Does Anyone Know What We Do For A Living?

Virtually all these young people [freshmen majoring in computer science] share a single attribute: they have no idea what a professional software developer does. …And they won’t learn much more about the business in their first few years in college, either. In this distorted view of our profession,

  • The developer always has a complete spec (or if they don’t they can make it up as they go along)
  • All development begins with a brand new program.
  • If your program doesn’t core-dump in response to a test case, its behaviour is correct.
  • No one else (with the exception of the professor, perhaps) ever looks at your code.
  • The developer never, ever has to read some-one else’s code.

– Warren Harrison, The Software Developer as Movie Icon, IEEE Software, January/February 2003 (Vol. 20, No. 1)

New Things or Status Quo?

To begin with, humans are essentially conservative creatures. In this context there is a psychological term for a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance which, put simply, states that we have a marked tendency to cling to old beliefs despite the fact that they are at odds with known facts. The reason for this is simply that the old beliefs are just that, old and familiar, and we are therefore fond of them; they are part of what makes us mentally comfortable. This leads to intellectual sluggishness: we are prepared to make greater efforts to preserve the status quo in our heads than to learn new things.

– Bard & Soderqvist, Netocracy

Language Facilitating Innovative Thought

Language differentiates us from other animals. The creation of technology requires abstract thought, which in turn arises from a linguistic system of symbols. Language made it possible for us to develop socially and to gather and maintain collectives, which opened up a new world of interwoven relationships between individuals. Social life developed entirely new and rich nuances as communication became more advanced. Language offered the possibility of innovative thought, with all its countless possibilities of expression, and stimulated creativity and intelligence.

– Bard & Soderqvist, Netocracy

Skincare Products

I bought myself some new skincare products at the Body Shop last week including a tea tree oil face mask. Marty watched me put it on and joked about how I was probably paying a small fortune for something that could be done equally well with PVA glue.

I had a look at the ingredients. The main two are water and polyvinyl alcohol.

Feeling Under the Weather

I have flu. Have had it all week. Maybe it will go away soon.

Body aches, fever
Chills, sweats, runny nose, headache…
Flu.. I’ve had enough!

– Jurnee Marie

A Short Sharp Slap

I went to hear Stan Slap speaking in Belfast yesterday.

The blurb about the event stated:

Stan brings a fresh approach – if not a revolutionary approach, to the issues of business strategy & organisational development.

Not convinced that I would have described his presentation on strategy and leadership as being “revolutionary” but it was fresh and very enjoyable.

He spent about an hour presenting his “Seven Deadly Sins of Strategic Implementation” and another ninety minutes of so talking about leadership.

He discussions kept coming back to company culture. He made the point that management are not part of their people’s culture and that we (the managers) would never know what the true company culture is. He also stated that every culture needs to know what the rules of survival are. As management dictate who survives in business and who doesn’t – employees spend lots of time watching the behaviour of the company management to determine what these rules are. And it doesn’t matter what we say the rules are if we don’t live them.

Success Through Skill-Building

Since professional firms sell skill, talent, knowledge, and ability, it follows that any firm that can out-perform its competition in building and creating skills will gain a significant competitive advantage.

The need to be good at creating new skills is often overlooked. Most firms recruit from the same talent pool as their major competitors, and all begin with similar raw material – the bright, entry-level professional.

Competitive advantage does not come from an ability to hire better people than your competitors do, but from a superior ability to develop them.

– David H. Maister, True Professionalism

Mining Mail

One convenient source of a massive corpus of data suitable for data mining is the mass of e-mail that arrives at our system every day.

E-mail is a surprisingly interesting data format. It contains a lot of structured, regular data in the form of mail headers, which is easy for a computer to parse. Unfortunately, the utility of the mail headers is pretty hit and miss.

Simon Cozens, Mining Mail, The Perl Journal, December 2002


All programmers are optimists. Perhaps this modern sorcery especially attracts those who believe in happy endings and fairy god-mothers. Perhaps the hundreds of nitty frustrations drive away all but those who habitually focus on the end goal. Perhaps it is merely that computers are young, programmers are younger, and the young are always optimists. But however the selection process works, the result is indisputable: “This time it will surely run,” or “I just found the last bug.”

– Frederick P. Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month

Cruft Crisis

When you spot a class interface that is no longer used by any client, but that nobody dare delete, that’s cruft. It is also the word “seperate,” added to a spellchecker’s private dictionary in a moment of careless haste, and now waiting for a suitably important document.

Choosing a Subject and Theme

Whenever you have a problem, whether you are writing an article or building a doghouse, do not look inside for the solution. Do not ask: “How do I do it? Why don’t I know it?” Look outside and ask: “What is the nature of the thing I want to do?”

What is the nature of an article? First observe that you cannot do everything at once. Whatever you are writing – a theoretical work on a revolutionary idea or a small piece about a narrow concrete – you cannot say everything you know about the subject. You must accept this premise fully, so that it becomes part of your subconscious and operates automatically. You can do this by asking yourself whether you always knew everything you know today. Obviously you did not. Knowledge is acquired in steps.

– Ayn Rand, The Art of Nonfiction