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Who says that?

March 05, 2017 - Marco Behler

A couple of software projects ago I had a colleague from a French-African country. He had an interesting habit, which I have to admit, drove me and a couple of other team members crazy at times:

Asking "who says that?" (or "Oo sezz zat?", with his French accent) whenever confronted with change of requirements or technology/programming discussions.

"We need to be able to scale to X amount of users!" -> "Oo sezz zat?"

"We need to use the latest and greatest {programming_language}/{framework} because of {XYZ} -> "Oo sezz zat?"

"Let's {generalise/extend/add feature XYZ} because in {time} someone might need it" -> "Oo sezz zat?"

It might be easy to misunderstand this as distrust or as an attack on specific team members. But that's not what he meant. Instead he wanted the whole team to reconsider the assumptions we made when talking about specific requirements.

Where is the data that says we need to scale indefinitely? Why should {language/framework} XYZ really be the problem to all our cures? Are our current problems technical at all? How can you predict the future?

In software projects, assumptions (correct or not) have the tendency to become unwritten laws. Mix that with a bit of group-think or individual egos and you can easily see a ton of problems that no retrospective with a ton of coloured post-its can solve.

Who says that?