Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths

Subject: Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 02 Jun 2002 19:07:26 -0300

Emily Berk wrote:

Once again, I'll ask: Would you want YOUR heart surgeon to be learning to work around interruptions while operating on YOU, or would you prefer that the operating theatre be set up so that no interruptions occurred until after the operation(s) were over?

To take the analogy seriously for a moment, I'd answer: that depends on the circumstances. If I were having an operation and a power shortage occurred, or a bombing, yes, I'd want a surgeon able to work around interruptions.

Or, on a more relevant level, I wouldn't want a surgeon who concentrated on his or her part of the operation while ignoring the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and any other experts that were involved. Often, what programmers describe as "interruptions" are actually necessary interactions for the end goal.

However, I didn't bother responding to this analogy last time because, while it's dramatic, it's not relevant. Coding and tech-writing are not immediately life-threatening. Yes, mistakes may be life-threatening in the future, but there are reviews, bug checks, and QA that should catch mistakes of that magnitude.

Is it "attitude" to want to be able to concentrate, or, in certain situations, isn't common sense?

Is it common sense to want what you can't always have, or attitude?

Isn't it the managers' job to make sure that the critical work gets done, which to me means setting up the workplace so that the work environment provides a way for staff to concentrate without interruption? (Admittedly, communication with tech writers is part of the critical work, but IMO it's usually not the bulk of a programmers' work.)

Yes, the manager is supposed to see that the work gets done, and, sometimes, that involves flexibility and shielding staff from unnecessary interruptions. However,preventing interruptions isn't always possible, as your parenthetical statement admits.

Anyway, managers have to see that everybody's work gets done - not just the programmer's.Managers have to look at a larger picture than the average programmer does. As I said in the original part of this thread, I have seen programmers in managerial positions who suddenly stop believing in the absolute necessity for "the zone" when faced with the realities of meeting production schedules, satisfying investors, and other realities. I have also seen programmers mutter about interruptions, yet produce the same quality work when they had to have some as when they were completely shielded from interruptions.

I don't think anybody likes being interrupted. It's just that learning to endure a few interruptions is usually a necessary part of being on the job. That's very different from the kind of situation that you describe at length. What you describe is simply bad management, and has more to do with power games and incompetence.

Finally, I should probably say something about what I mean by "myth." I use the term in the sociological sense of a story that a group tells itself that gives the group identity. Myths can be very powerful, and very useful, but when they deviate too far from reality or necessity, they can be harmful. The myths surrounding the "zone" are useful in the sense that they give programmers a sense of being an elite, but harmful in that they can prevent cooperation with non-programmers. I suppose that programmer's myths are healthier than the widespread writers' myths about being misunderstood and underappreciated, but they still deserve a skeptical eye.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"They pout, they pose, they curl their lips,
They miss too many meals
With their implants and injections
Only God knows what is real."
-Garnet Rogers, "Where'd You Get That Little Dress?"

Free copy of ARTS PDF Tools when you register for the PDF
Conference by May 15. Leading-Edge Practices for Enterprise
& Government, June 3-5, Bethesda,MD.

Check out RoboDemo for tutorials! It makes creating full-motion software
demonstrations and other onscreen support materials easy and intuitive.
Need RoboHelp? Save $100 on RoboHelp Office in May with our mail-in rebate.
Go to
You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths: From: Emily Berk
Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths: From: Emily Berk

Previous by Author: Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths
Next by Author: Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths
Previous by Thread: Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths
Next by Thread: Re: Handling developers, "the zone" and other myths

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads