Recent blog entries for mstarch

Bad posititioning

We software developers provide valuable contributions to society (or at least we have the potential to do so). I think most people will agree that information technology has been, and continues to be, an important engine for improving living standards and creating growth (growth, above all growth!).

Some people understand the nature of software development, but many people don't. Through experience, research and improved development tools and methodologies, we've become better at estimating software development tasks, and developer productivity has increased many times, almost keeping pace with productivity expectations.

Managing the expectations of what's realistic within a given time-frame or budget is perhaps the single most important aspect of perceived success for a software development project. This is an aspect of software development that's as important to master as any. What's your experiences with expectation management? How can we become better at it? Do we still lack the tools to properly estimate and control the progress of a development project? What's the best way to define and contain feature creep, while still minimizing "transaction costs" writing feature specifications?

People depending on software, and software development projects, need to get better at appreciating the difficulties of estimating before-hand what lies down the path of a development project. You can only know what the cake tastes like by eating it. And when you've had a bite, of course, it's too late to regret. Basically I think software development lacks more trust - I need to feel trusted, not mistrusted or exploited (aka minitious feature specifications and feature creep). But maybe that's just the way the World works...


Spent a week on Korfu with my mother and sister. Its a really beautiful island. We spent the days idling by the pool or on the beach, and took a few of the charter package tours. I rented a scooter the last few days, which was fun to try.


Spending all that time by the pool gave me plenty of time to read. I've read Tom Wolfe's 'Hooking up' and 'A man in full'. Both books were very good, but especially Hooking up was brilliant, and had some interesting angles on american society in the beginning of the new century.

I've just started reading a David Lodge trilogy, about two college professors, and I've also been reading Hemingways 'The old man and the sea'.


Finished reading Hemingways, 'True at first light'. He really is an amazing author. The story of the book is relatively uninteresting in itself, but he has a remarkable talent for writing, so that you can almost feel and smell the environment he's describing.

Now I'm reading a historical novel called 'Christine' about the life of the youngest daughter of the Danish king Christian II, who lived in the early 16th century.


Tuesday a couple of us from work went to see the band 'Wonderbrass' who played during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. The weather was perfect, the mood good, and in general it was a very nice experience. Live jazz music like the music Wonderbrass plays is perfect for a day like that.


Last week was a week with much golf. I played golf wednesday, thursday and friday, although wednesday and thursday was mostly practice on the driving range. I'm getting a hang of it, but theres still far too much looking for balls in the rough to the right of the fairway involved :)


I visited by dad in the weekend, which was very nice. He has a house by the beach, so we got to swim a lot, although the water is pretty cold (approx 17-19 deg. celsius). Also I walked in the forest and generally didn't think about much in general, which was very nice.


I'm thinking about starting writing a larger windows application using .NET and C# soon, I think it will be good for me to develop something visual I can tinker with. Also I actually have an idea for an application I need ;)


Returned from a week of vacationing, fitter, happier, more productive (or is that Radiohead?). The weather suck, but it was nice nonetheless. I had plenty of time to sleep and read, and it was nice to be able to think about mostly nothing (not quite true, but anyway). On the last day I was out playing golf in Gilleleje in the early morning, so I was very tired, but also in quite a good mood when I got back to Copenhagen. I went to bed at 9 pm and slept till 11 am.


I read David Lodge's book Therapy, which is a very warm and humouristic book about a script writer suffering from Angst. I read most of Hemingways 'True at first light', and most of Asimovs 'Foundation' trilogy. I think it must soon be time to read some more computer science related books :)


Just finished a depressing book, J.M. Coetzee's 'Youth' which I impulse-shopped saturday. It's about a south african young man who travels to London in order to live a life as a poet. He thinks London will transform him into an interesting person, he believes himself special because of an inner spark of poetry, but he soon discovers that life is finding him wanting in every way. He finally comes to the conclusion that he has to make a life of it for himself, that he has to take chances and be prepared for defeats along the way. The scary part is that I feel the book might as well have been written about me...

Vacation time

Wuhu, I'll be off for a week of (hopeful) relaxation in my mothers summer house next week. It's one of the few remaining traditions in my family. It's very nice to have a well-known place like that where you can really relax, and where you have fond memories.


Last week I played golf twice, both from very early morning. It's really really nice to walk on a golf course at dawn, listening to the birds, enjoying the quiet, drinking the brandy ;-). It's really kinda meditative and definitively very relaxing.


