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Manager's Schedule vs. Maker's Schedule

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the gtg-i-have-a-mtg dept.

Programming 274

theodp writes "Ever wonder why you and the boss don't see eye-to-eye on the importance of meetings? Paul Graham explains that there are Maker Schedules (coder) and Manager Schedules (PHB), and the two are very different. With each day neatly cut into one-hour intervals, the Manager Schedule is for bosses and is tailor-made for schmoozing. Unfortunately, it spells disaster for people who make things, like programmers and writers, who generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour, says Graham, since that's barely enough time to get started. So if you fall into the Maker camp, adds Graham, you better hope your boss is smart enough to recognize that you need long chunks of time to work in. How's that working out in your world?" Ironically enough, I have a meeting to attend in three minutes.

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274 comments

Ironic? (5, Informative)

Cap'nPedro (987782) | more than 4 years ago | (#28838867)

That's not ironic, that's just coincidental!

And that was pedantic.

Re:Ironic? (0, Troll)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839101)

I'm so glad that this was first post! Tagging !ironic.

I know it's OT, I recommend this [guardian.co.uk] well written article, and this [hanau.net] about the Alanis song. I also recall something about this from Gerorge Carlin [google.com], the king of pedantry:

Darryl Stingley, the pro football player, was paralyzed after a brutal hit by Jack Tatum. Now Darryl Stingley's son plays football, and if the son should become paralyzed while playing, it will not be ironic. It will be coincidental. If Darryl Stingley's son paralyzes someone else, that will be closer to ironic. If he paralyzes Jack Tatum's son, that will be precisely ironic.

Re:Ironic? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839229)

And this is not racist.

Why don't little black kids play in sandboxes? Because the cats keep trying to bury them!

It's not racist because it does not state that one race is inherently or genetically superior to any other. It only relies on the fact that black people have dark colored skin, a fact that is not disputed. That you get your panties in a wad when you see such a joke does not change any of this.

Re:Ironic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839839)

And even if I don't "get my panties in a wad", you sexist, you're still a douche.

Re:Ironic? (-1, Offtopic)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840125)

It is racist. The racism is in the implication that the cats mistake the little black kids for pieces of shit. You are then implying that the little black kids are shit. By comparing black people to shit, you are being derogatory based solely on their ethnic heritage or color.

A lot of jokes play on this racism. For example, a joke might be something like:

Irish Whiskey. Isn't that kind of redundant?

or perhaps:

Cheap Scotch: Isn't that kind of redundant?

By claiming that whiskey and Irish is a redundancy, I am implying that all Irish are drunks, which certainly isn't true. It puts down anyone of Irish descent by association and thus, is an example of racism. Similarly, the cheap Scotch joke is a shot against stereotypical behavior that has been associated with the Scottish. I am putting down both groups of people in order to feel better about myself. That would be racist. And yes, I know the term racism has mutated into a vague and hard to pin down concept. But the black children are shit joke is definitely racist.

Re:Ironic? (4, Insightful)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840031)

Pedantic is French for "stop making me aware of my ignorance!". Grammar snob/nazi and prescriptivist, likewise.

Don't apologize for correcting someone's error. If they are offended, that's their insecurity.

that's not ironic, theo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28838873)

/. editors clearly don't do anything.

Moderation hint: +6 redundant.

just do it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28838943)

stick it in your managers butt, he won't care after that.

thats what i do..

Block it off (3, Insightful)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 4 years ago | (#28838969)

If you need heads-down time, block it off on your calendar. That's the easiest and first thing one should do if there is open space on their calendar and they are complaining about constantly being interrupted. Of course, this doesn't help when the person interrupting you is sitting on the other side of your cube's wall....

It's called a fake 4-hour meeting (5, Insightful)

WmLGann (1143005) | more than 4 years ago | (#28838989)

...and it's the coder's best friend.

Re:It's called a fake 4-hour meeting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839809)

Why is the parent comment moderated as a troll?

It's a simple solution to the problems of having a job that requires long-period concentration when you have people that don't appreciate that.

It's probably also why the coders where I work don't have a desk phone (apart from the company being cheap). It stops needless interruptions for trite reasons, it's more difficult to get up and walk to see someone to talk to them, so they do some basic research themselves.

