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Comment: TEPES (Score 1) 210

by bfwebster (#48920297) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Makes a Great Software Developer?

Having built a long-term development team from scratch, and having screened a lot of consulting software engineers, I eventually came up with an acronym that describes what I look for: Talent, Experience, Professionalism, Education, Skill (TEPES). I wrote a post on the subject back in 2008 -- you can read it here. ..bruce..

Comment: Yes. Next question? (Score 2, Informative) 127

by bfwebster (#48470829) Attached to: Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County

Seriously, the rush to electronic voting after the 2000 Presidential election was just a bad idea all the way around -- and, frankly, most IT people with any experience were saying so. It is vastly, vastly harder to change physical media than to change electronics.

Comment: We use the wrong model for IT hiring and retention (Score 4, Interesting) 574

by bfwebster (#48306973) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

Eight years ago, Ruby Raley and I published (in Cutter IT Journal) an article entitled "The Longest Yard: Reorganizing IT for Success" (you can read it here). Our basic premise is that the current "industrial" model of IT hiring/management -- treating IT engineers like cogs or components -- is fundamentally flawed, and that a model based on professional sports teams would likely work much better. Having spent 20 years analyzing troubled or failed software projects, I believe we need a significantly different approach on hiring and retaining the right IT engineers. ..bruce..

Comment: Removing my palms from my face... (Score 5, Insightful) 104

by bfwebster (#48197243) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Event Sign-Up Software Options For a Non-Profit?

I am convinced it's a mistake for this non-profit to create a software development team from a rotating pool of volunteers to write software upon which it is critically dependent.

Yes, it is, for a whole host of reasons that I'm sure will be expanded upon here shortly. I've spent 20 years dealing with troubled and failed IT projects, and one of the biggest mistakes I see time and again is an organization trying to create a mission-critical project, often in a compressed time frame, using developers who are not an experienced, functioning team. You can usually throw into that first-time adoption of some silver-bullet technology and/or methodology. So, what you get it, "OK, let's get 10 random programmers who have never delivered a working system together as a team, and they're going to develop this mission-critical system from scratch in 4 months using Swift and Agile, even though none of the programmers have ever used either. And we can add more programmers if we start to fall behind."

Having the programmers be volunteers is even worse, since they are now self-selecting based on their own interest, instead of being chosen for, you know, actual skills, talent, experience, and so on.

Sigh. ..bruce..

Comment: Re:Seriously? This is a post? (Score 1) 232

by bfwebster (#47929089) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Have You Experienced Fear Driven Development?

Yep.. Many years ago, I said in testimony before a Congressional committee (yeah, I went there):

"Humanity has been developing information technology for half a century. That experience has taught us this unpleasant truth: virtually every information technology project above a certain size or complexity is significantly late and over budget or fails altogether; those that don't fail are often riddled with defects and difficult to enhance. Fred Brooks explored many of the root causes over twenty years ago in The Mythical Man-Month, a classic book that could be regarded as the Bible of information technology because it is universally known, often quoted, occasionally read, and rarely heeded."

Software is hard, and it gets harder the larger the project. Stupid human behavior just compounds the problem. ..bruce..

Comment: Seriously? This is a post? (Score 5, Insightful) 232

by bfwebster (#47925807) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Have You Experienced Fear Driven Development?

Not to pile on here, but there is nothing new or recent about fear-driven projects of any kind, much less fear-driven IT projects. All you need to do is read some of the classic books on IT project management, including The Psychology of Computer Programming by Jerry Weinberg (1971), The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks (1975), and Death March by Ed Yourdon (1997).

Back in the early 90s, I was chief software architect for a start-up developing a large, complex and novel commercial software product. After working long hours for years, we had missed our original release date and were struggling to come up with a new date that we could be sure of making. Top management (CEO, CFO) was considering carrot/stick "incentives" to "motivate" the engineering team to make a certain date; one of the senior developers stopped me in a hallway by the engineering offices and asked, "Don't they realize they're dealing with grown-ups back here?"

