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isn't quite ashamed enough to present

jr conlin's ink stained banana

:: The Process of Process

For a while, there was a fad for software engineers to rebel against “Process”.

They hated the fact that there were rules and procedures for things and wanted the freedom to make code. They wanted to run free among the linkers and cuddle up to garbage collectors, i presume.

Yeah, i wasn’t one of those types.

You see, i also cook. i understand that a good meal generally doesn’t happen by wandering into the kitchen and seeing what happens. It involves thinking about what meals you’re going to eat up to a week ago when you’re making a grocery list. It involves setting up a clean workspace, making sure tools are ready, and performing the steps. Mind you, while there’s some “drudgery”, it’s not much, and hey, there’s meat, fire & knives, so that’s a bonus.

But yeah, one of the keys of good, actually fun, cooking is that “organization will set you free”. Having ingredients ready to go when you need them is amazing. Pinch dishes are cheap as hell and make your life so, so much better. (You can get dozens at the local Goodwill or Dollar Store for just a few bucks.)

So, yeah, it makes sense that you have some level of process for coding. You want to understand what you’re building, have the tools and tests set up, and then have check lists so you don’t forget something. Because if you don’t you ABSOLUTELY will forget something. Plus, having a checklist is one less thing to spend precious memory dealing with. Heck, pilots have lots of them, and frankly, they help them stay focused on, you know, flying.

Of course, no process is ever really finalized and all process is subject to review and updating. You should never have to fight a process, it should be smooth and nearly second nature. If a process doesn’t work, it should be changed.

Sorry, just spent some time creating some additional process in order to capture data that we were ignoring because we forgot to capture it.

Granted, getting folks to follow process is harder.

:: Trade Secrets

i like to come into work early. Occasionally, this means that i’m here when trade folk are doing repairs or otherwise making the workplace ready. It’s nice because it offers less distraction for both parties, normally.

This morning an apprentice and journeyman were inspecting some work on a segment of HVAC, and it was eye opening. The apprentice had come in the day before and done some work on a pump that was making noise, and asked the journeyman to stop by and inspect the work. The journeyman spotted a few problems, fixed an issue, and discussed things.

All the while the apprentice peppered the journeyman with questions like:
“Ok, so how did you spot that problem?”
“Was there a specific tool that could be used?”
“How would i get that tool?”
“Are there techniques that i can learn to help me spot that sort of thing?”

The journeyman gave him the answers without judgement in clear, straight-forward words. He noted that the problem was due to a confusing bit of wiring that had two similar colored links, with very different usage and admitted that it was an easy mistake to make. He offered a way to test, but noted that sometimes, “you make that mistake, so you have to come back, just make sure you schedule a follow up”.

The apprentice knew he didn’t understand, the journeyman knew he needed to teach. Even the extra stories told were all about the problem. They wrapped things up in about 10 minutes and left.

What i just witnessed was a properly done peer review/post-mortem along with a mentor program, and it made me realize something.

Computer science people absolutely suck at this.

Granted, CS has yet to become a proper trade. There’s no history of the sort of on-site training that actual tradesfolk have. In most cases, no company that is hiring an HVAC engineer or plumber will force that individual to sign an NDA requiring that they not plumb a different building the same way that they plumbed that particular building, nor am i aware of any IP restrictions on wiring a workspace, but the fundamentals should be the same. Honestly, there’s little reason why your mentor should work at the same place as you, or just be a single person. Peer reviews aren’t a pain in the ass, they’re opportunities to learn and teach, in both directions.

If you’re not critically evaluating your skills and tools every opportunity, are you really as certain that you have the best? Be proud of what you create, but be prouder of who you’ve helped. Likewise, be open to learning at every opportunity. If i was a “typical” computer nerd, i would have slapped on my headphones, lit up the laptop and tuned out the “distraction” of two workers dealing with some other problem.

And i would have missed learning something important.

Blogs of note
personal Christopher Conlin USMC memoirs of hydrogen guy rhapsodic.org Henriette's Herbal Blog
geek ultramookie

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