QCon, Models and Integrism

30 mars 2010

Cet article est disponible en français sur le blog d’Objet Direct.

logo_qcon8I am just coming back from my three days of escape at QCon London. As always, an opportunity to step back, take a breath, open my eyes on what others do, how they work. I can there feel the trends and try and guess what my job will look like, next year and even after.

I promise, I will sum up the best moments and the keypoints of the conference. But before I go on, I would like to react off the cuff on something that seems important.

However, this year, I come back with a bad taste in my mouth (don’t misunderstand : as always, beer was great !). A taste of bitterness and anger.

Modeling is not only banned from QCon (as it has already been in the past two years), it has become a dirty word.

Code is the all-time star, which is fair, considering development is the conference main concern. Pointing at yesterdays mistakes seems to be quite healthy too (especially “overmodeling” syndrom which used to be an obvious sign of lack of confidence in the development process).

But I can’t stand to hear stars like Uncle Bob (writer of an UML for Java Programmers in 2003 !) saying that “as we all know, models are completely useless”, or Dan North (who gave an excellent talk besides) considering that the use of a modeler is a useless “complification”. It sounds to me like hypocrisy, demagoguery or fundamentalism (which is not far from stupidity).

The only talk I attended which was positive about modeling was Eric Evans’s speach about agile design. Nevertheless, he did not use the word Modeling but the more consensual Design. I think he had the right word: he said that developer community had “thrown away the baby with its bath water”.

I had the feeling of being in a religious circle attending professions of faith.

On one hand, the code fundamentalists, pure monotheists, nostalgic of a mythical golden age when the developper used to be the one and only master of its production, communicating directly with God (the Product Owner), custodian of a millenium knowledge (the Software Craftsmanship) taught by guru’s mouth.

And there are those UMLists, seen as dangerous unfaithful visionaries, whose delirium corrupted the perfect world of the above. These ones have to be exterminated by all means. I felt like being under a fatwa !

As always when there are problems, we need to find scapegoats. The models (and those who make them) seem to play this role today: symbols of the « Big Upfront Design », they are being the responsible for the failure of big projects. The models are seen as pure documentation artifacts: modeling would be a time consuming and unnecessary (or even perverse) activity, especially in an agile world.

In such a surrounding, I was really ashamed of showing my business card: besides my name you can read “MDA business line manager”. Like having an STD!

Yet it seems to me that modeling, instead of developping, allows to:

  • analyze a problem
  • compress its complexity
  • give a global view
  • abstract from technology
  • communicate

My brain is not big enough to do all this on its own. I need UML (or any other formalism) both as a crutch, a whiteboard, a memory expansion, a pair of glasses and a math formulary.

Modeling is not against developing (not to mention MDA that combines both). Modeling simply helps developing better.

Moreover, the code itself IS a model (“system of abstractions that describes selected aspects of a domain”) as an UML diagram is. Just a little more verbose (and a little more easy to execute).

Maybe this gap is only a symptom of various thinking modes: a French analytical thought (after all, Descartes and Merise are French creations!) vs. a pragmatic Anglo-Saxon thought.

I like to think there is good in both worlds and both complement each other nicely. By the way, it is what I think is the main interest of our job: to analyze a problem in order to be able to computerize its solving. This is what renews my daily motivation: how can I put the complexity of the world in a (good) program.

2011/02/15 Comments have been re-opened.

One Response to “QCon, Models and Integrism”

  1. QCon, Modèles et Intégrisme | Blog Objet Direct Says:

    […] This post is available in english on my personal blog. […]

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