A great article about scientific discourse

This article is called "Fact and Folklore In Software Engineering" and while it is about that, the part that was more interesting to me was the first section talking about Scientific Discourse:



"This article is about why some “facts” refuse to die, and about how to avoid being fooled by opinion disguised as scientific “fact”. We start, therefore, with some observations on science and facts." (from "Fact and Folklore In Software Engineering")



Here he goes on to describe "The messy workings of scientific discourse". It's clarifying explanation of a process that we understand intuitively but actually has a rigorous process:



"Bruno Latour is one of the keenest observers I know of the work that scientists really do, and one of the most punctilious in clearing away the myths and misconceptions about how science is in fact done. I have found good use in some of the tools he created to assess the status of an ongoingdebate about a matter that falls within the purview of science, one that hasn’t been settled - what he calls a controversy." (from "Fact and Folklore In Software Engineering")



After lots of further interesting detail about this idea, he finally comes back to the question: "So what is known about programmer productivity?":



"We can now circle back to this widely circulated “fact” of the software profession, according to which “programmer productivity varies by a factor of 10 (or 5, or 20) between the best and worst individuals”. This is a remarkable statement, not least because of its implications: for instance, programmer compensation does not vary accordingly." (from "Fact and Folklore In Software Engineering")



After this introduction he goes on to thoroughly take apart this concept as nothing more than unsubstantiated, oft-repeated folklore, based in some really old, actually inapplicable, and incorrectly cited studies.


But they stick because there is a grain of truth in them. The problem is that it's just a grain of truth. It's a wonderful article. Read "Fact and Folklore In Software.

Posted on February 8, 2011 and filed under Programming, Technology.