Issue No.02 - March/April (2007 vol.24)
Published by the IEEE Computer Society
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MS.2007.47
Greek or Roman?
I've been delighted by Robert Glass's writing for some time. I tend to agree with his position in his column "Greece vs. Rome: Two Very Different Software Cultures" (Nov./Dec. 2006). I also prefer to work "Greek" style—that is, in collaboration with a few competent, self-disciplined people. However, the larger the job (and the organization) become, the more a "Roman" style is helpful. Nevertheless, at any size, you shouldn't confuse activity with progress or let foolish consistencies hobble good works.
Paul E. Black
Computer scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology
The drudgery of maintenance
I've only recently discovered that, as Robert Glass's friend Bruce Blum notes, maintenance is zero percent fun ("Is Software Engineering Fun?" Jan./Feb. 2007).
In my first job, my coworkers and I had the "maintenance" task of rewriting a desktop application. Man, that maintenance rocked! The maintenance continued when we ported it to the Internet. I only left because I wanted more.
The next job was a government joke. I then moved on to my current job because I was an extremely inexperienced interviewer and didn't realize what maintenance work really was (although I should have perceived it during the interviews). I continually add products (which shouldn't even be a programmer's job) and fix an endless stream of bugs on a system that goes back 15 years. It can't ever be rewritten, nor can its main architecture be reworked. It's doomed to be massaged by dreary-eyed code monkeys like me until it slowly dies with our group.
This is maintenance. It's sheer drudgery. I did have fun developing an add-on system, but I doubt it will be approved. Not only do I now know what maintenance work is like, I realize more than ever that (contrary to what I had imagined before I got into the industry) a developer isn't always a developer. The gradations of development are infinite.
Now my thought is that I should become a contractor or a consultant. That way, I can avoid maintenance indefinitely. Sure, others will have to pick up where I left off and have no share in the fun, but what's that to me?