If programmers were builders  

Yury Nesterenko

Translation: Tania Samsonova, 2015

Translator’s note: this is an old joke which is still very true and extremely funny. I would call it a sad tale that shows the importance of requirements elicitation and management.

1.03. Hooray! We snatched a big contract for the construction of a 12-storey residential building. The team is bubbling with enthusiasm. Polished off two cases of beer to celebrate.

2.03. The customer doesn’t like the expression “as soon as we get around to it”. He demands that we specify the exact dates. He’s a philistine and knows nothing about high technology.

3.03. We discussed the deadlines. Polished off three cases of beer in the process. Petrovich said that this amount of work can be done in 4 months easily. Therefore, actually it will be 8. Finally, we put 12 months in the contract, even though we can barely manage it in 16 months.

6.03. Petrovich collected all the bottles and took them to the store to get the deposit back.

8.03. We celebrated International Women’s Day. There are no women in our company, so nobody interfered with the celebrations.

2.04. Petrovich says that it’s time to start working. Is it a conspiracy? We built a fence around the construction site and decorated it with beautiful posters saying “Construction by AllBuild (www.allbuild.ru)”. Then, with a warm feeling of accomplishment, we went off to play Quake.

20.04. The customer came over and inquired about how things were going. We taught him to play Quake and allowed him to beat us all.

21.04. We held a meeting to discuss the project. Sidorov suggests we use modular architecture and build using ready-made panels. Petrovich insists that everything must be built in the good old way, using brick, not like how lamers do it. The most radically innovative project was proposed by Alex: build a few dozen wooden huts and then connect them with underground tunnels. This is the latest trend. I reminded him that the customer wants a 12-storey building. They tried to resolve the dispute by having a Quake duel. Alex with his huts was offed at once, but Petrovich and Sidorov came even. In the end, we decided that everyone will build according to his own plan and then we’ll try to put it all together in such a way that it does not collapse.

30.04. The first floor is ready! We showed it to the customer. He was surprised that different rooms have different ceiling heights, some bricks fall out of the walls, and there is no entrance to the building so one has to climb through a window. We explained to him that these are the special limitations of a demo version. We left for the Easter holidays, being proud of ourselves.

10.05. Petrovich was the first to sober up and then he started swearing and he kept swearing for a very long time. We thought he was angry that Alex had drank all the beer. It turned out that the situation is much worse: we’ve forgotten about the foundation. Of course it was described in the project specifications, but surely only lamers read them.

11.05. We had to demolish the first floor. It’s a crying shame.

11.07. The construction is under way. Petrovich is close to completion of the second floor, Sidorov of the fifth. Alex has built an elevator well all the way up to the ninth floor, and in a strong wind it swings dangerously. We put wooden props around it for now.

17.07. Alex is building the attic and the roof. On the ground. Then we’ll lift them and put them in place with a crane.

13.08. Sidorov is unable to join the panels. The gap is more than a meter wide. Sidorov called Petrovich for help, but Petrovich said that he is busy up to his ears with his own work, and anyway without the knowledge of the internal architecture it is impossible to do anything with the panels.

14.08. We hacked several panels so Petrovich could study the internal architecture. Petrovich swears and yells that the panels were manufactured by total lamers.

17.08. Petrovich plugged up the gap. As a result, the panels are all askew, but that’s a very minor problem. We had to bring the wiring of the panels to the outside and tie the wires into a knot. Petrovich covered the knot with duct tape and assured us it will work if there isn’t rain.

1.09. A new version of the panels was released! The manufacturer has enhanced the strength and insulation, and the new panels also have prebuilt walk-in closets. However, they are not compatible with the previous version in shape or size and they are also three times heavier. Looks like those panel designers don’t know anything about internal architecture whatsoever.

16.09. Alex is obsessed with an idea. He suggests that we make all the windows in the building resizable. He says the customer will be enthralled. We told him to stop showing off.

2.10. Petrovich got as far as the fifth floor. He is very proud of himself. We drew his attention to the fact that his wall is inclined at an angle of 40 degrees. He swore and shouted that we are lamers who know nothing. Then he promised to think about it.

