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Doctors, Pair Programming, and Macs vs. PCs


All have something in common: xenophobia. We've spent billions of years reinforcing the behavior of fearing that with which we're not familiar.

This results in conservatism in doctors, unwillingness to accept radical new theories in physics, the mistrust of pair programming, and the comfort we feel with Word/Wordperfect, Windows/Linux, PC/Mac, etc, etc, etc.

Note that this isn't related to the anger we feel in trying to learn a new language - that's disappointment and injured pride that while yesterday you could code a recursive simple sort  blindfolded, today you've spent four hours figuring out how to show a file open dialog in the new language...

Other wild suppositions available on request. :-D

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 05, 2003

Anybody that doesn't agree with me is afraid of the truth.

summary
Thursday, June 05, 2003

This kind of conservatism makes some sense. Crackpot theories and methodologies are a dime a dozen. Physical theories get accepted when there is experimental evidence to support them.  SW methodologies get accepted when they're trendy.  If we didn't take some care in evaluating them there would not be any progress in science.  As the saying goes, you need to keep an open mind, but you need to be careful about what falls in.


BTW, that a look at: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=xenophobia  you've streched the definition of xenophobia beyond usefullness.

z
Thursday, June 05, 2003

"A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign" ?

Seems to be *exactly* what I was saying. Note that "foreign" doesn't necessarily mean "from another country"

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 06, 2003

The problem is that people always want to sell you something.  "Our consultants teach XP and UML!"  So we need to filter.  Filtering and openmindedness conflict.  In practice, most people probably say "Yeah right" until enough people have been successful and someone very good at explaining things makes it.

Remember, loud people like us tend to create the illusion of numbers.  So zealotry is magnified.


Friday, June 06, 2003

> Remember, loud people like us tend to create the illusion
> of numbers.  So zealotry is magnified.

This is true. Only a small percentage of any given population will participate, make their voices heard. They're already exceptional (in that they participate) in one way, odds are they're exceptional in other ways as well.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 06, 2003

ps. i like how we come up with theories of the universe from a couple of threads from the JOS forum.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 06, 2003

Mark, I'll suggest that more went into my theory than a few minutes' perusal of JoS. Rumor has it that despite my heavy posting, I have a life offline too. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 06, 2003

so whatcha gonna do about it?

On the other hand, xenophobia has it's evolutionary role -
if we were all such great experimentors and ardent travelers we would be all dead by now.

Xenophobia is like a buffer- it shields the 'general population' from potentially dangerous situations.

Michael Moser
Friday, June 06, 2003

... now with the 'future shock', where everything around you is changing in a very fast pace, you get the opposite.

- the things that were once beneficial (like xenophobia) are now turning against you.

Ironic.

(Ups, i have probably had too much beer by now)

Michael Moser
Friday, June 06, 2003

I don't think the problem is xenephobia.

I think it is better described as healthy scepticism.

Many folk make their money by appearing to be the authority on a topic. However, there are only so many ideas to go around, hence the re-hash, re-packaging of old lamps as new stuff. As Mark Twain put it, Adam was the only man who on saying something could be sure that no one else had said it before him.

Many more folk accept whatever they are told by someone in authority.  That is just plain silly. The pope says that the sun moves around the earth, and we take it as gospel? That the govt says that doctors are good(tm) should not by itself make you think they are.

Just see how many middle managers swear by the latest mgmt guru! How many programers swear by the latest method! How many doctors swear by the latest drug!

tapiwa
Friday, June 06, 2003


What I find interesting about all this is that XP is NOT something cooked up by a bunch of eggheads with no practical experience. It's also not a heavy, overall software development process like CMM. It's an execution process specifically design for developers BY developers.

Pair programming is an interesting point. It's not like someone came out and said "Solo programming is the best thing since the twist off beer cap and thou shalt not program as pairs". There is no scientific justification for solo programming. And yet, when presented with a practice which MAY (and I emphasize may) solve some of our common problems what do many of us do? We don't explore it. We don't try it. We mock it.

Interesting.

