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More fables for our time

Moral tales with added anthropomorphic anarchy

The prince and the straw man

A prince needed an IT system, and offered the hand of his daughter in marriage to whomsoever completed it to his best satisfaction.

A team of top consultants, who lived in fancy offices in town, tackled the problem using the Rational Unified Process.

A professor from one of the "new" universities – I believe it was the University of South West Fairyland – decided to undertake a design based on formal methods.

A straw man decided to use the waterfall process, which is indeed always the development process choice of the software-writing straw man.

Fifteen months later, the prince knocked at the straw man's door and asked how he was getting on.

"Well, I've nearly finished, although it still crashes inexplicably, and I'm afraid I failed to take into account your shifting requirements – unlike the IT consultants with their diligent application of time-boxed iterations."

"Actually," said the prince. "They were always round the bloody palace with 'Have you tested this?' and 'What do you think of that?' – got right up my nose. In the end I was obliged to banish them from the kingdom."

"Oh dear," said the straw man. "And what of the learned academic? He has surely delivered a system of demonstrable safety, such as is fitting for royalty."

"Just had a progress email off of him," said the prince with unprincely coarseness. "After 15 months' effort, all he has to show is a few symbols on a bit of paper – mostly upside down "A" and backwards "E". Nobody knows what it means, but it is provably correct. So you are the winner, by default."

"Excellent," said the straw man. "I'll get my morning coat."

"One other bit of news," said the prince. "Jayne didn't like being a chattel and ran off to join the navy. I am afraid it's only me up the palace these days. Fancy a spot of civil partnership?"

Moral: Don't mock the straw man – you'll be clutching at him soon enough.

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