3.10. The customer came over. He asked why the wall is inclined at an angle of 40 degrees. We told him about the Coriolis force. He listened, then said that he, of course, does not know anything about the construction business, but there is an altogether identical building next to ours and its wall stands straight. Damn. Then this idiot Alex blabbed about his resizable windows. The customer, of course, was enthralled and insisted that we implement them. Double damn.

4.10. We asked Alex whether it will be necessary to demolish the entire building to implement his windows. He says that no, the standard panels have such an undocumented feature too.

5.10. Petrovich admitted that there is really something wrong with the wall. He says that a specific brick was installed incorrectly. But to understand which one, exactly, we’ll have to go through them all. It’s much easier to demolish everything and to build from scratch.

6.10. We tried to persuade Petrovich that we don’t have time to build everything anew from bricks. We showed him the calculations on a calculator. Petrovich cursed us and shouted that the calculator was invented by lamers. Eventually he agreed to build using panels and left to drown his sorrows in booze.

8.10. We demolished the part built of bricks. Along the way, we have damaged the part made of panels. The whole building creaks and wobbles alarmingly. We reinforced it with wooden props and left to play Quake.

17.10. Petrovich came back from his drinking binge. The construction is under way.

7.11. We celebrated the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, or whatever they call it now. There are no communists in our company, so nobody interfered with the celebrations.

15.11. We suddenly remembered that our crane is only 8 storeys high. We sent Sidorov to get a new one. In the meantime, we played Quake. Alex has beaten Petrovich. We are proud of our younger team members and their professional growth!

24.11. Sidorov has returned. He did not find a crane but he procured a totally cool excavator. He suggests we dig a pit and build not 12 storeys high but 12 storeys deep. He says that nowhere in the contract it specifies that the 12 storeys have to be above the ground. We barely managed to dissuade him.

25.11. We brainstormed on the problem of the crane. With the last bottle of beer we found a solution. We have hastily abandoned the main construction project and are now building a 4-storey house next to it. Then we’ll hoist our crane onto its roof.

25.12. We celebrated Christmas according to the Western calendar. There are no Western Christians in our company, so nobody interfered with the celebrations.

14.01. I can’t remember anything. My head hurts. Guys, what year is it?

2.02. Well, it seems, we have finally finished building the 12th floor. Tomorrow we’ll fit on top of it the attic and roof that Alex has built.

3.02. Alex is a lamer. The roof is sliding down incessantly. For now, we have propped it using the crane. We’ll think of something.

4.02. Alex insists that it is not his fault. It is just that Sidorov’s 12 storeys are 4 meters taller and 5 meters wider than Petrovich’s 12 storeys. It turned out that they were built of different panels. But Alex is still a lamer, because his roof fits neither of the two. Neither does his elevator well, by the way.

5.02. We patched, reinforced, and extended the roof. Petrovich says it will hold, as long as it doesn’t snow.

7.02. It started snowing.

10.02. We made a roof of plywood, and painted it silver. Hopefully, the customer won’t notice.

11.02. We’ve been testing the elevator. Its stops are located between the floors, but it is still possible to get out. On even numbered floors you have to crawl out, and on odd ones, you have to pull yourself up. Note to self: don’t forget to describe it in the documentation.

12.02. When all’s said and done, the elevator moves extremely slow. Petrovich says we’re all lamers. He is going to do the optimization.

13.02. Petrovich has optimized the elevator. It gained speed, went through the roof and left in an unknown direction. It’s a good thing that the roof is made of plywood and will be easy to fix. After that, the elevator well collapsed. We suddenly remembered that we never replaced the wooden props with something stronger. Never mind. Taking the stairs is good for one’s health.

15.02. The finishing works are under way. For some reason, painters and plasterers keep disappearing. We arranged to have more workforce sent to us.

17.02. It was found out that due to an error made by Sidorov the doors on floors two through six only open to let people in. As a result, an amazing number of plasterers and painters was amassed there and now they can’t leave. Sidorov promised to fix everything. In the meantime, we pass food through the window to feed the painters and plasterers.

