Sand Piles and Software

Zack Dennis | 10:00 – 11:15


This talk applies the concepts of chaos theory to software development
using the Bak–Tang–Wiesenfeld sand pile model as the vehicle for
exploration. The sand pile model, which is used to show how a complex
system is attracted to living on the edge of chaos, will be used as a
both a powerful metaphor and analogy for building software. Software,
it turns out, has its own natural attraction to living in its own edge
of chaos. In this talk, we’ll explore what this means and entertain
questions for what to do about it.

The speaker’s hypothesis is that by understanding how complex systems
work we can gain insights to better understand and improve the act of
building software. By looking through the lens of the sand pile model
we’ll explore the following:

what the sand pile model can tell us about software development
how software is naturally attracted to its own chaos
* the impacts on software living perpetually on the edge of chaos
* how existing software practices can be used to detract software away
from chaos
* what this means not only for our software, but for our teams, and
ourselves individually

This thought-provoking perspective will leave you with new ways to
think about software. You’ll walk away having learned a little about
chaos, complexity, and how they apply to software with a
thought-provoking perspective and inspiration for thinking about
software in new ways.


Zach Dennis is a Software Craftsman/Partner at Mutually Human Software
in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s a proven RSpec and Ruby guru, founder of the
Michigan Ruby User Group and co-author of The RSpec Book. He’s
contributed to several projects such as Ruby’s standard library
documentation, Ruby on Rails, as well as many of his own. He’s been
leading and mentoring teams for almost an entire decade. In his spare
time he reads copiously and plays the guitar. You can find him as
@zachdennis on Twitter and @zdennis on Github.