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Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Software Patterns

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  • Ken Boucher
    I ve been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read it years ago, but I
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 8, 2004
      I've been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
      (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read
      it years ago, but I don't think I was ready years ago to learn what
      it has to teach me. I seem to be a lot more ready now.

      I've enjoyed it's discussion on reason and feeling and have been
      relating it to writing software (along with a dozen or so other
      things in my life that have nothing to do with writing software).

      It's been fun to think about the interplay of "software engineering"
      and "elegant software" and how these two terms fit so neatly into
      what the author seems to be talking about.

      But today's chapter had a passage that struck so deeply In the
      passage he's talking about the "rules" that authors use to write
      their stories. As someone who once wrote fiction, and who will do so
      again someday, I deeply understand what's he saying. But as someone
      who is writing software and who has noticed the twich that appears on
      my face and on the faces of others when Software Patterns are
      discussed, I thought this passage was remarkable.

      [quote]
      A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain
      special circumstance. Phædrus would then have the choice of trying to
      fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the
      selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really
      thought was that the rule was pasted on to the writing after the
      writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of
      prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the
      students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down
      whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded
      right and changing it if it didn't.
      [end quote]
    • Steve Berczuk
      This is interesting... At my first job after college I was doing QA for a small company, and I started reading Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 8, 2004
        This is interesting... At my first job after college I was doing QA
        for a small company, and I started reading Zen And The Art of
        Motorcycle Maintenance, and at the time it seemed VERY relevant to my
        job. (I even added it to a "resource list" for new employees)... I'll
        now need to find my copy and find what passages I marked when I first
        read it (which was, err, like 20 years ago --)

        Steve


        On Wed, 08 Sep 2004 13:18:41 -0000, Ken Boucher <yahoo@...> wrote:
        > I've been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
        > (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read
        > it years ago, but I don't think I was ready years ago to learn what
        > it has to teach me. I seem to be a lot more ready now.
        >
        > I've enjoyed it's discussion on reason and feeling and have been
        > relating it to writing software (along with a dozen or so other
        > things in my life that have nothing to do with writing software).
        >
        > It's been fun to think about the interplay of "software engineering"
        > and "elegant software" and how these two terms fit so neatly into
        > what the author seems to be talking about.
        >
        > But today's chapter had a passage that struck so deeply In the
        > passage he's talking about the "rules" that authors use to write
        > their stories. As someone who once wrote fiction, and who will do so
        > again someday, I deeply understand what's he saying. But as someone
        > who is writing software and who has noticed the twich that appears on
        > my face and on the faces of others when Software Patterns are
        > discussed, I thought this passage was remarkable.
        >
        > [quote]
        > A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain
        > special circumstance. Phædrus would then have the choice of trying to
        > fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the
        > selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really
        > thought was that the rule was pasted on to the writing after the
        > writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of
        > prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the
        > students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down
        > whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded
        > right and changing it if it didn't.
        > [end quote]




        --
        Steve Berczuk | steve@... | http://www.berczuk.com
        SCM Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration
        www.scmpatterns.com
      • Sean Gilbertson
        That passage is pretty comforting, especially in the discipline of programming where the learning process of the individual is informed by immature approaches.
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 8, 2004
          That passage is pretty comforting, especially in the discipline of programming where the learning process of the individual is informed by immature approaches.

          Consider a stand-up comedian. They think of jokes that make them laugh, and write them down. They tell them to friends, and eventually to audiences. Over time, the jokes are refined and become comfortable. The comedian can write jokes as specific as they want, but it doesn't make anyone laugh any harder. What makes people laugh is in their head, and you'll never know what that is until you tell the joke. So, often a comedian will write just the crucial bits of a joke: the funny words or turns of phrase, and the topic and perhaps punchline.

          The comedian has the advantage of the source and destination environments being the same, but with a "funny" intermediary or interpreter. The programmer has to temper communication and representation between computers and people. Therefore we have more to be responsible for: efficiency, stability, accuracy and cogency. It's tempting to think of everything as a metaphor, but I think that's dangerous because it interprets the environment of a computer as something it's not: "real life." If XP is helpful, it's because it focuses on the realities of the computer by insisting that you're writing some sort of code 90% of the time. If you prepare a bunch of designs before you start coding, you have to somehow force the code to represent those designs, which results in bloat. Would you tell jokes about the lives of people on a planet that exists only in your mind?

