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IBM Trying To Patent Timed Code Inspection

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the walking-through-a-patent-minefield dept.

Patents 146

theodp writes "A just-published IBM patent application for a Software Inspection Management Tool claims to improve software quality by taking a chess-clock-like approach to code walkthroughs. An inspection rate monitor with 'a pause button, a resume button, a complete button, a total lines inspected indication, and a total lines remaining to be inspected indication' keeps tabs on participants' progress and changes color when management's expectations — measured in lines per hour — are not being met."

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sounds fantastic (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23210880)

I know I'm most careful and attentive to detail when I feel like someone's looking over my shoulder timing my progress.

Re:sounds fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211340)

I know I'm most careful and attentive to detail when I feel like someone's looking over my shoulder timing my progress.

This whole thing reminds me of a no-nonsense woman I worked with.

She had come into the company a short time before. At that time, Franklin Planners (tm, spqr) were all the rage for management weenies. The company bought one for each of these worthies, then sprung to send them off to one-week classes in how to use these modern technological wonders.

I noticed the woman had one and asked if she had gone to class. She said that she had been using one for years before coming to the company. She added that, "Classes for this thing are a waste of time and money. It's nothing more than making a list and checking it twice."

Now there was a woman with a firm grasp of reality.

Re:sounds fantastic (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211492)

I know I'm most careful and attentive to detail when I feel like someone's looking over my shoulder timing my progress.

Most people are more "careful and attentive to" looking like they're busy, as opposed to actually thinking about the problem at hand, when someone's looking over their shoulder.

Yes, we need better metrics to determine performance. However, we should do our Jedi Knight code warrior hand-waving thing and say "these are not the metrics you're looking for." This is a sop to cover up inadequacies (in both the people managing, and their methodologies) the previous steps to the development process. Where is the story mod, with a "-1 Fucktarded" option, when we need it?

Re:sounds fantastic (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212114)

I think something like this can be useful, but only if the data is used after the fact.

Let us say that Coder A and Coder B are assigned two similar coding jobs that are estimated to take 50 hours of programming time (as that is how long a previous, similar job had taken).

Coder A finishes up his work in 42 hours - the code works as well as can be expected and it is very by the book.

Coder B finishes up his work in 64 hours - the code works just as well as Coder A's, but his code is much more creative and insightful. He's created some new concepts that will work very well on a later project, only he doesn't know it - but his manager does.

Now if the manager is competent, from this one job he has learned some things about Coder A and Coder B. When a simple, by-the-book task needs to be done, he can go with Coder A. When something very creative, new, and/or innovative needs to be done, he can go with Coder B - even if it will take longer than expected, it's worth the time.

Re:sounds fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212116)

I hear you.
We have semi-weekly progress meetings where I work. Everyone just tries to get something to report for each meeting--so much so that the long-term projects suffer. No one wants to work on long-term goals when short-term ones get recognition at the meetings (and people who say, "Still working on X" look bad to the bosses.)

Re:sounds fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212280)

What about for comments, "-1, incoherent"

Type of problem (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212916)

The actual number of limes of code depend on so many things.

It's a lot faster to implementing a dull user interface that to implement an interesting heuristic algorithm that requires a lot of domain knowledge.

If you get payed by the number of lines of code... well, you do the math.

Re:sounds fantastic (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212286)

1: write code
2: you should be on step 6 by now ..........
12: PROFIT!!

Might not be a bad thing to patent. (3, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212374)

If it means that only IBM employees have to put up with this particular form of pointy-haired manager bullshit.

-jcr

Re:Might not be a bad thing to patent. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212526)

Time to do a Dilbert then...

Mistakes do happen - and timing is a crappy way to measure code review performance.

It is a common theorem that you have a certain number of bugs per line of code. But this is an average figure that can't be used either.

The best way to actually measure code quality is to do a full test loop and check if the performance, functionality and coverage is done properly. The number of bugs detected here is a good measurement of the work done earlier.

Re:sounds fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212780)

What, no electric shock when you drop below an adequate rate? They're just not trying!

