Monday, July 11, 2011

Analog Analogies

At work there has been a recent interest in explaining tech things in terms non-tech people can understand. Not just because it helps explain tech things to non-tech people but because it also clarifies to tech people what the purpose of the thing is.

We hit on the term "analog analogies" because one of my coworkers kept saying "analog" instead of "analogy" and I didn't think of the two terms as synonymous. I thought of "analog" as opposite "digital", but not for a second did I think "analogue" was synonymous with "analog" (it is). Hence the redundancy. So "analog analogies" became the phrase meaning "explaining a digital thing by analogy."

By way of for example[1] I'll be leading off my five minutes at the Q3 kickoff with one of my favorite analog analogies: the high and low laundry equilibriums. There are only two stable equalibriums in laundry: you can keep all your clothes clean and do laundry every time you have a basket of dirty, or you can have a full clothes hamper and only do a load when you need something to wear.

It is a not terrible analogy for technical debt. But the analogy falls down because even in a medium sized project you might have several different laundry equilibriums across different aspects: are we keeping a lid on our code bottlenecks? backend queries? can we rent/buy faster machines? And the worst part is you might not know which is lacking. I think the Germans have a word for how you know: messerschitz. You gotta do that too.

[1] I like to pretend to be all Dutchy on occasion.