The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

“This is how we do things around here.”

And, in fact, anyone with any proximity to software development has likely heard rumblings about Agile. For all the promise of the manifesto, one starts to get the sense when talking to people who work in technology that laboring under Agile may not be the liberatory experience it’s billed as. Indeed, software development is in crisis again—but, this time, it’s an Agile crisis. On the web, everyone from regular developers to some of the original manifesto authors is raising concerns about Agile practices. They talk about the “Agile-industrial complex,” the network of consultants, speakers, and coaches who charge large fees to fine-tune Agile processes. And almost everyone complains that Agile has taken a wrong turn: somewhere in the last two decades, Agile has veered from the original manifesto’s vision, becoming something more restrictive, taxing, and stressful than it was meant to be.

Part of the issue is Agile’s flexibility. Jan Wischweh, a freelance developer, calls this the “no true Scotsman” problem. Any Agile practice someone doesn’t like is not Agile at all, it inevitably turns out. The construction of the manifesto makes this almost inescapable: because the manifesto doesn’t prescribe any specific activities, one must gauge the spirit of the methods in place, which all depends on the person experiencing them. Because it insists on its status as a “mindset,” not a methodology, Agile seems destined to take on some of the characteristics of any organization that adopts it. And it is remarkably immune to criticism, since it can’t be reduced to a specific set of methods. “If you do one thing wrong and it’s not working for you, people will assume it’s because you’re doing it wrong,” one product manager told me. “Not because there’s anything wrong with the framework.”

Via Hacker News, Agile and the Long Crisis of Software

That last line, “it's not working for you, people will assume it's because you're doing it wrong,” rings really true to me. At The Corporation—no, I no longer work for The Corporation, I now work for The Enterprise now that the Corporate Overlords have finally taken over. So, at The Enterprise, I've been informing them pretty much all this year that this “Agile” development system they're forcing on us isn't working. Before they finally took over, the team I was on was always on time, on budget, smooth deployments (only two bad deployments in ten years) and no show-stopping bugs found in production. As I told upper management, given our prior track record, why change how we do development? Why fix what isn't broken? And while upper management never said this directly, through their actions they answered: this is our process, and we're sticking to it, slipped schedules and disasterous deployments be damned!

As to why I haven't left yet? Because it seems this “Agile” movement has invaded everywhere and things would be “more of the same” elsewhere. At least here, I'm not forced to use Windows.

Programming, up hill, both ways

People would come to us with a problem, and we would figure out a solution. We couldn't just search the web because the web was still being written. And you couldn't just punt a hard question to the engineer in the desk next to you. Why? Because you were sitting alone in a utility closet packed with floppy disks and old tape drives.

I'm a XXXXX­XX webmaster

Ah, this takes me back. I got my first computer back in 1984, and if I wanted to know anything about it I was on my own. Google didn't exist (the public Internet didn't exist at the time). I didn't have anyone I could ask about computer related things. I did have books and magazines. So between experimentation and learning to read between the lines, I picked up programming.

So when it came time to write a metasearch engine, there were no tutorials. There were no open source metasearch engines to download and use. There was only the problem of writing a metasearch engine, in a language I didn't even know (and which itself was less than a year old at the time).

Fun times.

So I always found it odd when people would go online asking for tutorials, especially for writing metasearch engines (and yes, that did happen back then). So when something like testing a negative comes up, and I can't convince the Powers That Be that it's never a good idea to prove a negative, I can't just look up some tutorial on proving negatives—I just have to figure it out on my own.

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