4/14/2022 12:30


Recently I undertook a personal study of the Gospel According to John in which I outlined the book visually in a series of digital posters. Some of these posters are impressive as art, at least in my own opinion, and I was enticed by the idea of sharing the experience with a broader public.

Decades ago I was an employee and the company that paid me laid out a mandate for (as they claimed) improving the quality of the application software projects. Most companies in my past were eager to lay out requirements for improving the quality of their application programming; this gives some hint about the general state of computer programming at all those companies.

Generally these attempts at improvement centered around creating or enforcing a process in which people would talk about what they were doing and share ideas. This core idea is surely valid; both experience and objective science support the concept. One flaw in the plan is that computer programmers have a tendency towards solipsism. This is not only a personality flaw; it is encouraged by the constant experience of telling a computer what to do and finding that the computer has done just exactly what you told it to do.

In the specific case I have in mind the new program for writing programs followed a series of steps in which various people would stop and consider what they wanted to accomplish, how best to meet those objectives, whether the application which was written did what it was supposed to do, and whether the end result met the expectations of the people who had set the objectives in the first place.

The question then becomes "How do we know whether this process has been followed so that blame can be assigned, bonuses withheld, and criticism of management deflected onto lower level employees?" (Since management prevented us from engaging in the first step of discussing what to accomplish and the last step of reviewing the end result there was always plenty of blame to be deflected.)

The answer, in this specific example, was to create and file "artifacts". Rather than having managers sit in on the required conversations, a record of each conversation would be retained as evidence of the process. Complicated word processing templates were constructed, people were hired to verify that the artifacts had been filled in and stored away, and in general the artifacts became the focus at the expense of the discussion and sharing of ideas.

I do not think quality improved from all this but since nobody talked about the projects it is impossible to know for sure. The number of complex, unreadable documents certainly increased.

It occurred to me that my digital posters were artifacts in the same sense as the documents in this application development mandate. The work that was to be done was reading, studying, and thinking about the gospel with the poster forming the conclusion and summary of that process for each chapter.

What I was wishing to share with others is the process of reading, studying, and thinking about scripture. The culmination of this could be a poem, an outline, or a lecture as easily as a digital poster.

In actual reality the artifact itself is unimportant except as a mirror and a memorial.