Perhaps a good patent (4, Funny)

NialScorva (213763) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210884)

which they'll use to sue anyone who's dumb enough to use this technique

Re:Perhaps a good patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23210916)

New tag: idiots

anybody stupid enough to use this technique (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211742)

doesn't need help from IBM to go into the toilet.

What it means (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23210886)

changes color when management's expectations...are not being met.
Translation: Your PHB needs it color coded to know what's going on.

Note to self: (4, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210906)

Don't buy any IBM software after this awful thing gets approved.

And in case any management types happen to be reading this - programming isn't freaking bricklaying. You can't say "well the wall needs 120 bricks, and 1 person can lay 1 brick in one minute, so that's two hours work. Or 1 hour's worth of work for two people."

Read this book, [wikipedia.org] and then get back to us IBM.

Re:Note to self: (3, Funny)

mcsporran (832624) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210940)

I've given you 9 women and 6 weeks...... WHERE IS THE BABY !!!!

Re:Note to self: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211162)

I've given you 9 women and 6 weeks...... WHERE IS THE BABY !!!!
Believe I will pass on your offer for, even though it sounds like a fun project. Contracts for sex are not legal and therefore you would be under no obligation to pay. I pay more then enough child support already. Lastly you need to review human biology or seek assistance from certain overseas adoption agencies that might be interested in such a trade.

More on topic, IBM should do some research on soviet glass factories.

Re:Note to self: (2, Funny)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211280)

... or seek assistance from certain overseas adoption agencies that might be interested in such a trade.
...and we are back to outsourcing....

Re:Note to self: (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211338)

IBM should do some research on soviet glass factories.
Quick google search doesn't look promising, but I am curious. Do you have a link?

Re:Note to self: (1)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211376)

It is a Soviet myth. It goes like this, Soviet was a plan economy and the polit bureau told the screw factory manager that they had to produce 10 metric tonnes of screws this year. So they made one (1) REALLY BIG screw.

Re:Note to self: (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211426)

They were told to make screws. Plural. They should have made 2.

Re:Note to self: (1)

Heembo (916647) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211472)

It's a myth, give em a break!

Re:Note to self: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212974)

Okay, but why were they all speaking English?

Re:Note to self: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211484)

Anything ranging from extreme bulk blocks of glass to extremely thin but lots of square footage of glass. All of my schooling occurred during the cold war era and this subject was cited in numerous classes and textbooks that I had in both high school and college. Which of course does not stop it from being a myth and I have nothing handy to confirm or deny the relevant issues. Would be interested to see strong source of information on it you might could link.

Re:Note to self: (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212444)

No, it really did happen - factories would get quantity or tonnage requirements for production, so they produced to the reqs, not what was needed. Since there was no downside to currying favor with the party (in fact, a serious upside), they produced lots of the wrong thing, and in one case, produced a tractor worth less than its scrap value. Also, light bulbs built at the start of a month tended to be more reliable than ones at the end.

Re:Note to self: (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 6 years ago | (#23213094)

"do some research on soviet glass factories"

Let me guess... the glass blows you?

Re:Note to self: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211780)


I've seen Beethoven's fifth symphony performed by 1,000 musicians. They were done with it in half a minute! Marvelous!

Re:Note to self: (2, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210972)

well the wall needs 120 bricks, and 1 person can lay 1 brick in one minute, so that's two hours work. Or 1 hour's worth of work for two people.
Unfortunately that is how "executive students" in crackerjack MBA degree programs around the country are taught to think about everyone else except themselves. Is it any wonder then that most of the top managers, the best board members, and the most intelligent CEOs are self made and taught men and women? The person who believes and applies exactly what is taught in business school without intelligent thought and reasonable allowance for the circumstances is not really an MBA, but an employee in manager's clothing who is in over his head and is too arrogant and too foolish to admit it, even to him or herself.

Re:Note to self: (5, Funny)

njcoder (657816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211086)

Do you hear that? That's the loud roar of all the people you just described patting themselves on the back for not being one of the people you just described.

Re:Note to self: (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211176)

When I was an undergraduate engineering student I took courses in management from the institute's management school. I did well in the course gradewise but I recognize now that back then I had absolutely NO context for understanding the philosophies and practices. Only after a bunch of experience and many years could the views be properly integrated into reality. Any MBA student coming to management theory right out of four years of college really can't well apply it no matter how smart or slick they think they are.

