The Leprechauns of Software Engineering
Minimum price
Suggested price

The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

How folklore turns into fact and what to do about it

About the Book

The software profession has a problem, widely recognized but which nobody seems willing to do anything about. You can think of this problem as a variant of the well known "telephone game", where some trivial rumor is repeated from one person to the next until it has become distorted beyond recognition and blown up out of all proportion.

Unfortunately, the objects of this telephone game are generally considered cornerstone truths of the discipline, to the point that their acceptance now seems to hinder further progress.

In this short ebook, we will take a look at some of those "ground truths": the claimed 10x variation in productivity between developers; the "software crisis"; the cost-of-change curve; the "cone of uncertainty"; and more. We'll hone our scholarship skills by looking up the original source for these ideas and taking a deep dive in the history of their development. We'll assess the real weight of the evidence behind these ideas.

And we'll confront the scary prospect of moving the state of the art forward in a discipline that has had the ground kicked from under it.

This book is a work in progress. Visit the blog. Download the sample. Read the Preface - know just what you're getting.

About the Author

Laurent Bossavit
Laurent Bossavit

After a first career as a software developer (20 years of coding experience) and a few years as an independent consultant, Laurent Bossavit now heads Institut Agile, whose aims include helping Agile software development become better established as a research topic and as a discipline, and helping grow a healthier market for clients and suppliers leveraging these practices.

Passionate about helping people in various Agile communities network and support each other, Laurent is a former member of the board of the Agile Alliance, a recipient of the 2006 Gordon Pask award for contributions to Agile practice and co-founder of the Coding Dojos.

Bundles that include this book

11 Books
Bought separately
Bundle Price

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Software Engineering’s telephone game
    • How we got there
    • Surface plausibility
    • Leprechaun spotting
    • What you can do
  • Chapter 2: The Cone of Uncertainty
    • How to feel foolish in front of a class
    • Making sense of the picture
    • Getting to the facts
    • The telephone game in action
    • Controversy
    • What to make of all this?
  • Chapter 3: Why you should care about empirical results
    • The perils of empirical research
    • Discipline envy
    • Science and reality
    • Where to go from here
  • Chapter 4: The messy workings of scientific discourse
    • Modalities
    • Citation as modality
    • The construction of facts
  • Chapter 5: The hunt for the 10x files
    • Why is this important? Isn’t it obvious?
    • The impressive list of references
    • The original study and the 10x claim
    • Harshly criticized
    • The 10x files
    • Good study, bad study
    • The wild goose chase
  • Chapter 6: The variable programmer
    • Getting just the results you want
    • Within-subject variability
    • Rocket science: the NASA data
    • Needle in a haystack
    • The COCOMO haystacks
    • Environmental effects
    • Summing up
  • Interlude: How To Lie
  • Chapter 7: Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Waterfall?
    • The standard story
    • Alternate endings
    • Just the facts
    • No paper is an island
    • Late bloomer
    • Birth of a myth
  • Chapter 8: Software’s perpetual crisis
  • Chapter 9: A Leprechaun hunting tutorial
  • Chapter 10: The cost of defects: an illustrated history
    • Origins
    • First amendments
    • Where’s the data?
    • Metamorphoses
    • Changing the topic altogether
    • Reading curves
    • Theory-laden diagrams
    • Boehm’s assent
  • Chapter 11: Rocket science and Flaubert math
    • Flaubert and the math of ROI
    • NASA IV&V’s math
    • How old is the captain?
    • Eighy-three! For some value of eighty-three.
  • Chapter 12: For some value of 56
    • Where bugs come from
    • Sample size of one
    • Poor requirements
    • A software triumph
  • Chapter 13: The cost of bad research
    • Uncritical thinking
    • Extraordinarily suspect claims
    • Terms of inquiry
    • Research standards
  • Chapter 14: Raising the bar
    • Two modest proposals for publications on software development
    • Will you take the pledge?
  • Chapter 15: A new model of inquiry
    • The Ouroboros effect: circular causation
    • From Requirements To Negotiation
    • The cliffhanger
  • Appendix A: bibliographical analysis of the 10x files
    • Questions of indirection
    • Summary results
    • The quest for primary sources
    • A better list: primary sources with empirical evidence
  • Appendix B: bibliographical analysis for the “defect-cost-increase curve”
    • The older references
    • The newer references
  • Appendix C - Conceptions and invention of waterfall
    • Invention of waterfall
    • Conceptions of waterfall (articles between 1970 and 1989)

The Leanpub 60 Day 100% Happiness Guarantee

Within 60 days of purchase you can get a 100% refund on any Leanpub purchase, in two clicks.

Now, this is technically risky for us, since you'll have the book or course files either way. But we're so confident in our products and services, and in our authors and readers, that we're happy to offer a full money back guarantee for everything we sell.

You can only find out how good something is by trying it, and because of our 100% money back guarantee there's literally no risk to do so!

So, there's no reason not to click the Add to Cart button, is there?

See full terms...

80% Royalties. Earn $16 on a $20 book.

We pay 80% royalties. That's not a typo: you earn $16 on a $20 sale. If we sell 5000 non-refunded copies of your book or course for $20, you'll earn $80,000.

(Yes, some authors have already earned much more than that on Leanpub.)

In fact, authors have earnedover $13 millionwriting, publishing and selling on Leanpub.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub

Free Updates. DRM Free.

If you buy a Leanpub book, you get free updates for as long as the author updates the book! Many authors use Leanpub to publish their books in-progress, while they are writing them. All readers get free updates, regardless of when they bought the book or how much they paid (including free).

Most Leanpub books are available in PDF (for computers) and EPUB (for phones, tablets and Kindle). The formats that a book includes are shown at the top right corner of this page.

Finally, Leanpub books don't have any DRM copy-protection nonsense, so you can easily read them on any supported device.

Learn more about Leanpub's ebook formats and where to read them

Write and Publish on Leanpub

You can use Leanpub to easily write, publish and sell in-progress and completed ebooks and online courses!

Leanpub is a powerful platform for serious authors, combining a simple, elegant writing and publishing workflow with a store focused on selling in-progress ebooks.

Leanpub is a magical typewriter for authors: just write in plain text, and to publish your ebook, just click a button. (Or, if you are producing your ebook your own way, you can even upload your own PDF and/or EPUB files and then publish with one click!) It really is that easy.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub