I’ve been at PyCon for a few days, and I’ve been noticing how many stories we tell.

We tell warning stories of failed technologies, stories of bad managers, poor design decisions. We tell bug stories, and all night hackathon stories. We tell stories about how marketing killed our projects. We tell horror stories of overtime and impossible deadlines. We use powerful metaphores ripped from history, such as Edward Yourdon’s book Death March which describes doomed software development projects by reference to a gruling forced march during world war 2 that killed thousands.

Kathy Sierra, writes on Creating Passionate Users, about our tendancy to tell and retell the origin stories for our favorite technologies. And she tells the origin sory for the Head First book series, which seems true enough, but it seems that other people have struggled to make up good origin stories for their company. And sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter if these stories are true or not, they just keep getting repeated by fans.

What is facinating to me is the way we transmit skills, values, aesthetic judgements, and culture through story. People say that computer geeks are all about logic and data and facts — but that’s not how you transmit culture, and if we want to maintain a vibrant, healthy, growing community the only way to do it is to tell the right stories at the right time.

1 Response to “Storytelling”

  1. Mark,

    I am also fascinated by how we use stories in our computer-related activities. As a tester, I find that by writing tests in the form of stories, I understand much better what it is exactly that I want to test. I’ll probably blog about this too and I’ll link to your post :-)

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