Re: Announcing Xrtti - Extended Runtime Type Information for C++

Le Chaud Lapin <>
Tue, 8 May 2007 15:05:51 CST
On May 8, 1:03 pm, wrote:

It's comments like this that make me think you don't have a lot of
industry experience. No one creates *massive* systems alone. In the
real world lots of people participate in design and development of
massive systems and we use tests to determine quality not empathy.
It's irrelevant if something "feels" like it's solid, tests are needed
to determine if it's solid or not. On your connection to other
engineering disciplines where you claim testing is not used you're
incorrect. In mechanical engineering for example the equivalent of a
unit test is to test a gear or some other component. There ARE tested
for proper form. I'd hate to buy a transmission from someone that
tested by empathy.

Actually there are people who do.

Some of the best designers around are people who created massive
systems alone, or perhaps with one other person. These people are
often grabbed by large corporations to work on even bigger designs as
project leaders. The X Window system, for example, was the initial
work of a very small group of people (essentially 2). So was Napster
(1). Some of our favorite programming languages have a single author.
The first superheterodyne system was invented by one person, Edwin
Armstrong ( The
math is not so difficult now, but back then, because he was exploring
new territory, he had to figure out an enormous number of subtleties
that we take for granted as "solved" today. A young man at my
university built an entire airplane by himself. The university was so
proud, they let him keep it on one of the soccer fields as it neared
completion. Note that this was a design, not a kit put together. I
would venture to say that this person gained lessons in aircraft
design that gives him and advantage over someone who designs, say,
wings only.

Of course, if the system is great enough, the original designer will
quickly be joined by contributors, but it should be recognized that in
almost all cases, much of the vision of what needs to be done and how
things should be, which is most important, lies with the original
inventor and waits to manifest for lack of muscle.

But yes, in the real world, most people do not design massive systems.
That is the problem. They lack the education that comes with having
to do so. In a single-inventor massive system, there are certain
principles that a single inventor _must_ adhere to, or the design will
fail. With multiple individuals, these principles become "optional"
because when the system starts to fall apart due to violation of these
principles, there are enough hands on deck that someone can be
assigned to "fixing" the problem. Often fixing comes in the form of
duct tape, because those doing the fixing simple do not appreciate the
importance of good-form-everywhere as a single engineer must.

Many engineering universities are aware of this dilemma. They know
that, to be good at designing systems, it helps to have designed a
massive system alone. But at age of 20, there is little opportunity
for design. Some universities try to combat this situation by giving
each student a large (by students' standard) system to work on, alone.
They repeatedly admonish students to try to think independently, which
is what good designers need to be able to do.

Also, when I was in college, there were many situations where a
professor would interrupt his/her train of thought to reflect on the
behavior of a great engineer and say, "Notice how he/she had global
perspective and deep insight of the system being designed..." For a
long while I wondered why professors kept mentioning this, until I
realized that they were trying to give us students a hint - that if we
wanted to be good designers, we had better get used to thinking
holistically, both at a macro and micro level.

Do I think sole engineers should design *massive* systems in industry?
Yes and no. If the design is troubled, then yes. If the design is
sufficiently of good form, then no. But it is often the case that the
reason the design is of bad form is because it was done by consensus,
by democracy. If 90% of the people voting for a design lack the
experience (with designing large systems), insight, intelligence,
taste, apply proper judgment in design...then the design
will be of bad form. Then what?

So this is the point of having engineers design massive systems
alone. Whatever virtuous principles are lacking before embarking upon
the design will forced upon that engineer by the time the system is
finished, or the system will fail or be of miserable quality. If the
engineer is successful, then great. He becomes qualified to act as
architect for future collaborative work. If it fails, then he will at
least have a visceral appreciation for the penalty of bad design, and
know when to abstain from voting when good designers are trying to
bring good form to the product. Again, currently, most engineers
think they are in the "good designer" category, which is while the
trial-by-fire is necessary.

Finally, I never said testing was unnecessary. I said that there was
a type of testing that simply doesn't make sense. To use your
transmission example, it would be silly to add a device to the
transmission that constantly checked to see if the heat was destroying
its structural integrity. It would make more sense for the mechanical
engineer who designed the transmission ensure that the heat could not
possible destroy structural integrity, then put that component away
and move on to the next.

-Le Chaud Lapin-

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