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Programmers not people savvy.  Why?

I've always been puzzled as to why programmers as a whole are not more business savvy and often struggle with simple communication skills.

Not to depersonalize the discussion, but people are basically an I/O device.  One would think that a developer would learn the proper inputs to produce the desired output.  After all, that's how they earn their pay.

It's interesting to watch programmers make the same mistakes over and over.  For example:

- George uses obscure acronyms around Sue.  Sue looks puzzled.  Why does George continue to do this?

- George notices Jeff got a new car.  Doesn't take the opportunity to ask about it which would build report.

- George knows his boss isn't interested in mundane coding details.  George talks about these anyway.

- George continually wants to add a new feature, even though it's been explained the users don't want it.  It's a no win and George comes off looking bad.

On the whole, there are vaguely scientific rules about how to be socially successful - and it's a pretty simple API.  Show interest in people.  Root for their success.  Don't take their favorite parking space.  Tell them they have a valid point, even it their argument is full of it.  Compliment someone on a new shirt.

This is basic I/O stuff.  Why are developers often so bad at it?  Why do they repeatedly ignore "garbage in/garbage out"?

Bill Carlson
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

From Office Space:
[Scene: Initech. Bob Slydell and Bob Porter are interviewing Tom.]

Bob Slydell: So what you do is you take the specifications from the customers and you bring them down to the software engineers?

Tom: That, that’s right.

Bob Porter: Well, then I gotta ask, then why can’t the customers just take the specifications directly to the software people, huh?

Tom: Well, uh, uh, uh, because, uh, engineers are not good at dealing with customers.

Bob Slydell: You physically take the specs from the customer?

Tom: Well, no, my, my secretary does that, or, or the fax.

Bob Slydell: Ah.

Bob Porter: Then you must physically bring them to the software people.

Tom: Well...no. Yeah, I mean, sometimes.

Bob Slydell: Well, what would you say you do here?

Tom: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the [goshdarn] customers so the engineers don’t have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with people!!! WHAT THE [HECK] IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!!!!!!!

Gen'xer
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Because even though the most basic interface is pretty much the same, the implementation details vary widely.  It's also generally considered rude to directly query if the object supports specific interfaces, especially in certain contexts.  This generally results in unhandled exceptions, general protection faults, and the occasional core dump.  Many of these objects do not use commonly available facilities such as automatic garbage collection or antivirus tools.  As always, conducting a port scan is considered a hostile act, so it is difficult to determine acceptable I/O.

With systems as complicated as these, it's no wonder many programmers prefer to stick with the far more predictable world of Linux, Mac, and Windows.

anon
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

- George uses obscure acronyms around Sue.  Sue looks puzzled.  Why does George continue to do this?

I take the time to educate myself before entering a technical converation, why can't Sue?  If I'm the one who changes every time, Sue will never learn anything.


- George notices Jeff got a new car.  Doesn't take the opportunity to ask about it which would build report.

That's because Jeff is in the marketing department, and if I talk to him, he'll ask me for a "small favor".  That's what happens every time I talk to them, and we have a great tradition of ignoring each other.  Why break with tradition?


- George knows his boss isn't interested in mundane coding details.  George talks about these anyway.

Yes, my boss isn't interested in mundane details, but that is what I do all day.  If my boss isn't interested in what I do, he will have no interest or reason to keep me around in the future.  By showing him all the work I'm doing, he knows what I'm doing if he's interested or not.


- George continually wants to add a new feature, even though it's been explained the users don't want it.  It's a no win and George comes off looking bad.

I get bored easily, what can I say?  Besides, customers are such an abstract science.  Also, if we know so much about what the customers want, why are we losing money hand over fist?  Maybe if the marketing department spent less time talking to each other about their fancy new cars and more time on learning about our industry or technologies, we'd have a better idea of who really wants what.  ;)


Love,
George 

George (aka Joe Blandy)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Your first example is easy:

"George uses obscure acronyms around Sue.  Sue looks puzzled.  Why does George continue to do this?"

