Software development at the fish market

The Fish market at Pike place is famous for its flying fish. I was there this weekend for the second time in a few weeks (benefit from having friends and family visiting from Sweden). But it is not the flying fish that make the show interesting I think. It is how the crew is shouting all orders out and get it repeated by the rest of the crew. Most people watching probably just think it is a funny detail in the show. Some might know that it started as a prank only. But what it really is is a great way of making sure everybody involved (the employees) know what the order is and what is going to happen; i.e. what fish will be thrown where. Made me think again about one of my old comparisons between software development and the military. The same thing is used in the army to make sure orders (and important information) are heard by everybody. The fact that an order is repeated is also not only good to make the order heard by everybody, it is also an acknowledgment of that the order has been heard. So when the order maker hears the order repeated he knows it have been heard.

So what about the title; software development at the fish market? Well actually nothing more than I think people in the software business repeat things much too rarely. Not only small things that can be quickly repeated but all kinds of feedback and instructions benefit from being repeated. Think about it. Each time you ask somebody to help you with something, does it turn out as you expected? Probably not. And you either think the other person is stupid or you blame yourself for being unclear. In my experience people are not stupid in general. It is you who are being unclear because the other person has a different set of reference points to what you want them to do. The best thing to make sure somebody understands what you mean is to ask them to repeat,in their own words, what you just said. But don't forget to do the same thing when somebody asks you to do something...

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