How Tarpit Chronicles got its name

On a visit to New York City a couple of years ago, Marshall Sullivan was having drinks with a long time friend named Raymond. Like Marshall, Raymond also had significant experience designing and building large scale software systems for a variety of clients, many in the financial services industry (it's NY, remember?). As these conversations go, especially when libation is involved, they began discussing the nature of software development as it was practiced today - specifically, that everyone wants things yesterday, no one wants to take time for design, no one even wants to develop requirements to have half a clue at understanding what they're building. Furthermore, they want it done in unreasonably short time periods becuase of "competitive pressure". These time periods don't allow enough time for coding, much less hiring the team, detailing some (not extensive, mind you, just SOME) requirements, doing any sort of design or whatever. Nor do they allow for QA and system test on the back end. All that takes too long. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera... Several nearby groups got up and left. One poor soul nearby fell asleep in his beer. It was a riveting conversation, to say the least.

After about an hour of kicking this back and forth, Marshall said that he felt like a dinosaur - a beast that was doomed to extinction because its time in the evolutionary cycle had passed - not in a bad way, as the name usually implies (something big, lumbering and dumb) but just in the sense that what was rewarded nowdays was not the traits of designing quality software systems, but just hacking them out, tossing them over the wall and hoping you could sell the company (in the case of a startup) before anyone noticed.

As they stood up to say "Goodbye" at the end of the conversation, Raymond added - "Well, it's time to go. I hear the tarpits calling..."

Over the years, it has become even more of a joke, as the two continue to see the steady decline of the software industry.

The Tarpits Are Calling!!

Now, before anyone jumps up and down and says "Wait a minute!! The dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago. The tarpits were only a few tens of thousands of years ago and they never trapped any dinosaurs, only mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers." Ya gotta trust me on this one - we already know! One of Marshall's undergraduate degrees is in Geology, so this fact has indeed not been lost on him.

But, it's a cool name. And what the heck... it's called literary license... (and it seems a lot less henous than selling people buggy software because you didn't want to design it) You want totally correct geological information? Go see the USGS web site! Otherwise, get over it and enjoy the other things we have to say here.




Previous Articles

Taking a Sit

Making Decisions with Less Data

Temporal nature of success

Being overqualified

Defining what you're building

The real problem


Origins of the name


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The Tarpit Chronicles
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