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Friday, July 08, 2005


Why are programmers supposed to know everything?

Interesting rant called Programmers Need To Learn Statistics Or I Will Kill Them All. My immediate reaction was to see this as just another example of people being upset that programmers don't know everything.

To wish that programmers knew everything is generally a waste of time (how could they?). But I think this guy is onto something - I just don't yet know what it is. There is certainly something wrong with the way many IT people think the world works which comes out when they try to manage.


  • Very intersting article. Thanks for sharing! Saying you don't know is tough for everyone though, not just programmers.

    By Blogger Phil Gerbyshak, at 7:57 pm  

  • The problem is one of "in" and "on" culture.

    When we go to school, we take all kinds of courses, because we have to. We might make an A, but in a bull kind of way. Learn it. Cram it. Fire. Forget.

    When we take our major courses, we put some effort into them. We know that we'll have to work with this stuff the rest of our lives, so we learn it cold. We keep it. We never forget.

    The former is "on" or maybe over, because we never intend to become one of those people. We never intend to become a member of that culture.

    The latter is "in" culture. We are definately going to become one of those people. We intended for years to become a member of that culture, so we adopt the identity. It's not just facts. It's how we think.

    All computer science majors take calculus-based statistics. It's not the business major's statistics.

    This guy is a statistician, so he is deeper into the culture, the identity, the way of thinking that constitues a statistician. His problem is that we don't meet his requirements. Partially, because he can't answer the questions we don't know how to ask.

    Requirements elicitation is a very broken process in terms of how it deals with cultures. It has a very long tradition of putting programmer efficency ahead of operational efficency. Requirements volitility is the signal. It's a signal that says, hey we are being efficent as coders. And, they are playing political games, because management wants one right answer.

    When facing the cultures that comprise all the expertise in the room, realize that they will not surrender their work practices even if the boss says so. JAD means they don't matter, thus the politics and requirement volitility.

    Oddly, coding is free these days, so why one right answer? Beats me.

    By Blogger David, at 12:50 pm  

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