What Clean Specs Achieve

Mark Birbeck Mark.Birbeck at iedigital.net
Sat Feb 6 20:15:37 GMT 1999

Simon St.Laurent to:
> The cost of hitting your head against the specs can be prohibitive,
> however, if you're a small organization without extensive 
> resources.  More
> complex specs mean that you have to spend more resources comprehending
> those specs, wasting time that could have been better spent coding.

Equally we could spend less time discussing the clarity of specs and
more time trying to understand them!

Anyway, the point I made in the last message was that my company has
SAVED money by adopting XML - even taking into account after investing a
lot of time to understand it and its implications - and we are a VERY
small company.

I don't know why I'm pursuing this, but here goes: there is a flaw in
the logic you are following here. When technology is new and leading
edge, it is generally going to be difficult to follow, because we do not
have the intellectual reference points with which to understand it.
There is no *absolute* measure of whether a spec is easy or difficult to
understand, since it depends on the general culture of understanding. As
each spec comes in, we find it easier to understand, not because it is
better written, but because we are building on the previous layers of
our knowledge. And then, when someone makes another big paradigm shift,
we'll all be at sea again for a while.

So, for you to contrast 'understanding' with 'productivity' is mistaken,
because, firstly, if you do not understand the implications of a new
technology, what are you going to code up anyway? Are we really worried
about the ability of someone at home using a simple text editor to code
up their video collection? If they wanted to do that they would be
better off with a spreadsheet or writing a database app - and these
tools should use XML as their native file formats. And secondly, as I
said about our company, programmers do gain in the long run, because the
new technology is more efficient than the old.

Mark Birbeck
Managing Director
Intra Extra Digital Ltd.
39 Whitfield Street
w: http://www.iedigital.net/
t: 0171 681 4135
e: Mark.Birbeck at iedigital.net

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