A Technical Debit – Collateralized Debt Obligation you should not invest in

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I just watch Ward Cunningham explain the XP Technical Debit metaphor that he coined.  It enlightened my understanding of how the term was applied in the early days (when he used it), and how we have mutated the metaphor to cover areas he never intended.


Ward Cunningham's Debt Metaphor Isn't a Metaphor (18 March 2009)


In summary Ward was suggesting that it was valuable long term thinking for a company to take on debt (technical debt) in order to ship a product early and get market feedback. Feedback that would get factored into the next iteration (release) of that same product. You see building software by Ward's XP model is not like building a house or a sky-scraper, it's like growing a garden of asparagus. Asparagus is a flowering perennial which requires several seasons of cultivation before it is ready to ship to market.  My father grew asparagus in our garden, when I was a kid, I didn't like it much then, but love it now.

Using debt to achieve something much more valuable is using the power of debt in a good way.  Like buying a house for your family to live in.  To shelter them from the environment when you live in Chicago.  But if you live in Hawaii, the debt taken on to shelter your family may be much less valuable.  Hence many people live in much less house in warmer climates.

Some people of course take on debt to live in lavish houses for other reasons.  One could debate if these reasons are rational.  And therefore debate if the debit is good or bad.

We all know by now that there is bad debit.  Our wonderful banker friends have given us a great lesson in trusting them, and there use of our money to create more and more complex debit instruments.

Are we in the software world following their lead?

Pist - hey, I've got a great Collateralized Technical Debt Obligation Instrument for us to invest in.  We just hack out this code, get the prototype hooked into the DB, don't worry about unit-test, do away with all that automated acceptance test framework.  We allow someone else to test it, we just write and sell the application.

Chris Sterling just published his book on this topic, Managing Software Debt.  I've not read it yet, but it is in my todo list.  Lisa Crispin wrote this review.  In full disclaimer mode - I've worked with Chris - and he rocks it!

Managing Software Debt

Want to know more about Collateralization of Debt - read the highlights from the Motley Fool on the official Debt Crisis report (warning - it may bring tears to your eyes):
Financial Crisis - greatest hits from the official report.

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