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Politics in software development projects (was: Unattainable Goals that are Silll Worse Pursuing)

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  • Omer Zak
    ... Other examples: 1. Getting as wealthy as possible. 2. Overcoming a never-ending series of challenges (scientific discoveries, extreme sports, Guiness-level
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 22, 2008
      On Tue, 2008-04-22 at 04:39 +0300, Shlomi Fish wrote:
      > [ Note: This essay has a more universal message than computers, but it also
      > applies to it, as I shall demonstrate. I'd like to post it on my blog, but
      > I'm going to use you guys as my guinea pigs. Comments are welcome. ]
      >
      > One thought that occured to me lately was the fact that there are some goals
      > in
      > life that can never be fully attained, but are nevertheless worth pursuing and
      > getting nearer and nearer to them. Like an asymptotic function in mathematics
      > if you may.

      Other examples:
      1. Getting as wealthy as possible.
      2. Overcoming a never-ending series of challenges (scientific
      discoveries, extreme sports, Guiness-level world records, etc.) one by
      one.

      > One example that I'm especially sensitive about is politics in a software
      > project (possibly an open-source one ). Obviously, there can never be zero
      > politics, but the project leaders and members should always try to reduce its
      > amount, because not keeping it at bay is a recipe for disaster. I constantly
      > hear about important features that are not implemented or even bugs that are
      > left unfixed in open-source projects due to political reasons.

      My take about politics in FOSS projects (or in other spheres of human
      acitvity) is to agree with whomever said (I don't remember the source)
      that in any project involving multiple stakeholders, there are always
      different interests, which sometimes contradict each other. For the
      project to proceed, some process is needed to allocate limited resources
      to satisfy the various interests. This process is the political
      process.

      The difference between well-managed projects and projects mired in dirty
      politics is in the management of the inevitable politics.
      It would be interesting to discuss how to make politics our servant
      rather than our master.

      --- Omer


      --
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      My own blog is at http://www.zak.co.il/tddpirate/

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    • Shlomi Fish
      ... True to some extent, but while I would love to be rich, I don t see myself needing to be very rich. It is known that Alexander Dumas who wrote many popular
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 22, 2008
        On Tuesday 22 April 2008, Omer Zak wrote:
        > On Tue, 2008-04-22 at 04:39 +0300, Shlomi Fish wrote:
        > > [ Note: This essay has a more universal message than computers, but it
        > > also applies to it, as I shall demonstrate. I'd like to post it on my
        > > blog, but I'm going to use you guys as my guinea pigs. Comments are
        > > welcome. ]
        > >
        > > One thought that occured to me lately was the fact that there are some
        > > goals in
        > > life that can never be fully attained, but are nevertheless worth
        > > pursuing and getting nearer and nearer to them. Like an asymptotic
        > > function in mathematics if you may.
        >
        > Other examples:
        > 1. Getting as wealthy as possible.

        True to some extent, but while I would love to be rich, I don't see myself
        needing to be very rich. It is known that Alexander Dumas who wrote many
        popular historical fiction, made and lost several fortunes during his
        lifetime and died pennyless. On the other hand, Jules Verne wrote a great
        deal of bestsellers, and earned a fortune, but nevertheless still lived
        relatively modestly and didn't spend his money on extravagant things. As far
        as I know, he died very rich and it's highly possible his descendants are
        still very well-off.

        > 2. Overcoming a never-ending series of challenges (scientific
        > discoveries, extreme sports, Guiness-level world records, etc.) one by
        > one.

        That's right. There was a Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode about a
        terraformer (someone who designs entire landscapes) who kept looking for
        bigger and bigger challenges:

        http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Second_Sight

        >
        > > One example that I'm especially sensitive about is politics in a software
        > > project (possibly an open-source one ). Obviously, there can never be
        > > zero politics, but the project leaders and members should always try to
        > > reduce its amount, because not keeping it at bay is a recipe for
        > > disaster. I constantly hear about important features that are not
        > > implemented or even bugs that are left unfixed in open-source projects
        > > due to political reasons.
        >
        > My take about politics in FOSS projects (or in other spheres of human
        > acitvity) is to agree with whomever said (I don't remember the source)
        > that in any project involving multiple stakeholders, there are always
        > different interests, which sometimes contradict each other. For the
        > project to proceed, some process is needed to allocate limited resources
        > to satisfy the various interests. This process is the political
        > process.

