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I got a chuckle from your reference to "so-called agile".

I find it depressingly common at work to hear someone argue that one course of action is superior to another simply because it is more "agile". When challenged, the arguer often has only the vaguest notion of what "agile" truly means. So I prefer not to use the word "agile" when discussing alternative courses of action anymore.

Like "object-oriented" and "strong typing", the word "agile" has suffered from semantic diffusion, as pointed out by Martin Fowler:

Semantic diffusion is essentially a succession of Chinese whispers where a different group of people to the originators of a term start talking about it without being careful about following the original definition. These people are listened to by a further group which then goes on to add their own distortions. After a few of these hand-offs it's easy to lose a lot of the key meaning of the term unless you make the point of going back to the originators. It's ironic that it's popular terms that tend to suffer from this the most. That's inevitable, of course, since unpopular terms have less people to create the Chinese whisper chains.

A related indicator to popularity is desirability. A word that sounds good may be more likely to suffer from semantic diffusion. 'Agile' sounds like something you'd certainly want to be, the antonyms of agile aren't at all appealing. Who would want to still be merely 1.0 of the web? Kent Beck noticed this effect and thus deliberately picked Extreme Programming as a name because it is less inherently desirable: 'extreme' is often used as a pejorative. Using a less desirable term may reduce semantic diffusion, but I don't think it avoids the problem completely. After all we saw semantic diffusion occur to 'object-oriented' which is a neutral term.

Semantic diffusion is a painful process to watch, particularly for those who find the ideas useful. At the moment I see signs of despair for both of these terms, some people in the agile world are talking of ditching the word agile.


In reply to Re^7: "Bah! Scrumbug!" (Lessons from the scrap-bin) by eyepopslikeamosquito
in thread "Bah! Scrumbug!" (Lessons from the scrap-bin) by sundialsvc4

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