Counterpoint

Op-Ed: Methodologies aren’t all bad, Gavin King

Elliot Bentley
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A response to Gavin King’s “Methodology Luddite Manifesto”, in which the Ceylon creator disparaged “certified scum masters”.

Earlier this week, Ceylon lead developer Gavin King posted on
the project’s official blog with a post titled ‘The Methodology
Luddite Manifesto’, in which he triumphantly proclaims how little
time he has for “certified scum masters or other such expensive
accoutrements”. (The post appears to have disappeared from the
blog’s homepage, though it’s still
available
for now.)

I’m a proud methodology hater. As soon as you guys start talking
about process, about how to build software, my eyes glaze over. I
can’t prove it, but I at least hypothesize that the
practical usefulness of a methodology is inversely correlated to
how detailed and prescriptive it is. Therefore the most useful
methodology is the simplest, least prescriptive one. That would be
the null methodology, simply stated as:

Please stop wasting valuable
electrons with your silly amateur philosophizing and go and do some
real work!

By the end of the blog post, King makes it so clear that he
doesn’t have any more time to waste on discussion of methodologies
that he abandons prose and switches to bullet points to “boil it
down to some dumb shit that would like almost fit in twitter if it
were three times as dumb and brief”.

King’s sentiments are far from original. As an anonymous
commenter adds below the post, back in March 2011 Zed Shaw wrote an
equally foul-mouthed (but considerably more light-hearted) blog post extolling
the virtues of a new methodology: “Programming, Motherfucker”. The
joke was so good that it even went on to become a t-shirt
slogan
.

And, yes, while there’s something to be said about reducing
bureaucracy and simply getting the work done, King and Shaw are
missing the point. These methodologies aren’t designed for lone
coders working on their pet projects, but for commercial teams, to
simply “go and do some real work” would result in a complete
mess.

Not to mention that many of these methodologies are designed to
ensure customers are fully satisfied with the resulting product;
King, on the other hand, appears to dismiss this notion, writing:
“Your users are begging for bells and whistles and optional
semicolons. Tell them you’re really busy [and] never find the
time.”

To his credit, King is doing some
interesting work with Ceylon
, which could well turn out to be a
viable JVM language. To think that his situation – working with a
tight-knit team on a language without a specific customer or
deadline – applies to everyone, however, is hopelessly
misguided.

 

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