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Which fictional story (book, movie, etc.) is the best allegory for software development?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Not something specifically about software, but a tale that gets to the heart of what we do.

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Thomas H Jones II

Based purely on title, then Neverending Story. Plus, many days feel like this - whether you're the horse or the person trying to pull the horse out of the bog...

quicksand

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Megan Speir

Was going to be my suggestion as well πŸ˜‚.

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Dave MG

a tale that gets to the heart of what we do.

Well, if you accept some of the inanities of interacting with project managers and product owners as things that fall into this category, I've got one for ya:

Catch-22.

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Thomas H Jones II

Book, 1970 movie adaptation or the recent Amazon Streaming adaptation? All three are absurd, but the 1970s adaptation is less grim than either the book or the Amazon version.

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garzo profile image
Dave MG

Ouch. That's a great question actually. I'm not sure if I'd call the recent Amazon adaptation necessarily grim, but it was definitely weighty especially towards the end.

But great question because I was having this exact debate with a coworker, I honestly don't know which adaptation I love more, they've both got a certain brilliance about them.

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ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

To me, the 1970 movie was too short to adequately make the transition from "merely absurd" to "grim". You don't have quite have that "litany of absurdities" feeling (especially if you binge the series) from the movie that you do in the streaming version.

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Tom VanAntwerp

For us poor sods who don't work at cushy startups with foosball tables and free lunch, Office Space is still dead on. (Despite the movie being about software developers, I'm claiming it's not "specifically about software" as much as it's about the culture around office life in America.)

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Thomas H Jones II

Or Dilbert...

it hurts

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Rinaldo Rex

Replace "Cloud" with AI/ML/DL/Blockchain and you have the modern business people.

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ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

Even better: modern business people that don't quite understand that "correlation" and "causation" are two very different things ...and that, while AI and ML can be damned good at finding the former, they sorely struggle with the latter.

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jeikabu

Spoiler alert:

For foofy startups, Office Space is still dead on.

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Thomas H Jones II

I've spent most of my career in consulting. I've gotten to work at a lot of organizations of varying sizes and across many industries. Every place is broken – you just have to find th brokenness that's easiest to deal with (one of the benefits of shorter-term consulting is you only have to tolerate a given brand of brokenness for a limited period of time and, when you're just about to lose your mind with the current brand, you can console yourself with "it's only more days/weeks/months"

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Mike Judge is a national treasure

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Isa Levine

For me, right now, it's Avatar: The Last Airbender (the full cartoon).

Searching for that first job, and knowing how much more I still have to learn in my coding career, definitely feels like Aang preparing (but never being prepared enough) to fight the Fire Lord.



Also, allegories about resourcefulness, relying on your community, coming up with novel solutions, drawing from wisdom of your predecessors, etc. etc. etc. (And maybe office dogs are Appa?)



:)

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Ashley McPeek

When code stops working... the cabbage guy.

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jawwad22

my codebageeees =P

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Chris Achard

This is cheating, but "How to Fight a Hydra" by Josh Kaufman was written explicitly to be an allegory that is meant to describe "how to do hard things" (of which writing software definitely applies!)

It's meant to mimic the feel of a story from really old works (like the Odyssey, etc) but is significantly shorter, and much more to the point. I highly recommend it!

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Matt Eland

It's okay. I just listened to it on Audible a week or two ago. I expected to get a bit more out of it, but it's an interesting and quick read.

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Chris Achard

This is a book where I also think the audio book experience is probably different than the "in hand" reading experience as well. The way the book is laid out and split up adds to the experience I think, so that may be why it was an underwhelming audio book :)

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Gage

Not a book or movie, but this Game: Tummple! a man places a brick on a tower and it falls over

Building upon the same thing over and over till it collapses.

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Vicki (she/her)

What game is this?

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William Ahrons

The Terminator, someone trying to save the future while there is someone trying to destroy the present.

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Michael Kohl

The Trial by Franz Kafka, about "a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader." The main protagonists spends most of the book running around, trying to find out what he actually did wrong and how to get out of it.

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David Wickes

The Myth of Sisyphus

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ryanAllMad

I mean, that's what I was going to say. It probably applies to almost all jobs too. 🀣

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Rafael Ahrons

Evangelion!!

There's some giant monsters comming to destroy everthing that we have, we don't know from where they came, but knows that we must fight them with everything we have (which are MECHAS).

It's just a movie about some monsters fighting kids with poor mental health caused of overhelming work strees using MECHAS.

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Thomas Eckert

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig. It talks about the nature of "Quality", the beauty of craft, and the relationship between people and technology.

It's covered more in this context in the Greater than Code podcast episode: 123: BOOK CLUB! Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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ryanAllMad

Russian Doll could also be a good one.

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Ben Lovy

Hackers. If your day-to-day doesn't resemble Crash Override's, you're doing something egregiously wrong.

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Thomas H Jones II

...and you have a hard time not laughing at it.

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Fred Richards

Groundhog Day. 😁

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Jacob Herrington (he/him)

The Room.

I think this answer is self-explanatory.

