Sunday, November 20, 2005

Q: What do IT managers and mothers have in common?

A: Telling either that the baby is ugly is a futility.

Well, I am doing consulting again: hired gun coder, take my mind for some money an hour.

I am four weeks into a project that has been going on for over a year. There has been lots of developer turnover. I am the eighth developer to touch the code. Of the four people on my team, nobody has worked the code base in its entirety. The project is due to ship in beta 1/1/2006.

It's an ASP.NET/C# solution under VS 2003.

The developers want to do good work. Nobody is going out of his or her way to make the code ugly. But it is. It's as if a group of well intentioned, community minded folks who knew little or nothing about the production of art decided that they wanted a mural made about a loosely defined theme but could not figure out which or how many artists to hire. So they hire a bunch and the mural becomes a hodgepodge of any artist's interpretation of the theme. Doesn't really work. I mean jeepers, a David or Rembrandt mural might have had many artists working on it. But, the artistic vision was unified under a Master. This a project is in need of a Master. Instead the patron is running the show and what do you get?

  • Marginally organized code base
  • Scrambled egg namespace organization
  • Haphazard version control using Visual Studio/Source Safe integration.
  • Lack of global architecture
  • No bug/issue management
  • Lack of feature lock
  • Development machine to production server deployment, no staging server
  • Imagining deliverable dates to assuage unreasonable deadline pressures

The list goes on....

And then toss the who Guy that wrote Coding Slave into the mix. Makes for a fun filled day.

Sorta feel bad in a way. At the beginning I tried to impose some beauty on the ugly baby by instigating broad, global changes. Turns out that my efforts were premature. The code base was too fragile for large scale change. I hurt more than I cured. As granny would say, “bad doctoring.”

Nonetheless I am still doing a honest hour's work for a fair wage. But part of me is mad at myself and at the world. I wonder, am I really doing any good? Can beauty happen while accepting ugliness? Or am I simply a self-deceiving accomplice in a Dance of Futility interested only in making some money to buy a meal?

Not that eating is bad, mind you.


Blogger rtodosic said...

Hmmm... Would having a single master and serveral lower level developers be a formula for success?

2:00 PM  

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