Skip to main content

A Technical Debit - Collateralized Debt Obligation you should not invest in

I just watch Ward Cunningham explain the XP Technical Debit metaphor that he coined.  It enlightened my understanding of how the term was applied in the early days (when he used it), and how we have mutated the metaphor to cover areas he never intended.


Ward Cunningham's Debt Metaphor Isn't a Metaphor (18 March 2009)


In summary Ward was suggesting that it was valuable long term thinking for a company to take on debt (technical debt) in order to ship a product early and get market feedback. Feedback that would get factored into the next iteration (release) of that same product. You see building software by Ward's XP model is not like building a house or a sky-scraper, it's like growing a garden of asparagus. Asparagus is a flowering perennial which requires several seasons of cultivation before it is ready to ship to market.  My father grew asparagus in our garden, when I was a kid, I didn't like it much then, but love it now.

Using debt to achieve something much more valuable is using the power of debt in a good way.  Like buying a house for your family to live in.  To shelter them from the environment when you live in Chicago.  But if you live in Hawaii, the debt taken on to shelter your family may be much less valuable.  Hence many people live in much less house in warmer climates.

Some people of course take on debt to live in lavish houses for other reasons.  One could debate if these reasons are rational.  And therefore debate if the debit is good or bad.

We all know by now that there is bad debit.  Our wonderful banker friends have given us a great lesson in trusting them, and there use of our money to create more and more complex debit instruments.

Are we in the software world following their lead?

Pist - hey, I've got a great Collateralized Technical Debt Obligation Instrument for us to invest in.  We just hack out this code, get the prototype hooked into the DB, don't worry about unit-test, do away with all that automated acceptance test framework.  We allow someone else to test it, we just write and sell the application.

Chris Sterling just published his book on this topic, Managing Software Debt.  I've not read it yet, but it is in my todo list.  Lisa Crispin wrote this review.  In full disclaimer mode - I've worked with Chris - and he rocks it!

Managing Software Debt

Want to know more about Collateralization of Debt - read the highlights from the Motley Fool on the official Debt Crisis report (warning - it may bring tears to your eyes):  Financial Crisis - greatest hits from the official report.

See Also:

The Technical Debt Trap - Doc Norton


Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Software Development terms applied to Home Construction

Let's Invert the typically wrong headed view of Software Development project management as a construction project.  We can map it the other way just to see if it works... to have some fun, to explore the meaning of phrases we toss around quite frequently.


Normally Project Management terms come from a construction domain.  We are going to apply the lexicon of modern software to the construction of a home.  We will follow the construction project and meet some of the people doing the work.

This is a very small (8 homes from $600,000 skyward) program in my 30-40 year old neighborhood.

About 6 months ago I saw the programs landing page go up.  It gives casual observers and some of the stakeholders a general idea of the intent of the program.  And most importantly who to contact for additional information if you happen to be interested in their products.

The Refuge program has 8 product projects and has them running independently.  Yet much of their DevOps infrastructure has already b…

Where is Shakespeare When We Need Him?

We are desperately searching for a term for people that connotes the best of human kind.  The creative, sensing, combinatorial synergistic, empathic solutioning persons that have yet to been labeled with a role name that works.

Some of the old terms:
Staff, Workforce, Human Resource, My Team, Army, Company

Shakespeare created 1700 words in his time.  He mutated verbs to nouns, and vice-a-versa, transformed verbs into adjectives, and formed words from whole cloth never before heard.  This skill is rare, but there is a poet that can create the term we need in the twenty-first century.

What should this term define?

21st Century Human Resource; the generalizing specialist.

Yes, but what more?  What less?

Suggest your poetry in the comments, let us see if we cannot do 1/1700 as well as The Bard.

By-the-way; who create the phrase "coin a word"?



A TED Play List - How do you create new words
6:52
Erin McKeanGo ahead, make up new words! In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Er…

a little feedback please...

some feedback please...
How do you like the new look and feel of our site?
  ___)  nah (I like the old one better - bring it back)
  _X_)  yeah (much cleaner and easy to navigate)



powered by Typeform
See Also:

One Dark and Stormy during a Hurricane

I'm from the Carolina's where legend has it that our family commonly just hunkered down in the home on the coast and waterways than to head for inland shelter. Now that's from the old school days of barely improved (read paved) roads. They counted a storms severity by how high on the back porch steps (about 15 - top to ground) the water reached.  I don't recommend this action in todays world of long range forecast and transportation options.

I do recommend a drink or two in a hotel bar, far far away.

This is the week that Harvey came ashore in Texas.  I live on a hill in the little old town of Grapevine outside Dallas and Fort Worth.  And thank you all for letting me know that a storm is coming... I didn't get out and walk Malibu before the rain hit, so I grabbed a hat and we went anyway.  Much nicer walk with the drizzle, I'd say.

I'll raise a glass to you - if you were not smart enough to do the responsible thing, at the last responsible moment.

I do re…

Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created b…