20.02. Alex finally completed his resizable windows. We tested them. It was found that when a window is resized the glass in it breaks. Furthermore, there are a number of side effects. For example, the toilet and bathtub from one apartment can suddenly emerge in the living room of the one next to it. Also sometimes doors disappear and balconies crumble. We tried complaining to the panel manufacturers but didn’t get anywhere – they say that we shouldn’t have used undocumented features.

21.02. The customer came over. He asked whether it is possible to make a few small changes to the project. In particular, instead of a 12-storey building, to have a village of wooden huts connected by tunnels. He heard on social media that this is the latest trend. We neutralized Alex before he could open his mouth, and politely but firmly explained to the customer that he is wrong to suggest such a thing.

22.02. The balconies continue to crumble, even though we never touch the resizable windows now. Apparently this is some sort of independent glitch. It is too late to investigate it, so to be safe we have just ripped off the remaining balconies. Let’s try to explain to the customer that this is done for the sake of optimization.

23.02. We celebrated Soviet Army Day. There are no military people in our company, so nobody interfered with the celebrations. We have no women either, so no one gave us gifts. It’s a shame.

25.02. Alex tried to complete his windows. As a result, half of them shrank to zero size and would not expand back. I told him to stop showing off, or it will be even worse.

27.02. We suddenly remembered that we have forgotten to make a proper entrance after all. We discussed whether the building may collapse if we cut a hole now. Sidorov said it would be better not to risk it. Petrovich called him a lamer and agreed. Note to self: don’t forget to say in the documentation that entering through a window is not a bug but a feature.

1.03. It’s March 1 already?! What?! How is it possible?! Yesterday, it was just… Damn. Who knew that this lame month of February has 28 days? It means that the commissioning date is not a week from now but the day after tomorrow!

2.03. We declared a state of emergency. We work 24 hours a day, without waking up.

3.03. We convinced the customer that we need another day for the final testing. Oh boy, did we work yesterday… But when all’s said and done, it’s not too bad. Well, if you overlook the fact that some of the doors are in the floor or ceiling, or open from the tenth floor directly onto the street, some of the apartments are not accessible in any way, several bathrooms are combined with kitchens, half of the building has no running water, the other half is not connected to the power mains, there is no plumbing above the sixth floor, and instead of the stairs between the eighth and ninth there is a rope ladder. The main thing is to take the customer inspection around the building using the right route. And we still have time till tomorrow to hang pictures of landscapes in the place of the missing windows…

4.03. Yes! Yes! We did it! We’re now celebrating the commissioning of our building. I’ll drink just a little bit – I must keep my sobriety to leave in time before the damn thing collapses…

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Want to head to FITC Toronto in April for FREE?

Once again, FITC is offering women in the digital space the opportunity to attend Canada’s largest design and technology conference for free! Simply share why you want to attend and your advice for other women in tech in the most creative way you can muster up. Submit your entry before February 28th. See the full details and submit your entry at http://fitc.ca/women. Good luck!

(Almost New Year) resolution

Talked to Ian G. today at Joey de Villa‘s birthday (Joey, thanks again for the great party!). Ian recommended this book titled Get Clients Now!
 It’s a 28-days actionable marketing program for professionals, consultants and coaches. So Ian and I decided to have something like a contest – each of us will follow the book and blog about it, and, of course we will exchange our impressions and basically help each other stay on the bandwagon. I have just ordered the book from the Toronto public library. I write here about it as an additional motivation. Shame on me if I don’t do the entire program! In this case, any of you may say that I don’t really fulfill my promises! 

P.S. Ian G. recommended this excellent one hour podcast (targeted at Rails consultants but broadly applicable) talking about Get Clients Now! and some other good books about consulting business development.
http://rubyfreelancers.com/the-ruby-freelancers-show-035-book-picks/

Launch your Start-Up! A new program that teaches business skills and gives $30,000 of seed capital

If you are an entrepreneur with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics in Southern Ontario, and are looking for business support services and financing to successfully launch and manage your start-up business, VentureStart is an ideal opportunity you should explore.
VentureStart is a new program that enhances the success rate of start-up enterprises by providing essential business training for technology entrepreneurs. Plus, your start-up enterprise has the opportunity to be approved for matching seed financing of up to $30,000 (subject to approval).
See details on www.venturestart.ca

ComputerWorld Canada’s Blogging Idol 2011 contest starts on April 11!

