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Programming IT

The Bosses Do Everything Better (or So They Think) 469

theodp writes "Some people, writes Dave Winer, make the mistake of thinking that if the result of someone's work is easy to use, the work itself must be easy. Like the boss — or boss's boss's boss — who asks for your code so he can show you how to implement the features he wants instead of having to bother to explain things. Give the code to him, advises Winer. If he pulls it off, even poorly, at least you'll know what he was asking for. And if he fails, well, he might be more patient about explaining what exactly he wants, and perhaps even appreciate how hard your work is. Or — more likely — you may simply never hear from him again. Win-win-win. So, how do you handle an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better boss?"
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The Bosses Do Everything Better (or So They Think)

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  • by DCTech ( 2545590 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:20AM (#38661568)

    Programmers themselves really often make the mistake of thinking that everyone else's job is simple and easy and doesn't require much knowledge, or that companies should be spending more resources on programmers and IT than other departments. Best example is sales and marketing people. Programmers think it is completely unnecessary, but quite frankly, they would perform really poorly trying to do that kind of work. And I say this is a programmer-since-I-was-a-kid, but only picked up some sales and marketing skills after becoming an adult (I run my own business).

    I think I also know why programmers suck at sales and marketing people. Programmers, and geeks, quite often lack the social skills and knowledge of human psychology to succeed in it. I know I used to, and many slashdotters say they'd rather be left alone to work on code. Frankly, these are important skills. Programmers have the ability to read code, error messages and everything else that is presented to them as facts and clearly. They have the mindset of a computer, "do x, get y". What they lack is reading people and other things when it isn't presented to them in a straight, clear form. Programmers fail to see subtle hints and expressions. They need it in clear. Maybe it's a difference in brain or something. It's also why so many people with Asperger syndrome are overly fascinated by computers. They also cannot read subtly things, they need it in clear. Code, compiler messages and computers provide that.

    Which is also why I don't understand why programmers and IT usually put down other departments like sales and marketing. Maybe because they don't understand that it is actually hard work, and requires learning just like you do with programming books. Yes, some people will be good at it naturally, but majority aren't. It's the same with programmers and pretty much anything. The fact is, sales and marketing is hard work. It's especially hard to do it correctly, as it's usually the sales and marketing people that are responsible for the product gaining any users.

    You can have everything right in your product but if no one knows about it and if there's no one telling you what would your product improve on the persons work or life, then your product is almost useless. This same trend can be seen with Linux and to an extend with some Google (and other geeky companies) products. Just throwing something at wall to see if it sticks doesn't work. You need to do your research, you need to interact with your customers and most importantly, you need to provide them with something that actually fixes a need they have. "But GPL is free, and leads to code liberation" frankly doesn't cut it. Most people care about their own needs, and that does nothing about them. Sales and marketing people are good at researching, reading and telling people, from the customer point of view, that what would it fix in their lives, and it is an essential skill.

    • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:31AM (#38661610)

      Wow, you really have a thing for sales and marketing, don't you?

      Personally I have plenty of social skills (although this may not be evident when I'm ranting on Slashdot) but I've also seen enough of the insides of sales and marketing departments to know I would never want to do that job. Even as a developer I've had to implement various schemes by these people and no matter how many times they smile like used car salesmen and repeat the "Oh, it's not lying or making them want something they don't need, we're simply making them understand that they needed something they didn't know they needed" mantra I can't shake the feeling that they're basically making a living preying on others.

      I simply find both sales and marketing immoral (at least in the forms they commonly have in our society).

      • by DCTech ( 2545590 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:49AM (#38661684)

        I simply find both sales and marketing immoral (at least in the forms they commonly have in our society).

        Sales and marketing is mostly finding out what a person needs, why he needs that and how they can help the person with it. It's also making it easier for customers to buy your services or products, and letting them know such product exists (to fix a need, again). What is so immoral about that?

        I've stumbled upon many programmers who are trying to sell their products to customers but they lack total understanding of it. They want to spend time with the product, and almost loathe customers (which is shared feeling between lots of geeks and programmers). But you can't run a business like that. You need someone to take care of the customers and researching what their product can fix. "Here is the thing, maybe it does something for you" isn't really good selling point. You need to figure out and tell the customer what he would gain by buying your product or service, from the customers point of view.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:06AM (#38661778)

          If sales and marketing is about finding out what a person needs and a sales person finds out that what that person needs isn't something that they can supply, it is a rare sales and marketing person that will say so. They do exist. I speak to maybe one a year...

          I regularly field calls from sales people trying to sell me stuff I don't need. It is a waste of my time. If these people were better at their jobs they would know that what I need is not to be talking to them.... I take a particular and instant dislike to the ones who try and setup meetings to discuss 'potential opportunities'. Particularly if they arrange the meeting themselves whilst talking at me and then try and end the call without actually having me agree to it. That is the perfect way to ensure I never place an order with your company.

          • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:05AM (#38662332) Journal

            Ahh sales... how I miss it. When you have merch to sell, you can talk to ANYONE, because you have that most wonderful of things, even better than an introduction... you have a pretense. You can walk up to any pretty lady you see and start a conversation if you've got a pretense in your pocketses.

            Gets tiring running around in "ON" mode all day though.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I think you hit the nail on the head with "ON" mode. THAT is why sales is hard, or at least why it was for me. Being friendly, effusive, cheerful, and comforting all while not coming across as a greasy douche (see every other post in this thread) is exhausting.

              Imagine trying to make every single person you meet your friend (I like to do that anyway, I'm friendly) but then imagine trying to figure out if they could use your services or product while you're having your initial conversation. It actually fee

            • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:48PM (#38665966)

              You can walk up to any pretty lady you see and start a conversation if you've got a pretense in your pockets.
              Gets tiring running around in "ON" mode all day though.

              By "ON" mode, do you mean salesman mode, or the "pretense in your pocket"?
              Because, if you have the latter for longer than 4 hours, please consult a physician...

              BTW: If you have your pretense in both pockets, either "congratulations!", or "yikes!"

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:48AM (#38662600)

            Posting AC as at work.

            If you feel this way, and you produce code customers don't need, will you quit your job then as you're creating something nobody needs?

          • by grandpastackhouse ( 2036004 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:55PM (#38664588)

            If sales and marketing is about finding out what a person needs and a sales person finds out that what that person needs isn't something that they can supply, it is a rare sales and marketing person that will say so. They do exist. I speak to maybe one a year...

