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The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The software profession has a problem, widely recognized but which nobody seems willing to do anything about. You can think of this problem as a variant of the well known "telephone game", where some trivial rumor is repeated from one person to the next until it has become distorted beyond recognition and blown up out of all proportion.

Unfortunately, the objects of this te
ebook, 183 pages
Published January 2012 by Leanpub
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Who Is Agile by Yves HanoulleThe Leprechauns of Software Engineering by Laurent BossavitThe Retrospective Handbook by Patrick KuaManagement Matters by John  HunterMarkdown By Example by Tim Steinbach
Leanpub books
12 books — 10 voters
Drive by Daniel H. PinkCoaching Agile Teams by Lyssa AdkinsThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. CoveyThe Lean Startup by Eric RiesThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Agile Coaching
128 books — 98 voters

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Mark Seemann
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: software
'Software engineering' tries hard to be a 'real science'. In the last four decades, some claims have gained general acceptance: 10x developers exist, and defects become more costly to fix the later they're discovered. These claims are often followed by a list of imposing citations.

In The Leprechauns of Software Engineering, Laurent Bossavit chases down the sources of these accepted 'facts', and in the process demonstrates that there's no science behind them.

While he explains, in detail, how he m
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a confusing, and ultimately quite frustrating book. The basic premise is good: the software development field is full of received wisdom that has mutated over time from simple reasonable hypotheses to being treated as established fact supported by research. But when you dig under the surface a little more, you discover that the research didn’t actually say what everyone thinks, but it’s been quoted enough times (often by people who should really know better) that everyone now assumes it ...more
Hugo Lopes Tavares
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book debunks many myths in software engineers, it's a great read and challenges what we know about our industry. I recommended this to a friend of back and he said: "Nobody should write anything about software engineering without reading this book."

I read this book in 2013 and really liked it; I can't talk about the updates since 2013.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: software
This is one of those books that should have been a blog post (or few).

The author argues some “established facts” in software engineering and the papers that spawned them. I’ll list them below:

- The cone of uncertainty
- Uber programmers are 10 times more productive than simpletons
- Waterfall doesn’t suck (it was invented to have something to compare with newer and better development life cycles)
- The later you find a bug, more costly it is to fix

That’s all. I don’t know if you have any strong fe
Vladimir Tarasov
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people involved in IT
Recommended to Vladimir by: Yves Hanoulle
Shelves: case-studies, it
Are you in IT? If so, you must read this book. There're a plenty of fallacies circulating which are based on unverified statements. This book busts most popular, but which is more important it teaches an industry newcomer or even a seasoned professional to doubt bold sayings and ask right questions to figure out what forms the foundation of those sayings. ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well researched debunking of some of the most stubborn myths in software engineering, combined with a thorough case for critical thinking in software engineering. For some reason, I was constantly reminded of Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering as one of the possible offenders. I should probably reread that.

If I have to pick a negative point with this book, it's the quality of writing, which is easily overcome by the quality of the content.
Olli Helttula
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book. While the presentation could use some touching up, the contents are well worth the modest Leanpub price.

This should be mandatory reading to anyone who has even a passing interest in software development (methods).
Richard Marmorstein
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
TL;DR - Bassavit demonstrates that several widely-cited claims about software engineering are not really rooted in convincing empirical evidence.

I'm impressed by the research and the clarity of thought. He quite successfully takes down these "leprechauns", I think, but (as he admits) he doesn't construct any sort of alternative epistemology. He weakly suggests that we should raise our standards for empirical research, and also maybe borrow techniques from the social sciences.

