Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It's refreshing to read scholarly articles whose authors aren't above using a touch of humor. Phillip Armour's writing is clear, concise, and entertaining as he writes about aspects of project planning and management that often come with unrealistic expectations.

"According to the late Joseph Campbell a myth is not, as we may think, untrue. A myth is something
that is extremely true. It is the essence of truth dressed up in an allegorical costume that helps us remember its lesson. If a myth is truth packaged in a fabrication, then something that appears perfectly
reasonable but is, in essence, wrong would be an “unmyth” (p. 15).

Information Science context aside, I really like this idea that a myth is truthful at its heart. Myths are metaphors: imaginative illustrations to help us understand and cope with reality.

Armour goes on to talk about how the idea of an "accurate estimate" is an oxymoron, though it is certainly possible to make a "lucky estimate." And how designing a "defect free" system is an impossible goal since "we cannot test thoroughly for things we don’t know we don’t know," the "Second Order Ignorance" phenomenon (p. 18).

Though it may not seem the most "scholarly" of articles, Armour's readability makes his points meaningful and, maybe most importantly, memorable. I appreciate (and sometimes even enjoy) the challenge of reading a particularly dense and difficult article, but I'm glad when professors are open to assigning the lighter ones too. They also can have value and often, I've noticed, spark the most interesting discussions among students.

Armour, P. (2002). Ten unmyths of project estimation. Communications of the ACM, 45(11), 15-18.

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