        Hmmm.... obviously you're right that some process needs to take place, which
        may involve any of the following:

        1. Monarchy/Dictatorship - appointing someone as the "head honcho" who has the
        ultimate decision.

        2. Convincing - trying to convince someone that something may be better off
        your way.

        3. Prioritising.

        4. Compromising.

        5. Democracy/etc. - in my opinion it is sub-optimal.

        6. "Show me the code!" - if you want it done, just write a patch that does it.

        7. Mutiny/Fork/Split-off.

        I'm not sure I can call any of these things "politics", but we obviously need
        a word for them. Probably I can say that a project needs to reduce the bad
        politics, which is anti "do and let do" and the rest of the Hacker ideology.

        Of course we can argue whether it is "good procedures" vs. "politics" or "good
        politics" vs. "bad politics" all day long, and not reach a conclusion.
        >
        > The difference between well-managed projects and projects mired in dirty
        > politics is in the management of the inevitable politics.
        > It would be interesting to discuss how to make politics our servant
        > rather than our master.

        That would be nice, yes.

        Regards,

        Shlomi Fish

        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
        What does "Zionism" mean? - http://xrl.us/bjn8u

        The bad thing about hardware is that it sometimes work and sometimes doesn't.
        The good thing about software is that it's consistent: it always does not
        work, and it always does not work in exactly the same way.
      • Nadav Har'El
        ... I guess you studied differential equations in the Technion, right? Then you should know why exponential growth happens. It happens when the change of the
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 22, 2008
          On Tue, Apr 22, 2008, Shlomi Fish wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] Politics in software development projects (was: Unattainable Goals?that are Silll Worse Pursuing)":
          > > > goals in
          > > > life that can never be fully attained, but are nevertheless worth
          > > > pursuing and getting nearer and nearer to them. Like an asymptotic
          > > > function in mathematics if you may.
          > >
          > > Other examples:
          > > 1. Getting as wealthy as possible.
          >
          > True to some extent, but while I would love to be rich, I don't see myself
          > needing to be very rich.

          I guess you studied differential equations in the Technion, right? Then you
          should know why exponential growth happens. It happens when the change of
          the function over time isn't constant (which would have led to linear growth)
          but rather proprtional to the existing value of the function.

          Bringing this theory to wealth accumulation, it is a natural phenomenon that
          people think about their wealth in proporion to what they already have.
          If you have saved 10,000 shekels, then earning another 1,000 looks good.
          But after you have 1,000,000, suddenly another 1,000 looks insignificant.
          No matter how much money you have saved, the natural tendency is to want
          to double your savings, not to add to it a fixed amount. This is why rich
          people always want their wealth to grow exponentially, not stopping at
          a million, and not even at a billion.

          When you have saved 10,000 shekels, it's easy to think that once you
          get to a 1,000,000 you'll stop the rat race. But my guess is that when you
          do get to that 1,000,000, you'll be even deeper in the rat race: that million
          will look less than it did before (sure, I can buy 100,000 slices of pizza
          with it which sounded great when I was a student, but it doesn't buy me my
          dream house today), it will be more fragile than ever (if something bad
          happens, a million won't be enough, etc.), and you'll be tempted to work
          towards the second million.

          Needless to say, there are good reasons to try to avoid (or at least curb)
          this temptation, but it is a temptation nontheless.

          My random signature at the bottom turned out to be quite relevant to this
          discussion :-)

          --
          Nadav Har'El | Wednesday, Apr 23 2008, 18 Nisan 5768
          nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
          Phone +972-523-790466, ICQ 13349191 |Despite the cost of living, have you
          http://nadav.harel.org.il |noticed how it remains so popular?
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