09 December, 2008

Why Programmers Should Have Private Offices.

Non-programmers don't get it: interruptions are a huge deal; it takes a lot of mental effort to load the program you're working on onto your brain.

Once you're in "the zone", you're effective and you write good code. Naturally then, having some dude from marketing stop by to ask a "quick question" is a total disaster; you have to literally unload a bunch of important information from your brain, just to listen to the marketing clown ask you for the 23rd time when the product will ship. Not cool. Not cool at all.

What non-programmers don't get is how hard it is to resume what you were working on. They don't understand that, to some extent, you have to load all the classes, variables, functions, etc. in your code right onto your memory; you have to enter the freaking Matrix, ant that's no easy task.

I'm guessing non-programmers think going back to writing code is as easy as going back to writing an email: you just read the last sentence you wrote and pick up from there. Well, it's not that simple.

Joel Spolsky has been advocating for private offices for developers well for almost a decade now. Yet there's few companies out there that give their developers such luxury. So, if you ever come across such perk, there's a good chance that's a company you want to work for.


Mike Murray said...

Oh man, would that be nice! Let me know if you come across a company that does that.

It seems like it would almost have to be a small start-up or something, where they have the luxury of renting office space with a lot of small rooms with doors and not very many people to fill them yet.

Esteban Araya said...

@Mike Murray:

I know, I've mentioned it to people a few times and they all just laugh.

Have you seen the FogCreek offices? Also, take take at look at Jeff Atwoods office at Vertigo: the man's got style!

El-Heato said...

So at one of my jobs I was the team lead of a few black box testers. They used to make fun of me because if I was writing code and they came up to ask me a question, I would miss the first 10 seconds of whatever they were saying until my brain could perform the "unload" you're talking about.

It became a running joke that whenever they saw code on my screen, they'd say may name, wait until I looked at them, count to 10-Mississippi and then start talking.

Esteban Araya said...



Were they legitimate questions? Or were they just trying to get some face time with the boss?

El-Heato said...

I wasn't even close to being even remotely important enough that you'd want to get face time with me.

They were always legitimate questions, but they were one-liners like, "Hey, I noticed X. Is it a bug?" or "What should I do with this problem here?"

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