Re:Note to self: (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211364)

LAny MBA student coming to management theory right out of four years of college really can't well apply it no matter how smart or slick they think they are.
Right, so they subsitute technology like this code-review chess clock for actual leadership and management and keep track of useless statistics in spreadsheets in a vain attempt to look smart or at least report something to the ones who are signing their checks. Meanwhile the engineers are pissed off and begin to undermine the new system on purpose (usually in really clever ways that keep it going but twist its purpose) to subtly protest the continued waste of time in a fruitless effort to save time.

more likely (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211762)

they update their resumes and start calling headhunters.

Re:Note to self: (2, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211926)

The person who believes and applies exactly what is taught in business school without intelligent thought and reasonable allowance for the circumstances is not really an MBA, but an employee in manager's clothing who is [in over his head ===> overhead] and is too arrogant and too foolish to admit it, even to him or herself.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Note to self: (0, Flamebait)

njcoder (657816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210988)

Oh yeah I forgot, you noobz didn't know that IBM was a complete fucktard company because they made a few gestures to the open source world.

Re:Note to self: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211018)

Read this book, and then get back to us IBM.

I see what you did there...

Re:Note to self: (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211860)

Don't buy any IBM software after this awful thing gets approved.
1. IBM is one of the founders of the http://www.patentcommons.org/ [patentcommons.org]

2. IBM is one of the world's largest consulting operations (THE largest?) and as such they work on an unbelievably wide array of projects, and this could just be one of the more random ones.

3. If you stopped buying IBM software every time you didn't like some product that one of their divisions thought about, then you'd have stopped buying all of their software around the time you were born.

Your over-reaction, here, is just a bit theatrical.

Re:Note to self: (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212198)

"All code has been written, it just needs to be managed." - Lou Gerstner (circa 1998).

Re:Note to self: (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211980)

Caution: I've read Mythical Man Month and would like to disagree with it's applicability to the subject of this article.

One of the tenets of MMM is that adding warm bodies to a software project that is behind schedule will (counter-productively) make that project fall even further behind schedule because of the time required to train the newbies.

The article actually sounds like it is talking about Michael Fagan-esque inspection bullcrap which is more closely related to improving software quality. Essentially, the theory is that 3-5 people will maximize their ability to discover defects in code by constraining themselves to studying 250 SLOC in 2 hours. Beyond that time limit, the theory argues that participants get off track and become less productive. Beyond that SLOC total, the theory argues that the participants are going too quickly to be able to detect the less obvious bugs (> instead of >=, for instance).

Whether you think this draconian inspection bullshit is valid or not is one story... but I don't recall effectiveness of code inspections being one of the things which Brooks discusses (or cares about) in regard to outlining why some software projects succeed or fail.

Re:Note to self: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212320)

That is exactly what programming should be like, BRICKLAYING.

Piecing together components to make a solution.

The problem is, YOU are doing it WRONG.

Re:Note to self: (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 6 years ago | (#23213012)

>> And in case any management types happen to be
>> reading this - programming isn't freaking bricklaying.

But it is now. Thanks to IBM. And with all those socializing nerds out of the way, being busy clicking their inspection sheets instead of herding at the coffee machine for hours in a row, I myself may actually get some coffee.

Yeah, because nothing says quality code reviews... (5, Insightful)

Scott Wood (1415) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210910)

...like not being able to spend significantly more time on the tricky sections of code than on the routine stuff.

Re:Yeah, because nothing says quality code reviews (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211052)

...like not being able to spend significantly more time on the tricky sections of code than on the routine stuff.
Relax, this just means the tricky sections will have more line breaks.

Re:Yeah, because nothing says quality code reviews (1)

Renegrade (698801) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211316)

I'm sure this nasty new toy is measuring lines more intelligently than splitting on newlines.

Which means that the tricky sections will actually have more code in them.

Hasty, badly written, performance-guzzling code.

Or be replaced by poorer algorithms that are easier to implement and have more lines, eat more memory, and have more limitations and such.

