Thursday, September 16, 2004

even after the crash...

So, as one might guess I'm a huge fan of the good ship Baffler and all who sail upon her. I love their superb critiques of the over-heated pseudo post-mod cult stud style of managment theory and market populism that Tom Peters evangelized in the 1990's. They also did a wonderful slash'em up on the culture of the tech bubble, but I always thought that they'd missed a crucial part of it: software methodolgy.

Having been a programmer inside a tech company in Northern California during the boom, I saw firsthand how much of the same mumbo jumbo was internalized by the workers. The combination of that along with the various flavors of kool-aid served up by the "software methodology theorists" made for a heady brew indeed. The scary thing is, unlike in the managment or investment communities, it's still being ingested by practicioners today.

Take for example Grady Booch. Booch rose to prominence in the 1990's as a "software methodolgist", promoting what amounted to a really pretentious re-invention of notations used in the early days of computer science. He later formed Rational, a company specializing in software assistance with his methodology, renamed from The Booch Method to the Rational Unified Process. Rational was purchased by that corporate rabble rouser IBM in 2002. If you read the article linked above, you notice he likes to refer to himself as "A Designated Free Radical". Also notice the article was published last month. A Free Radical? EMPLOYED BY IBM. ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? I'm sorry, but the most radical thing this guy has done has been to guarantee himself permanent employment just for managing to create a cult of personality(and a very profitable one at that).

Software methodolgy is one of the few forms of insanity dressed in the nauseating combination of pseudo science and rebellion still thriving 4 years after the tech bubble burst. It has it's own lingo, it's own cultural trappings, and it's own arcane narratives. And it's still going strong. The best critique from a scientific standpoint is probably here, written in late 2000(Dijkstra had lots to say on the subject 20, even 30 years previous, but this is a nice summing up). The aformentioned cultural trappings, however, would probably provide tons of red meat for a real culture critic like Thomas Frank to ravenously devour. It's a little late now, of course, but maybe after the election. It's a subject I'd like to tackle myself at greater depth, and it's one of the best reasons I can think of to have a blog no one will be reading.