The ‘Do Not Disturb’ Hat?

Right. Peace at last. Inbox down to zero, nitpick forms filled in, back to the code. I’ve got the code all cached in my skull. I know every variable. Every ounce of concentration is focused on stepping through the code or working out why the result I expected didn’t happen. Now what is the best strategy to flush out that bug? Ah, I know, could it be….

‘Could I borrow that pen a moment, please?’

Wave hand airly, and dismissively. Please dear god, make him go away. Clamp the headphones over the ears. Phew. He takes the hint.

What was it? Oh yes, the test strategy, it was something odd about that error message that rang a bell. Why were there three….

Phone warbles

‘Hello. Phil Factor here.’

‘Have you a few spare minutes to go over the proposal for the change to the project spec for the MIS project ?’

‘If I was into spare minutes, Dave, I’d be working down the urgency stack until I got to the change proposal. When I get there, you’ll be the first to know. Bye’

Goddaammmit. Can’t anyone understand? A developer’s job is like no other, except a performing musician or athlete. It requires every ounce of concentration. A minute’s interruption and you’ve lost half an hour’s work, painfully gathering the threads together. Now where was I? That string in the error message should be a vital clue. There was something in the back of my mind… gone now. Never mind, just look at the wording of the trace …

Aargh! Here comes the department bore. There is always someone who hasn’t got enough to do, and hasn’t the wit to find work. He’s coming this way, with a glint in his eye. Gaze avoidance; gaze avoidance. Now I know why people have three screens. Phew, he’s veered off to the water cooler to find a kindred spirit at a loose end to talk to.

Programmers are a victim of modern architecture. There is an assumption that they work in teams like oxen pulling a plough. Open-plan offices are perfect for the modern programming team, it is thought. Open-Plan offices are, by amazing coincidence, far cheaper to build.

When I was a small lad, programmers had their own quiet offices where they could escape to do their coding work, or could even crawl into a nice quiet booth in the server room. Now we are supposed to be gregarious team-players, ready at all times to chat to passers-by, or switch our focus at the drop of a hat, respond to blooming IM messages that pop up on the screen, or answer fatuous questions shouted across the office. Yes, for set periods of time in the working day, you will find me to be the soul of modern team spirit and affability, engaging and interactive, but when I’m coding you could be a potted plant for all I care.

I phoned a chum the other day who is a famous author. His secretary answered the phone. Could I talk to Steve please?’ ‘Sorry Phil, could he please call you back, he’s meditating at the moment’. Wow. Super cool.

We are stuck in some architectural orthodoxy that says that the open plan office is the best thing for us, so we are forced to make the best of it, sadly. Surprisingly, there seems to be no sign that is universally recognized that means, ‘I wish to seem a gregarious team player who is prepared to interact at a moment’s notice, look admiringly at photos of your children, give you technical help just because it is less trouble for you than looking it up on Google, discuss what was on the telly last night, and so on, but, on the other hand, if I don’t get this module working right, all sorts of things are going to slip, so please pretend I’m not here.’ A special hat? A look of sinister malevolence? Suggestions anyone?