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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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[Corion]: Meh, first round of escalations for me not wanting to fix in production what a project has mismanaged. Now another project, which eats up all the resources until end of this year wants to take that task and put it on my list of things as well.
[Corion]: So now there will be the fun of me explaining to the project that $other_project had low priority because $project has high priority. If $project picks up the task from $other_project, they also will need to reprioritize my tasks to get that done...
[Corion]: ... of course at the cost of something else on my list of tasks for $project, as there only is a finite amount of days until $deadline.

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