George thinks that by using obscure acronyms, he's smarter than Sue. Her puzzled look confirms it. If she were smarter then she'd know what those acronyms were, he reasons. George feels superior and therefore good about himself. Sure, he's doing to do it again!

I keep trying to come up with a concise answer to your question, Bill, but it's such a multi-dimensional problem. Here are a few points:

1) Not everyone has the same innate skills. For some, communicating comes naturally, for others, it does not.

2) Not everyone has the same values. Some people just don't value skilled communication, and therefore don't see the need to develop anything more than adequate skills.

3) Everyone has different levels of self awareness. That is, they may not realize that they do not communicate well. They may wonder what everyone else's problem is, why no one understands them.

4) People who are drawn to computers tend to be those who are less comfortable with people, or those who get their "warm fuzzies" from working alone.  For example, introverts.

5) Finally, some people have personalities such that they seriously cannot see the world from anyone else's perspective. If the world is exactly as I perceive it, then what's your problem for not seeing it this way too?

Some thoughts.

Lauren B.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

>> "George continually wants to add a new feature, even though it's been explained the users don't want it. "

Users really don't know what in the hell they want.

anon
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Go Georgie, Go Georgie, It's your birthday...

seth
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"I've always been puzzled as to why programmers as a whole are not more business savvy and often struggle with simple communication skills."

Most programmers I've worked with weren't *interested* in being business-savvy.  In fact, most programmers I've worked with feel hostile toward any member of the organization who does not produce code.  Most programmers I've worked with are unable to see beyond The Thing, or at least uninterested in doing so.By contrast, the non-technical members of the organization must, by necessity, be tuned in not to The Thing - although The Thing is important - but to The Big Picture.  And The Big Picture is a wild thing, full of emotion and ego and illogical behavior. 

To your typical programmer, The Big Picture is pretty scary.  The Thing behaves predictably; The Big Picture does not.  The Thing is always, always, 1 or 0; The Big Picture is never wholly either.  The Thing responds to clearly-defined parameters; The Big Picture has so many inputs you probably don't even know what all of them are.

I've said for a long time that technical professionals owe it to themselves to increase their business IQ, and - however uncomfortable it may be - improve their ability to create and maintain productive relationships with the non-technical members of the organization. 

And before some smart-ass chimes in with "why shouldn't the non-technical people have to learn more about the technical side", I will remind you all that the business people are already in the driver's seat, like it or not.  If a technical person wants to advance his career, he needs to learn to speak Business, not vice-versa.

Norrick
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Seriously though...

What "obscure" acronym are you thinking of? RAM? CPU? I'll bet George is just as puzzled by Sue's gushing about her favorite Survivor or American Idol wannabe. I for one don't know my RBIs from my TDs but that doesn't mean my office mates blathering on about how well their Fantasy League team is doing are lacking in communcation skills. It just means we have dissimilar interests.

And do you think Jeff might comment on George's new Lian Li case? HA!!!

Now regarding the boss thing I've got to agree with Op - tell the boss what the boss wants to hear but keep detailed notes of the work being done as a CYA mechanism.

As for the 'new features' example...who's George arguing with? What data is available to support the theory that the users don't want the new feature? It is very often that the user of any system/product won't know they want a feature until that feature is actually placed in their hands. Could anyone have forseen the cell phone revolution as recently as 20 years ago? William Gibson commented in a recent article that his novel Neuromancer (in which the term 'cyberspace' was coined) hasn't stood the test of time because there are no cell phones in the book!!

On the whole, the Op's API is trite. The examples of how to be sociable are good advice for "How to Make a Million in Sales" but don't scale much beyond that. I personally find myself mildly flirting and stroking but am aware of it as a kind of black magic whereby the mouth-breathers around me are kept from being suspicious. It in no way is an affirmation of my respect for others. In fact, I would go so far as to say the only people I respect are the ones upon whom I do NOT exchange such bullshit banter as "Gosh Steve, that sure is a shiny new SUV you've recently purchased...and how 'bout those [insert any sports team]?"

