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Managing Software Engineers, by Philip Greenspun (



My comments in [].

What is a Cult?

Every cult can be defined as a group having all of the following five characteristics: 1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members

[for example trying to convince the 'employees' never to go home by making the office nicer than home, indirectly forbids contact with non company employees by keeping them in the office during all potentially social events, holidays outside work discouraged.]

2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society. [average people will face rejection at the whim of the employer, possibly being taken aside for special care to make them a good progammer.]

3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma. [the founder is not accountable and self appointed.]

4. It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds recruit people. [each person that leaves a 6pm should be found a project to *make* them stay. Pay is increased, goodies are given away to encourage them to stay for as long as possible. No asking if they *want* to stay. ]

5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society. [since they don't have a chance of ever getting to spend it]

All in all, Greenspuns 'ideal office' probably isn't a cult. However, it's far far too close to one to make me submit to brain washing. Sorry, I mean work for him.

-- Pete Stevens, November 7, 2000

PG writes: "Oh yes, and for the folks who've mentioned RSI... Microsoft Natural Keyboard. It is the only answer!"

Not only is that not "the only answer", suggesting that there is such an "answer" to RSI is a gross oversimplification of the problem.

Suggested reading:

-- John Siracusa, November 7, 2000

1. I disagree that an outstanding programmer is 10 times as productive as a good programmer. In my experience it is more like 16 times as productive.

2. As far as people having an inflated idea as to their value ... I just completed a round of interviewing Senior DBA candidates. It was a frustrating experience since all but one were barely qualified to be a junior DBA. For example, one candidate who demonstrated a complete lack of understanding concepts is currently making 85K. This person was out looking for a job because his present position doesn't pay enough :-(

3. As far as long hours go ... I think one responsibility of management is to go in and chase the developers out of the place at least once a week in order to protect them from burnout. Truly outstanding programmers (and engineers) are self-motivated and if they are interested minor things like working hours, good eating habits, clothing changes, and bathing tend to get lost in the shuffle.

4. Open offices can be great! One project I worked on had four developers sharing a 30 x 30 space. We each had a desk facing a wall and in the middle we had a table. This gave us the privacy we needed when doing individual work while it greatly simplified communication.

-- Jerry Gitomer, November 7, 2000