            This is true. I work for a company that sells and installs luxury residential electronics. Any Sales 101 that is actually effective would have you first identify any problems that your potential customer is having. If you have a product or service that can help them out, then you can identify why your product or service solves their particular problem better than other products or services they may be familiar with. Some clients are perfectly willing to hand over a bucket with $30K in it for a Kaleidescape movie server system or a Lexicon audio processor, and I have actively discouraged them from doing so because it doesn't actually help them. I would much rather put that money towards something that they actually need/want because it encourages FUTURE sales and a trusting relationship. That's why I've never really understood the "cold call." It sounds cliche but a good sales guy is more of an adviser than a pusher. If you have no interest in my advice, then that's great I don't have to waste any more of our time.

        • Not exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:53AM (#38661960)

          Sales and marketing is mostly finding out what a person needs, why he needs that and how they can help the person with it.

          Not really.

          Sales/marketing is about finding out what a customer WANTS ... and then convincing the customer that he (she) NEEDS your product to be able to get whatever they want.

          Radiate rockstar vibes all day long from the moment you hit the shower with AXE shower gel.


          You've probably seen the ads if you're in the USofA.

          I've stumbled upon many programmers who are trying to sell their products to customers but they lack total understanding of it.

          More likely they are trying to sell the product based upon the product's capabilities.

          Not by claiming that it will provide (for example) the ability to "radiate rockstar vibes all day long".

          They want to spend time with the product, and almost loathe customers (which is shared feeling between lots of geeks and programmers).

          Not really. But it gets back to the "rockstar vibes" and the radiating of such for the duration of a day. The programmer is selling a product that he (she) has a concrete understanding of. Does the customer NEED the features in the program?

          Meanwhile, the salesguy is selling the image of being a rockstar in industry X and how such a rockstar would need this program to achieve that. Whether it will actually accomplish anything like that or not.

          You need to figure out and tell the customer what he would gain by buying your product or service, from the customers point of view.

          Again, that is easy to do for the programmer.

          But that is not how marketing/sales works. See the above Axe example.

          Which is why the golf course is so often featured in the sales/marketing plan.

          • Re:Not exactly. (Score:5, Informative)

            by olau ( 314197 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:19AM (#38662082) Homepage

            Consumer-oriented sick TV ads are really only a small part of the picture, although that's what we mostly see.

            It's the same with software development. Most people only interact with a few standard consumer software systems daily (like the OS, email program), but the reality is that most programmers aren't writing that kind of systems, they're writing custom software for businesses.

          • Re:Not exactly. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:29AM (#38662490) Journal
            Meanwhile, the salesguy is selling the image of being a rockstar in industry X and how such a rockstar would need this program to achieve that. Whether it will actually accomplish anything like that or not.


            Sales and marketing does indeed have a "hard", finely-honed skillset - At self-deception. They need to convince themselves that their customer "needs" rockstar vibes, before they can convince the world of it.

            A lot of this goes back to the old stereotype of a salesman - Any Marketing 101 class will tell you on day-1 that a good salesman doesn't try to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, because Eskimos don't need refrigerators; then on day-1 of their first post-college job, these poor deluded folks learn that they have a quota for how many refrigerators they need to sell to Eskimos per week to keep their jobs.

            I know what I need, I know where to get what I need, I know how to compare similar products to find the one that will best suit my needs. I don't need phone calls, junkmail, spam, product placement, or even sales drones offering to help me once I find it unavoidable that I enter their personal domains of power (just one of many points that makes shopping online far, far less painful than going to a brick and mortar).

            You want to help me, as a marketer? Make sure your website has detailed, meaningful specs easily accessible for every product you sell. No, I don't care about your damned sales brochure. I don't want a reiteration of the selling points already listed on the box, or how your choice of palette supposedly appeals to my demographic. I care about Watts, I care about MHz, I care MPG, I care about capacities, I care about durability when gnawed on for a while by a rabid rottweiler. I don't care about "vibes", I don't care about colors, I don't care about how many other people use it (unless more people makes it more useful, such as with something like Facebook - Which I don't use), I don't care that nine out of ten dentists will take your money to admit they tried it once.
            • Re:Not exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:59PM (#38664628)

              You want to help me, as a marketer? Make sure your website has detailed, meaningful specs easily accessible for every product you sell.

              Including the price. Nothing puts me off a product more quickly than a website that has all the details except the most important one: how much the product will cost me. Want me to enter an e-mail address for a quote? Sorry, not gonna happen, so you've just lost a potential sale.

              The best book I've read on sales is called "Getting Into Your Customer's Head", and describes a selling process that recognizes your prospect's needs and knowledge of their own industry/requirements. I highly recommend it. As a business-person I never sold anything I didn't believe would make my customer's lives better, and while I didn't make a gazzillion dollars I did perfectly well and never had much trouble sleeping at night.

          • Re:Not exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TrailerTrash ( 91309 ) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:25PM (#38664266)

            Dramatic oversimplification, but that's common in armchair marketers. After all, everyone's an expert in marketing, right?

            Not so much.

            An antecedent post got it right - marketing is assessing customer needs, assessing product features, communicating how they align, and influencing product development when they don't. Examples like Axe are fine in the consumer packaged goods industry, but you don't sell corn on sexy. You don't sell industrial supplies on rockstar vibe. You don't sell ERP systems on hipster cool. You do sell iPads and shower soap that way, true; but that isn't a representative sample of the world economy.

            Sales is convincing you to buy. Very different skill set than Marketing.

            I was a programmer for years, then wrote a marketing system for my employer, who promptly moved me to Marketing to make me eat my dog food. It was great, until we were bought by new corporate overlords who gutted us for our manufacturing plants and closed us down... 25 years and several company moves later I'm a VP in Marketing in a Really Big Company. Been on both sides. And dealing with programmers is still frustrating to me as well as my peers who do not share the same background.

            Why? Because the programmers are typically condescending, do not value what their clients do, and take the fashionable mentality of "Tell us what problem you are trying to solve and WE'LL design your solution." They inevitably return with something very powerful, horribly ugly, and far too complex for our employees to use. IT departments need to do a little marketing themselves - and develop in partnership with their customers. Understand our needs, yes, but work with us on designing our solutions. An unusable power solution that doesn't get used did not solve my needs.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:57AM (#38662290)

          Food, sex or danger.
          I got into copywriting a while back and agree with mikael_j. I have to keep the reader on the page, so I want the reader to wonder:
          Can I eat it?
          Can I fuck it?
          Will it kill me?
          Open with a decent story, then present cherry picked facts about the service or product with simple language. Sales and marketing are mostly emotional manipulation. Read the 1928 book Propaganda by Edward Bernays. Madison Avenue is slithering with his disciples.

