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How to build software like the Winchester Mystery House

Most start-ups and companies that build websites for their clients have no idea about what they are doing.  Typically they do not listen to advice from those that actually do the work, developers. Substitute words to fit the situation you see most often. For example: Mrs. Winchester = Start-ups, web development companies ... you pick.

Mrs. Winchester(The company owner) served as her (their) own architect, but it's possible that some ghosts (web designers) had a hand in designing the house (software, website) as well. Each night, Mrs. Winchester (the owner) would retreat to her séance room (conference) and receive instruction from the spirits (project managers) on the progress of her house (web application). The next morning, she'd present her construction workers with hand-drawn sketches of what was to be done( typical ).

Sometimes it seemed she didn't care what she built, as long as she could hear the hammers of her crew (programmers look busy). The crew might spend a month constructing a room (feature), only to be ordered to destroy it the next month. Because Mrs. Winchester paid well, no one disputed her instructions( well, some are paid well). Mrs. Winchester had inherited $20 million and just less than half of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company stock (Venture Capitalist). This left Mrs. Winchester with a daily income of about $1,000 to spend on her house (sounds about right even now). (Multiply those figures by about 20 to get an idea of how much money that would be in 2008 [source: U.S. Department of Labor].)

But what of these doors (uri's) and stairs (url's) to nowhere? Doors may open onto walls, or in the case of a second story door, to the outside, resulting in a big fall for anyone who might try to exit that way (fatal error). A closet door in the second floor séance room opens onto a first-floor sink several feet below. The stairs to nowhere are pretty much what they sound like: Stairs go up until they reach the ceiling, and then they just stop (spagetti code and architecture).

The useless (code) stairs might have a simple explanation; the stairs (code) were likely a part of the original house (content management system) that Mrs. Winchester bought, and when she started adding on to the home, she covered up the stairs (started removing functionality). Whether it was accidentally or on purpose, Mrs. Winchester (the company) usually covered up her mistakes by just continuing to build around them. Because she had no master plan (use case) for the house, her architectural ideas didn't always work out. Since she had no deadline for completion, she'd (they would) either tear down the mistake or cover it up with something else.

Some people think that these touches were designed to confuse the evil spirits that were haunting Mrs. Winchester (feature creep). Believing that ghosts would get lost on stairs that went nowhere or accidentally step out of a door that went outside, Mrs. Winchester might have deliberately installed these weird touches (bleeding edge, bells and whistles.. it's cool). If this sounds strange to you today, you're not alone ( you are a good developer). Even at the time that Mrs. Winchester was building the house, she was regarded with suspicion (what happened to the developers before me). Some thought her an eccentric with too much money on her hands, and her home took on the nickname "mystery house" (vapor ware) not long after her death (think about if the company was building medical software).

Because Mrs. Winchester left no diary or other communication (documentation), we honestly have no idea what might have been going on her mind (does not know what a use case is or what it's used for). What we do have is her house(website), which is still open to tourists(visitors). Is it a monument to madness or money? Is it still haunted? On the next page, we'll poke around inside the Winchester Mystery House(Start-up mystery ware).

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