The Scientific Method

What’s the greatest invention in the history of humankind? We probably each have some ideas, and we could certainly debate the answer, but Dave Farley says it’s science, and the scientific method. Many of us probably learned about the scientific method. Look at a problem, develop a hypothesis, test it, alter our hypothesis based on results. Repeat. Eventually come up with an explanation that’s proved by the evidence.

This sounds like a good way to actually build a piece of software. However, is this what most of us do? Or do we continue to pile additional caveats and restrictions to our hypothesis and try to force the system to work a certain way.

Is the scientific method something we need more of in software? I was watching the talk from Dave Farley, and he mentioned this. He talked about the need to examine a problem, guess how to solve it, try implementing your guess, and then examining the result. If it’s not correct, then you change something and try again. It’s an agile process that tends to work well when there are fast feedback cycles.

However the one thing in the talk that was the most telling to me is that something isn’t finished until a customer can see it and give feedback. Until then, it’s really in limbo. I would guess that if more development efforts focused on making this happen quicker, we’d end up with better software, written more quickly.

Steve Jones

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