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Tale: Deadline and Technical Debt

01.15.2010
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Once upon a time there lived a very brave and adventurous young man by the name Arthur. He lived in a large kingdom with knights and castles and an extremely cunning king who had a beautiful daughter - Caroline. She was so beautiful, that every morning birds would fly through the open window with fresh roses in their beaks. Birds would drop rose petals near her bed and fill the air with pleasant tweets, every five minutes exactly. Then they would fly away to never come back…they would simply die outside, because they couldn’t live without princess’ beauty anymore.

The king was greedy so he held annual competitions during which the contestants had to pay 10 sovereigns each to participate. The winner would marry Caroline, but missions were so hard, that there were no winners ever!

New competition was announced and brave Arthur decided to win the highest prize! He saw the beautiful princess only once before and fell desperately in love with her.

On a sunny day all the contestants gathered together on a central square. The king said: “Brave men! There will be 3 main missions… and a very easy 4th mission to the winner. Today I’ll tell you about the first mission only. You have to build a house in 10 days. It should have 2 rooms, doors, windows and a roof. That’s all you have to do!!”

Mission #1

Is it possible to build a house in 10 days? Arthur was disappointed. He had hoped to kill a dragon, catch a witch or do something else that a brave knight is supposed to do. But he was smart (and brave). He spent all the day doing nothing but thinking. Other contestants laughed at him: “Look at Arthur! He gave up miserably! Arthur, go home, you are such a loser!” But as you know, our Arthur was smart so he decided to build the simplest house possible. And he did it: the ground became a floor; house had only 2 tiny rooms and the light would enter through the 2 windows near the front doors; the roof was there to simply protect from rain and snow - no more no less! Most importantly, he finished it in 8 days! Many, many other brave men tried but failed. Some started to build a large and solid house and ran out of time. Others started building too quickly and their houses would collapse half way through. However, brave Arthur and a dozen other guys completed the first mission successfully.

“I am proud of you! - said the cunning king. “Now here is the second mission for you all. This time, you should build a basement that will be twice as large as the house itself. Also you should build a fireplace. You all have a total of 12 days to get the job done.”

Mission #2

And again Arthur spent the whole day thinking. “I don’t even have a floor in the house… How can I build a basement? The house will simply break down… If I spend time on the floor, I’ll have no time to do the rest.” Then he found a workaround. He decided to dig deeper than usual. “Deep basement should be safe enough and floor is not required in this case! Fireplace will take 2 days to create, and I can definitely make this basement in 9 days!”

Arthur worked like crazy and completed the mission in 11 days. He slept for the whole 12th day – the last day of the mission. At the end, only 5 other brave men have completed this stage of competition.

“You did a fantastic job!” – the king said. - “Now listen to the last mission. You should build an upper level in your house. An upper level may have only one room, but you have only 5 days to do it.”

Mission #3

All the contestants were quite excited. It looked like an easy task. But Arthur was sad. “If I build another level” - he thought - “my house will crash…” This time he started to work immediately. He brought several large logs into the basement and made props. It took him a total of 2 days. Arthur was not sure that it’d be enough, but he had no more time and decided to accept the risk. Luckily, he had a flat roof and therefore it turned out to be relatively easy to create another level right on top of it. Arthur was tired, but extremely happy. After all, he was the only one who made it through the last mission!

“My boy!” - King happily hugged Arthur. - “You did it! I can’t believe, but you did it! You are just one step away from the Caroline’s hand. Your last mission can’t be simpler - You should live in the house you built during the first 2 weeks. This is it. And then you will have my blessings and the hand of my beloved daughter, Caroline!”

“Wow, so easy!” - said Arthur. “Yes, it is” - answered the king with a smile on his face.

Mission #4

The next day brave Arthur was killed by the crashed ceiling. It was a windy and rainy day…

 

Published at DZone with permission of Michael Dubakov, author and DZone MVB.

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