Re: Timeless Classics of Software Engineering

From: Anne & Lynn Wheeler <>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 15:10:59 -0600
Message-ID: <> (Eric Hamilton) writes:

> Harlan Mills proposed "surgical team" approach. [Not applicable everywhere.]
> Conceptual integrity:
> - Analogy to architectural unity of Reims cathedral vs. others that were
> "improved" inconsistently.
> - "I will contend that conceptual integrity is the most important
> consideration in system design. It is better to have a system omit
> certain anomalous features and improvements, but to reflect one set of
> design ideas, than to have one that contains many good but independent
> and uncoordinated ideas."
> - The purpose of a programming system is to make a computer easy to
> use. [We may modify purpose to be to make it easy to do the things that
> our customers need done.]
> - Ratio of function to conceptual complexity is the ultimate test of
> system design.
> - For a given level of function, that system is best in which one can
> specify things with the most simplicity and straightforwardness.

i was at a talk that harlan gave at the 1970 se symposium ... that year it was held in DC (which was easy for harlan since he was local in fsd) ... close to the river on the virginia side (marriott? near a bridge ... I have recollections of playing hooky one day and walking across the bridge to the smithsonian).

is was all about super programmer and librarian .... i think the super programmer was re-action to the large low-skilled hordes ... and the librarian was to take some of administrative load of the super programmer.

i remember years later somebody explaining that managers tended to spend 90% of their time with the 10% least productive people ... and that 90% of the work was frequently done by the 10% most productive people; it was unlikely that anything that a manager did was going to significantly improve the 10% least productive members .... however if they spent 90% of their time helping remove obstacles from the 10% most productive ... and even if that only improved things by 10% ... that would be the most benefical thing that they could do. This was sort of the librarian analogy from harlan ... that managers weren't there to tell the high skilled people what to do ... managers were to facilitate and remove obstacles from their most productive people.

this is somewhat more consistant with one of boyd's talks on the organic design for command and control.

Anne & Lynn Wheeler |
Received on Fri Aug 27 2004 - 23:10:59 CEST

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