I suppose, for many readers, all of this pegs me as anti-social or without interpersonal communications skills and that is fine with me. I'm secure enough in myself and my standing within my peer group to not feel the need to be cautious with every single other person's ego.

seth
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"""To your typical programmer, The Big Picture is pretty scary.  The Thing behaves predictably; The Big Picture does not.  The Thing is always, always, 1 or 0; The Big Picture is never wholly either.  The Thing responds to clearly-defined parameters; The Big Picture has so many inputs you probably don't even know what all of them are."""

Not only that, but the most important factors in determining the outcome of the Big Picture are ones that can't be measured except in hindsight, and "past performance doesn't predict future results."  Fun.  :)

But back on to the main topic here, I think one reason many tech people don't like to do social stuff is that they feel it's wrong or "manipulative" to change your behavior to influence others.  That wouldn't be "being yourself", and therefore it would be lying, deceptive, and generally not right.  I myself have had to struggle with these beliefs, although my early training (as a consultant/trainer/sales person) taught me that it was perfectly okay to use such tactics with *customers*, as long as it was win/win.

After I left that company and went to work for a larger one, I began within a matter of months to realize that  most of the company was not in fact "on the same team" with me, they were on teams of their own.  I couldn't believe it!  After 12+ years in a smaller company where we were all on the same side, I was ill-prepared for even this *mildly* competitive environment (I've since seen far worse), until I realized I needed to treat everybody that wasn't above or below me in the hierarchy the same way I used to treat customers.  That is, as a contact to be managed according to the goals I wanted to achieve, rather than as a colleague with whom I shared common goals.

But, most developers don't even get the kind of training needed to work with customers (observe reactions, change behavior, manage the relationship, build rapport, etc.), let alone their so-callled "teammates".

Phillip J. Eby
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"That's because Jeff is in the marketing department, and if I talk to him, he'll ask me for a "small favor".  "

LOL, how true -- and it always begins with "I don't have a budget for this, but I was wondering..."

Ron
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Well, I can't let this one go by. I didn't start programming until I was about 38 years old. Up until then I had moved out of the South to live AND work in NYC, Israel, Greece, Thailand, Brazil among other places in the U.S. I actually did pretty good communicating in all those places and I always got a kick out of other people trying to communicate and perceiving where they were making mistakes. BTW, I always had my own business. Sales drives ... end of story, no sales, no business. I treat sales people with kid gloves, but that does not mean I'll not try and teach if the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately I don't see much of marketing/sales (and I expect more from marketing than sales). I work with IT managers and analysts. Unfortunately I find a lot of these people are simply good at the so-called communication that the OP is talking about: bullshit. For most people, no matter what you export, they return garbage, they can't seem to focus on an issue for too long or they stray from the point at hand to bring in issues that they've never mentioned before or which are totally irrelevant.  It's like playing a game and having the rules changed in the middle, all the time. I think the big problem is not with programmers and how they communicate but with the people who are supposed to mediate between programmers and the customer.  These people will think they understand what the customer wants and then they think they have documented it but when a programmer receives it he just sees mush. He starts to ask penetrating questions but these people are too blue sky to handle it. I worked at an ad agency .... it was all about glib and who convinced who and never about measurement. Personally I think people who are attracted to computers are people who appreciate truth.

me
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"...a kind of black magic whereby the _mouth-breathers_ around me are kept from being suspicious."

So perfect.

offMyMeds
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

". . .  people are basically an I/O device.  One would think that a developer would learn the proper inputs to produce the desired output. "

Interesting comment.  Reminds me of an autistic child I know of.  Autism is complicated, but to some extent one of the symptoms is that people with autism can't relate on an emotional level with other people.  They're closed up.  This extends to the extent of not sensing what reactions are appropriate in social situations. 

