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Techies that talk too much

What's the best approach to take when dealing with folks that never use one word where two, or even better five, will do?  I have a couple guys I work with that somehow feel the need to give fine grained, detailed explanations of just about everything.  For instance, we have those daily blabfests in the morning where everyone comes together, we stand up the whole time and each person takes a turn summarizing their position for the day.  We're supposed to take about five minutes or so.  One of the fellas, though, often takes about 20 minutes to give his schpiel.  Instead of saying, "I fixed bug 125," he'll get into a description of every thought that passed through his head and every action he took in pursuit of the bug, making the rest of us glassy eyed.

And why is it that I find so many technically inclined people just love to hold forth whenever they can?  Krikey it makes me crazy!

a noid
Saturday, September 13, 2003

Why not address the problem head on. 

"John, while I really appreciate the details you provide in your daily reports, we really need to try to keep these brief so we can spend our mornings being productive."

Don't address it in public, that would be embarassing for him and put him on the defensive.  If its not your job to run those meetings, ask the person who's job it is to do so.

If that's not a possiblity, appear distracted, look at your watch often, and if need be, leave.  Nothing sends a message faster than moving feet.

Lou
Saturday, September 13, 2003

I hate people who don't just ask you the QUESTION. Instead, they tell you a story of what they were doing that led UP to the question... "so I'm thinking, I need the XYZ folder, and then I go, gee, I can't remember where it is, so I'm looking all over for it, so I look in my C drive, and I look in my Program Files subfolder, and I look in my .... and then... and then...." ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Just ask me DO YOU KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND THE XYZ FOLDER and I will answer!

Annoyed Lou
Saturday, September 13, 2003


[For instance, we have those daily blabfests in the morning where everyone comes together, we stand up the whole time and each person takes a turn summarizing their position for the day.]

This sounds like a "stand up meeting".

In order to be effective, stand up meetings are supposed to be short. 10-15 minutes is optimal.

Stand up meetings are really designed to answer these questions:

1) What did you do yesterday that might effect others?
2) What will you do today?
3) Do you need any assistance?

Print these questions and post them where you do your stand up meetings. Whenever someone starts to ramble on, have the team lead point to the questions and ask that person to take the discussion off line.

anon
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Some of my colleagues also do this. In their case it's because they are less experienced and need to talk about how they are going to implement something. The rest of us can easily think of 5 different ways to implement the thing, so the details bore us. Sometimes I cut them off, other times I figure it helps them to learn if I suggest a number of different approaches.

In either case I sum up their "speech" in a single sentence and ask if that is correct. Over time I figure that they will realise that they only need to utter a single sentence in order for me to understand. 

RB
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Another one that gets me is people that like to pull the Socratic method out at the most inopportune times.  I'll be under the gun with some problem and go ask for help.  Instead of a nice clear answer, I get a bunch of what seem to me to be thetorical questions fired back at me, ostensibly to help me find the answer on my own.  While I appreciate a chance to learn as much as the next guy, there's a time and place for this sort of thing, and holding up delivery ain't it.

I agree with the others, though.  The best way (though not necessarily the most comfortable) is to confront the problem head on.  Maybe before the meeting remind the members that the meetings are consistently going over time, so try to boil what you have to say down to the essentials.  Obviously, this will be directed at the guy that does all the talking, but it allows you to send the message without singling him out.  Another tip might be to head him off as he goes for his morning coffee, too.

anon2
Sunday, September 14, 2003

rhetorical, even.  My fingers have a mind of their own.  Sorry.

anon2
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Ok, here's a counterpoint.

Yeah, agreed, the "Socratic method" is often overused under inappropriate circumstances by poseurs who want to cultivate that faux college professor demeanor.  But how about the opposite problem?

I've encountered waves of resentment, putdowns, etc by the more illiterate types in our field who don't want under any circumstances to be able to label software things or behaviors and who don't want to think, talk,  read or write about what they're attempting to do.

IE: there's a certain faction (of "illiterate rednecks") in our industry who cultivate illiteracy and lack of communicativeness as a personal statement. They hate reading about software. They don't comment. They don't name variables meaningfully.

These types basically, in my opinion, withdraw from and abdicate any professional level of interaction. Whatever they're doing at the time is "my little secret".

Moderation in everything...

Bored Bystander
Sunday, September 14, 2003

That's definitely true too.  And there's the crew that refuse to think for themselves.  Any time they are faced with something that isn't obvious, off they go to ask someone instead.  That's probably more aggravating than the Socratic thing I mentioned above. 

anon2
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Offtopic, but I've found that the socratic method is the best way, used properly, for somebody who's not a manager but still wants to communicate good practices to the co-workers, without coming off as controlling or preachy.

Of course, the best way to do that is to get things down to just a few questions.  If somebody's worth teaching, they already grasp the basics from college. ;)

It can be a case of insecurity.  The person is insecure that they did enough work the day before the status meeting, so they will spend time trying to show that they did, in fact, do something.  They want to go through the options because they need to be told that what they were thinking was the right idea.  They go through a whole rigamarole to find the XYZ folder because they want to justify why they are trying to bother you instead of being able to find it.

Flamebait Sr.
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Bored,
you mean that kind of person that names variables fuck1, fuck2, etc. ?

Johnny Bravo
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Depending on the application, those variable names may be meaningful!

Bored Bystander
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Bored Bystander is right.

Years ago, in the dim, dark days between the Apple II and the IBM PC, Olivetti released a Z8000 based personal computer known as the M20, with a (for the times) reasonable operating system and set of developer languages.

Their sales manager in one Australian city was a keen student of the commercial sex industry, and turned up an opportunity to computerise the front-of-house operations of the largest brothel in town.

I was the contractor engaged to develop this software. During requirements analysis it was noticed that the receptionists diaries DID include columns labelled "fuck1", "fuck2", etc.

Normalisation removed the instances, generalisation removed the act, but nothing could erase the concept *grin*

And for those who moan about test cases, etc., try to keep a straight face whilst developing test combinations involving girls, rooms, acts, times, props, regulars, and insane combinations of the above :)

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Monday, September 15, 2003

For these standup meetings you might want to tell everyone they have two (or whatever) minutes to speak their peace, otherwise meetings never end, everyone's time is valuable, etc.

At the end of the two minutes, ring a bell. (Mini-gongs work great too!) It sounds weird but it makes people realize how much time they're taking up since most people are too polite to stop someone in mid-sentence. And you're not singling out one person, just setting a standard to which everyone must adhere.

Chris Winters
Monday, September 15, 2003

Also, a positive aspect to the gong is that it's more likely to be humorous than offensive.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, September 15, 2003

I had a co-worker who would drone on and on but he would never stay on topic.  I found the best way to manipulate him into shutting up was to make more work for him out of the content of these tangents.  Maybe you can do the same. 

D
Monday, September 15, 2003

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