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Philip Greenspun Provides Insights on Managing Software Developers

Slashdot reported that Philip Greenspun wrote an article for ArsDigita Systems Journal describing how to manage software engineers. The article itself is quite interesting, with a number of unique insights, including:

One of the paradoxes of software engineering is that people with bad ideas and low productivity often think of themselves as supremely capable. They are the last people whom one can expect to fall in line with a good strategy developed by someone else.

We have encountered more than our fair share of developers like these, over the years.

Almost as interesting as Philip Greenspun's commentary is the commentary from the registered users of Slashdot itself. Whenever Slashdot runs a technical management article about motivating a staff of developers to achieve remarkable things, the story commentary is overloaded with "technology workers of the world unite" rhetoric. Are the most outspoken users of Slashdot waiting for the day that they can participate in a technological Haymarket Square Riot?

An example:

Is "high pay" the latest excuse to justify {bad} treatment?... It gets worse. Get married? Have a kid? Need to cut back the work hours to "only 40-50 hrs/wk" as a responsibility to your family. Then you get fired. And no IT company will hire older workers that have a life because they won't work 80 hours weeks (like recent college grads and H1B visa workers can)....

In our experience, productive programmers don't get replaced by 22-year olds or people from foreign countries. In this economy, if a programmer is unproductive, he is more likely to be let go and not replaced if he is on a well-functioning development project.

We don't agree with all of Greenspun's management observations or advice. Then again, we didn't entirely agree with him in Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, although we have consistantly called this a must read for all Web developers.

We believe his article is interesting, provocative, and worth reading.

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