Engineering the Future of Software
16–18 October 2017: Conference & Tutorials
18–19 October 2017: Training
London, UK

Superheroes and con artists: Abusing fictional tropes for better teams

Don Kelly (Strangeware)
16:5017:40 Monday, 16 October 2017
Business skills
Location: Park Suite (St. James / Regents)
Secondary topics:  Theoretical
Average rating: ****.
(4.57, 7 ratings)

What you'll learn

  • Learn how patterns drawn from pulp fiction can be used as a starting point for building a software team


As a software architect, you will eventually be consulted on the composition of a programming crew. Even if you have mastered every technological problem in the known universe, hiring for and maintaining a team will be the most difficult challenge you will ever face. When hiring hackers, it doesn’t matter how many of your toughest problems they defeat; you will still face that proverbial herd of cats.

To gain a fresh perspective (and relieve the boredom), Don Kelly turns to the pulp fiction of his adolescence for inspiration, explaining how he maps teams from fictional universes into the software teams he would like to build.

Pulp fiction offers us a dynamic world of heroes and villains—from teams of costumed marvels defending us from space-faring alien gods to street hustlers snagging your last dime—from which you can derive a multitude of team patterns. These patterns, which have saturated our consciousness over years of peer review by armchair thrill seekers, can be used as a starting point for building a software team. Perhaps you need a lone consulting detective to dig through the clues left behind by a failed startup, or maybe you need an intrepid gang of adventurers ready to change the world. Whatever your challenge, Don explains how to apply this concept in our universe (with some real-world examples of his own successes).

Photo of Don Kelly

Don Kelly


Don first heard the siren call of the machine emanating from a TRS-80 sometime in the early ’80s. His first caretaker was a venerable PDP-7 hidden in a remote coastal outpost. A veteran programmer of a wide variety of projects ranging from high-performance servers delicately handcrafted in C to creaky old desktop applications written in dead frameworks to squeaky-clean mobile applications written using the latest cool tools, Don has a strong interest in nurturing new apprentices into strong journeymen and creating software that astonishes at every level and withstands inspection long after the show has finished. Writing something that seems to work from a superficial inspection is simply not good enough. From initial idea to finished product, each object and function should be a work of art.