Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Tower of Babbage

In this post about an Eric Evans presentation, Jon Rose mentions how Eric needed to clarify that the intention is not for Ubiquitous Languages to be enterprise-wide. UL's are established across project teams, not organizations. I was initially surprised that such a clarification would be necessary since this seems obvious, but then I remembered life in the late eighties....

Love Shack was a smash hit and Enterprise Data Models were all the rage.

Much like the Arthur Clarke science fiction story in which a monastery of monks fulfills the purpose of the universe by recording with a computer every known name of God (when they were finished "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out"), the idea was that if we could just catalog EVERY data entity, attribute, and association across the ENTIRE enterprise, then surely we would come to know our domain, our applications, our users, indeed our very inner souls better, and thus build better software faster since all of the various warring factions in IT would finally speak the one, true tongue.

At my company, PaineWebber, several monkish DBA's undertook this task for several years, compiling an ever growing glossary of ever greater weight and size. One night in a dream (or perhaps it was after a series of lunches with a leggy sales rep) our CIO realized he could accelerate our rendevous with destiny by buying somebody else's financial services datamodel. And so it was that for the low, low price of $1.5 million, we purchased a great many binders from First Boston containing a great multitude of boxes and lines.

From time to time, developers would come to seek the truth of the binders. Like astrologers poring over charts of the stars, they would look for signs in the many boxes and lines, looking for clues to unlock the secrets of their particular problem domain. But, alas, while many of the boxes and lines bore striking resemblances to actual people, places, and things from the known world, there would also be striking differences from the reality they knew, and in any case, the detail of the models was simply too overwhelming -- or perhaps it was just too magnificent.

And so we went on as before, speaking our own local dialects and doing our best to communicate with neighboring tribes, using extract files like smoke signals, reeking with the smell of EBCDIC.

At least the stars didn't wink out.

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