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Deconstructing the bike shed

A thought-provoking piece by Joshua Wehner on Test Double’s blog: For the metaphor to work, at all, we have to have a shared understanding of what’s important and what’s trivial. Kamp is saying (1) color does not matter, and (2) the topic they are debating matters as little as if they were debating color. For decades, software developers have been fine with this. And yet… Color is an amazingly deep topic! There are books on the history of color. There are fascinating stories about how colors got their names, how they were made, how they impact fashion, how they tell stories… until software emits smells, color will be one of the most important aspects for developers to understand when considering how human beings will interact with our software. I never thought that color doesn’t matter, just that for the purpose of the metaphor color doesn’t matter in the context of a bike shed. This thought leads Joshua to another one: Software developers—and other professionals who are oriented around quantitative thinking—have a tendency to dismiss more qualitative disciplines such as design, marketing, or management—which also turn out to be exactly the disciplines best-suited to mitigating the kinds of dead-end discussions the bike shed legend is supposedly built to address. This I’ve 💯% seen in the wild. In conference rooms and in online discussions, I frequently seen software developers deploy the bike shed myth as an attempt to minimize a topic they see as unimportant and to label that discussion as a trivial distraction. I need to stop or I’ll end up quoting the entire article. Like I said, lots of thoughts being provoked here. A must-read, even if you end up disagreeing with his conclusions.

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