Jan 23, 2008

Jazz, software development and the Sun/MySQL deal

Jazz - I kept hearing that word over and over the last couple of weeks, culminating in me finally joining YouTube and putting together a play list of jazz music videos. However, it all started with software development:
  • First IBM announced the partial open sourcing of their jazz.net service. This was interestingly relevant to my current search for on-line software project hosting services. The jazz.net site says: 'Developing software in a team is much like playing an instrument in a band. Both require a balance of collaboration and virtuosity. Jazz defines a vision for the way products can integrate to support this kind of collaborative work, and a technology platform to deliver on this vision.' Sounds great, but I'm not sure it is mature enough to replace my current top contender: launchpad.net. However, considering the great job IBM did with eclipse, I'm certainly going to keep an eye on this new offering.
  • Then I read an article about the new trend in developer recruitment, calling top candidates 'rock star coders'. This trend was countered by some well written blogs asserting that it is better to be a 'jazz musician programmer':
    • 'I would rather be a jazz programmer' does a lovely comparison of rock stars and jazz musicians w.r.t. programming, emphasising creativity. I tried to paraphrase the key points here, but I think it just has to be read, so go take a look.
    • 'I'd rather be a DJ than a rock star developer' likes the jazz programmer idea, but prefers to be a DJ, emphasising code reuse and web-mashups.
    • 'Monks versus music' says that agile development teams are a lot like 'jazz bands'. This blog got me onto the YouTube jazz search, starting with Count Bassie and culminating with Nora Jones! In many videos artists joined forces to create a blend of music. I really like Nora Jones singing with Ray Charles, what a combo!
  • Sun's acquisition of MySQL - OK, no jazz mentioned there, but with jazz on my mind I saw a fit. It is yet another interesting merger of talents, the mature Sun trying their hand at the new world of open source, partnering with the younger, hipper MySQL with a very solid open source presence. It reminded me so much of the YouTube video of Ray Charles being introduced by Johnny Cash and then singing Johnny's song 'Ring of Fire' with a strong jazz slant. Let's see if MySQL will jazz up Sun's product offerings, or will Sun dull down MySQL? (considering Sun's recent moves towards open source, with Java and Solaris, I'm betting on the former, which is great).

1 comment:

allan kelly said...

I think the Rockstar programmer thing is just marketing, trying to make get peoples' attention. Typical HR - they don't understand!

Peter Drucker used to claim that modern "knowledge" work was like playing in an orchestra. This kind of applies to the classical (waterfall) model of software development:
- Architect (or Project Mgr if your unlucky) at the front conducting
- Developers focused on their instrument
- lots of plans: score, arrangement, rehearsal etc.

I think it was Karl Weick who first suggested we consider Jazz as 'Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis'.

This seems to work better as a model for software development. An orchestra have the music, an arrangement and lots of practice. In s/w dev even if you have those plans they don't last long. So I think improvisation is better.
This is especially true in Agile development.

Two questions:
1. All musicians rehearse, where is our rehearsal time?

2. What other forms of music might we think about?

House music: with lots of sampling seems to fit in well with the 'Scrap heap challenge' and 'Post Modern Programming' movements.