Re:It's called a fake 4-hour meeting (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840271)

Actually, a real 4 hour meeting is the coder's best friend, if it means that he can work 8-4 without interruption. If you can convince your boss to put the meeting either at the beginning or the end of the day, you won.

You guys use a schedule!? (-1, Troll)

Xerion (265191) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839015)

I bet you use up one of your hourly blocks reading stupid slashdot comments, not unlike this one...

What is it with meetings? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839021)

I never have understood why managers love meetings. I mean, it kills productivity, usually ends up being boring or unrelated and in general a waste of time.

Re:What is it with meetings? (4, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839075)

Well if you had thought otherwise you would be have been a manager not a maker.

Re:What is it with meetings? (5, Interesting)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839129)

Two reasons: meetings make people feel important and they look like work (without having to do real work). I have found that most information gleaned in meetings can be e-mailed or distributed in some other manner.

With that said, there is a lot that can be learned in the "important" meetings. People give away a lot of information (body language, facial expressions, etc) about certain situations that can be very valuable. That is where I find most of the value in meetings. Plus, it is a good way to build and keep team cohesiveness.

Re:What is it with meetings? (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839359)

It justifies their existence. I've worked in matrix organizations where there are four or five 'dimensions', each represented by their own chain of management. Each employs a team of drones whose only is to chase around between meetings and keep up to date on what's going on.

Start eliminating meetings and pretty soon the executives won't have any place to employ their idiot son-in-laws.

Re:What is it with meetings? (5, Insightful)

greatica (1586137) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839399)

I'm both a coder and a manager. When I first started, the meetings drove me bonkers. After wasting enough time, I decided to ditch them altogether with my boss's approval so I could finish a big project.

I learned my lesson quickly. After each meeting that I skipped, my boss would show up in my office (effectively destroying the block of time I was saving), and then he'd tell me about 5 more projects brought up in the meeting that were automatically approved. More work was actually created because I wasn't there to shoot down off-track and silly ideas in these meetings.

I started showing up at meetings pronto to "keep the company on track with IT and software projects". It was worth it to waste 8 hours a week in meetings to avoid months upon months on projects initiated by people who had no clue how technology works.

Re:What is it with meetings? (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840383)

You couldn't just put a dummy there with a voicebox repeating "No", "No way" and "We can't do that"?

Or was the one in your company already employed as a SAP programmer?

Re:What is it with meetings? (1)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840423)

I started showing up at meetings pronto to "keep the company on track with IT and software projects". It was worth it to waste 8 hours a week in meetings to avoid months upon months on projects initiated by people who had no clue how technology works.

Maybe you could just send in a Teddy Ruxpin that loops a tape of you saying "NO..."?

Re:What is it with meetings? (3, Informative)

Volda (1113105) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839457)

Many managers dont really do a dam thing other then make a schedule and watch the budget. Thats why they are so frequently in meetings so it looks as if they are being productive.

As an example my boss has meetings nearly every day, some all day meetings. She rarely comes back and talks about what was mentioned in the meetings but none of it is ever useful or changes things for the better. This has gone on for almost 8 years now.

Ive been to a few of those meetings as well and more then half of the meeting is the women talking about their family, some other pointless crap or kissing the ass of the higher up boss. The other half is them asking what did we do last meeting and asking questions that should be answered but never do because "Ill have to check on that" is the typical response. The meetings are nothing more then a waste of time.

I pretty much govern myself except when my boss feels the need to make herself look good and rushes me through a project just so she can brag about how quickly something was done...

Maybe its because I work in higher education or because 75% of the management here are women who would rather play social games with each other.

Re:What is it with meetings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839851)

You're not the only one, but just thought I'd point out that there are seem to be a lot of commenters here with a lot of faith that their bosses and/or people who know their bosses don't ever read /.

Re:What is it with meetings? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840029)

Replace the word "Manager" with the word "Parasite", and this article becomes very enlightening.

Re:What is it with meetings? (5, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840399)

Managers are usually not oriented towards your work.
They are usually acting as a worker bee for someone way above them.

Also, when I moved from programmer into management, I was amazed at the amount of sausage making that we protect the developers from.
Projects that are high priority- yet canceled without ever wasting your time.

Plus a lot of coordination and orchestration.

A good manager frees their developers to get work done and shields them from a lot of inane executive requests.

Meetings can be useful (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839963)

There are very good reasons to have meetings, and meetings can be useful when done well. Just google for stuff about "effective meetings".