        • Granted, there are "special" people in both groups, but hanging out with the sales / marketing people is kind of like hanging out with the local IRS tax collector or local DA. Except the IRS tax collector / DA might be preferable (this is from an avowed libertarian, mind you). At least the shark has a law degree and the taxman probably is a CPA; psychopathy and pathological lying is, at worst, a learned trait for them. With sales / marketing...well, they didn't have to spend to attend a finishing school or

          • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:14AM (#38662814)
            The thing is that sales and marketing guys are not necessarily that way. However, many sales centric enterprises tend to learn to be that way.
            I will use as an example some friends of mine who are in the car business. They had learned that sales was about sticking it to the customer, so whenever their company made a lot of money, they saw it as having "pulled one over" on the customer. The classic example was where the dealership they worked for had gotten a car cheap for one reason or another and then sold the car for slightly less than its current market value. To use some numbers, let's say that a particular car had a blue book value (the blue book you have to be in the industry to get your hands on) of $13,000 but somehow the dealer had gotten their hands on for $2,000. If the dealer sold the car for $10,000, these people thought that the dealer had taken the customer. They had trouble understanding that the customer had gotten a great deal, they had gotten a $13,000 car for $10,000. If anybody had been taken, it was the person who sold the car to the dealer for $2,000 (and that is not necessarily the case because there could be reasons why someone would be getting value for selling a car for that far below the "going" price), not the customer who bought it for $3,000 less than what he would have had to pay elsewhere.
            The point here is that they were so used to the idea that they were trying to "beat" the customer that it never occured to them that both parties could win in such negotiations. I was finally able to get one of them to understand the point here. I think it has made him a better salesman as he no longer views every sales interaction about trying to "win", but instead sees it as an attempt to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement (his dollars per sale are down, but his total sales are way up).
            • So, and this is my only question here, were you still wearing your watch after explaining this to your friend? ^_^

        • Sales and marketing is mostly finding out what a person needs, why he needs that and how they can help the person with it.

          You sir, are full of shit. I've spoken with enough salespeople, on both sides of the fence, to know you have abso-fucking-lutely no interest in how much somebody needs your product. You want to sell more, so that you get more money. Period. Everything else is just a justification, but the essence of sales is deception, and like any good grifter, you will never, ever, ever break character, to the point that you start believing the hype, and even living it--right up to the point that you think you might not make the sale.

          Then, the gloves come off. I've had salespeople strongly imply that they were going to speak with my boss for not giving them sufficient consideration. I can't even count the number of salespeople that continued to try to keep me on the phone after I've made it clear that we already have something that solves our needs, and trying to convince a salesperson that you simply don't need their product at all? Hah! You might seem hard to convince to someone naive enough to believe your fake ultra-earnestness, but the truth is you know we don't need it, and you don't give a flying fuck.

          I don't expect you to break character and accept this, but now that it's no longer my job to give every stupid asshole their "due consideration", I just want you to know that although I don't let it into my voice, I take great pleasure in politely saying, "No, thank you," and hanging up while you're still sputtering about how much I need a new tape library.

          • It depends a lot on the business area I guess.

            Where I work we're all in a small part of marketing and sales. We build industrial control systems for the oil/gas industry and most of us are hardware and software people who spend large parts of our time implementing those systems...

            But more importantly we spend a rather large part of our time at a customer site installing, testing, modifying and just in general getting it absolutely 'right'.

            One of the things we make the most 'extra' money from is snagging 'va

        • by Tsingi ( 870990 )

          I simply find both sales and marketing immoral (at least in the forms they commonly have in our society).

          Sales and marketing is mostly finding out what a person needs, why he needs that and how they can help the person with it.

          That's just sales. Marketing is convincing the customer that without the product he is:
          - at risk of death
          - at risk of disease
          - harming innocent children
          - not cool
          - unpatriotic
          - not using what seven out of ten doctors are using
          - all of the above.

          They aren't the same thing.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          I simply find both sales and marketing immoral (at least in the forms they commonly have in our society).

          Sales and marketing is mostly finding out what a person needs, why he needs that and how they can help the person with it. It's also making it easier for customers to buy your services or products, and letting them know such product exists (to fix a need, again). What is so immoral about that?


          You've never worked with sales have you.

          Sales is about ignoring what a perspective client needs and convincing them to buy the product or solution that generates the most commission for the salesman.

          Marketing is about convincing people they have a need for your product or solution, a need that does not exist.

      • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:49AM (#38661690) Homepage Journal

        Well at some point when you have a product you want to make it known to people that it exists. Whether you force it down peoples throat or remain with the facts is a question of style.
        So here you don't answer the question of whether marketing/sales is an important/necessary/hard job to do -- You don't like a common style of doing it.

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:31AM (#38662496) Homepage Journal

        Well, sales is a tough job. Salesmen don't get to work with logical rules, like programmers do, or at least consistent rules, like engineers do. They have to work with customers, who are free to do things like demand something they don't really want, then not buy it after you go through the trouble of having it made.

        Being a salesman sucks. I had this epiphany when I was reading an in-flight magazine and noticed all the advertisements pitched at salesmen: nose hair trimmers, and shoe inserts that increased your height or (allegedly) your energy levels. As a salesman, you're only valued as much as your last quarter. If you're a programmer and you have a rough sprint, well, the problem was tough, so let's put some more resources on those problems. If you're a salesman who has a bad month, you're obviously not valuable, so let's cut your pay. If you want to eat you'd better pull yourself the hell up by your bootstraps.

        Still, it is possible to be a salesman with dignity and integrity; like being good at anything else, it takes brains. When my dad had a heart attack, my late, older brother dropped out of engineering school to keep the family business running. By the time my dad was ready to work again, my brother was married with a kid on the way and couldn't afford to go back to school, so he became a salesman. He was one of these guys who could make a sale to anyone, but his secret was that he knew that he had different kinds of customers. Some people wanted the best, so he sold them his "Mercedes" line. Some were pragmatists looking for value, so he'd sell them his "Honda" line. And others were cheapskates; he'd sell them his crap line, *emphasizing* what garbage it was; and they'd snap it up because they were looking for garbage.

        Of course he was a manufacturer's rep so he had the luxury of carrying three lines, one for each kind of customer. Imagine the poor bastard in your software company's sales department. He suspects your product is crap, but it's all he's got to sell. No wonder he goes out and buys a nose-hair trimmer to give himself a little confidence boost. Maybe if your work were a little better, he wouldn't be so pathetic.

        Now as for the boss asking for the code, speaking as a former software development leader if your code isn't checked into the source control system just about every day you're in deep shit with me. If you then *refuse* to give me access to the code, you're in *really* deep shit.

