Big Ball of Mud by Brian Foote and Joseph Yoder.
I ran across a reference to this paper by John Schmidt in his reply to a comment on his post Four Canonical Techniques That Really Work (Or Not).
The authors present seven patterns of software systems:
- BIG BALL OF MUD
- THROWAWAY CODE
- PIECEMEAL GROWTH
- KEEP IT WORKING
- SHEARING LAYERS
- SWEEPING IT UNDER THE RUG
All the superlatives have been used before so I will simply say read it.
Think about topic maps, Semantic Web apps, information systems you have helped write or design. Do you recognize any of them after reading this paper? What would you do differently today?