Anyway, with the child I'm thinking of one way they work around the problems is by training her to respond to vocal cues.  For example, if someone says to him, "Hi Roger, how are you?".  Roger would be trained to respond, "Hi George, I'm doing fine.  How are you?"

The problem is that Roger is trained to respond only to the words.  Roger is incapable of interpreting the rich information found in voice tones and facial expressions that accompany a meaningful conversation.  Result:  Roger appears to some extent to be programmed like a robot.  It's obvious when interacting with Roger that something is off.  And while Roger can learn to respond to certain phrases in certain situations, it's virtually impossible to train him to respond like a normal person in a wide variety of situations.

Link this up with some recent studies that have suggested that people with high aptitude for science and technical subjects may be mildly autistic, and you maybe have an explanation for why you can't make programmers "people savvy".  Maybe you can increase their savvyness.  But if there's a basic inability to grasp emotional and social significance of what's going on, simply training to respond in certain ways in certain situations isn't going to go very far in making a person really natural in these social situations.

Or course I've simplified and exaggerated things somewhat, but I still think what I've pointed out may be one of major reasons why you can't just "train" someone to be more social.  Social cues are just way too rich and complicated to be trainable.  If you can't "sense" what's appropriate intuitively then you're going to be pretty much out of luck.

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

This is fiction.  Hardly any of the programmer's I've known -- and I've worked with hundreds over the years -- have any such problems.  The "programmers social skills" discussion is primarily a way for "business people" to feel less inadequate, because their brains can't focus deeply.  You hear this chatter most in companies with the lowest quality people of both flavor.  The programmers are lower-quality and some perhaps exhibit one or two of these quirks, and the business folks are dimwits who need the ego boost of suggesting there's something wrong with the smarter folk.

The only point that rings somewhat true is the last one about wanting to add unrequested features.  Try telling an artist to turn off the creative part of their brain in a like manner and you might discover why it's so hard a thing to ask.  Asking a creative person to stop being creative is like asking someone to stop using one of their senses.  But I wouldn't expect paper-shufflers to understand.

NotBuying
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

So let me get this straight.  You are wondering why software types have a hard time communicating in non-technical contexts, and then you lead into the discussion with the idea that "people are basically I/O devices."

LOL!  Pretty hilarious satire.

Robert
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It's not fiction, but it's not universal truth, either.  I work at a fairly sizable company, and can think of about 5 people right off the bat who are rather difficult to communicate with, for one reason or another, be it extraordinary arrogance, extreme CYA syndrome, or just plain anger at the world.

There was one guy who was simply a nightmare, who couldn't take any conversational hints like, "well, I better get cracking."  He would almost always follow you back to your desk and continue to talk at you.  Once I actually had to say, "Mark.  Go away.  I have to work."  Alas, Mark no longer works here.  But he was the extreme case.

I think that for most people it has to do with degree of focus on their work.  I get up and walk around periodically, working things out in my head while I get some non-monitor input for my eyes, and if I talk with someone during those times, I'll usually try to stay focused on what I'm thinking about, and that doesn't always jibe with what manager types are talking about.

van pelt
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Good discussion.

My main point with this isn't whether specific behaviors are universally appropriate, but that different people respond differently to different things.  In order to get desired results, you need to give people what they want or need.

It's not an issue of right or wrong, only of effectiveness.  Sure, you don't care about Brad from sales or his new SUV.  But by asking, you're creating a situation where Brad doesn't view you as a coding robot and you're more likely to get your views heard in the future.  Is this manipulation?  Yes, but due to human nature being what it is, it's a requirement for being effective.

As a business rule (not always applicable, of course), you become successful by having others wanting you to be successful.  What have you done to make them want you to be successful?

If you think of problem-solving, which programmers are good at, as a process:

Vague problem --> Defined goal --> Work --> Solution

If the problem is "how can I insure that feature X is implemented the way I want?", there are specific things that realistically have to happen for that to occur.  One would imagine that programmers, being logical, would see to it that (excuse the crass terms) people's APIs had the proper inputs to produce the output they're looking for.

