September 11, 2007

The Mound Builders of Mountain View

In what turned out to be a de-facto tenth anniversary observance of the conception of our epic spasm of pomposity Big Ball of Mud, I was asked to give my very first presentation of this work as a Google Tech Talk last month in Mountain View. The announcement for it read:

While much attention has been focused on high-level software architectural patterns, what is, in effect, the de-facto standard software architecture is seldom discussed.

A Ball of Mud ( is haphazardly structured, sprawling, sloppy, duct-tape and bailing wire, spaghetti code jungle . We've all seen them. These systems show unmistakable signs of unregulated growth, and repeated, expedient repair. Information is shared promiscuously among distant elements of the system, often to the point where nearly all the important information becomes global or duplicated. The overall structure of the system may never have been well defined. If it was, it may have eroded beyond recognition. Programmers with a shred of architectural sensibility shun these quagmires. Only those who are unconcerned about architecture, and, perhaps, are comfortable with the inertia of the day-to-day chore of patching the holes in these failing dikes, are content to work on such systems.

Still, this approach endures and thrives. Why is this architecture so popular? Is it as bad as it seems, or might it serve as a way-station on the road to more enduring, elegant artifacts? What forces drive good programmers to build ugly systems? Can we avoid this? Should we? How can we make such systems better?

Brian Foote is a research computer scientist with nearly thirty years of professional programming experience. He cut his computational teeth in the realm of realtime scientific programming. The highly volatile requirements present in this domain led him to an interest in objects, reuse, software reuse, frameworks, components, and, ultimately, reflection and metalevel architectures. He is one of five people to have attended every OOPSLA conference since 1986.

He has also been active in the software patterns community, and edited Pattern Languages of Program Design 4. He was instrumental in gaining the conviction of the so-called Gang-of-Four (Design Patterns authors Vlissides, Johnson, Helm, and Gamma) for Crimes Against Computer Science at OOPSLA '99.

Brian is currently a Senior Pontificator at Industrial Logic, Inc., where he has been spreading the Gang of Four's Gospel to a new generation of Googlers.

Though Big Ball of Mud has been Slashdotted twice, and is probably his best known work, this will be Foote's first live, full-dress presentation based upon this material.

It went, well, God help me, something a lot like this:

Comments from LD || Referral from Best Tech Videos || วีดีโอพรีเซนต์เตชั่น Big Ball of Mud ที่ Google || Is your a big ball of mud? || soft wet earth || The $100MM Canonical Model || KLOCs and Golf Scores || Big Ball o' Mud: Code Tangles and Organizations

Posted by foote at September 11, 2007 04:55 PM