Teamwork anti-pattern: the edge case

Edge Cases are the Root of all Evil:

“I’ve learned over the years that Edge Cases are not meant to be normal rationale or a casual reminder of some odd circumstance that you’ve neglected. Rather, they usually represent an attempt by someone else to gain, show or exert power in a situation. I’ll explain.”

After reading this, I immediately realized the Edge Case is definitely an anti-pattern of teamwork. I’ve observed, suffered and inflicted this particular tactic countless times in the past.

Tackling this one is three-pronged:

* Recognize it. When someone points out an edge-case, quickly try to establish with the rest of the team whether this occurrence is as rare as you think it is or whether its truly important.
* Neutralize it. If it really is a corner case, mark it as such and get back to making actual progress.
* Bury it. Should you throw something out there and find its really an edge case, let it go. Don’t be that guy.

“But Adam”, you say. “It would be really embarrassing if we omitted a condition for the Blurbleflaster Case!” Well, I couldn’t even find the Blurbleflaster Case in Wikipedia! So, if someone finds that we’ve omitted it, then they get the prize; it won’t be the end of the world. We should probably implement that whole social network thing first anyway.

2 thoughts on “Teamwork anti-pattern: the edge case

  1. Bah. The Work of writing software, from customer use cases, to coding, to unit, acceptance, usability, exploratory tests, tech support and all the rest — is discovering ALL the cases — especially the edge ones that aren’t nearly as exciting to think about.

    I’ve gotten mostly become comfortable with that yank back to reality after pitching a great idea. All ideas should get hammered on, the ones that survive are the good ones. I’ve received some great feedback starting a conversation with, “Tell me why this is a stupid…”

    The issue described in the article is about wielding edge case discovery to shut down another person in a conversation. If I don’t have a healthy brainstorming environment, that’s not the edge case’s fault. Edge cases don’t kill people, jerk faces do.

  2. Re-reading your comments, Adam – you sound a bit more balanced and we’re probably in agreeance on this point. I think the article you reference was misdirected in assigning blame.

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