Posted by: 2stepsback | October 16, 2007

Management for FLOSS programmers

Hi !
So now, I am going to say a few things about management.
Sounds dangerous humorous, does it not? πŸ˜‰

Not really about management.
First you should read up what the word “hacker” means. Then you should read what I feel about Francesco Totti, Italy’s No.10 player.
That should give you an idea of what “hacker” actually means.

Therefore, what I call a hacker is one who hacks at the system and makes it better to work with for himself and for others like him. Hackers focus on technical problems and solving problems that are apparently unsolvable.
In effect, such a broad definition brings a lot of people other than software hackers into the picture. So, Edison was a hacker. Newton was a heavy-duty hacker-bot employed by a benevolent alien civilization. Galileo was a pioneer hacker.
Murphy was one hell of hacker! His law rules! πŸ˜‰
All the guys doing nano-tech and quantum stuff could be called hackers, except for the fact that they do not share either findings or knowledge. Lance Armstrong has been a life-hacker, but for the dope thing.
So, when you have been coding and supporting your FLOSS application for more than a couple of years, then the waistline starts swelling just like the bottomline. Then, quick money starts looking easier and easier.
Then is when you risk losing your hacking skills permanently.
Then is when you risk losing your ability to adapt, learn, share, co-operate and construct.
Then is when you should be really watchful, not outside, but inside.
Money is a super-useful tool. But the human mind is programmed to collapse under inertia. As the old saying goes, money is a good servant but a bad master.
If you observe carefully, the most respected guys in industry are those who go on innovating and never get satisfied with their achievements. Part of the driving force is peer-pressure. There are peers at every level. And when peers seem scarce, another pyramid starts building nearby. Those who fail to take note of this super-dynamic re-alignment model that the system follows, inevitably find themselves facing unwanted situations. That is because they stopped hacking in their minds. They stopped focussing on the ends and got consumed by the means.
Does that not sound like music to the ears of every programmer with a boss? That is because the boss inevitably stops hacking in his mind. The respected boss is smart and technically better than his team. Respect is earned not forced. Authority stands on its own. Therefore, when the reason of the relation vanishes, athority vanishes immediately. Contrast this with open source project managers. They are always watching the code. Or writing it. See Linus and his team. They been around in the news for more than decade now, but they are still _coding_.
Your standard manager in your IT firm? He’s probably graduated from an IDE to an office suite.
In fact, a very good way to spoil a hacker is to pay him loads of cash. Does that remind you of some recent news items?
Also, that is exactly why I don’t get paid in 10$ of 1000’$. My boss knows the quality of my work πŸ˜‰
And he wants to keep me good and honest.

Easy money, easy rot.
Software quality, bother not.
End result, big bad blot !

Never mind if you forget the syntax of every programming language. They anyway change drastically over decades. ( except *nix! )
Never mind if you change programming methodologies, patterns, paradigms, hierarchies, anything else.

Remember this:
—————–
Deftness in work, eagerness to learn, a focus on quality, and a strong desire to solve problems, these will help you remain a hacker at heart.

In your mind, it should always be this:
A is the stated problem.
B is the accepted standard.
C, which I thought up and is new, seems to be producing real results.
I’m going to try C if it does not involve a sizeable risk.

BUT, Don’t gamble on production systems.
Risk things, within limits, only when your boss is willing to stand up for you if it does not work.
On the Other Hand, if your thinking does not even hold an option C, or you do not want to bother wtih C, your hacker spirit is gone.
You’re a layman with only Agree-Next-Next abilities. Then, I wish you luck.
If you find that your job has stagnated, either switch or observe other bottlenecks or rotten areas in the system. Pick a decent sized problem, within your reach and try hacking at it.
Technical solutions are the easiest in computer software. You just have to go on thinking. Non-technical bottlenecks are the real challenge. You’re a complete hacker if you can graduate to hacking away at non-technical problems as well.
And if you succeed, you will naturally want to share your knowledge. Creative commons and the GFDL are already there.
Publish your hacks.
In fact, it is a good idea to pick up tiny non-technical hacks here and there while you are still handling code in your job, and blog about them or publish them for everyone else in the hacker community to use, evaluate or improve upon.
Keeps you in the habit of non-technical hacking. Then, handling money and fame becomes easier. You stay honest to yourself as well.
That is the best insurance against failure.
Some quick tips and tricks:

  • Use public transport on occasion.
  • Put on tough, uncomfortable clothes, on occasion.
  • Go places and observe things.
  • Speak to kids, play with them. Lose to them in a fight. See them squeal with delight. Then look up at the sky and remember each time you jumped at your achievements. Then think a moment.
  • Play with cats and dogs. Let them show their affection for you.
    Think about what they are thinking.
    Then try to think how and why you should behave with them.
    Reciprocate.
  • In your spare time, read about distant lands and cultures.
  • Get into crowded spots. Look around and find problems.
  • Then see how many problems appear, crying out aloud, waiting to be solved. Those problems create new business opportunities and spur thinking minds into further innovation. Then read what the business magazines term “inclusive growth”. Then smile at the idiocy of journalists. That is a universal constant. Beats me why!
  • Of course, read iWoz instead of fuzziness at the speed of sloth!

This is another kind of hacking.
Try this as well, on occasion.
So much for now.
More later, got to hurry home! πŸ˜‰

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