editors, and other experts" when deciding which seventy-five people to include. The top "vote getter"? Robert Holbrook Smith, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The time donna and i spent supporting a Celebrate Recovery group at our church gave me a much deeper appreciation for the recovery movement. I learned that spiritual growth has much more in common with recovery from various addictions than most of us are comfortable thinking about.

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