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Nomads do not 
build Cathedrals 
Marcus Denker 
http://www.marcusdenker.de
Software
Strange Talk…
No idea if it will work
The Platform 
Jump to large 
Project1 
Project2 
Project3
Nomadic Solution 
- Do not build infrastructure 
! 
- Use resources until depleted 
! 
- Move on
The Platform 
Jump Possible 
Project1 
Project2 
Project3 
Project4
Better? 
- Invest in infrastructure 
! 
- Build new abstractions 
!
Feedback Loop 
Projects Infrastructure
Feedback loop is not enough! 
! 
Add until it is unmaintainable. 
Throw everything away.
Feedback loop is not enough! 
! 
! 
After the first line of code you are in maintenance
Sustainable Feedback ! 
! 
- Constant Cleanup 
- Constant Improvement
To build a cathedral you 
need to build a toilet first
The toilet is not the 
cathedral
Yet there can not be a 
cathedral without building 
a toilet first
Effects?
Perfection
Constant “in Progress”
Scaffolding
System is not an Artefact
Always a Result
…instead of dreaming of 
perfection
Trivial Changes
Every improvement has an 
effect
Starting point for 
contributors
Only trivialities?
No!
Exponential effect
Compound Interest
Scaffolding
Todays system is scaffolding 
for tomorrow
The whole system could be 
replaced within just some iterations
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Nomads do not build Cathedrals
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Nomads do not build Cathedrals

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Title: Nomads do not build Cathedrals
Speaker: Marcus Denker
Thu, August 21, 2:00pm – 2:30pm

Video Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcoy5gwUvOA
Video Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LrH9r4FNzY

Abstract: This will a rather unusual talk for ESUG. The theme is not Smalltalk directly, but instead I discuss how progress and inventing new things fits with incremental, reflective nature
of Smalltalk.

People often argue that progress is only possible when you throw everything away and start from scratch. In this talk I will argue that this thinking is a trap and the only way for progress in practice is to take an incremental approach of constantly improving and therefore evolving the imperfect system you already have.

I will show how the idea of creating feedback loops of improvement actually lead to non-linear
growth and how this process of reflective constant improvement fits with the Smalltalk philosophy of incrementally and dynamically changing a running system.


Bio: Marcus Denker is a permanent researcher (CR1, with tenure) at INRIA Lille - Nord Europe. Before, he was a postdoc at the PLEIAD lab/DCC University of Chile and the Software Composition Group, University of Bern. His research focuses on reflection and meta-programming for dynamic languages. He is an active participant in the Squeak and Pharo open source communities for many years. Marcus Denker received a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Bern/Switzerland in 2008 and a Dipl.-Inform. (MSc) from the University of Karlsruhe/Germany in 2004. He is a member of ACM, GI, and IEEE and a board-member of ESUG.

Published in: Software
  • Video Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcoy5gwUvOA
    Video Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LrH9r4FNzY
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Nomads do not build Cathedrals

  1. 1. Nomads do not build Cathedrals Marcus Denker http://www.marcusdenker.de
  2. 2. Software
  3. 3. Strange Talk…
  4. 4. No idea if it will work
  5. 5. The Platform Jump to large Project1 Project2 Project3
  6. 6. Nomadic Solution - Do not build infrastructure ! - Use resources until depleted ! - Move on
  7. 7. The Platform Jump Possible Project1 Project2 Project3 Project4
  8. 8. Better? - Invest in infrastructure ! - Build new abstractions !
  9. 9. Feedback Loop Projects Infrastructure
  10. 10. Feedback loop is not enough! ! Add until it is unmaintainable. Throw everything away.
  11. 11. Feedback loop is not enough! ! ! After the first line of code you are in maintenance
  12. 12. Sustainable Feedback ! ! - Constant Cleanup - Constant Improvement
  13. 13. To build a cathedral you need to build a toilet first
  14. 14. The toilet is not the cathedral
  15. 15. Yet there can not be a cathedral without building a toilet first
  16. 16. Effects?
  17. 17. Perfection
  18. 18. Constant “in Progress”
  19. 19. Scaffolding
  20. 20. System is not an Artefact
  21. 21. Always a Result
  22. 22. …instead of dreaming of perfection
  23. 23. Trivial Changes
  24. 24. Every improvement has an effect
  25. 25. Starting point for contributors
  26. 26. Only trivialities?
  27. 27. No!
  28. 28. Exponential effect
  29. 29. Compound Interest
  30. 30. Scaffolding
  31. 31. Todays system is scaffolding for tomorrow
  32. 32. The whole system could be replaced within just some iterations

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