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Re^2: Work practices: log books, notes files...

by sundialsvc4 (Abbot)
on Apr 18, 2008 at 14:13 UTC ( #681513=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: Work practices: log books, notes files...
in thread Work practices: log books, notes files...

The next exponent is uncomfortably close now. It doesn't get any easier.

I keep a paper log, in a loose-leaf binder that sometimes contains printed pages. I don't always keep it at the workplace, preferring instead to read it in the morning and to update the latest notebook in the evening. When I write in it, I use a number-two pencil and a big fat artist's eraser. It slows me down, and I do that on-purpose.

You forget a lot of things. We all do. That's why documentation is so important. I was recently asked to unearth some code that I'd written in-preparation several months ago and to quickly put that code into service. Well, the first thing I had to do was (literally...) to find it. Then, I had to manage to understand it in only a couple of days. It was tough, but I did it.

  • “Find” it?
  • “Understand” it?
  • “In only a couple of days?”
  • It was “tough?” (Like, dude, didn't you write it?!)

Yes, of course I did write it, but when confronting that work today ... it was the work of a complete stranger. I was at-first no more equipped to deal with that code than anyone would have been who was seeing it for the first time, as I for all intents and purposes was.

Fortunately, “the person who wrote it” left lots of notes. In the version-control system there was a complete design-document, which I re-read. And there was the logbook. And finally, lots of comments in the code. These sources pointed me to other related systems that I had not at first (re-)discovered. Most assuredly I would have been floundering around for a week or more just getting my feet on the ground, and there was not “a week or more” to be had.

I don't think that any of this has anything to do with that “next exponent.” Rather, I think that a lot of us have very sloppy, very slap-dash work practices (and plenty of excuses and plenty of books to say that this sort of thing is par-for-the-course, or necessary due to the nature of the work, or even brilliant because we're all such geniuses...). And, yeah, I say “we.” A self-inclusive pronoun.

Engineers in other professions are taught and required to keep lab-notebooks. But we're not. Companies plying other professions maintain project-plans that are thousands of items long:   we attempt to substitute obstinacy.

We should know better. They do...


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