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Code quality and other geeky stuff

Thomas Otter, ex-SAPper, now Gartner analyst and sometimes sparring partner at the Enterprise Irregulars is undertaking a survey on privacy issues as they affect development efforts. Before anyone groans, let me emphasize this is NOT a plea to get some cheapo research done on Gartner’s behalf but an independent survey that will form part of Thomas’s PhD thesis and dissertation.That’s a considerable undertaking.

Thomas was kind enough to run the survey past me when it was in draft and I can honestly say there were some real surprises in there for me. I’m no geek in the SAP sense – though my PHP skills are coming on a treat – but I appreciate the necessity for quality in all its guises.

The US may tend to shrug at the thought of privacy, given there is the belief that Google has shattered our ability to keep things to ourselves. The same is not true in Europe and especially in Germany, Spain and France where privacy matters. In Spain for example (where I live) you rarely see the name of criminal case defendants made public in the newspapers.

James Governor has talked about the same topic, contextualising it by asserting: 

I really dislike the characterisation of software developers as low in people skills and business savvy – after all there are plenty of people with terrible interpersonal skills in management positions, and people running businesses that really don’t know what they are doing. Many developers can and do get it. They understand the business and its needs, and develop accordingly. One area however where knowledge tends to be pretty sparse, in both business and IT, is privacy.

That’s a great segway to my wanting to say something about the so-called geek v suit divide. In my How to be less stupid in 2009 post on ZDNet I said:

If you’re a geek, teach the suits something new. If you’re a suit, then understand at least some of these guys know more than you do about running a business. The geeks v suits debatehas been going on more years than I care to remember. Its time is done. Last year I spent three months or so with some super smart geeks on a wee project. It was incredibly instructive. I could often articulate half an answer to a perceived problem but it was the geeks who brought it to life. Right at the back end of the year I attended a couple of technical conferences and once again learned more from the geek side of the house. If you’re a suit, involve some geeks in business decision making. They know what sucks and where money is being wasted far better than most suits. They see it in the dumb upgrades they’ve been asked to implement.

I’ve come to the conclusion that geeks deserve way more credit than they receive. But before they go running away with inflated egos, that isn’t a license to become ********. One thing where I really think suits can help is in articulating what geeks want to say. The last few weeks I’ve received a number of emails from geeks asking me how to pick up on blog posts, how to riff and so on. There’s no big secret or magic formula. Most of it comes down to common sense with a touch of trickery.  With advance apologies for anyone who has seen this sort of thing before:

  • Imagine you are having a conversation in the real world. Use the same kind of words.
  • Add value by putting in counterpoints or expanding on what someone is saying.
  • If you strongly disagree then make that obvious through the power of your argument rather than calling the blog post writer an idiot. 
  • Never tell a writer what they’re thinking. You don’t know and it is extremely insulting. 
  • Always give the writer a sense that what they have to say is of worth. If you can’t do that then say nothing.
  • If you are going to promote something, be subtle. Check the link on my ‘wee project’ link as an example.
  • Be kind. If you’re kind then you gain instant empathy. I’m all for attacking principles but leave it there: principles above personalities is always a good mantra.

I’m not sure if readers are picking up the vibe going on here but these are all solid ways of letting a writer know that you’re prepared to give some respect. Regardless of their background. That’s what we all crave and deserve. 

The link to Thomas’s survey is here. If you care about quality and privacy, check it out. It’s worth the 10 minutes or so and will make you question things of which you may not be aware. 

Happy new year to everyone. 

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  • Dennis: “geeks asking me how to pick up on blog posts” LOL there’s a segue there, if not a segway.  I’m going to a wedding tonight; I’ll be darned if I’m wearing a suit.  Seriously, our privacy issues at work tend to be more intellectual property than anything.  Have you seen the source for the SAP kernel?  Didn’t think so.  Jim
    • @Jim – fair points. Perhaps this is an issue of which SAPpers (and those in the ecosystem) are unaware? I know that in my call with Thomas, he mentioned open source type ‘stuff’ which is becoming a significant part of the landscape.

      Enjoy the wedding.

      For the record, I don’t own a suit – I left my last one in a hotel by accident

  • Sure thing…Specially here on Peru…I’m not saying in away way, that we’re better than suits…But the fact here, is that we’re consider the last stack…And that’s a good thing…Not even being a Senior ABAP Consultant (Like myself) saves you from that…I’m sure that same thing applies to many countries, but on others, Geeks and Suits are ranked in almost the same stack…The way it should be.

    Maybe, the whole IT world need a lift…We’re all important pieces of a big engine, and collaboration is the key of success.


  • So you provided the extra prompt to complete Thomas’ survey.  Well done. Pushed me to do that too by the way. Provided a good service and a good learning experience as well if only to access how little some of us know about the topic (self included)….and probably should know.
    And traipsing through your links and getting sucked into the vortex of reading: James and his comments about developer advocacy in Redmonk, your Being less stupid in 2009 post with its corresponding links, advice, analysis.

    Your bullets here are well worth bookmarking as a reference to return to, and as you have said of Michael Krigsman’s IT Project Failures blog they should be embedded with a device because they are so valuable for all of us to review before posting here or elsewhere.

    And darn it, I now will also be listening to an hour’s worth of CRM podcast from a CRM Townhall with Paul Greenberg and Michael Krigsman which I think will be very valuable to my understanding of the history of user adoption of the CRM product.  The gist of which seems to focus on the voice of the customer in software development. 
    Don’t forget them please when discussing the geek/suit topic…privacy, quality, etc.
    The customer, their voice needs to be advocated here too.