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InfoQ Homepage News Presentation: Social Programming A Pyramid

Presentation: Social Programming A Pyramid

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In this presentation filmed during OOPSLA 2008, Mark Lehner, an Egyptologist, talked about ancient Egyptian cultures as seen through the discoveries made on the Giza Plateau and made some connections with software engineering.

Watch: Social Programming A Pyramid (1h 30 min.)

ZA, a hieroglyph representing the cattle’s four legs tight together by a rope. It was traduced by ancient Greeks with “phyle” which means “tribe”. They represent “a social unit that seems modular, replicable, which you can encapsulate in larger organizations.”

There are similarities between Egyptian work organization and software. A phyle was made up of 200 men or 20 men according to other sources. There was hierarchy with a commander over a phyle, and a higher commander over 5 phyle commanders. There also was encapsulation, each phyle being able to perform their own set of tasks without needing the help of others. Modularity was expressed by having separate phyles for the 5 different types of tasks. Polymorphism was manifested by using the phyles for different types of projects: temples, boats, pyramids.

Lehner’s presentation continued with their search for the “great city” buried beneath the sand. It was supposed to be a city inhabited by pyramid workers, and the findings showed life sustaining elements like a bakery. A bakery would have fire places where the bread was baked and a number of vessels used to prepare the dough. In order to feed an estimated 20 to 30 thousands people, they had to scale and they did that not by creating one large bakery, but rather replicating the small one into many placed into close proximity.

In the rest of the presentation, Lehner’s talked about uncovering the great city and in the end answered questions from the audience.

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  • Great insight

    by Mouneer Rabie /

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    thanks for the great presentation.
    I live 30-minutes drive from the great pyramids; now when I visit the area next time, things will certainly look different; also when I help building a piece of software, my perspective will also be diferent.
    Mark, if you will be reading the comments here, and whenever you are in Egypt next time, I will buy dinner :)

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