Of course, I'm doing that ass-u-me thing, and maybe it will count just newlines.


printf
(
  "H"
  "e"
  "l"
  "l"
  "o"
  " "
  "W"
  "o"
  "r"
  "l"
  "d"
)
; /*
      ******************
      ******************
      ******************

      print
      hello world
      to the console
      and stuff
      etc.

      ******************
      ******************
      ******************
*/


ugh.

Realtion (0, Offtopic)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210912)

How is this related to rights online? http://www.programers.co.nr/ [programers.co.nr]

What about code WRITING speed??? (5, Funny)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210938)

I get dibs on the patent for measuring whether programmers meet management expectations for lines of code per hour!

In fact, I think programmers should meet management expectations for keystrokes per second including backspace! I mean backspace means the programmer is correcting his mistakes!!!

Re:What about code WRITING speed??? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211084)

You only get credit for 1/2 a character [as in, type 'a', realize it should be 'b', then hit backspace, and type 'b'] when using the backspace key. You are dinged 1 character for the mistake, but you get 1/2 back for the fix.

Because you just can't be given full credit when you've just admitted to making a mistake.

Supervising engineers based on typing speed (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211384)

Some years ago I worked as an engineer for a company in Dearborn, Michigan that makes a major consumer durable good. My supervisor was a rather earnest Eastern European emigre whose affect loosely resembled the "intense" comic personna of Gilbert Godfried.

We had a PDP-10 timesharing system, and I was keying in a simulation program for a fluid-flow problem into one of those clunky Model 33 Teletype terminals. My supervisor came and stood in the door of the terminal room, cigarette between his lips (this was years before workplace smoking got chased outside), scowled, told me "you type pretty fast!, then turned and left.

My supervisor had a reputation for being rather blunt about not tolerating slacking from his engineers, but the idea that my performance rating would be based on keystroke rate had me in a funk. My coworker, who had been in the group much longer, counseled me, "No, you are not being held to a standard of typing rate. He was impressed that you could pound out code entry by 'touch typing.' He spends half the night after hours on his own projects keying in his programs using a two-finger technique."

Re:What about code WRITING speed??? (2, Funny)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211524)

I get dibs on the patent for measuring whether programmers meet management expectations for lines of code per hour!

OK but I call dibs on the patent for software that measures if managers are alienating and burning out their underlings at the specified rate. Product producing employees need a high turnover rate to keep our product "fresh" and "innovative". Do you like my new tie? It matches my BMW.

Re:What about code WRITING speed??? (1)

humphrm (18130) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211840)

I want patents on all the software released using this methodology.

Judge: "Can you prove this software is yours?"

Me: "Just look at it! It sucks! Any questions?"

Judge: "OK, Mr. Gates - Pay up."

what a stupid stupid idea (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210948)

"An inspection rate monitor with 'a pause button, a resume button, a complete button, a total lines inspected indication, and a total lines remaining to be inspected indication' keeps tabs on participants' progress and changes color when management's expectations â" measured in lines per hour â" are not being met."

Right Wally. so, you write line after line of utterly meaningless horseshit to keep your line count up, and then route the data to a place where it gets commented out... and then follow that with line after line of craptastic documentation. Copy paste the Unabomber's manifesto - whatever - as long as the line count counter keeps ticking a long.

You can probably get employee of the month for all the code you've written, and only in a few hours a day! Meanwhile, you're spending the rest of your time looking for work at a company that doesn't pull this kind of bullshit on its workers.

RS

That was my other thought (2, Funny)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211032)

Right Wally. so, you write line after line of utterly meaningless horseshit to keep your line count up, and then route the data to a place where it gets commented out... and then follow that with line after line of craptastic documentation.

Bingo, sir. Programmers are excellent at beating the system. That's our job. Figuring out systems.

You're gonna see a lot of code like this:

for(
// i holds the count
int i=0;
// The next line makes sure we count to ten
i<=10;
// This increments the count
i++)
{
// Let's do our function.
doWork();
// And close the loop.
}

Sounds like a real blast, IBM. Good thinking.

Re:That was my other thought (1)

ip_fired (730445) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211182)

Agreed. There are already too many programmers who have copy/pasted when they should have extracted the common code into something that was re-usable.

If this IBM method were implemented, I can just see it...

