Role of Domain Ignorance in Software Development

Daniel M. Berry

Cheriton School of Computer Science
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON, Canada


Several have reported observations that sometimes ignorance of the domain in a software development project is useful for promoting the elicitation of tacit assumptions and out-of-the-box ideas. This talk reports work putting the observation to two empirical tests. First, a survey was conducted among software development managers of varying experience to determine what software development activities they thought were at least helped by domain ignorance. Second, transcripts from fourteen interviews of presumably-domain-ignorant immigrants to new software development projects at one large company were examined to determine if the activities performed by those with the smoothest immigrations were activities that are at least helped by domain ignorance. The conclusions are that ignorance can play an important role in software development but there are a lot of other factors that influence immigration smoothness.

Joint work with Gaurav Mehrotra