Monday, April 02, 2007

Language Games

I've been following with great interest Jeff Atwood's series of posts on Alistair Cockburn's work on software development as a cooperative game.

I was wondering if he was going to dig down to the philosophy level on this, and he may, but this concept of the cooperative game is an extension of Wittgenstein's concept of language games, first outlined by Pelle Ehn. Reading Wittgenstein, more than anything else, really opened my mind to an incisive type of analysis that attempts to dissolve a seemingly unanswerable question by proving that it is nonsensical out of the context of the particular language game that gives it sense.

The digression between the purported "process" that underlies a project and the actual intuitive set of rules that guide the behavior of and between individuals are clearly different things. It's obviously important to pay attention to both. This is why Cockburn's approach to agile "method shaping" is so important, every strict process must itself have a meta process by which it is applied to any particular collection of individuals.

I really like Alistair's interview with Bob Payne (especially the parts where Mr. Cockburn is speaking) on the Agile Toolkit podcast.