October 21, 2008

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

Software Development Is Not "Office Work"

At some point in the last 50 years, somebody somewhere looked at a bunch of computer programmers and decided: "Aha, so it's office work!"

And ever since then we've been couped up like call centre operators, because, as far as our bosses are concerned, that's kind of sort of what we do anyway, isn't it?

I mean, we have desks. We sit on office chairs. We probably have a telephone on our desk. And a computer. Yes, that's office work alright...

Film script writers also have desks. And they also sit on chairs. And they also have telephones and computers. But guess what? Not many people call script writing "office work".

No sir. Script writing is creative work. Script writing requires real concentration. Script writing requires a muse. Nobody sticks 24 script writers in an open-plan office and expects to get The Shawshank Redemption.

We all totally understand and accept that script writers need their own dedicated work spaces. Their own offices, if you like. They need inspiration. Gourmet coffee. A view. That's why so many of them work at home. They need space. Expanse. An environment they can control.

Computer programmers, says The Man, need none of these things. You don't need your own office, with a view and gourmet coffee, to produce valuable software. No, you just need enough desk space to plonk your computer on and maybe a couple of manuals, right? Because you're just an office worker, yes?

Well, I tend to disagree. I think all our problems really started when that bright spark decided to sit John Q. Programmer next to the management accounts team. Business offices are not a suitable environment for what we do. Not at all.

A much better model would be science faculties. There should be labs and classrooms for collaborating. And every faculty member gets their own office with their own whiteboards, their own library shelves and as many computers and monitors as their work requires. Oh, and a kitchen with gourmet coffee.

I struggle to understand why cash-strapped colleges can afford to give Computer Science lecturers their own offices whilst professional programmers bringing in the big bucks have to bunk up. It's a false economy.

So whoever decided that what we do is just another kind of office work has a lot to answer for.

Posted 12 years, 7 months ago on October 21, 2008