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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Sunday December 23, 2001
05:53 AM

Request for advice on feature-specification methodology

[ #1775 ]
A clever friend of mine with no background in programming is going to move to a job where he's dealing with a lot of programmers. And I need a bit of advice for him.

Basically: He works in the US Customs Service, and all the Customs Service offices all over the US process import-freight (ceramic frogs, hairpins, "crap" as he calls it) with an ancient and painful legacy computer system, probably written in Ada for all I know. The big problem arises from the fact that the people who mind the code are a bunch of programmers in Washington DC, who have no direct access to the system's actual users -- until now, as that's my friend's new job; he's been using the system for years, and is moving to DC to advise the programmers on improving it. (That's not the whole of his job, but a good chunk of it.)

His situation is unusual because he's not actually managing the programmers (and I don't know if anyone is, really, but that's another story), and he's not specifying features to be added to a not-yet-extant program. Instead he's going to specify new features to be added to this legacy system, sometimes based on users' often-muddleheaded requests for new features.

So I ask all of Perldom: What books should I have my friend read? Is there a Clifford The Big Red Dog book on Extreme Programming?

Either post a reply here or email me at

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  • Well, I'd suggest he just read some general books about programming large things, like The Mythical Man-Month. It'll help him get an idea for what programmers deal with. If he were managing I'd recommend Peopleware but that may not be too relevant for his job (I'm not sure).

    Something like Extreme Programming might be good too, just to get some idea of what a programming methodology is, particularly since he'll be filling the user role in this case.

    Or maybe a book that's on overview of various methodol