DingBat
Friday, June 06, 2003

Michael; yep too much beer! That probably explains the insight :)

There are many examples of behaviour appropriate for one set of circumstances being quite innapropriate for another. On a biological level we are genetically programmed to accumulate fat; this works fine when there are periodic shortages of food, and as fat acts as an insulator, is beneficail in cool climates too. Anybody who followed a "healthy" Mediterranean diet (let alone a vegan one) in Finland or Northern Canada until a few decades ago would have died of starvation or hypo-thermia. The problem now is that most of the developed world lives in a virtual Mediterranean climate with an abundance of food, then old behaviour brings new problems.

This also happens with social problems. In his book on the Bedouins of the Empty Quarter, Wilfred Thiesinger remarks that the greatest vice in the desert is impatieince. As anybody who has ever had to deal with Arab bureaucracy will tell you a healthy dose of impatience is precisely what advanced organizations need.

I do think however that Philio's extension of the meaning of xenophobia to mean neophobia is unhelpful and that the list of things he put at the top have little in common.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 06, 2003

---"The pope says that the sun moves around the earth, and we take it as gospel?"---

Rather a strange mixture of Catholic and Protestant theology there.

This perpetuates the myth, accepted even by the present Pope, that Galileo was persecuted for saying the earth went round the sun. He wasn't. He was persecuted (and prosecuted) for claiming this was a scientific fact as opposed to a postulation, when he had no evidence for the fact.

The problem was to do with the stellar parallex, and there were no telescopes powerful enough to provide the convincing proof until some years after his death.

You will find this excellently described in a book by Arthur Koestler called "The Sleepwalkers". You could no doubt apply parallels to such things as the Bush administrations claim that those who argue for global warming have not produced enougn evidence.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 06, 2003

Stepen:: "He was persecuted (and prosecuted) for claiming this was a scientific fact as opposed to a postulation, when he had no evidence for the fact."

my point exactly. in the absence of compelling evidence we have no way of stating whether one or the other is true. By extension therefore, we should not therefore impose our view of what is true on the rest of the world.

The question that arises though, is what is compelling evidence. 

Do we go for the proof by observation method ala physics and medicine?

Do we go for the strictly mathematical proof. Derive the truths from first principles?

Do we go for the hearsay method, ala religions?

The amount of proof required by individuals is different. Different on different subjects. Different depending on where the proof has come from.

For most scientific studies, (proof via observation) one can find another that claims to have been equally rigorous, and contradicts it. Which is why I think it is healthy to have some level of scepticism regarding these findings or theories. This is particularly so where some theory is then extrapolated to a larger set of problems, or into the future.

tapiwa
Friday, June 06, 2003

Um, tapiwa, religion is *not* hearsay.  The point of religion is that it's a personal, life-changing experience.

Back on-topic, I think Philo makes a good point.  Not that everyone who dislikes pair programming is xenophobic, and I don't think Philo is suggesting that, but it's a good explanation for why, for example, people protest that PP *can't* work.  (Clearly, it can work; many people have succesfully done it in the past and do it today.)

tapiwa writes that this is "healthy scepticism" (sic).  That's a fair point, but is it really healthy to deny something's effectiveness simply because it's new?

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, June 06, 2003

> tapiwa writes that this is "healthy scepticism" (sic).  That's
> a fair point, but is it really healthy to deny something's
> effectiveness simply because it's new?

Being new means it hasn't been subject to the same amount of testing as something that has been around for a longer time.

E.g., that's where the version x.0 phobia comes from. Or the "version 1" phobia. People basically say "I don't want to be an early adopter. Let someone else go through the initial ordeal, and then I can catch up later, and avoid a whole lot of expensive mistakes".

You're not really denying effectiveness, you're just acknowledging that it requires further scrutiny.
--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Friday, June 06, 2003

Why do believe in God?? Because it says so in the bible. All based on hearsay, or the writings of the apostles and others. All third hand accounts. No scientific proof.

I am not suggesting that  we "deny something's effectiveness just because it is new". That is indeed unhealthy.

On the other hand, it is just as unhealthy to accept  or adopt something just because it is new.

