Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dueling Seminal Papers

So, *ahem* in "No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering" Fred Brooks writes: "I think the most important single effort we can mount is to develop ways to grow great designers...Great designers and great managers are both very rare...each software organization must determine and proclaim that great designers are as important to its success as great managers are, and that they can be expected to be similarly nurtured and rewarded."

This basically looks like creating a corporate hierarchy of designers similar to corporate executives.

Contrast this with, "Necessary Preconditions for the Bazaar Style" part of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" where Eric Raymond writes, "I think it is not critical that the coordinator be able to originate designs of exceptional brilliance, but it is absolutely critical that the coordinator be able to recognize good design ideas from others...Linus, while not (as previously discussed) a spectacularly original designer, has displayed a powerful knack for recognizing good design and integrating it into the Linux kernel."

From my experience new ideas aren't successfully applied from the top down but rather from the bottom up. By relying on a few to understand new ideas or to implement them in fully formed designs actually encourages stagnation. It is frequently too risky and expensive to try a new design, applied in a top down manner across an entire project or framework. The better solution seems to be to grow design and better design processes, not designers.
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