P.S. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I remain appalled at the profound lack of familiarity among far too many IT industry practitioners of the essential books on software engineering and IT project management. As I have said ad infinitum and ad nauseum, not only do they keep re-inventing the wheel, they keep reinventing the flat tire.

Comment: I wrote about this in 1996 in BYTE (Score 5, Interesting) 608

by bfwebster (#47414679) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

The article was called "The Real Software Crisis" (BYTE, January, 1996); you can read the original text here. (BYTE's archives are no longer online). I wrote a more extended discussion on the subject back in 2008; you can read it here. One might was well write that "normal humans are effectively excluded from composing and performing music"; if you've ever known a music major in college, you'll know just how true that is (I believe Music to be a harder major than Computer Science, having dated a Music major while getting my own degree in CS). ..bruce..

+ - Copyright ruling on calculated results

Submitted by bfwebster
bfwebster (90513) writes "During the past few years, I served as an IT expert witness in BanxCorp v. Costco et al., in which BanxCorp sued Costco and Capital One for citing (with credit) its web-published national averages for CD and money market rates in their advertising. Judge Kenneth M. Karas issued his summary judgment opinion last fall, finding that BanxCorp's published averages are "uncopyrightable facts" due to the simple calculation involved and the lack of ongoing human judgment in what banks were involved. Here is my summary of his findings, along with a link to the actual ruling."

Comment: Been a problem for decades (Score 2) 118

by bfwebster (#45778727) Attached to: How Healthcare.gov Changed the Software Testing Conversation

SQA as a red-headed stepchild has been an issue for many, many years. It's just that most troubles/failed software systems don't have the widespread public exposure that Healthcare.gov has; even the most brain-dead corporation would not have launched such an incomplete and bug-ridden system to a vast end-user bases.

Some years ago, I led a review of a late (4 yrs vs 2 yrs estimated) and very over-budget ($500M vs. $180M estimated) corporate software project. The core problems had everything to do with SQA, starting with the fact that there was no SQA organization; all testing was done on an ad hoc basis by individual teams and organizations. Adding to that problem was the fact that there was no coherent architecture. After 4 years and $500M, there were no systems that were ready to go into production. Far too common in industry and especially in government. ..bruce..

+ - 30-40% of Healthcare.gov (backed systems) yet to be finished

Submitted by bfwebster
bfwebster (90513) writes "In testimony today before Congress, Deputy CIO Henry Chao indicated that 30 to 40 percent of the overall Healthcare.gov systems — primarily the payment, accounting, and back-office systems — are not yet complete. Note that payments must be made by December 15th in order for insurance coverage to start on January 1st. (Note: Chao seems to say at first that 60-70% still needs to be completed, but later clarifies himself that 30-40% needs to be completed.)"

Comment: Old article. I can sum it up with three quotes (Score 4, Insightful) 400

by bfwebster (#45314311) Attached to: HealthCare.gov: What Went Wrong?

Quote 1: "A complex system that works is found to have invariably evolved from a simple system that worked. . . .A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system." (John Gall, Systemantics,p. 80, 1978 paperback edition).

Quote 2: "In architecting a new [software] program all the serious mistakes are made in the first day." (Martin, 1988, cited in Maier & Rechtin, The Art of Systems Architecting (3rd ed.), p. 399)

Quote 3: "Indeed, when asked why so many IT projects go wrong in spite of all we know, one could simply cite the seven deadly sins: avarice, sloth, envy, gluttony, wrath, lust, and pride. It is as good an answer as any and more accurate than most." (me, testifying before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology Hearing, US House of Representatives, June 22, 1998)

My pre- and post-launch analysis of the Healthcare.gov website can be found here. ..bruce..

+ - New concept -- the Peter Pinnacle -- inspired by Ballmer? 1

Submitted by bfwebster
bfwebster (90513) writes "Michael Swaine — long-time, well-known and very prolific author/editor in the programming and personal computing worlds — has just devised a new twist on the Peter Principal: the Peter Pinnacle, 'meaning to get promoted so high and to be so unqualified for your job that the company tells you that you can name your price just to go away.' I'm sure the timing of the neologism is just a coincidence."

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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