        What's really going on in a situation where the boss is sending you the message he can do your job better than you is an ego conflict, grounded in insecurity. A lot of guys who felt confident as coders climb the ladder to a point where they're responsible for things they don't feel so confident about. Did they send your boss to management classes so he could learn how to supervise, budget, and plan? Or did they expect him to somehow *know* how to do it because he'd seen it being done?

        Personally, as a team leader I found nothing so delightful as handing an assignment to someone and knowing they'd get it done when they said it'd be done. With some guys it was like having a wishing lamp. The work would show up on time or little early and it would be everything I could hope it would be. There were other guys who talked a good game, but delivered late and if you looked into their stuff they often *faked* getting the work done. I ran into a situation like that as a young programmer asked to take over a project that was supposedly a few weeks from completion. When I looked at the departing programmer's code, I realized that he had *hard coded the data outputs* so that he could give a carefully scripted demo.

        Now here's the funny thing. When I became a team leader I found that the wishing-lamp developers weren't reluctant to ask for my help or advice. They didn't have any problem with taking orders, but they didn't hesitate to voice any doubts they had. They weren't shy about asking for more time, although often it turned out they didn't need it. The *fakers* always told

      • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

        There are really two kinds of sales and marketing. Some are genuinely trying to make an artificial need so that they can fill it by using psychology. This is along the lines of the "sex sells" mantra and is arguably ethically dubious. There is also a lot of sales that is interested in genuinely trying to identify a need and see if you can fill it. A truly great salesman will tell someone "good luck, I don't know that we can help you, but if you ever need x, y or z, here's my number" and walk away from t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ameen.ross ( 2498000 )

      At the previous company I worked for I was the IT department. There were ~25 employees at the office and 10 shops with another 20 employees. There was more than average maintenance required for the equipment also, because of several reasons. One of them being that everything was poorly setup to begin with. I didn't even have the time to properly fix the setups (yes, multiple horribly setup systems) and I was already working overtime - unpaid.
      The marketing manager was a girl with mediocre skills, you can pro

      • by fred911 ( 83970 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:16AM (#38661838)

        "3 times my salary"

          Difference is you have a salary due to your marketing/sales department who generally don't have a SALARY.

        IE: when they don't produce (income or work for you), they don't get paid.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:42AM (#38661658)
      Anecdote, to offer validity your point; A few years ago I was asked to implement a forum by my boss as part of a website we were building. I downloaded and implemented phpBB, and everything was hunky-dory. He invited me to the sales meeting to describe the product and demonstrate how easy it is to moderate and administrate.

      I was asked how much this all cost, and I said "Well, we can't charge you for phpBB; It's free software. What you would pay is for the knowledge of setting it up and any support you require."

      Thankfully the folks laughed and asked the sales guy the same question, but his face had gone the darkest colour of red I've ever seen a person go. I wasn't there much longer :D

      I have no respect for sales staff; They are weasels barely any better than lawyers. I do, however, recognise that they make the money for the company by selling the stuff that's produced, and that they are a necessary evil which should be tolerated. Thankfully, working in the public sector, I don't have to deal with them.
    • by Mick R ( 932337 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:44AM (#38661664)

      Which is also why I don't understand why programmers and IT usually put down other departments like sales and marketing. Maybe because they don't understand that it is actually hard work, and requires learning just like you do with programming books. Yes, some people will be good at it naturally, but majority aren't. It's the same with programmers and pretty much anything. The fact is, sales and marketing is hard work. It's especially hard to do it correctly, as it's usually the sales and marketing people that are responsible for the product gaining any users.

      My personal experience and that of others I have talked to suggests that IT people, being particularly rooted in facts and logic, have little respect for people who routinely dance around pulling promises out of their backsides about products they don't understand and then expect the coders to just "sort it out" because the marketoids think they are the only ones bringing money into the business. It's also the same marketoids that get bonuses for sales that wouldn't have been possible if the coders hadn't put in huge amounts of unpaid overtime modifying production code to include ( non existent) features that the marketoids promised the customer without consulting the production team first. Sales and Marketing deserve respect? When they learn to SHOW some respect and act like team players THEN they might deserve something other than justified contempt.

      • Oh, for the love of God, won't somebody with mod points please, please, please mod up the parent for producing this most eloquent and accurate description of marketing people everywhere.
      • by ccguy ( 1116865 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:34AM (#38661906) Homepage

        It's also the same marketoids that get bonuses for sales that wouldn't have been possible if the coders hadn't put in huge amounts of unpaid overtime modifying production code to include ( non existent) features that the marketoids promised the customer without consulting the production team first.

        Well, try to see it another way:
        1) It's possible that the marketing team promised those features because it was the only way to sell the product. Your attitude seems to be going to the marketing/sales team and saying "This is what we made, go sell it, even if it's not what you could sell".
        2) How is it their fault that you do unpaid overtime? Don't do it or ask for it to be paid.

        PS. I'm a developer but I've been around. I've been in a couple of places where the software team wasn't listening about what the potential customers wanted (we were too full of ourselves to listening to sales I guess) and the places went down of course. By the way a potential customer is someone how has the money to buy the product and is able to make a purchasing decision. It's not another developer who think some feature would be cool to have for some reason.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:12AM (#38662042)

          A proper sales process involves consultation between the marketing and development teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that goals are realistic. Having salesman unilaterally make promises about features, scheduling, etc. to "seal the deal" is a largely destructive process and results in a lot of the animosity seen in these comments. It's not just the development team that suffers either; making empty promises runs a high risk of alienating your customers and having them decide to look at other vendors for products and services.

          Both the development and sales teams may see the other as a means to an end, but that's really not the case. Both sides what the same thing (make money) and its in their best interests to work together to maximize that potential.

      • by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:24AM (#38662116)
        Sales and marketing are like any other type of worker. Some are good, some are shitheads. Good ones can tell you what the customers want, what they need and even whether a design you propose will make the customers happy or not. Good ones know the product their selling, what it does, what it can't do and roughly what it could do with a little bit more work. Good ones can generally also go out and make money by persuading customers that might need your product that they need your product, without restorting to lying about functionality. Bad ones have a lot of bad ideas and make a lot of suggestions of things that could waste a lot of programmers time and not translate to sales. They also tend to tell a lot of lies and get everyone into trouble.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:46AM (#38661670) Journal

      I dont think it's that most programmers don't recognize that sales and marketing folks have a difficult job as well or that they think they could do it better. They have a different culture. Programmers don't generally have a sense of entitlement, sales and marketing people usually do. I think the way compensation is often done feeds into it. They all work on commission and they all are usually pitted against each other in some fashion with leader boards etc.

      They come to us with that same strong incentive to have it yesterday and done to their satisfaction regardless of the resources needed, few companies manage to account for those costs specifically enough to tie it back to that sales guys margin and they know it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:51AM (#38661700)

      Which is also why I don't understand why programmers and IT usually put down other departments like sales and marketing. Maybe because they don't understand that it is actually hard work, and requires learning just like you do with programming books.

