Constructive Interference

What is the measure of ConstructiveInterference? As AlistairCockburn says, you don't think interference is too constructive when it is your land that is being stolen or your design ideas that are being ignored. We got to ConstructiveInterference from DramaticIdentity. ConstructiveInterference was seen as a way that identity evolves in structures. I think that in the context of understanding identity, we can not judge whether interference is constructive or not based upon what happens to the constituents of the system, be they cells in a body or people on a team. ConstructiveInterference consists of those actions which further the thing with identity.

If you are an American Indian you think that your land is being stolen because you do not share identity with the settlers. If you did, you wouldn't see it as theft. That said, it is not a simple issue. The identities that you choose are a part of your values as well as who you hang around with.

Now, I hope that people do not think that I am advocating considering people unimportant compared to groups. That is an ethical position that I can not adopt because I'm quite happy seeing people as ends in themselves. I worry that the contrary view in SpecializationIsForInsects does not consider people sufficiently. What I am doing is pointing out, re DramaticIdentity, that organizations have senses of identity in much the same way that individuals do. If we consider them equivalent structures to understand more about identity then we can only understand ConstructiveInterference in terms of the goals of the thing with identity. -- MichaelFeathers


What's the best way to square this with NonInterference?

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. There is no difference between Interference and NonInterference. When you're the person on the spot, you have to decide, based on your values (ethics, morality) what to do. Distinction without a difference. -- RonJeffries


 Ethics is taking
 taken land,
 returning it to those who took it
 from those before.

Ethics is feeding the unfed, so they grow well enough to grow in number.

Ethics is teaching others to think like we do.

Ethics is deciding to whom to give the land.

-- AlistairCockburn


Ownership that does not derive from fiat but is instead backed by responsibility and consensus as per CodeStewardship and StoneSociety seems different to this. Fiat is Alistair's "taking and deciding" above; I don't see how fiat can be used ethically.

Think of Poker. Here ethics is not an attribute of allocation but of process. We can play fair even when doing so requires deception, ambition, inequity and the luck of the draw. When all risk and all stand to gain, all accept the process of poker as ethical. -- PeterMerel


The joke about ethics is that there is someone who claims to be able to decide what is and isn't ethical. The poem in one sense is poking fun at those who claim that they are in the power position to decide what is ethical. Those people are, by their own definition, behaving ethically. Peter says ethics is an attribute of process, that all accept the process as ethical. The poem hints that those who had their land taken away by a third party might not think the process was ethical. It was, after all, simply the stronger group that made up this funny rule about ethics, and took their land away. Ask, perhaps, people in Palestine or the Falkland Islands.

The poem is there because this page's title indicates that there is someone who thinks that there is such a thing as constructive interference - which implies that there is someone who gets to make the call whether the interference is constructive or not. -- AlistairCockburn
I have a feeling Alistair and I are in violent agreement here, but I take a different spin on the page title. Development is driven by a dialog between competing designs; different participants in that dialog take on the DramaticIdentity(s) of these designs and try to find a way to mate them into a consistent whole. That moulding changes the components - interferes with them - in a constructive way.

This contrasts sharply with a process where different individuals try to politically dominate and disenfranchise each other. People can get hurt in either process, but there is a common perception that the latter is not ethical. The difference between the two seems to me to be NonInterference.

Indeed I missed the point of Alistair's poem - MeaCulpa, I'm not known for subtlety. But I'm curious about the boundary between reacting to an external threat - forgoing NonInterference - and observing NonInterference in a Poker-like way. Where do the transitions lie? -- PeterMerel

I read Peter's comments as implying that NonInterference is necessarily ethical, and I have trouble with that concept. Perhaps we need to understand more what ethics means. Is it identical to morality? The only thing that I can say for certain about ethics is that it requires at least even-handedness and a well-understood set of rules - but even that is not sufficient. -- RussellGold

In most courtroom dramas fairness - due process - and CommonSense are set at odds. This makes for good drama, but it doesn't resolve matters of ethics. The well-understood set of rules can often lead to situations that seem cruel or impractical. "ConstructiveInterference" can easily lead to an AbileneParadox. -- PeterMerel


Referring back to changes the components - interferes with them - in a constructive way. ...vs...different individuals try to politically dominate. I have worked in lots of teams and taught lots of classes. The thing that is safe to say is that large percentage of the time, several designers will have different ideas (I can count on my thumbs the number of times I have had a -really explosive- codesign session with singular agreement on every design move).

How do they resolve whose design moves forward? Interference. Even speaking very kindly, each person tries to advance her/his design. Typically, the most aged / senior / loud person gets their design advanced. I have to imagine this also happens when PairProgramming. The quiet people feel disenfranchised, even if I as the powerful teacher of the class or project leader, interfere to establish a more equitable discussion (e.g., see poem). -- AlistairCockburn

Yes, and it seems that there are two leadership functions here. That of the facilitator and that of the quiet person who speaks up: OrganizationalIdentity. -- MichaelFeathers


We don't seem to be constructively interfering! I'll try Alistair's notion and do some poetry:

  Waves interfere
  And cancel to make nothing

Waves interfere And make a greater wave that breaks And leaves nothing

Waves interfere And make a soliton That continues unchanged.

Waves interfere And propagate their forms Spreading out and evolving Assimilating and mating Interfering Until stopped by one of the above.

The last of these is what I think we're calling constructive. On WikiIceberg DaveHarris notes this happening here with the identity bit that began on SystemsAsLivingThings (though that was itself a synthesis from other pages ...) as opposed to XP which seems to have turned soliton. -- PeterMerel
"Constructive" requires an observer. There is always someone to whom the interference is destructive - they just happen to be the losers in the situation. There is no anchor point.

(p.s. whether this seems depressing or realistic or wonderful to depends on your personal position)

, signed, AlistairCockburn, the CulturalRelativist.

If I answer your question, I'm not behaving ethically. If I ignore your question, I'm not behaving ethically. -- AnonymousDonor

Then ask another question.
At the heart of anything called ethics must be the first law of morality which is to do good and avoid evil. NonInterference is good only insofar as the situation is of the kind where you ought not to interfere. In other contexts it is simply called negligence, as child neglect is the non-performance of the adult and parental responsibility to provide care. Indifference to evil is a sufficient condition for it to become pervasive and to triumph. -- RaySchneider
"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." - I never expected to find a RuSh? (RushBand??) reference here! -- MikeSmith

[Sorry, Mike -- that phrase is pretty ancient. Geddy Lee just "borrowed" it (from the French) to round out the lyrics in one of my all time favorite pieces. -- MartySchrader]

But such a choice is different from choosing, deciding, interfering, inter-acting, or performing. It is a choice of non-paticipation. Some choice issues are not relevant, and there is no necessity for a choice to be made.


ConstructiveInterference is the method that conflicting subsystems identify a shared goal. -- AnonymousCoward

EditText of this page (last edited February 4, 2004) or FindPage with title or text search