You could have meetings to introduce people to each other, meetings to get information, meetings to decide on stuff, meetings for brainstorming, make important announcements - for instance if Mr CEO is going to lay off lots of staff, I feel it's rather bad form to just send an email.

The main problem with meetings is when the people involved don't know what the meeting is for- one might think it's for brainstorming, another might think it's for deciding (build a consensus on direction to go). So the meeting could go on for hours without achieving anything useful. The people involved need to know the agenda and reason for a meeting, especially the person chairing the meeting :).

Now once you get that done right, there's still room for greater efficiency.

With conventional meetings you use up Y hours of X people, though most of the actual participant "brain usage time" is only a few minutes. This is analogous to a program running for X hours of "real time" but only using 5 minutes of CPU time. Conventional meetings have the problem of wasting 2 hours of 10 people's time.

So if I were a boss, I might "encourage" my employees to use instant messaging for certain types of meetings where possible. That way I can have them in multiple meetings at the same time (bwahaha!). :)

The chatlogs could then be archived (automatically? ) to somewhere where I can quickly see what they've been up to (and for official record). I don't care if they're doing other stuff during those meetings - as long as they can still contribute usefully (I'd prefer to hire people who can read and understand things fast).

Thing is you can't have such meetings throughout the day + every day, since many things require full concentration. If people can't drive properly while chatting over the cellphone, I'm sure they can't do certain work related tasks while being in a meeting. So meeting times where possible should be restricted to certain parts of the day, or to certain days.

I doubt attending a meeting requires that much concentration, you could probably idle a fair bit even if you're in 3 "instant messaging" meetings at the same time.

You could even go for a coffee/toilet break, or take an important phone call without wasting everyone's time when you "return" (with conventional meetings there's often the repeating the past X minutes) - you just scroll up to see what you've missed. You do need to say that you've gone "AFK" though, so that the rest don't waste time trying to ask you questions that require immediate response.

Re:What is it with meetings? (1)

Bertie (87778) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840107)

Simple - it's not about doing stuff, it's about looking like you're doing stuff.

'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (3, Interesting)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839073)

...but then again, I'm a programmer.

Where I'm at now, our system of measurements is basically just "I'll get it done today or tomorrow" to "It'll be done by the end of the week." There's simply so many potential obstacles and unaccountable variables that any more precision than that is pointless.

Where I used to work, we worked on a "Point System" where 1 Point was equal to about 1 Programmer-Day, and 8 Points were equal to 8 Programmer Days. Ideally, an 8-Pointer should take one programmer 8 days to complete and two programmers 4 days to complete. Of course, that always fell through. A half-pointer (4 hours) might take me anywhere from 10 minutes to two and a half days.

Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (2, Insightful)

xs650 (741277) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839291)

"Where I used to work, we worked on a "Point System" where 1 Point was equal to about 1 Programmer-Day, and 8 Points were equal to 8 Programmer Days."

Unfortunately, in the PHB world that means that if a woman can have baby in 9 months, 9 women can have a baby in one month.

Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (0, Redundant)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839421)

How the hell am I a "Troll" for this? I can't think of _anything_ I said that could be construed as intentionally or unintentionally offensive. Boring, maybe, but Trollish? WTF?

Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (0, Redundant)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839603)

Something odd is going on, most of the early comments got modded troll.

Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (0, Redundant)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839941)

That's easy: Moderators are either (a) making stupid mistakes, (b) like modding people troll, or (c) are trolls themselves. Meta-moderation was supposed to prevent that sort of thing, but my impression has been (given some of the mods I've seen) that they aren't covering enough of the moderations to make a difference, or the trolling moderators are gaming meta-moderation.

Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840085)

That's the way it works, meta-modding gives you a somewhat increased chance of getting mod points, as does having people meta-mod the use of those mod points as being appropriate. And there's no particular penalty for mismetamodding or for skipping ones that you don't agree with. And somehow that results in trolls being given plenty of mod points, go figure.

Or course this'll probably be modded off topic for being a waste of time, which would be sort of ironic given the topic at hand.

Single biggest frustration for many coders (5, Insightful)

judolphin (1158895) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839091)

As a computer programmer with an MBA (please don't burn me at the stake -- I'm a coder, not a manager, and have no desire to be a manager), I understand both sides of the story, and it isn't pretty. Meetings are crucial, but they need to follow these general rules:

(a.) As much as possible, have a single "meeting day". This article explains why -- programming is not a "stop-and-pick-up-where-you-left-off" profession. So, in other words, as much as possible, ensure all "administrative overhead" tasks, such as meetings, are blocked together.

