Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Treatises and Disposability

On the way to work today, I walked down the cut and saw signs put up by deep pacifists again, the kind that say "all war in every circumstance is pointless", quoting Gandhi, Ben Franklin, and a few other people. I feel that a single sign saying only "Chamberlain" would refute all that naïve rubbish. Opposing specific wars and finding war to be tragic - great. Opposing all war is closely analogous to opposing the existence of both prisons and capital punishment.

Rereading Yourdon's Death March for the third time, I saw a reference to Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister's Peopleware, particularly focusing on their studies on idea office environment for techies. According to the quote which cites some studies, developers who rate their workplace as being acceptably quiet are 1/3 more likely to deliver "zero-defect" code (I'm not sure how these things are quantified). A nummber of points are made about good working environments and how most programmer workplaces, whether engaged in Death March-type projects or not, use cubicle farms, which are undesirable for a number of obvious reasons (and others he explores). (My programming environment silly fantasy:

(pulled from an IM conversation about a month ago - yay logging)

I'm thinking giant seashells on a beach, putting me under a lip that's about 12 feet tall (and it'd always be raining on the beach). Beanbag, several computers, and further back n the shell a mattress for me to sleep on, bathroom, place for me to make tea.

There'd be other seashells nearby - I couldn't see the people from where I'd be sitting but I'd know they'd be there and we'd hav a set of elaborate signals on the externals of our shells (coloured lights) indicating when we were ok with company or really wanted it or not.

I'd sometimes go out and play in the rainy ocean water. I think there'd be a shell devoted to self-serve sushi and indian food nearby too. I wouldn't mind always being wet if the computers would be ok with it. .. except it would make the beanbag nasty.

) All this has me wondering about Google - I don't know a lot about them, but one of the big differences between Google and Microsoft's treatment of programmers is that at Microsoft, they get offices. Emotionally, having an office is really nice - even if it's shared with another person, it's a place to hang one's hat - I keep some stuff here (some personal, some semipersonal like teacups, and some stuff directly useful), people can come find me, and the familiarity is rather nice. If I stay late, I also can sleep here and still be civilised. I think Google attempts to justify its no-offices policy through flexibility (I'll sit next to Jane today because she'll help me with the sockets code), fault-tolerance (no "my office network connection is borked so I didn't do much today"), and egality (no "nicer offices for l33t me").. I'm sure these are potentially important reasons, but given a choice between a cubicle, an open workspaces like Google, and an office, I'd prefer the office. I still wonder about the open workspaces though -- how good/bad of an idea is it? It's also kind of sad that cubicles still exist... If code quality is worse and people are less happy, it seems like a poor arrangement that may be less cost-effective over the long-term than giving people offices and a bit of dignity.


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