It's the different between being good and being effective.

I agree with Herbert about the Autism analogy.  Some people exist primarily within themselves.  That said, the simple, unemotional act of remembering a coworkers' child's birthday and asking about it, listening to the boring story, and saying "that's cool" has some effectivness.  More so if it's genuine, obviously.

Bill Carlson
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NotBuying - I appreciate your points.  This isn't a universal problem, but I do see the issue with some segments of our profession.

My argument is that once it becomes "us" vs. "them" between R&D and the business units, we've lost.  We have no control over their actions, only our own.  We can seek to influence their decisions by playing the game.  Being interested in what they're doing.  Asking how the product can be sold better.  Taking an interest in them personally.

If your goal is to promote R&D's agenda, which is often the right thing to do, long term, realistically this is the only way it'll happen.

Bill Carlson
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I am currently on a project where the size and due date was set before specifications were done. 

Specifications were nearly four months late.  Someone explain to me, how is it a rational person can assume we will not need to change the due date?  As they put it, if you haven't even see the specifications how do you know you can't make the date?

I have found very few developers with poor people skills., we just don't like working with some people.  This leads to a communication issue, as either defense or avoidence.  If you see the the type of behaviour you describe, try putting it in the context of a 1 on 1 personel issue, instead of an overly broad generalization and you may the solution is easier than you think. 

Uberboss - NotFound
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

>> Show interest in people.

Ah, but you can't fake interest.

A computer API doesn't care if you use it sicerely or with a hidden agenda... People on the other hand, can tell.

It's a bloody complex API, I'd say.

Alex
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Are we talking about George Costanza? If that's the case, he has built a good bond with the gang (kramer, Jerry and Ellaine).

Am I missing something here?

Cosmo will be back soon!
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The pertinent point about this debate is the automatic presumption that there's something wrong with programmers, and the readiness of programmers to apparently accept this judgement.

Many professions use complex language. Lawyers are famous for it. Medicos do. Physicists do. In those cases, the failure of laymen to understand that language is understood, correctly, as reflecting the lesser understanding and sometimes intelligence of the layman.

For example, in the case of George using terminology that Sue can't understand, it is often the case that Sue should hae enough understanding of the field to be able to hold a discussion with George. The real problem in that scenario is the problem of incompetent management, endemic in corporate IT.

Secondly, the use of obscure language to deliberately bamboozle is not confined to programmers at all. Car enthusiasts, plumbers, farmers will all do this. So will sports enthusiasts.

As with most discussions on JOS, this issue turns around the attempts by business to impose a subordinate role on software professionals.

Must be a Manager
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"The pertinent point about this debate is the automatic presumption that there's something wrong with programmers"

True. But I suspect that if most programmers had the choice of providing User Friendly error messages for incorrect input, or a few thousand volts through the keyboard, the number of data entry errors would go down quickly...

Anony Coward
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"As with most discussions on JOS, this issue turns around the attempts by business to impose a subordinate role on software professionals."

I think it has more to do with the stereotype of a programmer/developer/systems person as a nerd.  Poorly dressed, shirt hanging out, Birkenstock sandals, silly hat, potbellied, long unkempt hair, etc.  Not just not good at communicating programming concepts to laypeople, but poor at engaging in the usual small-talk type conversations with non-programmer types. 

Obviously this is a stereotype and isn't always true.  But even in my limited experience I've seen that the appearance and behavior I described holds true far more often for programmers than it does for doctors, lawyers, or other professionals.  Programmer-types will probably respond that they're just rejecting meaningless societal norms regarding what's appropriate and expected in social situations.  But isn't that precisely the point?  If you want professional respect, you've got to comply with some of those "meaningless" norms.

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Personally I find this "dialogue" about what's wrong with programmers socially a bit demeaning and inaccurate.  Somehow, for all our ineptitude, we manage as a whole to go on dates and get married.  We have families and children.