(b.) Meetings must be limited to information that *everyone* *needs* to know.

If you follow these rules, meetings are a Good Thing.

Problem is, no one follows those rules, because following them is much more easily said than done.

Oblig. MP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839405)

"Does he weigh as much as a duck?"

BURN HIM!!!

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (5, Insightful)

eples (239989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839417)

I'm going to lose my mod points to reply, but I wanted to add a third item to the list:



(c.) Meeting needs to have an agenda, preferably distributed in advance


This cuts down on frivolous meetings as well because there is usually a stated goal or a defined list of topics and people can come prepared.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (5, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840145)

d) Meetings need to have minutes summarizing what was discussed and what was decided. Managers tend to remember what they find it convenient to remember, not what actually happened. If necessary take notes yourself.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840295)

Also a meeting is not a place to set up the time and place for two or more meetings on the same subject. If you have to have a meeting for your next meeting, either get it done or go ahead and cancel the project.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (2, Insightful)

strimpster (1074645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839481)

I find that a lot of times managers like to feel important, so they force you to sit in a meeting where they tell you everything that they are working on and want to tell you way more than you need to know. There is nothing I hate more than being interrupted when I am developing some code to sit in a meeting, and then find out that I didn't need to be there at all and now my time was just completely wasted...

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (3, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839733)

I agree wholeheartedly, with one expansion to (b.):

Meetings must be limited to information that *everyone in the meeting* needs to know

I suppose that might be obvious to a programmer, but it's not always obvious to the PHB types ;) If the meeting is applicable to what you're doing, you should be there. If not, you shouldn't. I've seen lots of places get off-track in both directions.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839989)

Not as obvious as you may think. Managers sometimes keeps programmers in the meeting as a sanity check, What is worse wasting an hour and being board at a meeting. Or after an hour long meeting with management they come up with an idea that is impossible or difficult to program. And have to do it anyways as it has already been sold to the customer during that meeting.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840161)

Or better still, meetings be limited to people that know nothing. Then you structure layoffs by people who spent the most time in meetings first.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840011)

I'd add:

c) There should be a clear agenda ahead for the meeting ahead of time, set by the meeting organizer.

Often, meetings turn into "let's get together and bullshit for an hour about the project." Nothing that needs to be discussed with the team, no decisions or actions required as a result of the meeting. Just an hour because "we should do a status update." When we're already doing status updates via email or some other shared medium.

Re:Single biggest frustration for many coders (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840091)

As a computer programmer with an MBA (please don't burn me at the stake)

Don't worry, we already have the tar and feathers ready. ;)

What irony (-1, Troll)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839161)

Taco, you pick stories, you don't make squat.

Re:What irony (-1, Offtopic)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839429)

Seems like you're just trolling, but I was just thinking - wow, these last half dozen or so stories are all good. Not a stupid one among them, and they're all worth reading. Then I noticed that CmdrTaco picked all of them. Maybe he makes squat, or maybe he's a millionaire, but either way, it seems like he's pretty good at picking the stories... go CmdrTaco!

Re:What irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839981)

Go Go Gadget Tacos!

Meeting? (4, Funny)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839193)

Ironically enough, I have a meeting to attend in 3 minutes.

Please, oh please, tell me it's about firing your web developer!

Re:Meeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28840007)

I guarantee you that the quality of the current Slashdot website can only be attained by a team of people working in tandem to a different songsheet, not a single web developer, unless they suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

Re:Meeting? (3, Informative)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840111)

Or about buying an iphone/ipod touch for testing.

I hate starting down a good thread then

having the text start doing something

like
this

wh
l
h
R

Reply to this

Re:Meeting? (4, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840377)

Hah! You think that's bad? Try going to your user page on an iPhone wanting to find out which posts have been modded-- OH WAIT YOU CAN'T because the page flows ALL wrong and the moderation scores are obstructed by a pointless right-hand DIV you can't turn off.

Oh and just as a tip: "hover" controls, like those used to add/remove tags to posts on the Slashdot homepage, DON'T WORK ON DEVICES WITH NO MOUSE. Like an iPhone, or Tablet PC. Please, everybody, stop using these.