      It's not because the sales and marketing people suck at sales and marketing and engineers think they can do it better. It's because the sales and marketing people promise features to the customers before they've even been proposed to engineering. Or they will demand some ridiculous feature ONLY because a competitor product has it. The fact that the feature is stupid or takes resources away from implementing real features that would add value is irrelevant to them.

      • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:53AM (#38661962) Homepage

        I think most sales and marketing people would say that "real features that would add value" is an ill-defined concept. There is the IT version of it where value is "cool idea of the week". There is also the sales-world definition : "$".

        Programmer versus sales usually boils down to that point.

        In reality, programmers hate customers. Especially the customers with the "do what I want" syndrome. Salespeople ... they're messengers with the message that programmer's worldview is radically wrong.

      • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:35AM (#38662992) Homepage

        If a sales guy has sat in five meetings, and in four of them a customer has said, "man, I wish your product had x like the Acme product," he's going to ask for that to be added in. It's "valuable" if customers want it. Not matter how stupid you find it, no matter how much you'd rather add y (which perhaps no one has asked for), the sales guy thinks he can sell more product with x.

        We're having this situation right now. Our sales department is screaming for "Enterprise Management Tools". Basically they want an integrated Nagios/syslog function put into our product. During one recent meeting one of our engineers stood up and basically told them to use Nagios and syslog. Which, from an engineering perspective was a perfectly reasonable idea.

        Of course sales felt compelled to point out that:
        1) We can't make any money telling them to use someone elses products.
        2) Most of our customers have little or no expertise in setting up and deploying complex software systems.
        3) The customers are telling us that they want this in our product like our competitors have. "You don't really want that, shut up" isn't exactly the response we want to give them.

    • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <{Jeremy.Lakeman} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:54AM (#38661718)
      The biggest gripe most programmers have with sales people is when they sell a feature that doesn't exist yet for a price that doesn't cover the cost to implement it. And somehow the sales person gets a bonus and the programmer has to work long hours and ends up with a bad performance review.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lightknight ( 213164 )

        So help a salesman from a local company become the new CIO (seriously, rewrite his resume for him, checking for spelling / grammatical errors, and cut your friends in on it, so they will vet him properly -> "Dude, this man wrote UNIX from scratch; the company needs him and his leadership!"), short the company stock (borrow against everything you own, and when you run out of collateral, see if you can't short naked), and laugh as the company burns down while you become an instant millionaire (inform your

    • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:05AM (#38661766) Homepage Journal

      Experienced programmers lose that attitude about the value of other employee's work in a company. Sure some of us laugh at the stupid shit marketing comes up with, but we also know they're just doing their job. We keep complaining about management, but we learn to speak their language and explain things in their terms if we want to succeed. Only arrogant fools keep thinking they're superior to everyone else.

      And how could it be otherwise?

      After you've spent a few years making mistakes and correcting bugs in your code, you either lose the ego that you're infallible, or you drown in a sea of egotistical misery.

      When a bug report is filed, the experienced programmer thinks "Oh shit. What did I miss."

      The junior programmer thinks "Damn users. Always complaining. They don't know how anything works."

      Nothing but experience can burn the ego out of a programmer. And either it gets burned out of your system, or you get frustrated enough to quit the industry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When a bug report is filed, the experienced programmer thinks "Oh shit. What did I miss."

        The junior programmer thinks "Damn users. Always complaining. They don't know how anything works."

        And what if your first thought is "Is this really a bug or was this intentionally designed this way? If it wasn't, should it still work as it does or should I change it?"

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:39AM (#38663032) Journal

        When a bug report is filed, the experienced programmer thinks "Oh shit. What did I miss."

        The junior programmer thinks "Damn users. Always complaining. They don't know how anything works."

        And then you see bugs like "It doesn't work" or "I get an error", without even the faintest clue included as to what doesn't work, what were they trying to do, how to reproduce whatever unspecified error was popped up at them, and so on. And then it turns out that -- I kid you not, true case -- the user had read some blog about hackers and installed some firewall on her workstation, effectively forbidding the client program from talking to the server.

        Or then there was the case of my friend who wrote a database application for some small company which shall remain unnamed to protect the idio... err... innocent. He gets a call to the effect of "this crap stopped working completely", goes there, checks the ini files, then finally has the insight to look for the database tablespace files. Missing. He asks those guys. Their answer: "Oh, that huge file? We deleted it 'cause it was taking up all the space on the machine."

        Or in the spirit of TFA, the boss who thinks he knows everything better than you anyway. So a long time ago, in a galaxy far away... err.. just a long time ago, I make a program for some guys, and let's just say that one part involved uncompressing some data using a sliding buffer. At the start, the buffer was initialized with all zeroes, and the algorithm actually depended on that. So at some point I get a phone call passed to me from their PHB, who's pretty much foaming at the mouth about how the crap just stopped working, and he's going to sue us for millions of dollars, and so on. Turned out he decided to look through the sources (which he had received as per the contract) and "optimize" it himself by removing that buffer initialization. And that was C, not Java, so no zeroing happening automatically either. When the program promptly started producing crap, instead of coming to the idea that maybe his changes made it stop working, he decided that obviously the program had been defective all along. So he calls and threatens to sue.

        Or then there's stuff like change requests disguised as bug reports, apparently as someone's idea of being "smart" and trying to not pay for the changes. Or the guy who, when asked why he did a certain thing in a certain way (which incidentally was very very stupid), breaks up into a whole rant about our stuff lacking documentation and how much it sucks that he has to do that by trial and error and generally poor little him and evil us for not giving him documentation... except actually there was ample documentation, including the very specific case of what he was trying to do, and he had been given it too. Or as a more extreme example of that, the PHB who it turned out, didn't read more than the first paragraph, because more than once he did the exact opposite of what told to do or not to do in the second paragraph of an email. And then it turned out he genuinely had no idea of anything that was in the rest of the text.

        Etc, etc, etc.

        Yes, we make bugs, yes most of us start from the assumption "what did I miss?" but a LOT of times it turns out that the user actually IS retarded. And don't get me wrong, I don't expect the user to be a Linux kernel programmer or anything. But when you hear someone ranting about how much it sucks that action X does nothing whatsoever... when he hits "Cancel" on the second page of the nicely designed GUI wizard for action X, instead of actually continuing... but it's still somehow the program's fault... well, you just have to wonder how few neurons someone can have and still not stop breathing.

