On rational myths

In my research field, one characteristic of institutions is their “rational myths”; ideas that people tell each other are true, and believe are true, but which are under-explored, unverified, and under-challenged. Belief in these myths leads to supposedly rational actions that don’t necessarily improve efficiency or performance, but are done because everyone else does them, and everyone collectively believes they’re what one does.

We know, from Derek Jones’s Evidence-based software engineering, that what we know about software engineering is not very much. So what are the rational myths where you work? Do you recognise them? Could you change them? What would it take to support or undermine your community’s rational myths, and would you want to take that risk?

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I make it faster and easier for you to create high-quality code.
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4 Responses to On rational myths

  1. Derek Jones says:

    Industrial folklore is a thing, at least up until the 1970s, when its popularity seems to have waned.

    We need someone to write a software folklore book ;-) The Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index could be to classify the software myths.

  2. Graham says:

    Some of that has been dealt with by Laurent Bossavit in his Leprechauns of Software Engineering book, but that only deals with quasi-science that turns out to be folklore. It doesn’t really touch on the performative myths that only exist in the legendarium.

  3. Graham says:

    The paper is available under open access terms from the ACM Digital Library: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3480947

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