Gimli, son of Gloin, on software development

How to measure the productivity of a software developer has been an ongoing debate for years.

They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of initial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20 to 1; the ratio of debugging times over 25 to 1; of program size 5 to 1; and of program execution speed about 10 to 1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity. (Steve McConnell, Rapid Development)

Imagen de Legolas y Gimli en la peli de 1978

Gimli le explica a Legolas la vida del programador

From the number of lines of code written to assigning function points to each part of the code depending on complexity, there is a whole set of proposals out there.

Consider both points above together – your coworker codes 25 function points in one day, but they’re all simple validations (if text box “a” is not a date, throw an error…)

In the same day, you stared at the screen for six hours, whiteboarded a lot, then rewrote one line and deleted fifteen other lines, making a major part of the data processing engine faster by two orders of magnitude.

So he wrote 650 lines and 25 function points, you wrote *negative* fourteen lines of code and no new function points.

Who’s “better” ? (Joel On Software Forum)

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings,  was so kind as to take some time to explain, through the words of Gimli the dwarf, the most complex and marvellous part of a software developer’s work.

We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock.


Quotes on leading by example: Become a mirror

“How do you inspire your team to do their best?
By example. I’ve always thought to lead by example, sir.”
(Invictus, dialogue by Mandela and Pienaar)

“- What would you ask then? – the HR person wondered, not amused.
– I’d ask, ‘How will you motivate our dishwashers.-
It’s a brilliant question, and one that the large hotel chain still uses today.[…] When the dishes are stacked high, as a manager you need to roll up your sleeves and start washing them, too. (For the record, only one MBA student got the answer right during Bill’s interviews that day and he was a former military officer.)”
(The Best Job Interview Question Ever, Gostick and Elton)

Anyway, on my first day of work for the sergeant major, I didn’t know what to expect. I was sure it was going to be horrible, a suspicion that seemed to be confirmed when he took me to the officers’ bathroom and told me I would be responsible for keeping it clean. And then he said something I didn’t anticipate.
“Here’s how you clean a toilet,” he said. And he got down on his knees in front of the porcelain bowl — in his pressed-starched-spotless dress uniform — and scrubbed it with his bare hands until it shined. (My Style of Servant Leadership,, Spolsky)

It doesn’t matter how big is the company’s dress-code handbook. No matter how clear the Internet fair-use policy is, nor the rules and regulations you’re trying to implement. Your boss’s example will set the real rules for you. Your own example will set the real rules for the rest of the team.

Pick the not-so-good chair, the not-so-big screen, the old computer, the noisy place… and leave the better, bigger, newer, quieter ones for your team. If you do amazing work in spite of deficient means, if you empower your team instead of yourself, they will make the same to their co-workers and their subordinates. Don’t forget they are the people doing the real work and making the real product.

Become the mirror your people are eager to look themselves into.