An analogy of software project

January 5th, 2005

I tried to explain to my good neighbors, who are pharmacists, why creating large software is very difficult. Here’s my analogy.

Creating a large-scale software is some task like drawing a picture on a canvas in the size of Dodger’s stadium, and you need to finish it in three months with five artists while detailed planning is not possible. Why? You either paint a picture for someone’s personal need (say, big boss want a “good-looking” portrait but he’s really an ugly fat-ass), or you paint a picture for public exhibition and you will never know it’s a “Wow” or a “Boo” until you show it to people.

Some argues that three months is too short and you guys typically have longer time to develop a project. Don’t forget peons need to wait at least three months for their lords to make up their minds, which is named “strategic planning” in the real world. Some suckers planned it for a whooping nine monthes and they kindly let you build/test/package the whole thing in three monthes so that it still makes up the one year deadline.

Well, I jump too far, let’s pull back a bit. To make the picture looks right, the artists must generate some sort of harmony so that when you see the picture you know there’s one picture instead of five, and they need to make sure that the global structure of the picture is right.

Here comes three big problems.

Problem A) Some artists should not be called artists. They are real good about partying or bluffing how great they are, but disasterous while drawing on the canvas.

Problem B) Talented artists won’t follow damn rules. Remember their motto: Rules are made to be broken.

*Problem C) (which worth of a star sign) There are managers who are in charge of “managing” these artists. For the sake of stablizing our society, every three artists have two or more managers. You know, some managers have strong feeling about lighting, color, shapes and the artists have better listen to them or they’ll get fired. By the way, their strong feeling may or may not come from professional judgement. As far as I know, many just from gut instincts. However, when some bigger boss found that some part of the picture is god damn wrong in color or lighting, the artists got fired anyway, even if that’s not their fault.

Well, after the discussion, we tend to agree that pharmacy is a much better working environment and they are very thankful that they didn’t choose the software industry.

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