Join the contestants, it will be fun! Register here

Last year I took third place! Let’s see if I can do better this time.

(Here are my articles written for the 2009 and 2010 contests)

Book review: True names and eternal questions: Vernor Vinge and the cyberspace frontier

This book contains “True names”, a novella by Vernor Vinge, and nine essays on deep political and technological issues underlying the novella. As it often happens with true artists, Vinge, who published his story in 1981, predicted a lot of problems that we face today. He was the first to describe cyberspace (although the actual term was coined later by William Gibson). The book poses so many questions that we are asking ourselves still and they, if anything, become more acute.

To what extent shall we cede our freedom to the government in the name of fighting the “four bogeymen”, or what Bruce Sterling characterized as “four horsemen of Modern Apocalypse”: terrorists, child pornographers, drug dealers and mafia? And if the “key escrow” scheme were realized in the USA, for example, how would that not make it a totalitarian state? Besides, if you outlaw the weapon (in this case, cryptography), then only criminals will have weapons, right?

Another interesting issue raised by Vinge is the cyberspace and people’s lifes in it. Almost 30 years later we know that people can get divorced because of virtual reality and even sue for very real money to compensate them for their loss of virtual property. One can be poor in real life (or in “real life”?) and be a powerful magnate in cyberspace. On the other hand, Vinge’s character gets caught by the police because he is wealthy and influential in both the cyberspace and the reality.

The characters of the novella have to keep their true identities — their True Names — secret to avoid prosecution by the “Great Adversary”, the US government that tries to find them out.The police who busts into “Mr.Slippery”’s house one day calls itself Welfare department, and they accuse “Mr.Slippery” of “interference with the instrumentalities of National and individual survival”. The police lets “Mr.Slippery” off the hook but only so he finds out and turns in to the police a certain “Mailman”, another cyberspace character.

Read the rest of the article at Blogging Idol website

My article for Blog Idol contest: Resources for technology-related startups in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This article contains some useful information that I inevitably accumulated over the past few years, as a SR&ED consultant and as someone who has recently started a business. It might save you some time that took me to figure out all this. Good luck with your startup!

Various camps, startup drinks, green drinks

Startup entrepreneurs and people who has been there and done that regularly meet to have a drink, exchange battle stories, get a sound advice and find a potential business partner or even an angel investor. Startup Drinks is a simple concept: a grassroots effort to make sure startup folks get in touch and stay in touch.

The same refers to Green Drinks which is a casual, monthly forum for environmentally-oriented individuals to have a few drinks, mingle and toss around ideas.

By the way, the next Green Drinks together with Startup Drinks will happen on May 26 at Grace O’Malleys – 14 Duncan Street, Toronto, from 5:45 to 9:00.

Various camps are also held in Toronto every month. See the description of some in this article. The admission to them is affordable or free. (Some impose a nominal fee to ensure that people who register do indeed show up, and your admission pays for your first drink.) Among other nice get-togethers, I should mention Product Camp and Girl Geeks Dinner.

Democamps

Democamps are such an important feature in the life of Toronto technology scene that it is worth a separate mention. An evening of beer, cocktails and tech demos for designers, developers & marketers, Democamp became quite an institution. It was conceived in Toronto, but now there are democamps in other cities and towns, too.

http://democamp.com/

Creative spaces for independent entrepreneurs

When you work from home, it is very difficult to concentrate! Independent business owners know that better than anyone. Besides, sitting between the four walls tends to get lonely. Because of that, several creative spaces opened in Toronto. Their founders, entrepreneurs themselves, formed a community of like-minded people and opened spaces downtown, offering reasonable monthly rates in a comfortable space. Born from the feeling of collaboration and connection found at events such as BarCamp and tech conferences, coworking is the social interaction of independent entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, developers, and writers out of their homes and cafes and into a creative space. A coworking facility is the shared office space for these individuals, where they can work independently in a social way. Rachel Young and Wayne Lee cofounded Camaraderie. Tonya Surman founded Centre for Social Innovation at 215 Spadina, and CSI recently acquired another building in the Annex to expand their space.

(Read more at BlogIdol website…)