CTRL-C, CTRL-V

It's code reuse! It's a performance improvement! The program will be faster since it doesn't have to worry about a function call! And look, I'm at least 20 times more productive than all of the other programmers by the number of lines I check in to the source control.

Good grief.

Re:That was my other thought (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211576)

I think this method is already used by every outsourcing company in existence. They justify their existence and their cost-effectiveness to management by showing the sheer size of the program they created. Surely a program THAT big couldn't be bad, could it? Of course not! And for such great prices per line!

enum Boolean {
  True,
  False,
  FileNotFound
}

So.. this is a complex soln to documentation? (2, Funny)

RincewindTVD (1011435) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211198)

Brilliant! I'll implement this and finally all the code will be written with documentation!

Re:So.. this is a complex soln to documentation? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211446)

Thats been fixed where I work. We get evaluated on lines of code but the code counter excludes comments because, well, they don't do anything.

Ok, two questions (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211496)

If I may, of course.

First question: Excluding comments, would my example above count as 7 lines? Does my busted up for loop count for multiple lines?

Second question: You looking for another job yet? Holy crap but I can't imagine working under those conditions.

Re:So.. this is a complex soln to documentation? (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211632)

Obviously you need to write comments as strings.

"Loops over all the nodes"
for node in nodes:
    "Checks if the node is valid"
    if node.valid():
        "Prints the node if it is valid"
        print node
"End 'for node in nodes'"

Re:So.. this is a complex soln to documentation? (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212466)

Thats been fixed where I work. We get evaluated on lines of code but the code counter excludes comments because, well, they don't do anything.

Where is that? I want to know so I never work there. Comments are more important than the code (they say why), and code is best measured by its clarity and function. Too bad that doesn't work out to a single number.

Re:So.. this is a complex soln to documentation? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212520)

Excluding comments because they 'don't do anything' is equally stupid. Well-documented code is worth far more than the same code without documents.

Re:what a stupid stupid idea (5, Funny)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211076)

Someone I know was told to increase lines-of-code output by 20%, not counting comments. He immediately complied and exceeded expectations by switching to K&R style, declaring function variables on separate lines instead of inline, and placing { on a separate line.
He was ready to place semicolons on a separate line too, if management wanted even higher efficiency.

Re:what a stupid stupid idea (4, Informative)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211196)

If I am understanding this correctly, the article refers to lines inspected, not written. So this is for the quality-control guys and not the main programmers.

Re:what a stupid stupid idea (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212016)

Invite quality control guys to a code inspection and they will occassionally find coding violations that automated tools should be picking up. Thus, all they will figure out is that you aren't running static analysis tools on your code prior to the inspection.

Invite programmers to the inspection, and you'll figure out that the interface that you assume you will be using to communicate with another subsystem has actually been completely redone and that you'd better write a wrapper to fix things or else they will fail miserably during integration for some "hard to locate" reason.

So yeah... if your organization trusts "quality-control guys" to the inspection of your code, I hope to god that the software you are writing never finds its way into a product that I will need to rely on.

Re:what a stupid stupid idea (1)

chr1sb (642707) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212494)

Well, that's true but it doesn't help, because the "quality control guys" will just be other programmers (which allows all the programmers to learn from each others' good and bad practices). A "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" outcome is likely, resulting in unnecessarily long source code.

I'm struggling in fact to thing of any metric employing lines of code that is actually useful. Metrics like these are dangerous, because they tend to change what is being measured (this is especially true when the metric has no or negative value, as in this case). Measuring this will force reviewers to rush through the process, making the code review almost worthless as an activity). It will also say to the staff that management doesn't trust them to work diligently. What a wonderful work environment to have (not). This level of management monitoring is not appropriate.

It's of course always possible that IBM are looking out for the programmers of the world by taking out this patent so they can sue anyone who tries to implement this technique.

new blue screen (1)

r00b (923145) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210952)

This is used in windows 7, so when you get a blue screen of death it reads "pawn takes 34ADF24B En passant check mate."

Quality... (3, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#23210994)

claims to improve software quality by taking a chess-clock-like approach to code walkthroughs

This is one of those patents based clearly on conjecture. Seriously - is there anyone stupid enough to try it, or anyone stupid enough to work in an environment that relies on this kind of QA?

Re:Quality... (2, Interesting)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211012)

perhaps IBM is not being evil and is merely patenting this to ensure that no one will be able to use this "method".

Re:Quality... (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211706)

There's "benefit of the doubt", and there's "absurd contortions of 'logic'". I suspect that this is the latter.

Re:Quality... (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211986)

i was aiming for funny. perhaps my deadpan is a bit too good.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211118)

IBM's LE370 or was that 360 or earlier had compile options for everything - including time and a heap of other things.
What do you think real time operating systems developers have been doing since the year dot?
Gazillions of CICS monitors show long transactions live in different colors - TMON - and policy to decide what to do about such transactions/calls.
Maybe the makers of STROBE - a product that does this - just as a few DEC VMS monitors before this.
OK, plently of prior art. Now programmers, techos, engineers all see this, so I guess the novelty is showing it to management in different colors. Oh, CA-Unicentre, Tivoli, BMC Patrol already do traffic light stuff. One will need to read the fine print again, to see the special application.

Re:Quality... (1)

marxmarv (30295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211538)

I, Cringely [pbs.org] paints a picture of IBM [pbs.org] that is quite consistent with the spirit of this invention. Such a timer would increase throughput (as distinct from productivity) and generate an audit trail that "proves" a customer's code was "reviewed". What's a sleazy consultancy whose value is in paperwork and billable hours not supposed to love about this?

Re:Quality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211834)

Aircraft Engineers do.
Maybe this is why >640 Passenger Jets and rising were pulled off US routes, and oh, lets not forget the nuclear plant xrays being touched up with a black felt tip marker to inprove 'efficiency'.

Large chunks of US, Euro, and Australian Jets were sent to China for maintenance interval servicing and compliance checking ensured there would be no problems..

All was well, until, the chief certifier was found 'certifying' an impossible number of things.

US Bank mortages - one lady got efficiency star awards for 7 years straight - until forclosures were contested - and nobody knew where or who had the original that had been bought and resold too many times. Only the numbers sheet looked good - reminds one of Enron.
They found some - stuffed in the airconditioner vent.

Likey responses are "What is a walkthrough" - many just dont anymore, or you will see senior guys leave when the clammy hand of micromanagenment and 18th century work practices creep in.

Besides, HP/Mercury TestDirector have these lame stats there for yonks - prior art.

Metropolis.... (2, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211016)

This reminds me of:

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). Excellent movie BTW.

The worker at the power plant collapses during a a shift which was too long and required to many new operations demanded by a clock-like device. The power plant nearly explodes, because he can not keed up with the pace of this clock-like device.

Encourage slower pace (1)

Captain Segfault (686912) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211022)

If anything, from my limited experience with formal code inspections, the gain from a device like this would be to slow the pace through the code.

Rushing through the code tends to make us find fewer bugs per time spent-- if anything, it's better to more closely inspect a third of the code at a third of the pace and not inspect the other two-thirds at all than to inspect all of it in the same amount of time.

The issue being, we tend to want to get the inspection of the code over with; such a clock might act as a nice reminder to slow down a bit.

KLOC's (1)

Romwell (873455) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211026)

It seems like they're trying to bring good ole times when KLOC's (Kilo Lines Of Code) were the measure of programmer's productivity. Ahh, spaghetti code FTW !

Re:KLOC's (1)

Enleth (947766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23213024)

Incidentally, in Polish, "kloc" is an augmentative form for "brick" ("klocek") and, as a consequence of that, a colloquial word for a very dense and voluminous effect of defecation, the kind that tends to clog up toilets when flushing. Thus, I can't help but think about such coding techniques in the terms of the latter meaning...

Easy then to find vulnerabilities... (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211072)

Just look at any pice of code that is a bit harder to understand. It will not have been inspected well.

Lines of code as performance metric is only for those without any clue at all...

Re:Easy then to find vulnerabilities... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211194)

Lines of code as performance metric is only for those without any clue at all...
Yes. As are metrics like bugs fixed, etc. Easily gamed and it's human nature to game the system whenever possible.