Thrashing is the enemy (3, Interesting)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839197)

As a lawyer I'm friends with told me years ago. That's what they call it in his industry, at least.

The time wasted switched from or back to a task you hadn't completed yet.

I agree with the article. One meeting can dramatically decrease the productivity for the whole day.

As a result I try to divide my time between all-day (or half day) tasks, and leave other days for things that take 1-2 hours a pop, including meetings.

Using the GTD (Getting Things Done) methods help organize things as well, but that's been covered many times here.

Re:Thrashing is the enemy (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839987)

We use "context switch" as the term around here. Most non-IT people seem to understand what it means, or at least pick it up quickly enough. "Thrashing" is good too, though.

My biggest problem right now is a new manager who simply doesn't get the concept.

Re:Thrashing is the enemy (1)

kumanopuusan (698669) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840313)

No, no, no. Thrashing [wikipedia.org] is what it's called in this industry. It's a dark day when lawyers are teaching geeks about operating systems and scheduling.

Stand-Up Meetings (3, Interesting)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839213)

When I was a manager running a project to go live on a large web site, I knew the developers were busy. In the final weeks I limited meetings to a single, end of the day stand-up meeting. That let people report on status and issues, but limited the negative impact on people's productivity.

Scrum (1)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839549)

Sounds like Scrum.

Re:Scrum (1)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839697)

I got the idea from reading books about Agile development methods.

Re:Scrum (1)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839761)

You're on the right track, then! Good luck w/all that. Maybe you'll become one of the good guys out there who actually make programming possible.

Re:Scrum (1)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839893)

I'm very aware of the psychological aspects of programming; ideas like flow and how long it can take to get into a flow state. Tom Demarco has done some great writing about this.

Re:Scrum (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840119)

He really has. DeMarco lives near my college, and was a guest lecturer for the semester in our Ethics course (and did a couple guest presentations in Project Management, where his books were used quite heavily). I was very impressed; he's clearly one of the smartest men I've ever met, and when I got back a paper that said "I don't agree with you at all, but you wrote an excellent paper defending it" I think it was probably the best day of my academic career.

Great dude.

A 2-hour meeting can ruin a whole day (4, Insightful)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839285)

In my experience having to go through a meeting that requires a lot of explaining and problem-solving can render me more or less useless for the rest of the day, programming-wise. In some way that I don't know how to explain the meetings eat up the very concentration that I need for programming. Perhaps it takes so much out of a programmer when you try to understand someone instead of something you can logically deduce.

I dunno. It's still a mystery to me what one meeting can do to you sometimes.

Re:A 2-hour meeting can ruin a whole day (1)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839585)

Probably one part of it is when you have to understand and explain yourself to non-technical people. It takes a lot of work sometimes to explain technical things to non-technical people. Talking to other techies is way easier.

Re:A 2-hour meeting can ruin a whole day (2, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840197)

Imagine that instead of a 2 hour meeting, it was a two hour teleconference with a horde of managers at the other end, where you were needed, but only for brief intervals, and politeness / relationship management required you to be there. Also imagine that you don't have desk phones because they interrupt the shared working area and you're a coder so you can use IM. So you have to do the teleconference in a room without a computer, just you and the telecon device.

That's a DAY killer. If that was scheduled to 2pm, you'd spend your morning dreading it, lunchtime dreading it, the meeting dying and going slightly insane, and then afterwards recovering.

You might as well turn up in the morning, say hello to the boss to show you turned up, then fuck off down the pub until 2pm, come back in a state where you can handle fools and buffoons and funny accents, and then go straight home afterwards.

And I tell you, getting a whole day's pay just for a two hour teleconference would still be being underpaid, per hour.

WHY THE FUCK ARE TWO HOUR TELECONFERENCES SCHEDULED AT 2PM. You can't do shit between 4pm and 5pm. You can't do shit between 1pm and 2pm. Too short a timespan. You might as well fill the day with other meetings (call it a 'meeting day') and never even turn on your PC. Or you could cut your throat.

