Systems and context at THAT Conference

It’s all that THAT Conference is not THOSE conferences. It’s about the developer as more than a single unit: this year, in multiple ways. I talked about our team as a system — more than a system, a symmathesy. Cory House said that if you want to change your life, change your systems. As humans, our greatest power … Read moreSystems and context at THAT Conference

When knowledge is the limiting factor

In Why Information Grows (my review), physicist César Hidalgo explains that the difference between the ability to produce tee shirts vs rockets is a matter of accumulating knowledge and know-how inside people, and weaving those people into networks. Because no one person can know how to build a rocket from rocks. No one person understands … Read moreWhen knowledge is the limiting factor

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

a telling question. This puzzler says something about our culture. It says we think in terms of causes that happen before their effects. That we don’t believe in reflexive causality. In life, everything interesting is a circle. The mitochondria breaks down sugar, the proteins use the energy, they keep up the cell wall, the cell … Read moreWhich came first, the chicken or the egg?

the future of software: complexity

The other day in Iceland, a tiny conference on the Future of Software Development opened with Michael Feathers addressing a recurring theme: complexity. Software development is drowning in accidental complexity. How do we fight it? he asks. Can we embrace it? I ask. Complexity: Fight it, or fight through it, or embrace it? Yes. Here, … Read morethe future of software: complexity

Get happy developers to do what you want

(originally published in the SD Times) How do we influence the operation of a complex dynamical system like a team? How do we get a development team to function closer to our preferences, and still let people operate as self-actualized humans? In Dynamics in Action, Alicia Juarrero describes complex systems such as people in terms … Read moreGet happy developers to do what you want

Collective problem solving in music, art, science, and software

Or: the Origins of Opera and the Future of Programming. (video, or TL;DR, or abstract) At the end of this post is an audacious idea about the present and future of software development. In the middle are points about mental models: how important and how difficult they are. But first, a story of the origins … Read moreCollective problem solving in music, art, science, and software

Deference or Collaboration: pick one.

There’s this church near my house, with a statue of Mary Magdalene. She’s the picture of deference. As a child and as a Christian, I was raised to see deference as a virtue, to find this statue beautiful. As an adult and as a systems thinker, I learned that deference is dangerous. Nora Bateson pointed … Read moreDeference or Collaboration: pick one.

Not “why”

“Why” is a terrible word because it’s overloaded. Often when we ask “why” we mean “for what purpose” — we’re looking for intention. In the bigger questions (bigger than one person’s decision), that doesn’t make sense. “Why do we let people buy those dangerous guns?”In a system the size of our country, there is no “for what … Read moreNot “why”