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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Chapter 2. Credibility, or Why Should I Insist on Being Convinced?

Lutz Prechelt

Marian Petre

As software engineers, we all have our opinions about what works and what does not (or not so well), and we share stories of practice and experience that are eventually distilled into cultural knowledge and received wisdom. The trouble is that “what everyone knows” is often wrong, and although we are continually collecting information, we may not be assessing and integrating that information critically, or even giving ourselves the wherewithal to do so.

How Evidence Turns Up in Software Engineering

In crime dramas, the most interesting moments are often when a new piece of evidence appears: someone presents a fact that was not previously known, and the clever detective revises his theory of the crime. Sometimes the new evidence adds an important dimension to our world view (“Oh, so he had intended all these things to happen!”), sometimes it just adds a little more conviction to a belief we already had (“She’s really not as careful as she claims”), and sometimes it overturns something we were sure was reliable (“Golly! And I always thought he had arrived there an hour after her!”). The drama hinges on the critical thinking ability of the detective. Superior fictional detectives take into account every single bit of evidence, they work until they can integrate it all into a coherent whole, and they continually test their theory of the crime and revise it in the light of new evidence, whereas ...

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