Re:Easy then to find vulnerabilities... (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211410)

Very true [thedailywtf.com]

wow, this is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211252)

Now waiting for Microsoft to patent Hungarian notation, and Amazon to claim pair programming so we'll have a good excuse not to use any of them.

The summary looks like misleading flamebait to me (5, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211300)

I've only flicked through the patent application so far, but it doesn't seem very much like what the submitter makes out.

From what I can see, the implication that this has anything to do with management harassing the developers and testers is completely conjecture on the part of the slashdot submitter. The only context in which the word "manage" appears in the entire application is as part of the phrase "management tool", which to me implies that it's supposed to be entirely to help the testing and development staff. (Okay, there's one occurance which is "inspection process manager".)

I know that IBM has a famous history of having associated productivity with lines of code, but I really don't think they're being quite so dim-witted with this one. I haven't read the application in detail, but to me it looks more like someone's been developing a tool to help with code inspection. By the looks of it, it has a certain way of displaying the code, it has a method of recording noted defects and comments, and it has a feature of timing how long things are taking and how long a user is spending on certain parts of a code-base.

I can't see any direct implication in the patent application that this is primarily for management to measure staff performance to compare with pre-defined expectations. On the other hand I can see a lot of references in the patent application to the code inspector themselves using this tool to assist their work. I think it's much more likely that someone running an inspection could use such a tool to help them keep track of the most fragile parts of the code, and which areas are tying up the most of their time. If there was a deadline for inspection, it'd probably also help to highlight if you were spending far too much time in one place without having even reached other areas that might be important.

Whether it would work or be any use at all it another issue, but if it's a completely wacky idea then it wouldn't be the first that someone tried to patent. Many good patented ideas seemed silly or ridiculous before a working implementation was produced to demonstrate otherwise, but if an inventor had waited until it was clearly useful before patenting it, it'd be a lot harder.

more ideas (2, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211932)

(responding to my own post with more ideas) ...

I think it's much more likely that someone running an inspection could use such a tool to help them keep track of the most fragile parts of the code, and which areas are tying up the most of their time. If there was a deadline for inspection, it'd probably also help to highlight if you were spending far too much time in one place without having even reached other areas that might be important.

Other areas where such a tool might be useful are:

  • For a QA team coordinator to identify and map parts of the code that are more difficult to understand, because quality control staff are spending more time to look through them
  • To help track which parts of the code are most controversial (ie. subject to changes or suggestions by QA staff). Perhaps the same code keeps getting read and re-read over and over again, which might imply something about the code.
  • To identify which parts of the code QA staff really don't want to look at closely. (Perhaps they quickly move somewhere else every time they reach it, or stop the clock to go and get coffee or whatever.) It might signal a need to look more closely at the code and see why that's happening.

The Slashdot summary seems to mis-represent the chess clock idea along with everything else. If there's a case where it's actually useful to accurately know how much time you're spending on something and where you're spending it, it could be very helpful. If I had my own reasons for using such a tool, I could see every reason to hit start and stop buttons when I temporarily left what I was doing.

And yes I'm sure it could be used by a dim-witted PHB to try and measure performance of and put pressure on QA analysts. But if management wants to do that then it's a problem with them rather than what might be a potentially useful QA tool. If you have that kind of manager then you can be fairly sure they'll find ways to make your work experience unrewarding with or without such a tool.

Glad I do not work for them anymore (1)

LouisJBouchard (316266) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211314)

I am glad I do not work for them anymore. Of course, I am not surprised. IBM have been treating their workers like cattle rather than humans for some time now. This is just another indicator.

Re:Glad I do not work for them anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211494)

IBM have been treating their workers like cattle rather than humans for some time now.
Well, considering how they helped the Nazis treat the Jews like cattle, it is really no surprise.

funny you mention that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23213066)

the hebrew word 'goyim' that is used to refer to non-Jews means cattle

and the holocaust did not happen [onethirdof...ocaust.com]

-2000 Lines Of Code (4, Interesting)

theodp (442580) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211336)

After optimizing Quickdraw with a rewrite that saved around 2,000 lines of code, Bill Atkinson dutifully filled out the form Apple management used to measure software productivity, completing the lines of code part by writing in the number -2000 [folklore.org] .

