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Thread: Agile programming
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"Nate Duehr" wrote:
> There's at least one software business owner who wholeheartedly
> disagrees with the "bullpen" approach.  Have you read "Joel on
> Software"?

Yes, I've read his article, and in fact most other articles (even bought the
book). He's actually quoting Peopleware, where they argue that every
programmer must have his own "quiet" place because it takes time to get "in
the zone". Their pet peeve is PA, however -- they describe how in some
organizations the programmers would dutifully lift up their heads from their
cubicles to listen to every PA announcement.

To put it simply, I think both Joel and Peopleware are wrong on this one. If
you're working on a collaborative project, you've got to collaborate.
Agilists recommend balancing the openness and accessibility of the bullpen
approach with the privacy of cubicles. I imagine a large room, with cubicles
along the wall, and a wall that doesn't have cubicles along its length, with
a large whiteboard/"information radiators" for impromptu meetings.

We don't have this sort of environment at work, but we do communicate a lot.
The doors are always open, and there is an understanding that anyone is free
to come in and interrupt what I'm doing if they need my help, and I do the
same to other people. Seems to work OK.

BTW, Joel and I must have read a lot of the same books. :) His "how many
piano players are there ..." example from "The Guerilla Guide to
Interviewing" is straight from the "How to Hire Top Performers" book.


> I'm in "tech support" and since about 1994 have worked in "bullpen"
> environments.  I've adapted, but I dislike them.

A long time ago, I worked in tech support for a very short time
(Getronics -- maybe you've heard of them?). *Shudder*


> I'm not as productive listening to all the crap that's not my
> responsibility going on around me, so I've developed a very good
> ability to ignore everything.  Sometimes when co-workers walk up and
> just want to chat, they marvel at the fact that I don't even know (nor
> care) that they're behind me, even if they address me.   My DSP filter
> in my brain keeps them below consciousness level unless it senses that
> they are asking something work related.  It also perks me up if I hear
> similar bugs/problems to new ones I'm working coming from a nearby desk.

The software development environment is a lot different from the tech
support environment, in that you don't have customers calling you
constantly. So I imagine it would be fairly quiet, most of the time.


> But otherwise, I'd rather have a closed door and quiet.  I'd be more
> productive.  I'm ALWAYS more productive when weather or other
> circumstances have me working from (a quiet) home.

I find that I'm most productive alone, at night. It doesn't matter whether
I'm home or at work, except for the fact that at work I have access to all
necessary equipment, and a much better computer. :)


> (If my wife's
> home, my productivity goes in the toilet, unless I excuse myself and
> go to another room on another floor of the house.)

:)


> Interestingly, I started noticing how often the modular furniture is
> re-arranged and talked a bit with the facilities people about how much
> that costs to bring in electricians, re-wire the data cabling, etc.
> Not long after, I read an article that debunked the myth that modular
> furniture is "cheaper", since managers always seem to want to re-
> arrange it every year or so.  Drywall and doors and a floor plan that
> doesn't move, is actually cheaper in the long run.  I then talked
> about this with facilities and they agreed... no moves/changes would
> have saved our company tens of thousands a year...

Modular furniture is crazily expensive. Something like $5k per cubicle, it
is insane -- building a 10' wall costs about half as much. It has its uses,
however.


> The last time we had to move the modular furniture, they made it
> taller -- now we regularly see people doing dangerous and stupid
> things to talk to co-workers on the other side.  I just dial their
> extension and if they don't answer, leave a message.

We got our cubicles for free, and they're the tall variety (6'). If I had a
choice, we'd buy the shorter 4' ones. Also, after three moves and six years
in business, I think we finally figured out the perfect arrangement for an
engineering or software company, it is a short bullpen surrounded by offices
and conference rooms. We somewhat approached this ideal with our current
office, but the open space is not rectangular enough, and lots of it goes to
waste. Windows and skylights would be a nice touch. :)


> The most AWESOME piece of equipment I have is my wireless headset.  We
> all have them, they don't seem to ever interfere with one another,
> they cost over $300 a pop, and they're the best thing for a tech
> support team since sliced bread.  I will probably buy my own for work,
> if I ever leave the company, it's that useful.   Any tech support
> manager who balks when their staff asks for them because of the cost,
> should have their head examined.  I'd rather have a slower PC, or any
> number of other things taken away, before I would drop the cordless
> headset from GNI Netcom.

Hm, I think my headset cost around $150. It's about the size of a normal
Bluetooth headset, has a range of about 30', and it came with the "lifter"
that lets you pick up the receiver remotely. I'll post the
manufacturer/model number tomorrow (lest I forget :).

Vitaliy

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