Software Nerd

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Guilt-free software development

Guilt pollutes relationships. At best, it nags at the guilty. It's worse still (for the relationship) if the aggrieved party use guilt as a weapon. The healthy solution is to admit fault, make the appropriate redress, and move on, not forgetting, but neither harping on the guilt.

Early in my career, I was on a software-development team with lots of enthusiasm, but not much knowledge (me too). Our budget was impossibly tight. Everyone on our team worked day and night on it; more than busy, almost frantic. We worked through most nights, snatching a few hours of sleep here and there.

We could not make the schedule. The customer screamed. An experienced project manager would have told us we needed two more months; we asked for 1 month; we got 2 weeks. The client was unhappy; we were guilty. We felt we had let people down and let ourselves down by missing the deadline, even though each of us worked at least 80 hour weeks. We knew we could not get it done in 2 weeks; but, feeling guilty, we gave in.

Two weeks later, though we scrambled and cut corners, we were still not ready. Now, we were guiltier than ever for missing the second impossible deadline. We did not realize we were caught in a typical project-development downward spiral, .

We got an extension of a few days, enough to patch something together just enough that it could stand up to the first few days of QA, before it fell apart. And then, more customer anger, and more guilt... The cycle went on: shorter than practical deadlines, short-cuts, failure, shorter than required deadlines to fix it...

We were down to our Nth extension... we were going to have the project ready in a week (yeah, sure!), when a new, experienced project manager took over. He spent a few days talking to the team and understanding what was going on. Then, a day before the deadline, we were to meet the customers [by now we hated them] to discuss the hand-over to QA.

The new project manager told us that we would not hand over. He refused to let us meet the deadline when we knew we'd taken still more shortcuts. In the meeting, he told the customer that he was sorry that things had gone the way they had but he had taken over the project and he would not deliver to a deadline like this. The customer tried all his "you promised" tricks, but there was no budging.

The surly customer asked how many days of extension we needed this time. "We need 5 weeks!", he answered. You could hear a pin drop; and then, loud protests and threats of cancellation. "If we try to deliver in less than that, we cannot deliver. So, I agree that cancellation would be the only other option", he agreed. "I cannot pretend it is possible in less than 5 weeks.... From what I have seen, I needed 2 months if people were to work normal hours, but the team will do overtime and see that it gets done in 5 weeks. ... I know the previous project manager promised; we can discuss that separately, it does not change what we need to do to succeed..." The conversation went on like that, with not an inch given, unless ones counts the time he said: "Well, let me say this, when I say the 21st, it will be 9am on the 21st... so your team can come in and test right away!"

"I want to add something more... I don't want any misunderstanding... when we deliver the software on the 21st, it will contains bugs."

What! The senior client manager, who'd been on the verge of giving in, almost threw a fit at this remark.

"It will be tested: unit tested, integration tested; but, all software has bugs, and this will have bugs too. Today the software has bugs that ought to have caught; the software we deliver won't have those types of embarrassing bugs.... but, it will have others. We will start work on bugs as soon as you report them, but you should plan to give us 2 more weeks after that, for us to continue to fix them."

"Even after the software goes into production, you will find bugs -- this is something we have to live with; so, we need to plan for it, and deal with it."

Long story short: the project was a great success. Though I was an Objectivist then, this episode concretized the value of not evading reality, and consequently not shouldering guilt for doing so... it's a deadly cycle.

Afterword: The whole idea seems so "duh!" obvious, but I suppose it's the folly of youth. The same project manager also taught me a few other little things:
  • History will always repeat itself, unless you do something more than wishful thinking to stop it
  • Always carry a virtual letter of resignation in your pocket: it's good for you, and good for your employer.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Immigration Voice

Some months ago, I blogged about what I consider to be the real U.S. immigration problem: the way the U.S. restricts the immigration of doctors, engineers, and other well-educated professionals from immigrating to the U.S. While, many such people still want to make the U.S. home, I think that will change some decades from now, and today's policies will have contributed to the change.

I recently found a blog called "Immigration Voice", which describes its purpose thus:
Blog for Immigration Voice, striving to a) reform the broken employment-based Immigration System for the United States to maintain a competitive edge b) safeguard the interests of legal, English-speaking, skilled Global professionals waiting for their employment-based Green Cards
When will the Malkins, O'Reilly's and Lou Dobb's of the world speak up for these people, who spend years squeezed into the pipeline called legal immigration? I've lived in that pipe, and it was so unnecessary. How can anyone look at the stuff on this site and think that these people are somehow going to undermine America!

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Spanish-language Activism

Many U.S. businesses are spending more money on Spanish advertising. That got me wondering if think-tanks (like Heritage and AEI) and have Spanish-speaking spokesmen. It seems that think-tanks with such spokesmen would have a better chance of being booked on Spanish TV networks and radio-stations.

