Better Software Conference & EXPO 2008


The Psychology of Software Engineers

The personality traits of software engineers tend to be quite different from those of the general population. In recent years, psychologists have come to a nearly unanimous consensus on the number and nature of human personality dimensions. A recent large-scale study involving several hundred software engineers and "regular" people (non-engineers) revealed that the personalities of developers, testers, and managers tend to be different from each other and from the personalities of the general population as a whole.

James McCaffrey, Volt Information Sciences, Inc.

The Uncertainty Surrounding the Cone of Uncertainty

Barry Boehm first defined the "Cone of Uncertainty" of software estimation more than twenty-five years ago. The fundamental aspect of the cone is quite intuitive-that project uncertainty decreases as you discover more during the project. Todd Little takes an in-depth look into some of the dynamics of software estimation and questions some of the more common interpretations of the meaning of the "cone." Todd presents surprising data from more than one hundred "for market" software projects developed by a market-leading software company.

Todd Little, Landmark Graphics Corporation

What's the Deal with "Best Practices" - Revisiting the Idea

We talk about "best practices" as though they exist-an ideal way to manage a team, develop software, and test applications. All we have to do is discover what best practices are. At best, this is naive, and at worst it's an irresponsible way to approach anything, especially software development. Learning theory-specifically the Dreyfus model of skills acquisition-provides the missing context for practices in general and best practices in particular.

Dan North, ThoughtWorks

Who Are Your Project Stakeholders?

It's easy to list all the stakeholders and identify different types of users for your software project-WRONG! Although it may be obvious who holds the checkbook for your project and who the "average" users will be, many other people and user roles are not so obvious. Unaccounted for stakeholders and users result in missed requirements and often leave important conflicts unresolved. Even worse, you can lose support-and the whole project can fail-if important people are left out of the process.

Linda Westfall, The Westfall Team
You Just Don't Understand Me: Interdisciplinary Awareness to the Rescue

Different disciplines and departments in an organization often have the same goals, but often misunderstand one another. We have all heard someone say about another group, "Those people are clueless." The irony is that "those people" are saying the same thing back under their breath. Within the software disciplines, poor understanding, lack of communication, and unfortunate stereotyping are often commonplace.

Michael Tholfsen, Microsoft Corporation
Your Attention Please: Concentration is a Learnable Skill

With the possible exception of the fakir walking barefoot on a bed of nails, no one can focus attention on a single object for more than about fifteen seconds. There's a practice, though, that anyone can learn to accommodate this fact and go on to solve vexing problems quickly and creatively. Lee Devin borrows from the skills that actors develop to direct their attention so their mind and body behave as if the imaginary world they've created is real.

Lee Devin, Swarthmore College


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