Monday, November 26, 2007

Productivity, Team Size and the Blub Paradox

Reginald Braithwaite is one of my favorite bloggers. Each of his postings make me think, some of them leave a lasting impression. One of them is this one that talks about small teams, productivity and the power of abstraction in programming languages.

Do we necessarily have to build large teams to solve complex programming problems ? Here is what Reginald has to say ..
All of our experience in the last sixty years has suggested that productivity drops off a cliff as team size increases. So, if you want more code from a larger team, you have to invest heavily in ways of extracting value out of unproductive people in an unproductive environment.

We cannot build our project execution infrastructure for the unproductive mass of average developers. (via Neal Ford's JRuby podcast) Glen Vanderburg once noted that bad developers will move heaven and earth to do the wrong thing. And by having a restricted environment all you are doing is constraining the power of good developers, not making bad developers any better.

And this is where the expressive power of the programming language comes in. Paul Graham has talked a lot about succinctness, blub programmers and metrics for the continuum of abstractness for programming languages. Good developers love to program in languages higher up the power continuum, while a blub programmer looks out for the averagest feature-set that aligns well within his comfort zone. Hence, as Reginald says ..
If we know that bug per line of code remains amazingly constant, why do we try to scale code out in verbosity rather than up in abstraction?

Scaling out in verbosity is encouraging those language features that add to the lines of code at the cost of the levels of abstraction. Which in turn is encouraging the blub paradox.

Java is still the most dominant language of the enterprise and JVM is undoubtedly the ubiquitous platform. It is difficult for an enterprise to move away from a platform overnight. But today we have a number of alternatives in programming languages that run on the Java Virtual Machine. Many of them are much higher than Java in the power continuum of abstractness. Isn't it time that we start embracing some of them, at least incrementally ? Neal Ford makes a great point in his JRuby podcast while talking about polyglot programming. Tests and builds are two areas that do not ship to the customer. These make great candidates for bootstrapping other JVM friendly languages into the enterprise. Next time try using JRuby for writing your tests, Raven for writing the build scripts. Soon you may start feeling that you could have collapsed your multi-level strategy hierarchy in Java using higher order functions.


Anonymous said...

Ghosh Babu ..
All good parts of this article are not original and all original parts are not good.
Please do not say something just because you have a Blog ..we may as well go and read stuff on Reginald's blog.

Anonymous said...