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John Forstmeier

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I won't claim that it's the best, but it certainly captures several aspects.

  • Pursuing perfection: good when balancing realistic demands and but bad when it becomes a singular focus hindering advancement
  • Work focus: good when it helps build good things and bad when it our work consumes everything else
  • Customer attention: good for creating/refining a product to help people but bad when it comes at the cost of your employees

Overall, I'd say it's a fantastic film and I'm jealous of Jiro's singular focus and mastery in many ways while still acknowledging the toll it took on him and his family.

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Lewis kori

ex-machina(movie) . Makes you wonder about what is ethical in AI and how we handle our interactions in future.

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Thomas H Jones II

Not to mention that true AI - were one able to create what is essentially an artificial consciousness - isn't really ethically compatible with prior models of obsolescence. I mean, what do you do when your previous-generation AI has reached the end of its useful life? Is retiring it equivalent to killing something?

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Aschwin Wesselius

Plato's Allegory of the Cave and especially the return to the cave is quite applicable to being an software architect thinking and moving in one direction, while the surrounding is thinking he's a mad man.

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Gayan Hewa

Man's search for meaning by Viktor E Frankl, pretty much describes how all of us start with hope and realize the monstrous code bases over time. This story does have a happy ending, and its a story about struggle and hope :)

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Jonathan Irvin

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy...Always.

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Steven Pressfield, the War on Art

stevenpressfield.com/books/the-war...

It's a wonderful book on the inner struggle that face writers at the time they have to actually sit down and write things on the keyboard.

We developers also have to sit down, write things with a keyboard and deal with tons of frustration, so this gets to the heart of what we do.

A developer could have written the same story.

But honestly, writers usually write much better than us.

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Andrew Brown πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

Nobody has suggested Moby Dick?

One peron's obsession that goes too far.

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Ben Halpern Author

I've definitely seen my share of devs chasing their white whale πŸ˜„

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Adam Patterson

Dresden Files - Harry Dresden is a detective and wizard, He really doesn't know what he's doing and sort of learns as he goes. At times he has great success and then things go to πŸ’©. He is a bit of a loaner but has some really good friends that he can rely on and that help him out.

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Kevin Ard

Our protagonist begins with a traditionally bright future. He abandons that. He abandons all things. He sets off on a personal journey of discovery and adventure. Has a great time with all these new experiences that were nowhere near his plan. His final big adventure - his largest by bar - is his undoing.

Into the Wild. Book by Jon Krakauer, movie by someone different.

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Dan Conn

The Blob.

From Wikipedia... "The storyline concerns a growing, corrosive, alien amoeboidal entity that crashes to Earth from outer space inside a meteorite. It devours and dissolves citizens in the small communities of Phoenixville and Downingtown, PA, growing larger, redder, and more aggressive each time it does so, eventually becoming larger than a building."

If that doesn't describe legacy code (where the citizens are developers working on it) then I don't know what else will!

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Adam Crockett

Back to the future, wildly wrong predictions, crazy tech and it seems to have no sense of timescales.

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Matt Eland

I was going to say The Phoenix Project until I saw the qualifier. Instead, I think I'll go with My Side of the Mountain. The level of exploration and progressive improvement just captures so much of greenfield development.

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Luke Westby

Jurassic Park

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Brian Emilius

"Must go faster!"

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Michiel Hendriks

Sometimes it's like the story of sisyphus.

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Felippe Regazio

The NeverEnding History. A strange guy in a strange land with strange people trying to solve endless problems that are not actually his problems; and the best: he doesnt know how to explain it to his family, and after all that, he loves it.

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Abdallah Ebrahim

Ex Machina of course is one of the movies that if you don't have a programming knowledge it wouldn't be interesting to watch

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Devon Campbell

Memento. Every time I return to my code after a meeting: "Now… where was I." Comments are my tattoos. If I get burned by a poorly documented or otherwise badly-behaving library, I try to record it somewhere, but I usually get distracted before I can. Blaming IE (my John G.) for all my front-end problems.

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Greg Bulmash πŸ₯‘

"Go, Dog, Go!" - The whole hat subplot is an allegory for code reviews.

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Ben Sinclair

Maybe Holes?

It has people doing seemingly pointless, repetetive chores without understanding why, management is authoritarian, and the way out is to go back and research the original documentation.

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Adnan Rahić

If you haven't read The Pheonix Project, get on it! It's absolutely amazing.

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Miloslav Voloskov

It’s George Orwell’s β€œAnimal Farm”.

Just kidding. It’s Tom Sawyer, the fence painting scene.

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Brian Emilius

As for learning to code I always tell my students to "wax on, wax off"...

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Muhammad

i would really love to write an anime on software development

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Max Ong Zong Bao

Gulliver's travel, a tale of constantly being out of your depth but survives to go home.

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Holy-Elie ScaΓ―de

The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Whatever you're doing matters, but not that much as there are so many things going on that you're not involved with (but still impact on you)

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lepinekong

"I Know It When I See It: A Modern Fable About Quality"
amazon.com/Know-When-See-Modern-Qu...

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