What's in a Name?

By Jeff Gainer

(Author's note: This essay originally appeared in the 04 April 2001 issue of the Cutter IT Journal E-Mail Advisor.)

Even the most mediocre high-school Spanish language student is unsurprised that the Chevy Nova was not a success in Latin American countries. And it is little wonder that the Ford Pinto and the soft drink Fresca produced more adolescent giggles than sales in the same area. Unfortunate names for otherwise worthwhile products.

While ruminating on these unfortunately-named products, I turned my thoughts toward software development. A few came to mind: PROLOG always worried me, since the addition of a single letter "n" makes it into a verb most unfortunate for software development schedules. And for what it's worth, SCRUM sounds like something in need of a stiff-bristled brush and scouring powder.

And one can certainly question the use of the moniker "Extreme Programming." One envisions goateed programmers in Day-Glo Spandex, breaking the internet time barrier, propelling themselves on their skateboards, snowboards, or rollerblades, while chasing cheetahs and guzzling Mountain Dew. A misguided few have embraced the name as a justification for the worst practices of cowboy software development.

I was at a client site recently, and during my visit, I was given a brief tour of their new offices which were scheduled to open within a few days. There were conference rooms and common areas dedicated to each team. Each team worked in a centralized group partly facing one another, rather than in the usual cubicles. "This looks like an organization set up for extreme programming," I remarked. There were some uncomfortable looks. "We're following the model," a team leader said. "We don't really like that name much. We'd prefer a name that stresses cooperation and collaboration."

For those Internet time cowboys with no time or inclination to read, the name implies anything but cooperation and collaboration. Dwayne Phillips spoke very eloquently of the unfortunate cultural connotations of "risk management" in this space recently. In frontier countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, risk-takers, those on the frontier, or "the edge" are perceived as lone heroes. The collaborative environment of extreme programming, however, is extreme only in name.

--Jeff Gainer


(c)2001 Cutter Information Corp. All rights reserved. This article has been reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Cutter Information Corp., a provider of information resources for IT professionals worldwide.

This article originally appeared in the Cutter IT E-Mail Advisor, a supplement to Cutter IT Journal. www.cutter.com/itjournal

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