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The Manifesto Overload

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By definition a Manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions which describes the motives, reasoning and demands of a group. One of the more popular manifestos is the Agile Manifesto but, there has been quite and epidemic since then.

Gary Pollice suggested that the manifestos have lost their allure. He suggested that though the Agile Manifesto has had one of the biggest impacts in recent years however, success of that manifesto has been copied to the point of overuse. The vast number of manifestos present all over have diluted their perceived value and impact. A quick search by Gary on the internet revealed the following manifestos related to software development,

Jim Bird pointed out that he does not see the point in manifestos.

They don’t move me or change the way that I think or work. I can get through each day without having to refer to a manifesto. I want tools and concrete ideas that I can use to get things done, to do a better job. Not motherhood or bullshit. Patterns and anti-patterns and recipes and best practices (and worst practices) – these are useful. But Manifestos? Useless, or at their worst, dangerous.

According to Jim, manifestos keep people away from thinking and asking questions. This was quite similar to the reaction by Pete McBreen, author of the software craftsmanship book, who did not sign the Software Craftsmanship manifesto. According to Pete,

For me, Software Craftsmanship is about putting the individual back into the activity of delivering software. I have no interest at all in a community of professionals, the passionate amateur is much more likely to create interesting and valuable software. Professionals are too serious, amateurs get the idea that Software development is meant to be fun.

Cindy F. Solomon has created a compilation of 22 (and counting) software development related manifestos.

Gary mentioned that there is so little empirical data available to back up most of the software development claims that most manifestos end up being more like marketing tools. He added another interesting manifesto to the already long list called the Anti-Manifesto Manifesto

As an old curmudgeon who’s seen too many fads and useless—or worse, harmful—practices that are blindly followed without fully understanding them, I have come to value:

  • common sense over blindly following a process, any process
  • empirical results over unsubstantiated claims, even if they’re made by someone I respect
  • solid principles over trends and fads
  • clean code over cute tricks that obscure the meaning of the code

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