      • Perhaps a lousy programmer eventually thinks "what did I miss" all the time. I know I've been coding for a long, long time and approximately 95% of the bugs that I'm informed of (in production stuff) are not bugs but functioning exactly as documented and specced.

        So my first thought: "Find the specs" as all competent programmers do. Once you've found the specs you can assess what "should" be happening and then you can start discussing what *should* be happening. They're rarely the same because users/sales/ma

    • by shic ( 309152 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:23AM (#38661868)

      While I've met a few 'programmers' whose skill set is limited - requiring everything to be laid out in black and white... far more often, I find competent programmers are also deeply insightful analysts; innovative problem solvers; dedicated, hard-working and have an eye for accuracy and an ear for honesty. While you can resort to ad-hominem when people disagree with you, such attacks don't work on machines... with fallacious argument off-the-table, those who program are forced to exercise other skills.

      I definitely respect sales and marketing - when it's done well. There's a real skill in creating a buzz about a product or service you can deliver - and in closing deals to generate revenue. However... this does not mean that anyone who associates themselves with sales or marketing is automatically above constructive criticism. A major problem for both sales and marketing is that there's a motivation to short-termism... Marketing can blame someone else if they create a buzz about a product that can never be delivered (and it's easier to get people excited about things that are impossible than the mundane...) Sales suffers from the ABC - "Always Be Closing" problem, too, where there is considerable motivation to promise anything, no matter how dishonest, to 'get the deal done' - especially when some convenient 'office politics' can lay the blame for any subsequent disaster at someone else's door.

      The underlying problem with all this is management. If sales and marketing run amock - without clear instruction to the aims of the business - they'll run the company into the ground soon enough. Similar catastrophes hang in the balance with technical staff and R&D... Executives need to both respect their staff, and take responsibility for the big picture... They need to avoid the temptation to micromanage (which leads to inevitable failure); they need to learn to draw on the experience of others - and to delegate without washing their hands of a matter. Without suitable direction, you'll end up with a ramshackle bunch of people all blaming each other as the company fails... this is not the fault of the employees - per se... or, even, of day-to-day management... but of the executive. In large corporations where failure as an executive is rewarded similarly to success, we should expect this sort of organisation-wide failure to be endemic.

    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:06AM (#38662024)
      I'll grant you that sales and marketing can be hard work. But they're a different KIND of hard work. You mention a few aspects of that yourself. So it's pretty hard to compare the two.

      And you give yourself away when you say "programmers suck at sales and marketing". Maybe that was just a Freudian slip, but it sure looks like you intend to include most programmers in that category, and really that's unjustified stereotyping.

      Take myself for example. I'm a programmer. But I like people. I like to be around people. I don't get along with everybody, but I get along with most people just fine (even, amazingly, on Slashdot). Certainly there are some exceptions. Frankly I think anyone who claims to get along with everybody is either lying or has some serious issues.

      I have done sales. I have gone out representing organizations and pressed the flesh. I have led organizations. And I have done a bit of public speaking. And I did at least okay at all these things.

      But I don't like sales and marketing. It's just not something I enjoy doing, which is completely unrelated to my ability to do it. And I have demonstrated that I can be pretty good at manipulating people, if I have to be. But I don't like doing it. So I choose to do something else. It's that simple.

      I would also like to add my support to those who have commented here, that often it is sales and marketing people who are the clueless ones in an organization, and cause everybody else a lot of grief. Not all of them, by any means, or even most. But a significant number of them.
    • by paiute ( 550198 )
      I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.
    • by n5vb ( 587569 )

      There are times when it would be helpful (or at least less harmful) for sales/marketing people to have *some* grasp of the logical/factual side of interacting with the computers they are selling and marketing. When sales people don't have at least a basic factual grasp of what they're selling, they promise everything but the kitchen sink and set unrealistic expectations that will inevitably fail to be met when the customer gets the machine home and turns it on and starts actually trying to use it. When ma

    • by Phrogman ( 80473 )

      The first computer company I worked at, I was the new guy in tech support. I spent 2 (paid) weeks learning how to use the software I would be supporting and then got toured around to the various other departments. While visiting the sales department I watched and listened as the sales guy in front of me sold a customer our top end package (several thousand bucks plus yearly support contract) by offering the customer various features that they insisted were necessary. The customer upon being told all the thi

  • really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:42AM (#38661656) Homepage Journal

    > Give the code to him, advises Winer.

    I recall a more general advice from the series: don't upset people serving your food.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:47AM (#38661672)

    As a Human Resource Manager I will tell you that this whole article merely displays the anti-authority attitude that many people in the IT field have. The author self-validates his own beliefs and cognitive biases by not only ignoring and fighting against his superiors, but by setting them up to fail. If the code (referred to in the article) were well written and commented, then the executive who took a programming course should have had no problem completing the task. Well written and structured code should be easy to modify and improve.

    I personally always find resistance from IT people when trying to get them to do something. Usually they are just too lazy and stubborn to complete tasks in a time efficient manner. When I remotely monitor their computer screens, for example, I often see 1 or 2 minutes at a time when code is not being typed into the terminal. There is no excuse for such laziness. And many of them want to be paid for "over-time" when they don't complete their tasks in a time-efficient manner. But I tell you, if they don't bother to finish their tasks in the scheduled time then they shouldn't expect to get free money by working over time.

    Many programmers in fact are socialists. I've noticed that many of them are against businesses and capitalism, as can be seen by their anti-SOPA, and pro-copyright-theft ideologies. If programmers would be smart enough then they wouldn't be programmers, they would be a boss like me telling them what to do. It's obvious that the people complaining about their superiors are just jealous.

    I guess since this is Slashdot I can expect to be moderated down because people just can't handle the truth.

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:48AM (#38661678)

    You can have everything right in your product but if no one knows about it and if there's no one telling you what would your product improve on the persons work or life, then your product is almost useless. This same trend can be seen with Linux and to an extend with some Google (and other geeky companies) products

    Chrome has issue 44106, which despite countless requests [] for an implementation, was labeled "Won't Fix".

    One developer says:

    "Commenting on this bug has absolutely no effect at all on the likelihood that we are going to reconsider."

    Then goes further to say:

    "We made the decision not to make this configurable long, long ago, even before we WontFixed this bug in comment 59 (over a year ago itself). Accordingly the bug is closed because that reflects not only our current stance but the position we've had for a very long time."

    So thus "bug" sounds like a feature! Now, talk of listening to customers.

    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:59AM (#38661742) Journal

      Chrome was designed a certain way, if you don't like the design, then don't use it. What next, you are going to file bug reports with Ford because you want only 2 wheels on your car and four is a bug?

      Why can't I file a bug with MS for making windows have the close button on the top right where I don't want it and no way to change it?

