The Methodology Luddite Manifesto
I'm a proud methodology hater. As soon as you guys start talking about process, about how to build software, my eyes glaze over. I can't prove it, but I at least hypothesize that the practical usefulness of a methodology is inversely correlated to how detailed and prescriptive it is. Therefore the most useful methodology is the simplest, least prescriptive one. That would be the null methodology, simply stated as:
Please stop wasting valuable electrons with your silly amateur philosophizing and go and do some real work!
(Here's a popular alternative formulation.)
An additional advantage of the null methodology is that it's usually quite inexpensive to implement. You don't need any certified scum masters or other such expensive accoutrements, just a couple of impatient, bad-tempered team mates who are sick of your shit. I'm sure all of us can find a couple of those in our immediate vicinity. Hell, in my case that would be, um, like, the whole rest of my team.
Now yes, certainly I recognize that in some environments the null methodology isn't politically viable, and so we have to disguise it as something more prescriptive by putting it in a dress and painting lipstick on it. This, of course, is where Agile originally came from. Sadly, what went wrong with agile was that a few folks mistook the dress and the lipstick for the essence of what was good about it: that it gave you ammunition to use against your idiot boss and against harmful shit like RUP, and then, by and large, got out of your way and let you get on with your work.
I mean, if you read the agile manifesto, it's so fundamentally vague and platitudinal and hand-wavy as to be virtually indistinguishable from the null methodology. The harm comes about when people start trying to actually read meaningful shit into its platitudes.
So, if I hate methodology so much, if I'm so entirely uninterested in process, in how, what do I worry about instead? Well, what happened is that I've freed up valuable stress glands for worrying about the what, that is, the actual product I'm building.
Since every unmethodology needs a manifesto, here's mine. Clearly it needs some work, since in this age of four-second attention spans, nobody will ever make it to the fifth, and most important, bullet point.
A good product:
- solves an interesting problem,
- with a set of feature that are as general and orthogonal as possible,
- whose behavior is sufficiently well-defined and well-tested,
- using tools and technologies that will help you change and extend the product in the future, and
- can be delivered to your users as fast as humanly fucking possible.
(I had to put a naughty word in my manifesto to let you guys know how serious I am about this and as a shout out to my GeeCON peeps.)
Since this post is already much too long for its URL to fit in
because I'm already running out of electrons, and because my fingertips are
sore from all this rapid keypressing, I'm not going to bore your
social-media-retarded brain with any substantial quantity of words explaining
what I mean by each bullet. Instead I'm just going to briefly boil it down
to some dumb shit that would like almost fit in twitter if it were three
times as dumb and brief:
- If the problem isn't interesting, don't work on it. Man up and quit.
- Your users are begging for bells and whistles and optional semicolons. Tell them you're really busy with some other high-priority shit right now but that you'll get right onto implementing their precious optional semicolons when you find the time. Never find the time.
- If "sufficiently well-defined" means a formal specification, go and write a damn spec. Trust me, if you want to learn how to think more rigorously about software semantics, writing down specifications in English is one of the best ways ever to go about it. On the other hand, if a formal spec won't help you understand your software, don't write it. Either way, write lots and lots of tests for user-visible behavior. Oh and if you need to, write some unit tests for really complex internal subsystems—but not too many, 'cos that's code you don't really absolutely need that you'll still have to maintain and refactor.
- Sure, it's great to be able to get up and started quickly. But be careful with platforms that are inexpensive up front and get more expensive as the system grows and evolves and the team members change—cough dynamic typing cough.
- What are you even still doing here? Don't you have code to write?