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Software Comparison - Part 2 Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, June 2, 2008 4:52 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Software Comparison - Part 2






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Post #510344
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 1:53 AM
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You realy think the legal profession has a way of working and a reputation that the IT profession should aspire to? Not in my book.

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Post #510460
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 5:57 AM


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I must admit I'm scratching my head a bit here, regarding today's and yesterday's topics for discussion. The thing is that an analogy is there to illustrate a particular point, yet the analogies being put forward appear to have no such reason for their existence.

Subscribers can certainly praise the housebuilding analogy for the number of cross-over points it possesses, and detractors can certainly criticise it for those points where the analogy fails, but the real test of the analogy is whether or not it was useful in demonstrating the point someone was making. Yet no-one's making any points that need illustration. It's almost like the tail wagging the dog.

Surely, in these discussions, we're not really examining the analogies themselves, but instead exploring the parallels between software development and other careers, such as civil construction and law. If we strip away the analogy part, wouldn't that make said exploration rather more effective?

Sorry if this sounds negative, because it isn't meant to be. I really like the idea of finding different places where what we in IT do is practiced in different ways, not least so we can cherry pick best practices.


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Post #510573
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 6:18 AM


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In defense of these topics:
I think that at some point we all wind up trying to rationalize our existence to the people who write the checks (among others). If we're not rationlizing our existense, we're certainly trying to provide explanations as to why certain dollar amounts are associated with our work and why certain levels of quality are worth those amounts. Having a variety of tools to provide such explanations may be as valuable as having a variety of tools to manage a database. Analogies hit home many times when facts don't.

OK - today's article:
The lawyer analogy is a good one, albeit limited. Whereas a good number of people have been involved in a building project of some kind (at least watching), much fewer understand the business of legal documents. Just the thought that we give some requirements to a lawyer and he comes back with a document that does the job even though we don't understand it may work for some. On the other hand, most people don't like lawyers, so it may not be a good idea to associate ourselves with them (my apologies if anyone out there is a lawyer as well as a programmer). Carpenters and builders are a much friendlier lot.


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Post #510580
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 6:28 AM
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So your ASP .Net friend is saying that all legal documents are perfect and have never been contested in a court of law? Please...

To the end user (customer), for the most part both legal documents and software code are not understandable which is why the attorney or software engineer was hired in the first place. But the end result will be clear when the legal document is exercised (somehow used) and the software is used. If the customer did not get the end result he expected (notice I said expected, not asked for), there will be a less than fully satisfied customer.

Software development goes back to the customer knowing and understanding what they want and then being able to communicate that to the developer, business analyst, or whoever.

I have worked on more than one project where the business users didn't understand their processes, or there were differences in the way management thought the processes worked versus how the end users thought the processes worked, and I have seen business management changes in the middle of a project where the new manager thought the process should work differently than the old manager did. So depending on who you talked to on the business side, you may get a different explanation of what they want (but this never happens, does it).

Do you think any of this might have an impact at the end of the project on whether the software is working as desired?

I would venture a guess that in the legal profession there is not quite as much variability because the outcome of a legal document has to follow set laws for most part. Our software has to meet what the customer tells us it does, and that can be anything.


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Post #510585
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 7:31 AM
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Lawyers also get to use libraries and search old cases to cite for their own. When programmers try to reuse code its frequently called illegal (copyright, patent...). Ironically many lawyers sue for such things! If we could all share code as lawyers share case law, we would be in much better shape. I think the open source movement has made a big dent in many applications. But open source is very limited in scope. I'm not making excuses for IT, as we should be doing much better at project management and we should be looking at methods used in other industries. I an IT code library - like the script library here, would be extremely valuable. Maybe your lawyer friend can start reviewing case law on code sharing.


Post #510645
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 8:41 AM


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majorbloodnock (6/3/2008)
I must admit I'm scratching my head a bit here, regarding today's and yesterday's topics for discussion. The thing is that an analogy is there to illustrate a particular point, yet the analogies being put forward appear to have no such reason for their existence.

Subscribers can certainly praise the housebuilding analogy for the number of cross-over points it possesses, and detractors can certainly criticise it for those points where the analogy fails, but the real test of the analogy is whether or not it was useful in demonstrating the point someone was making. Yet no-one's making any points that need illustration. It's almost like the tail wagging the dog.

Surely, in these discussions, we're not really examining the analogies themselves, but instead exploring the parallels between software development and other careers, such as civil construction and law. If we strip away the analogy part, wouldn't that make said exploration rather more effective?

Sorry if this sounds negative, because it isn't meant to be. I really like the idea of finding different places where what we in IT do is practiced in different ways, not least so we can cherry pick best practices.


I have to agree. The whole point of making analogies is that they explain something (which isn't understood) by comparing it to something else (which is understood).

Almost everyone has experienced a building of one sort or another, and is familiar with the idea of foundation, structure, rooms with various function, doors, windows, wiring, pipes, etc.

Very few are familiar with the inner workings of legal documents and cases (if they are, it's generally with the Hollywood version, which is almost as accurate as the version of computer programming in such marvellous, documentary movies as Swordfish). That lack of familiarity makes it a poor choice for most situations where an analogy would be helpful.


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Post #510716
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 9:30 AM


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I probably didn't do a good job explaining the analogy, but I think that looking at other professions might help us decide if we should change the way we do things to be more like, or less like, other fields.

My point was more that lawyers do imperfect work, and we don't always understand what we get or like what we get, but we pay them. And if they need to revise something to better meet our needs, we pay them!

Perhaps that's why lawyers are disliked.

Should software be like that? should we just do our best, and if it's not right, continue to bill, saying the customer needs to better refine what we should do? It's different than building in that typically there we pay more when WE want changes, and if the builder hasn't followed our specs, they pay.

I'm not sure the legal profession is a great analogy, but there is something to compare here with the fuzzy specifications both groups get. Perhaps we want to differentiate software from these other professions and do a better job.







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Post #510783
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 9:43 AM


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It seems everyone here really needs to learn about "Project Management"! The analogies are all similar because architecting anything, a house, bridge, ship, legal-case, finacial plan, software, etc. all use the same formal processes that only vary in the specifications and tools used to get the job done. Any valid PM could testify to this widely-known fact.

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Post #510791
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 11:07 AM
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Like some lawyers that work for a percentage of a settlement, maybe a software development contract could be structured such that the development firm gets a percent of the revenue generated by the software (or the calculated ROI for an internal IT project). Get enough of those contracts up and running, and you end up with a nice recurring revenue stream.:D


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