I think Bassavit is
Toni Tassani
Nov 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
With a provoking name, "leprechauns", the author claims that we assume a lot of non-validated "truths" and calls for a critical approach. These leprechauns come in different forms and in the book there are some clues check references and validate them.
The ones explored in the book are the cone of uncertainty, the impact of TDD, 10x developers, the invention of the waterfall "method", the software crisis and cost of defects.
Question everything, if you were not doing that already.
It's a very inter
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
pretty much what I got from this is that you can't trust a lot of meme rules of thumb in software engineering. the science sucks and is not a good fit for our industry. our work is too complex and hard to measure. the examples give some ideas about how you can debunk a lot of software engineering research and call out the BS. it's a short book, dense and not an easy read and a little expensive but worth it for originality. it pairs well with software xrays which shows a better alternative to how ...more
Robert Nasuti
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you've ever felt like there is something fundamentally wrong with the way software is developed in a project/enterprise environment, then this book is for you. The author shows you how a few cornerstones of the software engineerings discipline are fundamentally flawed. It's a pretty quick read and I enjoyed it. ...more
Emil O. W. Kirkegaard
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say this was a great book. However, it deserves credit as being one of the only books I've come across to head-on attack various empirically dubious claims found in software engineering and project management. For this, it deserves credit.

Disclaimer: author is some woke crazy dude.
It kills some myths, and it encourages critical thinking.
Jonas Hyllengren
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great content! My only critique was that it was too short. More leprechauns!
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Came to raead this book only by mentionings - seems that title is not evident, when it comes to word "leprechauns". Industry would need more books like this, challenging status quo. ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half is interesting. Afterwards it starts hard to follow. But still few interesting points to think about.
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leprechauns are mythical figures that don’t exist. When you work it the IT sector, you will hear many stories about how the industry works and many people will call them engineers. That all sound so scientific and fact based that you can easily overlook one important fact: Most facts are just fairy tales. There are studies over studies, but is it true when people often enough repeat a myth?

Laurent Bossavit spend time to figure out the facts behind the myths. He not only gives you the ugly truth
Alessandro Baffa
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book that makes you willing to read more about the history of everything you use, and be more curious and careful about things that we think are "the truth" in the software industry. Only with more attention on how the knowledge base of our industry is made will help it to become a Profession in the future.
Through facts and a meticulous research by the author, this book debunks some of the oldest myths of software engineering. And at the same time, it opens your eyes and it makes you
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Bossavit does a creditable job of shining a bright light on often-repeated "foundational truths" of the software engineering field. In so doing, he uncovers troubling inconsistencies in the ways these "truths" were arrived at, documented, illustrated, cited, interpreted, and applied in software industry research publications. As previous reviewers have noted, the book's content is rather disorganized and incomplete, and at times its author seems hesitant about what to make of his own findings. E ...more
Jake McCrary
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: tech, read_2013
Book shows how claims such as 10x productivity, cone of uncertainity, cost of change curve developed overtime and how they are a result of a game of telephone between the past and the present. Based on this book it does seem like the software industry has an issue with properly sourcing and interpreting previous studies.

Of course, if I just took this book at face value I wouldn't really be following the book's own advice of investigating claims. Unlike the papers he references in the book he act
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: programming
An excellent read which sums up a lot of thoughts I've had about software engineering as a profession.

It tackles a lot of "common knowledge" and how their origins suggest that much of our "common knowledge" is built on a weak foundation of studies. For example, the idea of the 10x programmer, or the cost of defects based upon which they are detected in a project are both tackled as having come into the common knowledge on a flawed background.

The book itself has a bit of an odd structure, but the
Eberhard Wolff
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a must-read. It shows how the Waterfall, the 10x developer, the cone of uncertainty and other elements of software development are not based on engineering or evidence but ultimately folklore that somehow build up. It is very interesting to follow the process how fiction became fact. I can highly recommend it! It help me a lot to question what we are doing in our industry.

The only thing missing for 5 stars is that the book is not completed yet and according to the author might never be.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
<3 if you want to shatter some common truths of software engineering, this is good book to start. Also good example of how to disect/analyze "studies say" given facts. Bit short, but book is still evolving. ...more
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some good examples of analyses for understanding what's fact and what's a leprechaun. ...more
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