Listen, I don’t read a lot, so it should come with some weight when I tell y’all to read something. For instance, I stumbled upon this article recently that I think you might like. It’s called “Tech Bullshit Explained: Uncle Bob” by Melissa McEwen, and I think y’all should check it out.
Table of Contents
How I Found This Article
Recently, I was browsing Twitter, as folks who are terminally online do, when I saw this brilliant tweet by Jeff Kelley:
I don’t know Jeff, but I saw this tweet and couldn’t help but laugh. After all, as someone who is terminally online, I’m well aware of Uncle Bob’s antics. In fact, it’s kind of hard to avoid him since he seems to be caught up in some controversy every couple of months.
That said, I don’t know a lot about Uncle Bob. I’ve never read his books, and I didn’t actually know who he was until a couple months ago. Purists would probably say that makes me a bad developer, but I generally try not to have idols. It’s not that I don’t have role models, but I find it easier to look up to people I know and trust instead of people that become famous for arbitrary accomplishments.
Fortunately, Jeff was nice enough to catch everyone up on Uncle Bob’s antics with a link to Melissa’s article:
Normally, I don’t read any old blog I see in the feed, but this one caught my eye because I wanted to learn more about Uncle Bob. Also, I love drama, so how could I help myself?
If you’re like me, there’s a chance that you’re not going to read Melissa’s article even though I recommended it (also, it’s roughly only 1,000 words), so I’m happy to provide a quick summary.
To start, Melissa’s article kicks off with a critique of the name “Uncle Bob” itself. This humorous little jab highlights just how creepy it is to refer to yourself as everyone’s uncle—no less naming a company after it.
After that, Melissa briefly covers the history of Agile and Uncle Bob’s role in it. Apparently, Uncle Bob was one of 17 white guys to put together The Manifesto for Agile Software Development which comes with 12 principles that Melissa recommends reading.
Melissa also mentioned that Uncle Bob was a part of the software craftmanship movement which included yet another manifesto. Apparently, this movement was born as a result of complaints from tech bros that Agile was too much about project management and not enough about code.
This leads into a brief discussion about Uncle Bob’s book, Clean Code, that was mentioned in the tweet above. Melissa offers a critique at this point about how code quality isn’t readily defined and is also context specific (i.e., what works for Python might not work for Java). Therefore, Uncle Bob’s book has sort of aged poorly and maybe shouldn’t be recommended regardless of Uncle Bob’s antics.
The mention of Clean Code and its popularity obviously leads into a discussion about why it shouldn’t be. According to Melissa, Uncle Bob has a “troubling history” of sexism and racism. More recently, Melissa says that Uncle Bob has found himself at the center of “cancel culture”—as he would describe it—despite major evidence to the contrary.
Ultimately, Melissa closes things out by arguing that Uncle Bob is still very much popular while deserving every bit of criticism he receives.
Why I Like This Article
So, there are a few reasons why I’m recommending this article.
First, I think this piece is an excellent example of a rant written in a playful way. I’ve written a lot of rants on this site, and I think Melissa’s rants are a lot more entertaining than mine. For instance, I usually fill my rants with harsh criticisms, but Melissa’s piece actually seems to give Uncle Bob the benefit of the doubt at times—even if he is overall someone we should be avoiding in the community. Also, Melissa does a great job of critiquing some of the more systemic issues in the field (e.g., manifestos) instead of focusing solely on Uncle Bob.
Second, I have a feeling that Melissa could have written a lot more. This piece seemed to be a short and sweet post about Uncle Bob, but Melissa clearly seems knowledgeable of the history of the field. I’d be interested in seeing parts of her narrative developed further. You know, what’s the story behind some of these manifestos? Ironically, the lack of details makes me interested in what else Melissa could be writing about.
Third, where the article lacks in details, it makes up for in resources. In roughly 1000 words, Melissa manages to link out to about 9 different resources that help provide context to her narrative. In fact, this led me down a rabbit hole where I read quite a bit more about the criticisms of Clean Code and other works by Uncle Bob. When I get a chance, I’ll probably recommend some of them as well.
Finally, I just like this piece because it calls attention to one of the many problematic areas of tech culture: old school white dudes with overwhelming popularity dictating who and what counts in tech.
With all that said, that’s all I have today. How’d you like this article? Would you want to see me recommend more stuff to read? Do you have any recommendations yourself? If so, head over to our Discord and give it a share.
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Otherwise, thanks for sticking around! I appreciate your support.
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