Sunday, May 11, 2008

Right vs. Right

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of a florescent-lit cubical farm, a battle wages on. A battle that has been fought since the dawn of computer programming. A battle of..."right vs. right"?

This sums up the approach that Michael Lopp, better known as "Rands" in the blogosphere, takes to software engineering. In his book Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager, the battle he describes is one of Incrementalists vs. Completionists--those who want to get things done quickly verses those who want to get things done correctly. Both mindsets are equally "right" in Lopp's eyes. It's the balanced combination of the two that makes for a solid software team.

Lopp takes this even-handed, "ying/yang" approach throughout his book, which is mostly made up of posts from his blog, Rands in Repose. As with the incrementalists and completionlists, his characterizations of office personality types are colorful, insightful, and even-handed. In the chapter entitled Meeting Creatures, Lopp takes you on a wild safari, describing the different kinds of people you'll encounter around the conference table at work. These meetings, he describes, are a rich ecosystem made up of unique, but interdependent personalities. You never have any idea what a "Curveball Kurt" is talking about, for example, which is why you need a "Translator Tim" to help out.

In regards to writing style, each one of the short, thirty-four chapters are written in a light, conversational tone that's easy to digest. Being a collection of blog posts, it's easy to pick up and put down without getting involved like you might with a novel.

So, the book is great, but it should be noted that people may find it hard to relate to some of Lopp's stories. Lopp works in the fast-paced, high-energy Silicon Valley, where startups come and go like contestants on American Idol. This can make for some quite stressful times. He talks, for example, about The Monday Freakout which describes the deluge of yelling and screaming that comes pouring out of a project lead after a weekend spent worrying about the project. I think it's safe to say that not everyone works in an atmosphere like this. Many readers may have a job that, while engaging, doesn't keep them stressing over the weekend.

But the bottom line is that no matter where you work, if your job is somehow related to software development, you can learn something from this book. Read on! It's the "right" thing to do.

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