Psyc+Tech » Blog Archive » Don’t draw diagrams of wrong practices – or: Why people still believe in the Waterfall model is a fascinating and somewhat scary reminder that what everyone knows is right and accepted and smart sometimes is the stupidest thing you could do.
Quick summary: in 1970 a smart fellow publishes a paper about two different approaches to software development, one which seems like a good idea but doesn’t actually work, and another which does work. The one which seems like a good idea but doesn’t actually work is nicknamed the “waterfall” process because the diagram which illustrates it looks like a cascading waterfall.
Later writers apparently remember the diagram but not the comment that it doesn’t work, and the original paper is cited again and again and again and again and yet again as if it approved and recommended the waterfall process.
Engineering and hard science types like to think of themselves as far superior to humanities folks, with their crazy postmodern nonsense. But something like this reminds us that mindless repitition of secondhand quasi-knowledge when it is in direct contradiction to fact is something not just postmodern humanities academics, but humans in general, are prone to. There are plenty of naked emperors parading around the human world, and they sometimes reign unchallenged for decades, even in software engineering…
Another quick link — an awesome article about the Sokal hoax. Highly recommended.