Ed Yourdon

See http://www.yourdon.com/articles/y2koutlook.html

Ed has done a little bit more in the last thirty years of software development than get concerned about the social consequences of Y2K, which is the subject of the above link. That will no doubt become another entry of Wiki incompleteness in the InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas some time.

Because of my respect for Ed's integrity and his many high-level software consultancy assignments for large corporate and government clients across a very wide range of industries, I have taken his concern about Y2K since 1996 very seriously, more seriously I have to admit than the opinions of any politician, any socially aware Christian from GaryNorth to TonyCampolo (Clinton spiritual adviser since Lewinsky) or any other software development expert.

I'd like to use Wiki to record my great admiration for how Ed has risked his professional reputation and given up a great deal economically to bring this issue to the attention of ordinary people worldwide and to politicians at the highest level (at least that he was allowed to speak to). His testimony to the US Y2K Senate committee in May was in my view a model of good sense, compassion and social responsibility on this issue - see http://www.yourdon.com.

Let's pray that either Ed is wrong in his prognosis or that we software people are ready for the consequences, in a deeper way than just the cupboard of dried food and the wood stove. --RichardDrake

Moved from YtwokStories:

Any news of EdYourdon after his dire predictions and his move to the New Mexico desert?

Yes, it's still open for all to see on http://www.yourdon.com.

For around two years Ed was extremely careful not to be drawn into making Y2K predictions, although it was already clear that he was more concerned about the possible outcome than most RespectedSoftwareExperts were. (In fact he was more concerned than anyone of his "stature" I would say, based on talking both to Atlantic System Guild people and via email to FredBrooks on the subject.) With eleven months to go he did go public to say that although he didn't know what would happen his best guess would be "a year of disruptions, a decade of depression". He did move from New York to New Mexico as "insurance" for the safety of his family, although I have the impression that water availability is not a problem where he now lives. He also gave up a substantial amount of income to warn ordinary people about what he thought the Y2K risks might be and to argue passionately before the Senate that the general public should be allowed access to the same risk information the government itself was evaluating.

It now seems clear that Ed, along with most governments and large companies of the western world, misjudged the risk - after just 12 days of the "year of disruptions" it certainly does seem this way. But the risks involved was also affected every day by what people were doing and discovering, and that in turn was affected by the warnings of RespectedSoftwareExperts like Yourdon, so I believe that he should be forgiven for that error.

I'm grateful therefore Sam that your deep differences with Ed haven't made you personally bitter towards him, like some people.

I write as someone who has taken a not always popular lead (for fifteen years - ahead of most in the world of software) in advocating a radical rethink of BigDesignUpFront (BDUF), which Yourdon was at least partly responsible for promoting in his early method days. I believe that the lousy quality of most commercial software was the one of the biggest reasons we couldn't evaluate and track Y2K properly and that this poor quality was due, very largely, to the dominance of BDUF in commercial development up to Y2K. This is exactly why I set those XpHundredBillionDollarChallenges. I believe that we have some answers! (I never thought I would need to exhort RonJeffries to have more confidence in XP, but there we go!)

But at a totally different level I'd love to see EdYourdon honored for his rare integrity and moral courage on what could well have turned out to be a vital humanitarian issue. I'll just be mightily grateful if by the end of this year we know for sure for sure that he totally misjudged the risks. --RichardDrake

I don't know. Some people say he blew this so out of proportion and also made a mint on his Y2K books. --sg

In fact he made less than on any other book because he chose to make them affordable to the person on the street and took a real hit on consultancy income to boot. Plus he put his reputation much more out on the line than was reasonable by commercial standards, so that if there wasn't a problem he was bound to lose his previous standing among RespectedSoftwareExperts. It may have been foolhardy but it was courageous and motivated by a real sense of responsibility for what he had helped to create - a rare thing to find in the software business. --rd

Also, they say he represents the Dinosaur portion of computing with Cobol and BigDesignUpFront.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with Cobol compared to the other thing! But I accept that Yourdon was one major influence on the bad old days of structured BigDesignUpFront and made a great deal of money out of that at a time when supporters of EvolutionaryDelivery were spurned and earning a relative pittance (sob!).

I haven't been encouraged by his writings.

Fair enough. Who are RespectedSoftwareExperts for you then?

I respect the fact that he writes all these books about the industry. But has he coded for the last 20 years on real projects as I have? Done OO design on major projects involving modern technologies like n-tier architectures, C++, Java, COM, CORBA, DesignPatterns, etc.

When was the last time Yourdon broke the rule that MethodologistsDontProgram? I'm sure that I don't know.

I kind of face two ways on this issue. On the one hand I really welcome the XP re-emphasis that methods people should actually and in fact do program, as much as possible in real teams on real projects. This sure has already improved the honesty and practicality of method. It also increases the respect of real programmers (such as on Wiki), judging from most of the names in SoftwareExpertsIpersonallyRespect. This is vital for methods to improve in practicality and take up.

On the other hand it's probably not possible to do very high quality reflection on development projects, leading to even better methods, if you're programming all day. It is especially unlikely that you're then going to have the time and ability to write great articles, give great presentations and glad-hand all those non-software specialists that need to be persuaded that stuff like the SoftwareManagementManifesto is really, really important to business. If they really understand they would realise that is.

So I think that we do need some software development spokespeople, some great presenters and ambassadors who nonetheless stay in touch with the real world and the latest breakthroughs on the ground. These people are going to become the future SoftwareExpertsNonsoftwarePeopleRespect I guess. We don't have so many nominations in this category which doesn't surprise me so much on Wiki. Better not complain too loud when you learn who got to the microphone with this stuff first though.

-- RichardDrake

Note that some argue that our heavy attention to Y2K correctly adverted disaster. It is kind of a ChickenOrEgg issue that may never be fully settled because we cannot go back in time and test multiple attention levels to the Y2K issue to see the impact on society.

See also CoadAndYourdon, SoftwareAgeism


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