Yet in a business context, we're socially inept?  What gives?

I think one big issue is that people who don't develop software professionally, really don't understand its value.  They understand the business value of a solution, but they don't have a good understanding of the actual labor and effort that goes into a software product.

Note that I'm not saying that they don't understand the software _technically_.  People who develop software as hobbyists have the same problem.  They aren't beholden to the same level of attention-grabbing detail and customer satisfaction as a professional.

Not many would think a surgeon socially inept for having an intense focus on his work.  In fact, there's typically a huge deal of respect for that kind of pinpointed accuracy, and mastery of a complex system.

Professional programmers have surgical jobs as well; jobs that require not only an amazing level of precision, but also an eye to customer satisfaction.  That this focus leaves us a bit in the dust when it comes to developing contacts or rapport, is no surprise.

But that doesn't make us socially inept, by any stretch.  Perhaps less socially active.  That is, however, the nature of any technical job that demands intense concentration over long schedules.

And more to the point:

There is nothing socially fulfilling or righteous about being an egotistical, self-aggrandizing smooth-talker.

I've learned this the hard way, by having bosses who are excellent salespeople but poor interpersonal leaders.  If you read the Harvard Business Review, check out their recent article about taming "alpha males" within organizations.  Namely, high-performing executives who simply don't get along with others.

I've worked for them:  dynamic people whose ideas are always the best in their own minds, and who abuse and bulldoze and steamroll employees endlessly.  They're the people for whom so-called "executive coaching" was invented.  And they often have very well-polished facades.

My point is:  social skills are not just a measure of how one interacts with others casually.  Someone who has very poor skills at, say, making small talk, may turn out to be an excellent confidante and friend. 

On the other hand, the consummate salesperson and interacter may turn out to be a disloyal and abusive fearmonger when the opportunity arises.

Good character is at the heart of good social skills, not the ability to schmooze.

socially_speaking
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

After re-reading my post, I can see why people would assume that I meant to generalize our profession.  That was not my intent.

My point was not social ineptness, but the perception on this board that programmers often have little voice and that their common sense isn't heard.  To me, that sounds like an engineering problem waiting to be solved.

It is better to influence through kindness and strength of character rather than resort to "tricks".  However, there are basic, premptive measures that can sometimes be used to influence the higher-up decision process.

I see this happening less in software engineering that in other professions and I'm curious as to why.  We've all heard a certain amount of "woe is us" with outsourcing, etc.  My thoughts are only aimed at increasing the effectivness and prestige of developers as a group.

Bill Carlson
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

> But even in my limited experience I've seen that the appearance and behavior I described holds true far more often for programmers than it does for doctors, lawyers, or other professionals ....

It's not my intent to defend simply for the sake of defending, but I have to say that the programmers I know and have worked with are much the same as the other professional staff in the organisation.

They take their kids sailing; they roll their eyes when the overbearing sales chick arrives ( just as the accountants do and so on), and can discuss quite a few interesting topics. I would sooner go on a business trip with them than with other groups.

Name your speciality. Research scientists, road engineers, criminal lawyers - all have quirks.

Must be a Manager
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It's not programmers who aren't people savvy.  It's the nonprogrammers who aren't savvy enough to understand and communicate with programmers.

It just happens that the burden is usually placed on the programmers to learn the other people's worlds, because unlike most other professions, nonpractitioners are in the driver's seat.  In the few cases where programmers are running the ship, nonprogrammers are the ones who are seen as being the inept idiots who need to learn to fit in.

Remember that writer who wrote about her terrible experience at Microsoft?  She had problems, but the geeks didn't have any trouble communicating and mixing with each other.

T. Norman
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"nonpractitioners are in the driver's seat"

Hmmmm....

Doctors are heads of hospitals.
Lawyers are the head of law firms.
Architects are at the head of design fims.
BIologists run biotech companies.