And someone nicked my gameboy micro, so I don't even have that for teleconferences anymore.

i petitioned my boss a week ago (1, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839293)

to work fewer days of longer hours, emphasis on evening hours when no one else is around in the office, for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article

at the very least, thank you very much for the article slashdot/ graham, it has great propaganda value and was just forwarded to my boss 1 minute ago as a follow up petition

I know this one very well (2, Interesting)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839301)

A programmer's work is vastly different from a manager's, or anyone's where a certain amount of time gets you a predictable level of output. Hear what I'm saying? You might have already designed something in an object-oriented class tree that with slight tweaks to a subclass, meets the spec. You might encounter a strange bug that takes hours to chase down. You don't know all of that when the boss sits you down in a meeting and gives you a spec and asks you for a deadline right there on the fly. That plus micromanagement is the worst. You get jostled too often to get into any kind of groove.

The technical solution? Make your code as reusable and debugged as possible, because you'll never know when you need to write up a solution under adverse conditions.

The real solution? Explain this to your boss in a proactive way.

Anyone know a good book to recommend to the boss who's also the office schmoozehound?

Re:I know this one very well (1)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839919)

Once I would have recommended "Peopleware", but I feel like it's a little-bit dated now. I wasn't as happy w/it the last time I picked it up as I had been before. It has good ideas, but then again some of things that it is saying are better explained in books about Agile.

The bottom-line, though, is that I don't think that many managers really understand at all what it is like to do the programming work. If they have never done it theirselves, it can be very hard to get it across sometimes. Putting yourself into the position of another person who is not like you is challenging - it requires empathy, and wisdom. I'm not sure that these are the qualities that are most prevelant among those who choose to become managers.

However, the best managers who have programming experience or can actually listen to their people, well - they're worth pure gold, especially because there are so many others out there who lack these fundamental skills.

Re:I know this one very well (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840037)

If you can find a copy, DeMarco's Waltzing With Bears is an exceptional book, too. As is Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies. The dude is awesome, and his work is great.

Micro-meetings over regular ones (4, Insightful)

RabidMonkey (30447) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839323)

I find, as do others I work with, that the little one-off, "micro meetings" held around the office every day are very useful. Instead of getting the X people needed to make a decision into a scheduled room, grab them and stand in front of a white board (or whatever) in an ad-hoc fashion. Or, as we do, we all turn around in our chairs, discuss what needs doing, and get back to work in a matter of seconds/minutes, instead of scheduling a full meeting.

I feel like when a meeting is scheduled, the time leading up to the meeting is seldom useful (oh, meeting in 15 minutes, better start slowing down/not start any more work), then the time after the meeting loses some function as there is the inevitable discussion of what we talked about, the creation of minutes, followup emails, etc. On a somewhat similar note, booking a meeting for a 1/2 hour instead of an hour forces people to work faster, and cuts down some of the wasted chit chat time.

We just moved into a new office here, and it has a large number of meeting rooms, which is great. But, even better, there are quite a few "break out" areas, with chairs and a white board, but no door, and no reservations. So when you need to get a couple peoples ideas, you steal a breakout room, and whiteboard what you need. Use your mobile to take a picture of the whiteboard, erase, and move on to the next task. Plus, these meetings tend to be over quicker.

Another trick I've learned .. if you get invited to a meeting, and you don't really feel like you need to be there, just decline it. If the meeting organizer really wants you there, they'll invite you agian, or call up/email and say "oh, we'd really like you there". but it saves you from sitting through a meeting where you just zone out and waste an hour.

Overall, there is great value in meetings, but only if they are kept to the time required to resolve whatever you're there for, and only if they pertain to everyone there. It's pointless to invite 2 different groups to a meeting, so one has to listen to the other talk and be bored, then switch. Focus on goals, invite only the people who need to be there, and get back to work.

Re:Micro-meetings over regular ones (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840021)

This brings up an important point. I think part of the problem of meetings is the schedule aspect: meetings rarely end early, they usually expand to fill the allotted time. It's nice to have a time-limit, but it's unfortunate that establishing the time-limit (say, 30 min) tends to seen as a necessity. It makes sense, though, particularly in the context of TFA. If you are on a manager's schedule, it does you no good to have a meeting end 15 min early...you end up with 15 "wasted" min before your next meeting. Makers, though, are jealous of their time and want the meeting to last no longer than necessary so that hopefully, they can get their heads back in what they were doing.

Re:Micro-meetings over regular ones (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840243)

Suggestion: Get a cheap webcam and use it to snapshot the whiteboard. Better resolution.

