DTDs vs TMTOWTDI Was: Re: SPUG: SGML the past language of..

Michael R. Wolf MichaelRunningWolf at att.net
Fri Dec 27 05:58:02 CST 2002

m3047 at inwa.net (Fred Morris) writes:

> DTDs are the antithesis of TMTOWTDI. That is a question which can be
> examined in the context of "Perl culture".

I just got around to reading your discussion of TMTOWTDI vs DTD's
vis-a-vis beurocracy and charisma.  Thank you for an interesting

I appreciated the point about software engineering being soft-ware
(mushie-ware).  Your suggestion of a jury listening to TMTOWTDI
justifications reminds me of my early career at Bell Labs.  I was
young, recently degreed and married.  I was on the merry-go-round.
The real estate market was going up.  Ergo, I built a house.  (Wasn't
it my duty to buy high and sell low to supplement the economy?)
Because the housing market was tight, I didn't get the sharpest tool
in the shed.  I've got lots of stories about how bad this guy was;
I'll share just a few.

It literally started on day 1 - the footings weren't dug where we
agreed that the house should be.  To correct the siting, he hand dug
makeshift footings that were over 1 foot off of level.  

The 2.5 inch difference in height between the left and right side of
the garage doors was described as an "elliptical [sic] illusion".  

The floor was so far out of level and planar that I created topo maps
for the homeowner warranty folks.  

Concrete was poured in the rain just prior to a 20F hard freeze.  

And when I noticed that the blueprints (yes, it was a while ago) had
the furnace pipe routed through the kitchen counter, I succeeded in
having it moved, but it got routed into the hallway, obstructing our
ability to move furniture into the upstairs bedrooms.  



He had violated standard building practices, built without specs, and
disregarded the customer's request.  It was so bad, verifiably bad,
that we won our claim to the HOW (the Homeowner Warranty) insurance

Now here's the kicker.  I was a MTS (Member of Technical Staff) at a
world-class laboratory, known for their software development (Unix
among them, but also all the software that ran the switches that
carried the calls that ran the backbone that carried the messages
that....was the internet).  And I was getting paid big bucks.  

Now, here's the *real* kicker.  I was doing the same thing he was.  No
plans.  No customer accountability.  No standard operating procedures.
(Fred, I know you're going to SEI CMM me on this one!)  I had a hard
time reconsiling the fact that I was a high-paid-hack as I pointed a
condemning finger at this not-so-high-paid-hack.  

Of course, software is a young craft compared to house construction.
We don't really know what we're doing.  All software is really about
exploring the unknown.  I know all that.  We tell it to each other.
And on many days I believe it.

But on some days, I know that I am (we are) no better than Ralph, the
inept builder.  We couldn't make two programs similar enough to even
try to create a cookie-cutter housing development.


Michael R. Wolf
    All mammals learn by playing!
        MichaelRunningWolf at att.net

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