The top 5 red flags of software development Ryan 28 Oct 2005

36 comments Latest by AC

  1. “Wouldn’t it be easy to…” (the hidden cost of change)
  2. “This shouldn’t take long” (artificial time frame)
  3. “Can you make this small change real quick?” (“small” and “quick”)
  4. “Before you finish X, could you do Y?” (the mental costs of interruption)
  5. “Let’s push this today” (artificial scope)

36 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Matt James 28 Oct 05

Here here brother!

Shiro 28 Oct 05

Looks like somebody didn’t like the posts they read in the FEATURE REQUESTS section of the product forums today.

sb 28 Oct 05

my favorite all time is “can’t we just…”

the answer is always: no.

Chad Fowler 28 Oct 05

These are the TOP 5?

Beau Hartshorne 28 Oct 05

Here’s one. Please add an accesskey to the “Add this item” button in Basecamp to-do lists. It’s not even one line of code, it makes the app easier to use, and helps prevent RSI. What’s wrong with that?

Mark Sigal 28 Oct 05

My biggest read flag, like fingers on the chalkboard:

“you can do ‘anything’ with it.”

This is almost always a red flag that the capability was designed with no specific job or use case in mind.

Nik 28 Oct 05

Nice list. Now what? How do you REACT to those warning signs?

I tried riffing on that theme on my blog. Follow the link above, see what you think.

Steve Akers 28 Oct 05

sb: In the corporate world IT’s response to “can’t we” should always be yes. Always. The only caveat being that you explain the costs and tradeoffs involved.

Kim Siever 28 Oct 05

Sounds like you need a functional spec.

Dan 28 Oct 05

I did notice you were a bit behind on these:

“18. Update the product tour (if necessary).
19. Update the marketing copy (if necessary).”

after the Basecamp UI update. Tisk tisk ;)

Great post, I get statements like these all the time and geesh. I needed to hear this.

JF 28 Oct 05

“18. Update the product tour (if necessary).”

That’s been done now.

Ara Pehlivanian 28 Oct 05

You preach it brother. There ain’t no such thing as: “this’ll only take five minutes.”

Jason Watts 28 Oct 05

The answer to all the the above is of course YES when using ROR.

Michael Baehr 28 Oct 05

Heh. These apply to any project, not just software development.

dmr 28 Oct 05

JF, it’s interesting that a lot of your posts and interests focus on software dev lately. You’ve written in the past about falling into web design after college, do you find software dev as interesting as visual design now? Do you think you could have fallen into the software dev as you did web design initially?

I find that after spending too much time with PHP, databases and just web ideas in general I really need to get away from all the nerdery and jump into pure visual design or artmaking to refresh my brain and satisfy the right side; how does the 37 crew recharge the right side of their brains after so much left-side grinding?

Swati 28 Oct 05

I am surprised you didn’t say much about UI;

6. “There is no way any user would do this…”

Tom Wilcoxen 28 Oct 05

I used to have a client who was a graphic designer who insisted he charged his clients a grand every time they used the word ‘just’ in the context of a project. “Can’t you just…” cha-ching!

sb 28 Oct 05

Steve Akers: the “just” is the operative phrase in “can’t we just” - as if flipping a magical switch can turn a powerpoint presentation into a commerce implementation.

“do we really need a new interafce? can’t we just use the graphics from the annual report?”

that’s the common sort of flip of which i speak. and the answer is alway: no. followed up, of course, by an explanation of what can be done, what it will cost, and how long it’ll take. another one of my favorites that just came to mind is, “can’t we just throw another programmer on this project?” the answer is: no. unless the objective is to further delay delivery, in which case, go right ahead.

graphics not equal to interface.
more people not equal to faster delivery.

MonkeyT 28 Oct 05

“more people not equal to faster delivery.”

Which brings to mind my favorite explanation: “Nine women can’t make a baby from scratch in one month.”

Bob Dionne 28 Oct 05

From all that I read about Ruby and Rails I have to ask why these are red flags. Perhaps Shiro is right. Is the principle driving these 5 “first do no work”? — just a cheap shot I know :^)

JF 28 Oct 05

You’ve written in the past about falling into web design after college, do you find software dev as interesting as visual design now?

Well, I’m not a coder. I’m still a designer. So I still enjoy designing interfaces — more so than I ever have before because they’re ours and not someone else’s.

Don Schenck 28 Oct 05

I was the lead on a huge huge huge project, and I implemented a rule: You could not use the word “just” (or “simply”, “merely”, etc) in a sentence when describing how to do something.

“We can just hook into the Active Directory and …”

BUZZ!! I’m sorry, thanks for playing … NEXT!

Don Schenck 28 Oct 05

Yes, but if you go out and randomly bring nine pregnant women into a room, chances are that one of them will deliver within the next month.

Bad analogy, in my opinion. But I still use it.

In regards to “Can we …?” questions, I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS answer “YES! … given enough time and money”.

That pretty much makes them think again. After all, they’re paying for my Continental GT.

Bob 28 Oct 05

> 5. “Let’s push this today” (artificial scope)

What about releasing something today?

Smackfu 28 Oct 05

The easier a change is, the more likely you’ll screw it up somehow.

Rabbit 28 Oct 05

NO!
given enough time and money

I like both, but ‘no’ is easier. :)

If something’s easier I’m more likely to do it. Hehe…

I used to have a client who was a graphic designer who insisted he charged his clients a grand every time they used the word ‘just’ in the context of a project.

Amen.

JF 28 Oct 05

“What about releasing something today?”

I said “Red Flag” — doesn’t mean always or never. Just a red flag.

Steve Akers 28 Oct 05

sb: I see your point. However, I think a better operative word is “we”. Then you can say, “WE can reproduce this PowerPoint presentation on the web, but that would require a huge cost in time, resources and money.” And don’t stop there. Go on to find out the real business needs behind the request. Then combine your understanding of the business domain with your technical expertise so you can propose truly remarkable solutions. By focusing on the “we” you can transform yourself from an enabler to a partner.

For better information on this topic read Chad Fowler’s book titled My Job Went To India: 52 Ways to Save Your Job.

MSF 28 Oct 05


Speaking of Getting Real, what’s the latest on the book?

Any further thoughts on releasing a beta book?

I mean, come on! Wouldn’t it be easy to just post a PDF, make small changes quickly, and before you finish figuring out which of the other big projects to work on just push out something today?

;)

Jeena 28 Oct 05

That sure hit home!

Dave Martin 28 Oct 05

I can handle all of these - my big beef is when they say “Wouldn’t it be better if…”.

ATTN: Marketing dept - just because you read a whitepaper on usability does not mean you are now an expert in the field!

No, That would not be better - Thanks - try again.

Frank Gruber 29 Oct 05

Oh so true. Thanks for highlighting them for us, it is a good refresher of previous academic and professional training in software project management.

Erik Jon Sloth 31 Oct 05

Yerd … I am totally unable to find any reason behind your post? Is it because you want more traffic? Then why piss people off? The lack of sense in your post is almost frustating…

Mohamed Marwen Meddah 01 Nov 05

Jason, it’s like you’re reading my mind and taking the words right out of my mouth. I couldn’t agree more with you.

Mad William Flint 02 Nov 05


I heard the top four of those….

since lunch today.

from the same person.

AC 02 Nov 05

“Yes, but if you go out and randomly bring nine pregnant women into a room, chances are that one of them will deliver within the next month.”

Does that mean if I go and randomly bring 100 developers into a room, chances are that one of them will have already developed 88.8%* of my solution?

* - 8/9, or 8 months out of a 9 month pregnancy.

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