These are notes from a talk I’ve given in various forms at SCNA, CodeMash, and Magic Ruby. I’ve mirrored them here from the InfoEther weblog.

Me at SCNA
Photo credit: Monty Ksycki

The presentation is called “McDonalds, Six Sigma, and Offshore Outsourcing – Unexpected Sources of Insight”. Here’s the abstract:

We software developers like to think of what we do as an art form (or a craft, if you’re at this conference). I was once asked to come up with a set of guidelines for creating great software so our (huge) company could more effectively use an offshore development team that had been delivering amorphous piles of crummy, nonworking code. I was frustrated and responded with something like this: “Give me a list of guidelines for how to make a beautiful song!” The nerve! Repeatable processes? Who did she think she was talking to?! This is a creative process! This is ART!!!!

I’ve since grown up a bit and I’d like to talk about how I was wrong and how we can all hopefully learn from my mistakes.

The Art-Craft-Commodity Continuum (from my presentation)

In it, I tell the story of my experiences with the Six Sigma quality methodology and with offshore outsourcing, urging developers not to blindly write off potentially useful software development strategies based on hearsay and misunderstanding. I also propose a customer-driven, data-driven approach to software engineering, dovetailing off of InfoEther’s Chief Scientist, Glenn Vanderburg’s recent ruminations on “Real Software Engineering”.

The original, scary Ronald McDonald
The original Ronald McDonald (Willard Scott)

Videos from SCNA will be posted on InfoQ eventually, and I’ll link mine here when that happens. In the mean time, many people asked me for pointers to some of the books and resources I mentioned during my presentation. Here’s a link dump that you might find useful: