The Road to Kamchatka: Carefree, Arizona
From May 1 through May 4, 2001, a group of 14 met at the Lutheran Retreat Center in Carefree, Arizona, co-located with the ChiliPLoP conference, to brainstorm some ideas for moving the Feyerabend Project forward. At this workshop the following participated:
- Frank Adrian, Symantec
- Joe Bergin, Pace University
- Geoff Cohen, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young
- Martine Devos, EDS
- Theo D’Hondt, Brussels Free University
- Jeff Eastman, Windward Solutions
- Richard Gabriel, Sun Microsystems
- Ron Goldman, Sun Microsystems
- Brian Marick, himself
- Guy L. Steele Jr, Sun Microsystems
- Dave Thomas, Bedarra
- Dave West, New Mexico Highlands University
- Jerry Weinberg, himself
- Uwe Zdun, University of Essen
The first thing we learned was that the feeling seems valid that there is something wrong with our current views and practices of computing - some held that the field was stuck or languishing, others that there were serious problems, while others felt that within the current parameters of computer science there are problems that need to be fixed without a paradigm shift.
The discussion was somewhat free-form punctuated by a series of exercises that provided material for further discussion. The following are the exercises we did:
- On the evening of May 1 Richard Gabriel presented "The Nature of Poetic Order" as a warm-up
- On May 2, Geoff Cohen led a brainstorming session called "You can’t get there from here, but you can get here from there."; There were two questions:
- Now that the Feyerabend Project has succeeded, what’s a way the world is different now?
- What was a key thing that happened that made the difference for its success?
- Also on May 2, Brian Marick led a deconstruction exercise: The goals of the brainstorm are to uncover hidden assumptions and devise new ways to move forward. The starting assumption is that you’re bothered by the status quo or existing solutions, but you can’t quite articulate what’s wrong.
- On May 3, Dave Thomas led an exercise called "computing rainbow" to emphasize the existing diversity in computing. In this exercise we brainstormed all the interesting and important things in current computing which might have become hidden or ignored "due to middleware."
- Also on May 3, Jerry Weinberg led an exercise in which we brainstormed what we would keep from current computing experience, practice, or theory.
- Also on May 3, Richard Gabriel led an exercise in which we brainstormed things we could do next to move ahead the goals of the Feyerabend Project.
- Finally, on May 4 we looked at those topics that people felt had not yet been adequately discussed. We fleshed out the outline for the manifesto and several of the other ideas. We also discussed the hypothesis that the widespread adoption of the "worse is better" strategy by computer companies - sometimes quite explicitly but mostly as a subversion enacted by the phrase itself - was the cause of our current problems with computing. The timing was noted to be right on, because worse-is-better first became pronounced in the early 1990s, and that was the start of our problems, according to some observers