Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Different Minds III (Open plan disaster)

So the reason I am thinking so much about what it is like to be me these days is that I suspect that what it is like to be me is not what it is like to be some other persons I could mention.

And this all starts when I am working for a very nice bunch of guys who have an open plan office.

And when we are doing the initial dance, I have noticed that they have an open plan office, and I say "I hate and fear open plan offices, because I can get very little work done, and it is no fun, and I get angry and guilty and begin to hate life itself and then I resign."

But they are all: "Do not worry, it is as quiet as the grave in here, and we have lots of space for very few people, and we are very aware of the problem of noise for engineers, and we will make sure that it stays quiet. And anyway we are going to take over another floor of the building soon and then we will all be lost like dust specks in the vastness of intergalactic space."

And you cannot say fairer than that, so I take the job. Although being of a suspicious cast of mind I make sure that the contract specifies one hour's notice on either side and no hard feelings.

And indeed everything is very nice for a while.

But this company is being funded by the sort of venture capitalists who have more money than sense, and there are always new projects to start, and always new money to hire with, and the new-floor-taking-over does not go so well, and six months later we are crammed in so close that even though everyone is making an effort not to disturb anyone else, there is always someone nearby talking, and so I can't think any more.

Because computer programming is very hard. You need to remember so many things at once that it is not true. A lot of what is called 'software engineering' is in fact clever techniques for making the complexity go away by establishing standard patterns that are easier to remember. But of course once you have those techniques, you can hold more complexity in your head at once, so you do. The point is not only to use the new tools to do the old things more easily. The point is to do better things with the new tools.

The day to day experience of my job is like trying to remember very long telephone numbers whilst doing crosswords and playing chess.

I am not moaning. This is my favourite thing to do. I like it when my brain is working. But I cannot do it when other people are talking. Because they are using the bits of my brain that I need to use to talk to myself with!

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