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Devil’s Dictionary

Assumptions, n. pl.

Facts about the project at the time of kickoff.

Source: Insolvent, p.154

Conflict, n.

Something that does not match up and needs to be fixed. Typically identified between (a) alternative design solutions for a given problem easily addressed by identifying and modelling the costs, benefits and risks and then trading them off rationally to select the optimum choice (that’s what engineers do); or (b) between development branches. (May the wrath of the gods be upon you in eternity while you slowly roast in hell.) Other forms of conflict are invalid and irrational.

Source: Insolvent, p.198

Facts, n. pl.

Claims made about the environment of technology design for which those who make them forgot to question where they came from, how they came about, which values they embody, whose values these are, whose facts they are, and whose interest that serves.

Source: Insolvent, p.154

Fix, n. & v.

The source of tomorrow’s problems.

Source: Insolvent, p.13

Goal Modeling, n.

The illusion that everything that matters can be represented as an instrumental achievement to be met; the delusion that anything that can not be represented as an instrumental achievement to be met cannot possibly matter. Both are common in requirements engineering.

Source: Insolvent, p.233

Human, n.

Annoying reminders of the real world.

Source: Insolvent, p.102

Innovate, v.

To do onto other people’s jobs as you would not have them do unto yours

Source: (not mentioned in Insolvent) Inspired by the Golden Rule

Irrationality, n.

Those parts of human life that rationality has no access to.

Source: Insolvent, p.102 and 179

Judgement, n.

That which is irrational in human reasoning.

Source: Insolvent, p.102

Kick-Off, n.

The short period in which all active project participants succumb to the illusion that they agree on what the project purpose is.

Source: Insolvent, p.99

Models, n. pl.

The carpets under which, if we look carefully, we can find the human values, politics and moral decisions that have become code, features, qualities, documentation and other technological facts through the social practice we call systems design.

Source: Insolvent, p.156

Problem, n.

Something that can be fixed or solved.

Source: Insolvent, p.13 and 198

Problem-solving, n.

The process of fixing things that aren’t broken (because they don’t exist) and thereby creating new problems.

Source: Insolvent, p.198

Rationality, n.

That form of deductive reasoning which can be encoded and computed.

Source: Insolvent, p.179

Requirements Engineering, n.

The social practice of turning wet, interesting issues such as human values, politics and moral decisions into dry, complicated diagrams (models) that create the illusion that the work to be done is solidly understood.

Source: Insolvent, p.227

Software Engineering, n.

The social practice that converts human values, politics and moral decisions into code, features, qualities, documentation, and other technological facts.

Source: Insolvent, p.95