The idea is not to communicate in Spanish in order to appear more empathetic. Rather, those channels might be quicker to book a Spanish-speaker. Spanish language TV networks reach about 15% of U.S. households. Cable-delivered digital channels are available to over 80%. There are also some Spanish radio stations. This is coverage, not the actual number who watch; but, in some states, I assume the numbers could be considerable.

It would be great to see ARI present Objectivism's unique views to this audience, not just on immigration, but on a variety of other topics. I wonder if OAC has any up-and-coming intellectuals who are fluent in Spanish.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Undercurrent

A comment on a previous post, spoke about "The Undercurrent". I thought I would re-post the comment as a stand-alone post. I admire their effort, and the quality of the writing, and also think NoumenalSelf's editing is great (not sure if he still edits). I've even made a small donation to the mag in the past. It's very easy to under-write (say) 250 copies. Check out what it costs. Of course, a lot of copies of such mags are "wasted", but there's always a few people who are perfect targets. The trick is to distribute in a way that maximizes the chances of reaching those few. To this end, I think their distribution strategy is well thought out.

With that introduction, I reproduce Eric's comment :

Greetings,

In case you are unaware of us, I’d like to introduce you to The Undercurrent. The Undercurrent is an Objectivist student publication mainly intended to be distributed on universities campuses to make more students aware of Ayn Rand. Non-students also distribute our paper, and other good places to distribute are coffee shops (some Starbucks have bulletin boards), bookstores (some have areas for free publications), gyms, and other places.

For more information, please visit our website, http://the-undercurrent.com/

We are now taking orders for our upcoming issue. To order, please go to this link: http://the-undercurrent.com/?s=distribute or visit our site and click “distribute”.
Articles in the upcoming issue will include:
  • an article arguing that the War in Iraq is not, though it should be, guided by the goal of self-defense.
  • an article arguing that medicine is not an entitlement, but a commodity that should be bought and sold like any other good.
  • an article arguing that people put too much weight on statistical surveys as a guide for action.
  • an article discussing and defending the value of corporations
  • an article discussing the clash between religion and rational thought
  • Two Ayn Rand Institute Op-Eds still to be selected
We will also list your campus club’s or community group’s event or contact info on our calendar. The service is free, just enter information by clicking the "calendar" link on our site, or by clicking http://www.the-undercurrent.com/?s=calendar
Please contact us if you wish to write an article in the future and consider joining our email list.

Distributing The Undercurrent is not a major time commitment. All you need to do is take a few minutes once or twice a week to drop off the paper at a campus newsstand or coffee shop. If cost is an issue, let us know and we will work with you to find a sponsor in your area to pay for your copies.

Please also consider:
  1. Adding our site to your blogroll.
  2. Announcing that we are taking orders for our new issue.
  3. Blogging your thoughts about The Undercurrent, positive or negative. If you feel strongly about the value of the Undercurrent, encourage your readers to get involved with the paper, whether as distributors, officers, or donors.

    We also suspect that there are Objectivists who do not think that the Undercurrent is an effective tool for promoting Objectivism. If so, we’d like to hear why. Does it have something to do with TU’s content in particular? Is it more a general issue of the effectiveness of a campus paper as a medium for spreading Objectivism? Or is it the whole activity of campus activism in general that these Objectivists view as ineffective? Whether or not you personally hold any of these views, by starting a discussion on this issue, you can help bring out such arguments, and help us figure out the best possible way to promote Objectivism on college campuses.
  4. Even if you do not have the time or inclination to blog about the Undercurrent, send us a quick private email of your overall impression of our efforts. Are you generally impressed, indifferent, too busy to notice, or disappointed? We are very open to criticism, and sincerely want to hear your thoughts. Private emails can be sent to mail(AT)the-undercurrent.com

Thank you very much,

Eric
The Undercurrent
Distribution Officer

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Presidential Candidate Grid

After seeing the presidential candidate grid Myrhaf linked to, I decided to make my own little grid, with only the two top-runners of each party.

Explanation:

1. Top right corner is the best possible candidate we can expect today: fairly secular, and fairy "free-market"

2. Center of the grid is the "average voter".

3. On economics, I think Guliani is the best, Obama the worst. Hillary may be a tiny bit worse than Romney (particularly with a Democratic legislature)

4. On religion, Romney will almost certainly mean a religious shift in the SCOTUS. Guliani might; though he isn't personally religous, he might make a deal with the God-wing. For all the Democrat kow-towing to Christianity, their base won't let them shift too far on abortion and religion.

5. And the winner is... either Hillary or Guiliani, depending on how one makes the religion/socialist trade-off.

6. Biggest unknown: whether Guliani will challenge the God-wing, or pragmatically do a deal with them.