McConnell IEEE articles

I found these editorials buried on Steve McConnell's website, from his stint as editor of IEEE software magazine. It's a great series of articles; they're all good, but I particularly recommend "Cargo Cult Engineering." Here are direct links to each, in chronological order, October 1998 through February 2002.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I spared you guys the embarrassing chicken little-esque Y2K editorial. I guess we can all take heart, even a guy as smart as Steve gets it wrong sometimes…

Sure, it is embarrassing now, and I will concede it was not very visionary considering it was written less than a year from the event, so surely McConnell should have been aware of all the considerable effort, mostly complete by then to mitigate Y2K. And entirely successful. This shows we humans have the ability to GET THINGS DONE - sometimes.

Thus, it is all the more embarrassing, and incredibly stupid, that we have, except for a few individuals like the Al Gore, 350 folks, and Elon Musk, let Global Warming/Climate Change reach the tipping point.

Now, that is truly embarrassing. But it does make the excellent point what we can do when we put our minds to it. That those unfamiliar with the implications of Y2K, had it not been corrected, can call it “chicken-little”, can say that due to the hard work, and foresightedness of many individuals and organizations. The same, alas, can not be said for other blunders.

Where I think, from what I have read so far, McConnell really did blunder, is in underestimating the power of open-source. Man, I guess predicting the future is hard, because someone reading his article on open-source could never have envisioned the place OSS has today. And that was a bit of a misstep, considering that Linux was already crushing it in 1999.

Open source is most applicable when you need to trade efficiency for speed and efficacy. This makes it applicable to mass-distribution products like operating systems where development cost hardly matters and reliability is paramount. But it also suggests that open source will be less applicable for vertical-market applications where the reliability requirements are lower, profit margins are slim enough that development cost does matter, and it’s impossible to find 1,200 people to volunteer their services in support of your application.

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