Documenting your time (4, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839335)

Awhile back, we got a new head of our department. He decided that he needed to see how everyone used their day so he required everyone to fill out a form to track our time. I joked that my time tracker would look like this:

8:00am - 8:15am - Checked/Answered E-mail
8:15am - 8:30am - Entered time tracking for 8:00am - 8:15am
8:30am - 8:45am - Entered time tracking for 8:15am - 8:30am
8:45am - 9:00am - Entered time tracking for 8:30am - 8:45am
9:00am - 9:15am - Entered time tracking for 8:45am - 9:00am
etc.

Re:Documenting your time (5, Funny)

VAXcat (674775) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839601)

When this happend at a place I worked at long ago, I wrote an application to generate plausible sounding time log entries - worked like a charm! Once a week I updated a list of phrases it needed to keep it sounding currnet, ran it, and was done. Bosses never figured it out.

Re:Documenting your time (2, Insightful)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839647)

Its called logging your time. All consultants (or aspiring freelancers) should be able to do this. Its how you generate billable hours. And you log by task/crisis completed. Pretend you're Kirk, and you're filling in the "Captain's Log".

Re:Documenting your time (1)

Lemmeoutada Collecti (588075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840419)

So fill it out with hype and hyperbole about how the project is getting complicated, how I'm going to need to violate some regulation or rule, which other employees were kidnapped/injured/incapacitated, and which green skinned woman I will next be attempting "diplomacy" on?

Based on the historical documents, I'd say neither Kirk's nor Picard's Captian's Log would be a useful example, as neither contained real factual information...

On the other hand, they did manage to record exactly what Starfleet wanted to hear. And it did get them out of trouble a few times.

Waah waah waah, Cry me a river. (-1, Flamebait)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839419)

If there is great and consistent disparity between the team, its generally because the communication and "reality comprehension" is crippled.

If the project manager isn't a nincompoop, that's why he's creating PERT charts to map out the project's projected course. Of course there's going to be differences in estimating how long it takes to complete a task. The programmer can't always nail it down, and they're the folks writing the damn thing.

    After you complete a PERT chart, you know what the bottlenecks are, and you have milestones to determine the project progress. Even if the time estimates are out of whack, you know at what point the project is towards completion, and who are the bottlenecks.

Re:Waah waah waah, Cry me a river. (1)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839545)

Oh yeah, that's also why you force team meetings at the beginning of the day. You schedule them later, they disrupt the flow. And only idiot managers think you can schedule programmer progress by the hour.

Re:Waah waah waah, Cry me a river. (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840349)

I schedule meetings for late in the day.

I let my guys work the schedule they want but hold them to project deliverables and have regular status checkups.

I prefer iterative project management over waterfall methodology.

Left to themselves, programmers will grossly over/under estimate the time it takes for a project.
Based on this, over time I build a factor of an individual programmers over/under estimation and apply it to their estimates.
It works amazingly well.

Work should be timeboxed too. Produce a working deliverable by time "X". If some feature can't be finished in that time- then it goes to the next timebox. All "risk" features which must work for the project to work must be addressed before easy work is started.

Risks are mostly new technologies that the vendor assures you will work but may not.

I wouldn't say managers are like this (0, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839427)

I've railed on about MBA types and the guys in suits but for the most part I've never had a manager that tried to hold me to an hourly schedule. They have to have an hourly schedule to cover all the meetings and people but they don't hold the makers to it.

Moderation (1, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839439)

Anyone else notice that the first 10 or 15 comments to this story all got 'troll' mods, regardless of content? Weird.

Ep,k!? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839447)

been many, 8ot the users. This is The party in street

Same can be said for nearly any task (1)

Koreantoast (527520) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839563)

I think this applies to any trade where a discrete task or work package cannot be completed in an hour's time whether it be drafting a document, doing analysis, generating drawings, or redoing a house's plumbing. If the task at hand doesn't have a good ending criteria that can be reached within an hour's time, any significant interruption is going to increase cost as the worker has to regather their thoughts and figure out where they were.

While I like the idea of pooling meetings into a single block, this sometimes doesn't work especially when the worker support's a cross functional team. They may have program management calling meetings from one direction, functional management from another, and then their own team's huddles, peer reviews, etc.