Yep, outside of the world of shrinkwrap, you're write -- people with no experience or qualification in the field are directing developers and making decisions they have no business making.

Tony Chang
Thursday, May 27, 2004

> I've always been puzzled as to why programmers as a whole are not more business savvy

Because they spend all their time doing software, not business. If I spent all my time doing skiing my programming skills would fall away, but I'd be an awesome skier.

> and often struggle with simple communication skills.

I don't believe this one. Software development inherently involves interaction with other people, from fellow developers through marketing, product managers, and so on.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Thge autism connection is interesting. I heard it mention on some pop-science program that authism can be seen as an extreme form of "male" mind (due to abnormaly high testosterone levels at certain stages of development?).
We all know that dispite MAJOR efforts over a long period to bring more woman into CS, their numbers are still rather limited. Does this vaguely support the programming ~ authism suggestion?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 27, 2004

>  authism can be seen as an extreme form of "male" mind (due to abnormaly high testosterone levels at certain stages of development?).

So, what you're saying is that autism is like a permanent woody, but in the mind. A real "dickhead" you might say.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

The autism explanation itself is pop-science. It's better seen as another manifestation of the attempt to devalue developers.

ab
Thursday, May 27, 2004

"As with most discussions on JOS, this issue turns around the attempts by business to impose a subordinate role on software professionals. "

It's already been imposed...by the people that run companies who are able to master the basics of communication as Bill laid out in his original post.

I've lost count of the meetings I've been in where some techie will be responsible for presenting a new system to non-techies. We're talking business stuff, not technical stuff.

And here goes the techie rambling on about unimportant techical aspects in a futile attempt to impress the hot blonde from marketing. Although everyone in the room has a look on their face that screams "Shaddup already!" he just plods along in a monotone, barely audible voice describing the system in such a way as to make it impossible to understand. He is completely oblivious to their body english, completely unaware that haven't comprehended a single word he has said.

There's just something lacking in many techies that make able to understand the subtleties of human communication.

Stalin
Thursday, May 27, 2004

I never thought I'd utter the words "I agree with Stalin".  Communication skills are universal, and are even more valuable when dealing with difficult people.

Suppose your neighbor is an ass and always plays his music too loud.  You can whine that it's his fault, or you can figure out what to say or do that will bring about a resolution.  Maybe it's not possible, but it often is.

Complaining that the uppers don't "get it" on a technical level, is whining.  You may have more influence that you think - provided you can increase your standing within management and present a clear argument.

Bill Carlson
Thursday, May 27, 2004

I actually think that programmers are just as people savvy as any other group. People are idiots, and that includes me. By that I mean that the vast majority of people have low tolerance for those things that they consider idiotic. I think my marketing partner displays idiocy when he does everything in his power to control the precise look (including text flow) of our web site, and he thinks I'm an idiot for thinking that the browser does a pretty good job of handling text flow on its own. Therefore, we're both idiots and there is no way we'll ever come to terms with this.

Ron Porter
Thursday, May 27, 2004

"I've always been puzzled as to why programmers as a whole are not more business savvy"

You might as well be puzzled why more programmers don't know much about baseball.  Business is a triviality that many a dolt learns just fine.

You presume too much about why programmers prostitute themselves to companies.  A classic blunder, to think other people share your motives and beliefs.  Only some are interested in your notion of "career" and "success", and those folks "move up" to management.  Others live in a world that only *appears* to overlap yours, so their behavior naturally astonishes you.  Simply not getting fired is enough to gain what they want from the circumstance.

There are certainly some who *strive* for those notions of success and yet fail.  They are merely inept.  Aren't most people inept at most things?  That's not characteristically a programmer trait.

Brehznev
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Brehznev,

You mispelled your name, comrade. It's Brezhnev. Between those bushy eyebrows, your poor performance as a political commisar during the Great War, and now forgetting how to spell your own name makes me wonder how you led our glorious nation.

Stalin
Thursday, May 27, 2004

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