Monday, November 22, 2004

Building a plane in mid-air

At a recent meeting with business users I was complaining about how they kept changing requirements. Constantly changing requirements make my code messy and I miss deadlines when I have to keep rewriting functionality. The group lead felt that I was getting frustrated and after the meeting sent a link to a funny video showing people building a plane in mid-air. It was supposed to make me feel better, but I felt worst. At a one-on-one with the group lead from London, I told him that I don't like the fact that we don't have fixed dates and requirements. He said that having timelines is good, but hard and fast deadlines lead to buggy code. I agreed; this project is my baby and I want it to be a high quality product.

This the first big project which I am building from scratch. I have designed the framework within which other developers add their modules. Since other developers on the project are not familiar with the Object Oriented Paradigm and the language we are using, I am the default decision maker. I decided the naming convention, which can be the source of contention amongst coders. At my previous company we were forced to use Hungarian and I hated it.

Another exciting aspect of this project is that users are actually going to use it. I've worked with 2 startups before where the code I wrote never saw the light of day. Since the project is user facing, it is important that I design the UI right. My manager is sending me to usability class by some UI guru my coworkers are crazy about. One realizes the importance of good design on reading books like "The Design of Everday Things." My favorite example is the discussion on the design of doors and how counterintuitive some poorly designed doors can be.

One of the reasons I joined this company was that I wanted to move away from developing User Interfacing projects. My manager hesistantly asked me if I wanted to work on the project. He said he remembered that I said in my interview that I wanted to work on the server, but I was the only one who had already worked with the technology. I readily agreed on hearing the name of the project -- Dilbert. It sounded fun and it turned out to be so. I am mostly working with Londoners and their sense of humor cracks me up. Unfortunately we had to change the name because "Dilbert" is trademarked. However, it led to a hilarious email exchange which again demonstrated the British sense of humor. Someone suggested that we should name it after Jazz, the guy who first started the project and whom I took over from, because then questions could be asked and comments made like:

"Jazz isn't working today!"
"What's up with Jazz?"
"Jazz is taking things in but not giving them out?"
"Who's been messing about with Jazz?"
"Jazz crashed overnight."
"I'm so p*ssed off with Jazz."
"Jazz says your performance is crap."
"Jaz is always wrong!"
"Jazz just isn't giving us what we need."
"Jazz is running so slowly today."
"Jazz needs an upgrade."
"Isn't it time we replaced Jazz?"
"Have you seen the new stuff we put in Jazz?"
"We keep putting digits into Jazz but nothing comes out!"
"the things we are getting from Jazz are just fantasy"

Jazz himself -

"What would we do without Jazz!"
"Sorry, but I need to play with Jazz!"

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