The Curse of "Granularity" (0, Flamebait)

Karnak23 (159368) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839705)

Unfortunately, managers love the term "granularity" and have been using it as a cudgel. They've locked on to "Agile" programming and SCRUM project management as methods for driving this granularity into the development and test processes. They want tasks broken down to 15 minute increments and balk when any task takes more than a couple of hours to complete. All this so that they can achieve "visibility" and "predictability" for a given project, i.e. they get more status reports with pretty charts and graphs. I really despise the term "burn down" which springs from the whole thing as well.

Now, I may sound bitter about this but, I do understand that for all parties involved in a project, especially a large scale project; there needs to be an understanding of where team is at, where it's headed, and where the bottlenecks are located. This is not any easy problem to solve; it involves lots of guess work and dependency graphs that would make Euler weep. I suppose that's what makes it all the more irritating when managers think they have yet-another-silver-bullet for project management that they misuse causing more Maker frustration and possibly increasing the chance for failure rather than ameliorating it.

Sorry, end of rant.

Re:The Curse of "Granularity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28840193)

"locked on to "Agile" programming and SCRUM project management as methods for driving this granularity into the development and test processes. They want tasks broken down to 15 minute increments and balk when any task takes more than a couple of hours to complete"

That's absolute rubbish. Scrum doesn't say anything of the sort. At maximum it works down into singleton hours, but mostly work exists around the half day to two day mark. If it's bigger than two days, it's probably sensible to break it down so we have some idea what it involves. Most Scrum/Agile teams use Abstract relative estimating anyway. ("Story Points")

" I really despise the term "burn down" which springs from the whole thing as well."

This is because you do not know what it is. The Burndowns are used so that YOU as a member of the TEAM know where you are compared to where you should be. They are also used so the customer can know this fact. They are the simplest way of capturing this information are a intenionally used to get us away from silly management things like EVM etc.

Scrum (and Agile) are all about combining Business and Maker is a sensible reasonable way - and stopping all the aforementioned rubbish. You may be coming into contact with people who are using these terms without understanding actually what they mean. Either that or you're an idiot. Time will tell I guess!

Mod me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28839707)

Mod me troll please, or off-topic.
Thanks in advance.

Great Essay (1, Flamebait)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839931)

This is a beautiful, well-written essay. One of the best linked from Slashdot in my memory.

Rather than zoning out... (1)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 4 years ago | (#28839969)

Rather than just zoning out and trying not to fall asleep, create yourself a list of problems that you can think about and take notes on your thoughts during the meeting. Not only does it look like you are diligently writing down pertinent meeting information but, you don't break your concentration flow.

The one pre-requisite for this is that you have to have someone in the meeting who actually *does* take notes and is responsible for the minutes. If you are asked to write up the minutes after the meeting, your boss is not going to be pleased when they read:

- 8:00: Meeting started
- 8:05: Manager talked
- 9:00: Meeting ended

Special Memo To Slashdot: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28840265)

Dear Lamers:

Slashdot will close in six months. This essay by Graham is about two weeks old. This essay IS not NEWS. It might be interesting and provocative; however, as a NEWS STORY, is it is OLD.

Here is some news: U.S. Officials Meeting With HIgh-Level China Delegation. I'll let you morons run a search on this event to discover the topic for this meeting.

Yours In The Caucasus,
Kilgore Trout

Keep a list of TODO tasks of differing complexity (1)

harmonica (29841) | more than 4 years ago | (#28840403)

Sometimes, there's a slow day, and I'll have the time to tackle something more complex (the half-day or all-day tasks that were mentioned). Then there are all kinds of time slices I may have to fill, 30 minutes to lunch, the hour until a meeting, ten minutes until I have to catch the bus. I just keep a todo list with tasks ordered by estimated complexity. This includes e-mail responses, reading that article you always wanted to read, updating the internal Wiki, writing documentation, do Jira task housekeeping, checking out stuff from the repository and so on. I forget those things easily so I keep a list.

Meetings usually don't come as a surprise, and there aren't too many (good project management makes sure that is the case). Having them at the beginning or end of the day (as suggested) is the obvious thing to do. Then there are surprise items where you have to drop everything and take care of them, so it's not always the fault of meetings (don't you ever get "hot issues" from customers that support couldn't handle and that have to be solved right now?). Plus, there's multitasking. Obviously you won't stare at the screen waiting for make veryclean to finish. In a nutshell, prepare for a day that may contain unexpected tasks of uncertain lengths. If you didn't need time management until now, consider yourself lucky.

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