      A bug is something where something does not work as intended.

      When something is working as intended but you want it to work a different way, that is called a feature request. And yours was turned down. Google, MS and nobody else owes it to you to implement YOUR feature requests in THEIR product. If you want to dictate how a program should be designed, pay its development.

      But of course that won't wash with your sort, everyone should do everything exactly as you want it for no pay.

      Easy bet that you yourself have never done anything for anyone else ever in your entire life.

    • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:50AM (#38661952)

      It's a feature request/design change, not a bug. One that changes the layout of the browser quite considerably by shifting the tabs below the url bar; which given that's where addons and bookmarks live, may well have other impacts on the code.

      Google have decided that they don't want to implement such a design option, even if that annoys the 602 people who've starred the bug report. C'est la vie.

  • Be a swan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jholyhead ( 2505574 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @06:50AM (#38661698)
    Be like a swan paddling upstream. Graceful on the surface, but working like crazy underneath. I don't buy into the idea of embarrassing your boss by making him look stupid. Who is that going to help? Certainly not the person who made him look a fool. When it comes to promotion/pay raise time, who is going to get the bacon? The complainer who makes his superiority known, or the guy who shuts up and gets the job done without fuss?
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:17AM (#38661846)

    They assume anything they don't know how to do must be easy. Programmers are just as vulnerable to it, perhaps even more so. Many programmers suffer what what I call Smartest Motherfucker in the Universe Syndrome. They seem to feel that they are way smarter then everyone else, way better at what they do, and as such could do anything better.

    You can see it all the time on Slashdot when you see people whine about why a company won't just magically make everything secure or bug free. These people falsely assume it is easy to do and that if they were the ones in charge they could do it easily. They either falsely believe their own code to be completely bug free or more often believe that what they do is really hard, but what the other guy does is easy.

    It just seems to be a human condition for many people. When someone else is responsible, they figure it is easy to do and cannot understand why that person won't just do it.

    So that bosses have it too is unsurprising, but let's not pretend like it is just a management problem. Heck, you can see the problem manifested in the attitudes many people have towards management. They think it is easy and/or useless and they could do it better. Actually being a good manager is quite difficult and hence there are plenty of bad ones, particularly since it is a different skill from being a good worker. You can promote a good worker in to management and find them a bad manager because it is a different skill, one they aren't good at.

    • I seem to make my career as a Pseudo-manager, Normally with titles that start with Sr., Chief, Lead... You know, I find it it really depends on the person. Sometimes when they start they see my MBA degree and they assume that they are so much smarter then me at first. So I need to spend a little extra overtime and do work that they said will take them a week to do in a few hours, just to show I know my stuff, and I have been doing it for a long time. Also I will pull seniority/I am the boss card if there is
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:46AM (#38661938)

    Your boss gets to define what 'better' is, so it's a battle you can never win.

    Last project I had, I wrote 80% of my teams code, was involved in all aspects of the design and the end product was a big success as a result. What do you imagine would happen for the next version?

    a) I am empowered.
    b) I am dis-empowered.

    Yep, b), excluded from design meetings, told my input isn't wanted, and that I was exaggerating my contribution. I decided the best thing to do at that point was to leave. I could see some of the choices they'd made were train wrecks. Although I offered them alternatives that would deliver the same feature in a way that wouldn't break the product, they weren't even discussed. The meeting had already taken place, the people 'in-the-know' had made their choices and entrenched their positions.

    What did I know, only all the algorithms they would break by their bad choices. If only the people making the decisions had been the type than can understand algos, I, or one of the other programmers could explain it to them, but they weren't and we couldn't.

    I hear I am to blame for the current mess in the project. Bosses are always right, and just re-write history if needed.

    'better' is defined by you boss right up until his project is cancelled.

  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:01AM (#38662000)

    The way I see it, the human race evolved with certain abilities - but not everyone has all those abilities and inclinations to equal degrees. Thus, we have the familiar broad categories of extrovert and introvert, for instance. Everyone has seen extreme cases. Like the extrovert who can't be happy unless surrounded by people, talking, winding each other up, having relationships... always something happening. Or the introvert who hates social occasions because it's so hard to get a word in edgeways, and even then the wrong words somehow seem to pop out of your mouth so your clever pick-up line comes out as an offensive slur, or your clever joke falls flat because the timing is off. Much easier and better to stay alone reading, coding, watching moves, and maybe drop someone an email from time to time.

    Guess what? Sales and marketing people tend to be extroverts, and programmers tend to be introverts. It's not a perfect correlation, of course - there are outstanding exceptions, and some perfectly bloody people seem to be good-looking, sociable, popular, good at sports, clever, and able to accomplish huge amounts working either alone or in a team. But it seems to me that sales and marketing are merely extensions of a natural human ability that most of us have to varying degrees: the ability to persuade, to manipulate people, to make oneself liked. Most really good salespeople know the important rule that the first thing you must sell is yourself; once clients like you, they want to help you and do what you suggest, and half the battle is won. (Incidentally, politicians tend to be consummate salespeople, which is why so few of them are introverts - and those few who are don't usually get very far).

    Meanwhile, a lot of introverts end up studying and working a lot - because they don't have the urge to be partying and socialising - and become experts in relatively solitary subjects such as science, math, and programming. In the process, they learn the central importance of intellectual integrity - in other words, respect for objective truth. To an engineer building a ship or a bridge, or a programmer developing a suite of code, the facts are mostly clear, solid, and not up for debate. This is the core running gag in Dilbert: the engineers share a vast body of scientific facts and figures, which is their common heritage. In contrast, the PHB is a quintessential salesperson/manipulator. To him, it's hardly important if something is true or false; all he cares about is whether it will get him what he wants.

    Our future - if we have one - depends on developing our ability to think scientifically. That means logically, honestly, objectively, and with intellectual integrity. Everything you think you know should be open for discussion, and when someone else demonstrates that one of your opinions is wrong, you should be pleased because now you know more and you have shed a false belief. Unfortunately, clear honest objective thinking is as alien to human nature as breathing air is to the average fish. Long ago, as we know, some primitive fish scrambled out of the water and gradually gained the ability to breathe air and stay on land for longer and longer periods - and from them sprang the whole immense diversity of air-breathing life we see around us today. But even air-breathing land-living mammals still enjoy a refreshing swim (providing there aren't any man-eating sharks around). Just so, even when people have learned to think regularly, clearly, and honestly, that doesn't mean they will lose their emotions and the ability to "groom" one another and enjoy socializing. But it does mean we'll get our priorities right, and decide important issues by scientific thinking, not by crocodile-brain manipulation of other people's emotions.

