Monday, October 31, 2011

Golden Mean

Even if you’re not into Aristotelian philosophy, you must have heard about the doctrine of the Golden Mean. It advocates finding a middle solution between two opposite extremes.
Yet, it is surprising how often in Software Engineering people forget about the Golden Mean and violently advocate an obviously extreme solution or view.

Here are few examples:
·         100% TDD vs No TDD
·         BDUF vs No Design
·         Strong typing vs Weak Typing
·         Management Theory X vs Theory Y

In each of those pairs of opposites, each option has some merits. Yet, taking it to the extreme and asserting its universality, turns each of them into an absurd. The goal of a successful architecture or design effort should be finding the right tradeoff between competing forces and therefore finding the Golden Mean.

One important note is that the Golden Mean in each of those pairs is heavily dependent on the context and is not something absolute and unchanging. That’s why it’s so funny to read people blindly advocating a particular option with nearly complete disregard to circumstances and context.

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