Cow Paths and Coding

The always insightful Peter Coffee has a good new column that offers a couple contrarian observations. To the generally positive buzz over Cisco’s new virtual meeting system (HD screens, lighting, surround-sound), Peter makes the skewering concession “If face-to-face meetings were considered the high point of organizational productivity, I’d endorse the idea of throwing bandwidth and hardware at the task of migrating that process to cyberspace.” Touche.

Coffee frames the article with a discussion of “paved cow paths” which are (apocryphally, one suspects) how Boston’s notorious street layout evolved. This comes right up to the edge of software development heresy: paving grass-worn paths is one of the cliches of explaining “patterns;” incrementalism is a watchword of the agile movement; and, for that matter, Boston rules, ok?

Coffee’s long had an enterprise-level perspective on development and although he holds his fire in this column, I suspect that he may be gearing up for an assault on the common wisdom.