  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:10AM (#38662032) Homepage Journal

    I think Winer's story extends out to a myriad of professions (mainly technical ones, but plenty of others). If an observer doesn't understand the work you do, they think it can't be too hard. Most folks overestimate their own abilities. I run a small IT company - we've got a few employees of varying skill sets but all pretty good at solving network issues. But I still regularly see clients complain about how long a task takes, or how a five-minute fix couldn't have been that hard. Car repairmen still get bitched at by people about a $200 bill to replace a tiny part.

    There are good programmers, there are great programmers, and there are assuredly mediocre programmers. But that's what they do - and they are guaranteed to know more about it than virtually any layperson. Just because your car runs does not mean you know how to build a car. If your lawyer gets you off the hook for a crime you didn't commit, does that mean you could be a lawyer?

    It takes very little skill to stock shelves in a grocery store. But a person who is doing that for a living definitely is better at that task than we are. More people need to understand this basic fact.

    Of course, then people would be convinced that they were better at understanding facts.

  • as a manager (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:17AM (#38662072)

    This solution works for me too. Hand the code over. If it's clear you know what you're doing and have covered all the angles, I'll leave you alone. But even if you do know what you're doing it often helps to get perspective from someone who isn't so close to the work. And sometimes the boss has seen a lot of stuff you haven't and can open up new approaches for the experienced coder, too, because most people only learn what they have to know to get the job done and move on, so it's possible the boss has seen things that have been outside your critical path.

    However, there are also a great many coders out there who honestly don't know their ass from their elbows and program by rote. This phenomenon has grown exponentially since the tech industry decided to outsource all work to India and China and insource H1-B's from India and China. So having a boss closely manage code development is often the only thing standing between endless spec minutiae and getting something to market.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:00AM (#38662306)

    So, how do you handle an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better boss?

    Challenge the fat fuck to a game of squash.

  • I am that boss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrthoughtful ( 466814 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:12AM (#38662372) Journal

    Well, so for me - and this is an SME - I employed people when I found myself stretched. "I can delegate", I said. I delegated. Now there are ten people doing what I used to do on my own. The company has grown, as it was the skills supply that was at shortage, not the demand.

    Most of those who have been employed were graduates trained by me, or by others in the team. Not all - certain aspects of the job grew beyond my expertise. Those aspects, I would never consider myself to be better than the experts that are hired. I know my limits.

    But maybe 80% of the workflow I can do better, faster, if I had the time. The point is that I value my team completely - they do their best, and they know that I know that. When one of them gets out of their depth in an area of my expertise (software development), I show them a few solutions. They go away - hopefully more skilled. Doing the work for them completely misses the point. They are hired in order to take the work from me. Sometimes they think that I am way too conservative. I am, sometimes, conservative.

    It's not because I am the boss, or get more money. I hired people to take on the skills that I am good in, or who can extend those skills.

  • Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

    by wygit ( 696674 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:55AM (#38663232)

    Why on Earth WOUNLD'T you give your code to your boss if he/she asked for it, no matter how offensively?
    It's a copy, for Pete's sake. What are you afraid of, that they'll print it out and scribble on it? (Well, mine might.)

  • by Panaflex ( 13191 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ognidlaivivnoc}> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:25AM (#38663574)

    Because even though I am sometimes the Boss, I am also in charge of code quality, integration with other units and long term support. I'm also a full-time coder so I fully believe in "more eyes on the code begets better code." Secondly, us programmers have a propensity to procrastinate and generally get hung up on the interesting bits, ignoring the boring bits. Having someone that can understand exactly what you're stuck on is always "a good thing." Lastly, there's immediate backup if Timmy gets hit by a bus. Sorry, but it does happen.

    It's really difficult to get developers to open up and share code... you have the "hero" guys and you also get the "afraid to be embarrassed" types as well. The faster you can get those types sharing the better your code quality will be - at least that's my experience. A code review with lunch can be a fun experience to kick that off. Giving the programmers some latitude to have their own 30 minute code review sessions with minimum management is good stuff too.

  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:31AM (#38663644) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like the boss may like to code, or may find it easier to express design in implementation than words.

    Hook him up with a rapid prototyping language like VB. (specifically even if you don't use VB) The point is that it takes a handful of minutes to flesh out a gui in the VB IDE. And that's probably the point he's trying to get across to you. It doesn't have to be functional, there doesn't have to be even a line of actual code behind any of the events or button clicks. Just the physical layout and control behavior may be what he's trying to get across to you.

    You may also want to consider him to have the viewpoint of closer to a "real user". As a coder I can state from experience that it's easy to get tunnel vision as to "how it's supposed to work" and lose some sight of "how the user wants it to work". At the end of the day your job isn't to solve any stated problem, but to give the user what they need. Not what they want. Not what they asked for. Not what you think they need. The most valuable tool for that is watching a user interact with your code. Treat the boss's request like user feedback. You almost certainly will learn something from the experience that can be applied to improving the performance of the product.

    Some of the most important changes I make to my code involve changing behavior based on watching a user deal with a problem they simply have no idea that is changeable or that any alternative exists. I've lost count of the number of conversations along the lines of "this looks like it's getting the job done but wouldn't it be easier if it xxx?" "Well ya, I suppose so.... actually that'd be great if it worked that way. You can DO that?" The boss presenting you with some ideas in gui form may work like that but in reverse, showing you some insight you never even considered. Those are gold.

    (once you've become used to a complex process it no longer stands out as something that could use improvement, this applies to both coders and users, and is most quickly identified by someone with fresh insight)

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:37AM (#38663698)

    4) The boss (barely) manages to crank out some working code. Which she/he will check through subsequent revisions of the product. Just to make sure its still there. And you'll have to maintain around it for the rest of your life.

    There's a story that went around Redmond for some time: DOS/Windows sucked because there were a few snippets of code originally written by Gates that no one dared touch until after he retired.

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:45PM (#38665272)

    I managed to be the lucky one to acquire a boss written system. I ran grep across the 200k lines of spaghetti php code, the word function did not appear once. Needless to say he got it back rather quickly as I departed. I am sure to this day he still considers himself a master at application development.

    • Heh! My first boss used to be a programmer, and one of his early programs was an important and long-lived part of the system I worked on. He admitted that it was a very large plate of spaghetti, and a PITA to maintain. I think he got himself promoted just to get away from that monster. :)

  • by Hasai ( 131313 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:02PM (#38665450)
    I had a pilot once who demanded to know EXACTLY what was wrong with his aircraft.

    So, I told him.

    After that, whenever something went wrong, he'd stay in the pilot lounge until I told him it was safe to come out.
  • by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:09PM (#38668802)

    code in assembly language. And remember the rule: NO COMMENTS. Comments are for sissies.

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