oh blessed release

Thunk between 17th - 22nd October 2003

Thinks is designed to provide insight and edification for its readers. Sometimes, however, it descends into self-pitying whinges. This is one of those occasions, so discerning readers may care to exercise their inalienable right to hit the back button.

Still with me? Well don't say I didn't warn you.

I work for a certain Australian telco which shall remain nameless but has a logo not unassociated with affirmation. We are currently in the throes of releasing a product which I'm not allowed to tell you about. I can tell you it is a browser-based application to be used by our Sales Reps and Customer Service Reps.

There's a lot of background politics I can't tell you about (I hope you weren't planning to learn anything here) but there are a lot of people in the company with a vested interest in seeing this project fail. This results in a serious increase in pressure from the people with a vested interest in seeing it succeed. These latter are, of course, my bosses.

It is unfortunate, althought not critical, that we have to interface with systems run by the former group. It is not critical because programmers are usually helpful to other programmers and don't give a stuff about the politics. It is unfortunate because anything which actually has to be approved moves at glacial speed. To be fair, this may just be management incompetence rather than actual malice.

The main problem has been the fixed time period available. The specification phase slipped drastically and the testing phase at the end had to be maintained so us poor bloody programmers got squeezed between them. Five weeks after they started testing the code we finally received the finished version of the functional spec*. Some of the interim versions were so bad that, not only were they almost impossible to understand, the were literally impossible to implement due to mutually exclusive requirements. We ended up re-writing parts of it ourselves in self-defence. As the requirements kept morphing, so did our elegant software design, until it now resembles spaghetti nailed together with brass studs.

For the last month or so we have been doing development, testing and bug-fixing in parallel rather than in sequence. We were forced to release to integration testing before the code was ready. I currently spend most of my day sitting in front of an ever-growing bugs list, re-directing them to other people to fix.

Do I hear the sound of ironic violins? I know, 'twas ever thus. Soon we hope to be able to spend some time ironing out the spaghetti (now there's an image...). It may even happen.

5 days later

We resume after an unscheduled interruption. There are so many headless chickens around here it's like the feast day of John the Baptist. Several flame wars have started inside our bug-tracking system. Our project manager is having frank and full telephone discussions with the Sith Lords down at North Sydney using words I really wouldn't have expected from such a nice lady.

We are also fighting several "spec wars". I find I am quite good at this. There are so many specification documents around that when someone complains that section of such-and-such a spec requires x, you can usually find another one where section requires the exact opposite. It is reprehensible of me, I know, but I will confess to enjoying this part. Who was it said the great thing about standards is there are so many to choose from? We have the same thing with specifications.

It is disconcerting sometimes just how Dilbert the whole place is becoming. Speaking of which, the promotion I mentioned in a previous Thinks has still not been ratified. Catbert is up to something, I just know it.

*27th October - wrong! Func spec just changed again...


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