Re:-2000 Lines Of Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211918)

Actually, this is a way I use to measure the productivity of programmers I am managing: The lines of code saved while still retaining functionality. The advantages are:

1. The less lines of code, there's less work to be done with code review and testing, less bugs, less bug fixing and less maintenance work.

2. Aiming for short code forces neat design.

3. However smart programmers are tricking the productivity metrics, this one is invincible - once you have removed all the nonsense from the code there's no way to shorten it further without doing real hard work on design and implementation.

My own personal experience with IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211352)

Posting as AC because I'm not a fan of burning bridges!

Myself and my friends are all graduating college and thus going through the interview process for jobs. IBM was one of the many places myself and others have interviewed at, and some of my friends have interned there in the past. From what I've seen first hand and heard directly from friends, IBM is missing a few marbles when it comes to the management of their programmers. They do have talent amongst their software engineers, but those in charge don't seem to have a clear understanding what they're doing nor who to hire. For example, hiring a Java software engineer who cant write a Hello World app in Java is probably not a smart move. The hiring managers don't know what to ask or what to look for in prospective candidates and therefor pretty much will hire anyone with a 4.0 GPA straight out of college regardless of their actual talent. Anyone with a lick of common sense knows that GPA doesn't say much about a person's actual potential ability for any given job. My own interview experience with some of their hiring managers all demonstrated the same qualities: All were for programming jobs, none of them seemed interested in my programming abilities and focused more on my character and my grades. Aside from that, my friends who have worked there in the past have told me stories about how the management of the engineers was a little bit awkward. I for one will not be working for IBM starting this summer, and not for lack of offers.

Re:My own personal experience with IBM (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211488)

Posting as AC because I'm not a fan of burning bridges!

I wouldn't worry about it. I doubt IBM interviewers read /.

Strange Brew to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23211536)

For the benefit of the court, would you please explain timed code?

Just because I don't know what it is ... doesn't mean I'm lying

3rd World Countries (1)

XST1 (824817) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211804)

I can see this idea being used overseas..... More like in a outsourced environment. Companies who outsource their programming to 3rd world countries or countries such as India where the programmers are cheap and flourish may want to use software like this. Countries like those seem to have stricter ideologies, and this may be one more method to keep workers in line. This not only provides a new way of doing QA not on the code side, but rather on the programmers themselves. I personally however, can't see something like this going through in America. Who'd want to work for a company that used one of these?? Whats next, programmer labor unions?!

awesome (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23211816)

I HOPE they deploy this at work.

I reckon i could type flat out coding in python at about 20 solid lines per minute. this tool of ibm's would make me look great, and when nothing compiles i can use it as proof i was working hard.

Re:awesome (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212530)

You could write it in Java, and pop in chunks of 2000 lines designed to write 'Hello, World.'.

IBM's Obsession With LOC (Lines of Code) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212176)

I used to work for IBM, and encountered many times management's obsession with LOC as a productivity measure. Supposedly, the more LOC your project wrote in some period of time, the more productive the project was. This lead to really bizarre behavior. For example, given the choice to write C++ code cleanly as a template that could be used over and over, or just duplicate the code with some ad-hoc changes, many would opt for the latter, since it was "more productive" in the yearly reports.

Re:IBM's Obsession With LOC (Lines of Code) (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212386)

LOC as a productivity measure.

OfficeVision sure had a hell of a lot of lines of code. That project was the biggest failure in the civilian sector ($900M spent, nothing delivered) before Microsoft blew them away with the longhorn debacle.

-jcr

Please (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212452)

Please can I patent a stroll in the park?

By Neruos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23212642)

Programming is a language, as so much an art form in itself. When you start to dictate the progress of such things, err will occur. Large, complex and deep code structures happen on an almost enlighten scale, even in the capitalist business model. Next time an artist tries to paint someone, tell them they can only paint with the color red for 3 mins and they have 20 strokes to do it in.

Increased managed development oversight is the #1 killer in productivity.

Correct me if I'm wrong... but... (1)

Admiral Justin (628358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23212870)

Doesn't YT's mother work for the Feds and not IBM?
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