[Software Engineering Oldletter #6] Systems thinking, expert beginners and evergreen notes

Every Friday, I’m sharing a short list of evergreen articles/resources broadly related to software engineering that wouldn’t typically get shared in most tech newsletters or social media feeds.

  • Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System (1997) by Donella Meadows.

    Leverage points are are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

    This essay is a great primer for systems thinking concepts of stocks, flows and positive and negative feedback loops. See also the author’s Thinking in Systems audiobook which goes into more depth on these.

  • How Developers Stop Learning: Rise of the Expert Beginner (2013) by Erik Dietrich. The Expert Beginner is mindset of a software engineer who has got a level of expertise/seniority where they are competent but do not proceed past that, incorrectly believing they have already achieved expert level. They tend to have a cognitive dissonance when seeing alternative ways of doing things which aren’t their way.
  • Evergreen Notes by Andy Matuschak.

    Evergreen notes are written and organized to evolve, contribute, and accumulate over time, across projects. This is an unusual way to think about writing notes: Most people take only transient notes. That’s because these practices aren’t about writing notes; they’re about effectively developing insight

    Andy’s entire public notes vault, and his “evergreen notes” concept in particular, was what most inspired me to publish my own public notes. I got lost down the rabbit hole of his site. Even if you’ve no intention of making your notes public, I find this note-taking approach to be a great tool for clarifying your thinking. (Obsidian is a great app if you decide to put this into practice btw).

Submitting your recommendations

If you’d like to share an evergreen article/book which has significantly influenced your thinking or practice around software delivery, please email it through to me and I’ll add it to my backlog for sharing in future editions.

Have a great weekend!

— Paul

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