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Extreme Dollhouse Programming

My kids woke up at 5am on Saturday morning, which was not surprising or particularly unusual.

Being the awesome, totally cool dad that I am :-), I let my wife sleep in while I entertained the kids.

Also being a geek / engineer, it obviously wasn’t good enough to just play with my kids’ toys… I soon found myself balancing dollhouse people on top of dollhouse furniture on top of dollhouses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I give you… Extreme Dollhouse Programming.

I learned three things from playing with dollhouse toys:

  1. engineer + dollhouse = weird things happen
  2. it’s really hard to balance odd shapes while kids are trying to knock them down
  3. a lot of software is built just like these rickety furniture stacks

On #1, what else can I really say… weird stuff happens when you let engineers out of their cubicles. My wife tells me that I should get my head examined, because normal people might play house or act out episodes from Lifetime TV. Leave it to an engineer to stack Grandma 6 chairs and a toilet up in the sky.

#2 almost goes without saying… but it’s quite entertaining to see just how fast you can rebuild your tower before it gets knocked down by your toddler. Think of it like a game of reverse speed jenga. Someday it’ll be a competive Olympic sport… I can almost see my gold medal now 😉

And #3 is my lame excuse of a tie-in to justify this post.

But seriously though, how many projects have you worked on where you felt like the whole project could come crashing down at any minute? How many complex software systems are thrown together at high speed, held together by baling wire and ugly Perl scripts? How many projects have no formal requirements, or worse yet no real customers?

How many software projects are really, carefully, methodically planned and executed in an elegant way?

This is not a critique / rant where I tear into the software industry and make stupid arguments like “software developers suck” — I’m thinking more about the way I approach software development, and thinking we all have room for improvement.

And while there are some great ideas found in eXtreme Programming, Agile, etc – I don’t think there’s one true software development style or approach. More like there are some good ideas out there, and everyone should use these ideas to improve themselves and get better at the “craft.”

So here’s to building better dollhouses software, self improvement, and all that jazz.


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