Heroes and Zeroes: The Anatomy of a Failed Software Project
This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining a failed software project from the inside. The author is a former programmer and current sociologist who in this case provided specifications to external programmers and evaluated the resulting web application. Using a combination of auto-ethnography and document analysis I will apply a micro-sociological perspective to discuss an “ideal type” timeline from the “dream” stage to the “final breakdown”. The purpose is to highlight social interactions, power issues and conflicts between different actors’ goals and actions, how events were perceived and framed and the role of individual mediators in the larger “software development chain”. Using a grounded theory approach for a tentative, initial exploration of very rich data will hopefully lead to further research regarding programmers and their roles in science and technology.
Understanding software development failures also have a value in itself. Although failure is fetishized in start-up environments, the reality is that in most cases failure happen in custom software development; thus a real-world need goes unfulfilled. Evaluations tend to focus on management issues; this paper will thus also provide additional perspectives for assessments of such failures.