Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


How to Use the "Think" Best Practice

After I posted the new Best Practice: Think, Dennis Fisher tweeted “Never catch on. Nothing for vendors (or Gartner) to sell.”

Which is true, but that’s not the point. The point is to be able to ju-jitsu your best-practice cargo-culter into submission. For example:

Cargo-culter: We don’t need a review, this project complied with all the best practices.
Thinker: Oh, really? Did you think?
Cc: That’s not on our best practices list.
T: Oh really? Because it is a best practice, you know.
Cc: Well it’s not on our ISO-approved list
T: So you’re saying not thinking is the height of your aspirations?
Cc: sputter, sputter

There’s an alternative way to use it, which is to point out that “best practices” are generally consensus views, and consensus usually often involves tradeoffs until … you get consensus. As Andrew Yeomans commented, it’s much smarter to call them “effective” practices, or my favorite, proven practices. Both of these raise the question of testing, and leave open the possibility of improvement.

2 comments on "How to Use the "Think" Best Practice"

  • Kyle Maxwell says:

    I make a practice (heh) of calling them “standard practices,” not “best”. Because if everybody was doing the best thing, we wouldn’t have all these problems.

  • Nicko says:

    my favorite, proven practices.

    I don’t think that many “best” practices are proven, even if the evidence is in their favour. Proof is supposed to be incontrovertible and most of these practices are not.

    I like Kyle’s “standard” practice, since it makes it clear that you are just following the flock for safety by sticking to them. Perhaps we should call them “flocking standard practice” 🙂

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