          On Wed, Sep 08, 2004 at 10:45:20AM -0400, Steve Berczuk wrote:
          > This is interesting... At my first job after college I was doing QA
          > for a small company, and I started reading Zen And The Art of
          > Motorcycle Maintenance, and at the time it seemed VERY relevant to my
          > job. (I even added it to a "resource list" for new employees)... I'll
          > now need to find my copy and find what passages I marked when I first
          > read it (which was, err, like 20 years ago --)
          >
          > Steve
          >
          >
          > On Wed, 08 Sep 2004 13:18:41 -0000, Ken Boucher <yahoo@...> wrote:
          > > I've been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
          > > (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read
          > > it years ago, but I don't think I was ready years ago to learn what
          > > it has to teach me. I seem to be a lot more ready now.
          > >
          > > I've enjoyed it's discussion on reason and feeling and have been
          > > relating it to writing software (along with a dozen or so other
          > > things in my life that have nothing to do with writing software).
          > >
          > > It's been fun to think about the interplay of "software engineering"
          > > and "elegant software" and how these two terms fit so neatly into
          > > what the author seems to be talking about.
          > >
          > > But today's chapter had a passage that struck so deeply In the
          > > passage he's talking about the "rules" that authors use to write
          > > their stories. As someone who once wrote fiction, and who will do so
          > > again someday, I deeply understand what's he saying. But as someone
          > > who is writing software and who has noticed the twich that appears on
          > > my face and on the faces of others when Software Patterns are
          > > discussed, I thought this passage was remarkable.
          > >
          > > [quote]
          > > A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain
          > > special circumstance. Phædrus would then have the choice of trying to
          > > fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the
          > > selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really
          > > thought was that the rule was pasted on to the writing after the
          > > writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of
          > > prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the
          > > students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down
          > > whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded
          > > right and changing it if it didn't.
          > > [end quote]
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > --
          > Steve Berczuk | steve@... | http://www.berczuk.com
          > SCM Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration
          > www.scmpatterns.com
          >
          >
          > To Post a message, send it to: extremeprogramming@...
          >
          > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: extremeprogramming-unsubscribe@...
          >
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          >
          >
          >
          >

          --
          Sean Gilbertson
          IT Systems/Software Developer
        • Oliver White
          I don t know if there s a question in there, but I agree with Pirsig s assertion that Quality is a precognative (there s that word again) thing. It s something
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 8, 2004
            I don't know if there's a question in there, but I agree with Pirsig's assertion that Quality is a precognative (there's that word again) thing. It's something that exists before rules come into play, you know it, but you can't capture it. Indeed Pirsig suffered severe mental illness trying to describe it. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that You Can't Measure Productivity. What we're giving our software is Quality, but that in itself is known, not defined.

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Ken Boucher [mailto:yahoo@...]
            Sent: Wednesday, 8 September 2004 11:19 PM
            To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [XP] Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Software
            Patterns


            I've been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
            (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read
            it years ago, but I don't think I was ready years ago to learn what
            it has to teach me. I seem to be a lot more ready now.

            I've enjoyed it's discussion on reason and feeling and have been
            relating it to writing software (along with a dozen or so other
            things in my life that have nothing to do with writing software).

            It's been fun to think about the interplay of "software engineering"
            and "elegant software" and how these two terms fit so neatly into
            what the author seems to be talking about.

            But today's chapter had a passage that struck so deeply In the
            passage he's talking about the "rules" that authors use to write
            their stories. As someone who once wrote fiction, and who will do so
            again someday, I deeply understand what's he saying. But as someone
            who is writing software and who has noticed the twich that appears on
            my face and on the faces of others when Software Patterns are
            discussed, I thought this passage was remarkable.

            [quote]
            A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain
            special circumstance. Phædrus would then have the choice of trying to
            fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the
            selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really
            thought was that the rule was pasted on to the writing after the
            writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of
            prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the
            students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down
            whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded
            right and changing it if it didn't.
            [end quote]



            To Post a message, send it to: extremeprogramming@...

            To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: extremeprogramming-unsubscribe@...

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          • Bil Kleb
            ... Also consider his second, Lila. I think it nails pair programming when it outlines the essential difference between insanity and a religion. Regards, --
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 9, 2004
              Ken Boucher wrote:
              > I've been listening to Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
              > (Robert M Pirsig) on my drive back and forth to work. I meant to read
              > it years ago, but I don't think I was ready years ago to learn what
              > it has to teach me. I seem to be a lot more ready now.

              Also consider his second, Lila. I think it nails pair programming when
              it outlines the essential difference between insanity and a religion.

              Regards,
              --
              Bil Kleb, Hampton, Virginia
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