Again, your tolerance for risk is what determines when in the adoption cycle you jump.  Like they say, today's revolutionary is tomorrow's conservative.

tapiwa
Friday, June 06, 2003

"The point of religion is that it's a personal, life-changing experience."

Brent's point is that it's *personal*, I don't believe he said anything about scientific.

I don't believe in God because it says so in the Bible, I believe in God because I have a personal relationship with Him.

However, this is getting pretty off-topic, but I'd love to discuss more with you off-line (or in another topic) if you like.

jbr
Friday, June 06, 2003

tapiwa writes, "Why do believe in God?? Because it says so in the bible."

That's not why I believe in God.  I don't personally know any adults who believe in God simply because it says so in the Bible.

tapiwa writes, "it is just as unhealthy to accept or adopt something just because it is new."

But it is healthy to *try* something new.  Philo is discussing people who refuse to try pair programming (or Macs, or what-have-you).

Who has suggested that people should pair program because it's new?

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, June 06, 2003

This try to time shift this argument and see what happens.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: We (some group of developers) get assigned a development project and decide to use pair programming.  After a year or two we deliver the software on time and with few bugs.  Everyone thinks PP is great.

Now the next project comes along.  Management says there is this new methodology called PQ.  We're not going to bother with PP.

So what do you think?  If some of the team members say that PP worked so well they want to keep the practice do you just tell them they are xenophobes (or neophobes) for not wanting to give it up and try the new PQ?

Do you learn from past experience in selecting the methodology for your next project, or just ignore past experience and just select the latest trendy methodology?

mackinac
Friday, June 06, 2003

Good point, Mackinac.

There is nothing wrong with healthy skepticism - that's why it's "healthy" [grin]

The problem is fighting different things tooth and nail without a firm foundation for doing so. I cited doctors because of the professional refusal to address holistic and herbal medicine. Sure, a lot of it is snake oil, but there are also valuable things in those fields.

Macs vs. PCs - Macs aren't new, but they're foreign. They're different. If your workplace said "TCO of Macs is cheaper, so we're going to shift your project to Java on G4's" would your approach be "well, it's gonna be slow - there are learning curve issues, new interfaces, and so on, but if you say so, we'll try it" and give it your best shot? Or would you spend every free minute working to convince everyone concerned this was going to break the company and you were looking for new work and macs are stupid and look at this new bug list and and and... etc?

As for pair programming - go read some of the previous threads and look at how many people seem to have the opinion that Pair Programming simply cannot work. Won't work. It's impossible. It's stupid. You're an idiot if you think it will work. Never mind the people posting that they've done it and they loved it.

It's different, and must be mistrusted and feared, mostly because it's different and I Don't Work That Way.

To me, *that* is xenophobia.

As for trying every new thing that comes along - of course not. You try things that promise to solve a problem. In my mind, one of the biggest problems our industry has is bug-ridden software. Pair Programming promises to address that. In other words, it's a solution for a current problem, not just the latest fad. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 06, 2003

Exactly, Philo.  Well put.

A healthy approach is not black-and-white.  It's not a choice between "trying everything new" and "trying nothing new."  Foreign, strange ideas *may* work.

The unhealthy attitude is to assume that something can't work, when one has insufficient knowledge of the problem domain.  For example, saying "Pair Programming won't work because I once wrote a function with a hairy, smelly Unix guru" doesn't speak to the specific practice of Pair Programming.

Brent P. Newhall
Saturday, June 07, 2003

For example, saying "Drunk Programming won't work because I once wrote a function with after coming back from a pub lunch with a few too many lagers" doesn't speak to the specific practice of Drunk Programming. Obviously they should have been drinking guiness.

It's a new approach. Similar to pair programming it's something most developers have experienced and found ineffective.

Personally I love it.

Now don't just start with all this Drunk Programming simply cannot work. Won't work. It's impossible. It's stupid. You're an idiot if you think it will work. Never mind the people posting that they've done it and they loved it.

punter
Saturday, June 07, 2003

And remember, you can't possibly comment unless you've tried it for at least a month.

punter
Saturday, June 07, 2003

why a month?

What happened to love at first sight?

tapiwa
Monday, June 09, 2003

You've never had love at first sight later go sour?

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

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