I really need something worthwhile to code. I feel like I haven't coded anything 'real' for months, and the worst part is that a part of me doesn't really miss it. I fear I might end up as a sufferer of the burnout-syndrome, or maybe I just need a holiday. I need some motivation, and I definitively need someone to cooperate with on a project. I have spent too much time writing stuff on my own, without supervision, without peer reviews, without constructive critisicm and debate, without the social aspects of programming. That has always been one of the cools aspects of open source development - you're not (always) on your own (not that that's the case for professional programming, but it seems to be in my case).

I still think about the 'is there more software that needs to be written?' problem that keeps plaguing me, but now I think that that is more of a symptom of my lacking motivation.

Music This week, I've been listening to; Tom Waits, Smashing Pumpkins, Kristin Hersh, Dead can Dance, MOS Clubbers Guide to Ibiza Summer, and ... stuff.

Books Finally finished Flashmans Lady. I've also been reading David Kaplans 'Silicon Boys', and Stephen Covey's '7 habits of highly effective people'. I especially found a chapter in silicon boys fun that mentioned one of Oracles internal sales slogans during the 80'ies. It read; "GTM - GTFM", meaning: "Get The Money - Get The Fucking Money" :-)

Oh, and I've also read Tracy Kidders 'The Machine', which is a rather fascinating read about the development of a machine from Data General during 1979 that should be a 32 bit computer competing with the VAX. The book is supremely well written, and shows a lot of interest for the technical aspects of the challenges the design team faced, so I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to read more about the early days of our business.

Motivation I have been experiencing severe motivational problems lately, and I'm unsure what's causing them and what I should do to make them disappear. Most work I think of somehow doesn't seem worthwhile, and that makes it hard to just 'get things done'. Maybe it's because I lack some large project to delve into, or maybe I need to take some time off. Knowing what causes ones emotions can be hard sometimes.

Small rant I have been reading joel spolskys articles, because they are invariably well written, and often have some good perspectives on a lot of different things. I have also enjoyed his book recommendations, and read several of them. But I think this new initiative of translating the articles on to several different languages seem like a bloody waste of time. The articles may be OK, but that does _not_ mandate translating them into 15 different languages. The only effect this initiative is having (on me at least) is to make me think that maybe joel spolsky is maybe becoming a bit too full of himself. I'd much rather like a review of Tom DeMarcos 'Slack' so I'll know if it's as good as Peopleware :-)

Hmm, I'm not really keeping up with my diary entries. I feel observed - it's a limitation to write diary entries that are public, but at least I can maintain my tradition of keeping track of book reading.


We have just finished moving to our new office on Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. They are _really_ cool. The office is in an old house situated in what have got to be the most charming part of Copenhagen. Right inside the city, 50 meters from one of the main streets (Vesterbrogade) lies a suburban district, with huge old houses with gardens, and nice quiet roads where there is no traffic, and where you can hear the birds sing, and look at the trees. Ahhh... Now all I need to do is to get some work done... :-) I feel more motivated to go to work than I've been for a long time.


Right now I'm reading Umberto Ecos new book Baudolino. I've also just begun reading Flashmans Lady, and was thinking of getting the new Tom Demarco book, Slack.

Programmer philosophy

Programmers think too much. We're paid to spend all of our time thinking about elegant or at least effective solutions to practical problems. We're taught never to reinvent the wheel, and we're taught that an elegant solution is a goal in itself. Programmers put too much strain on themselves. Programmers are implicitly expected to create code that is new and revolutionary, and at the same time they are expected to maintain a complete picture of the state of the industry, so that they can choose the best-suited standard components for the job. Programmers are expected to enjoy working long hours, because they love their job, and they are expected to avoid stress by plaing with nerf guns.

Sometimes programmers need to be pulled out of the depths of the specifics of a given project, so that he can get a grasp of the role of the project in the bigger whole. It's essential for the programmer to have a feeling that the project he's working on is worth-while, and somehow contributes to the world at large. If this doesn't happen, or if the project really doesn't serve a higher purpose, the programmer will be disillusioned with time, and he will start to ask himself about the purpose of his efforts. If this continues, his doubts may become even more existential - what is the purpose of software, what good does it do, who does it serve, why is software always improved/reinvented/rewritten, will the world run out of software in need to be written? As I said, programmers think too much. Or maybe I'm just confused :-)

Books Have been reading "High Stakes, No prisoners" about the lifetime of the company Vermeer Technologies, and their road towards acquisition by Microsoft, buying their Frontpage product. It was a very interesting and inspiring book. I've also been reading Royal Flash, which although it's quite a different genre, was as funny as the other Flashman books I've read :-)

The company has been taken over by 5 former employees, including myself and the former CEO. We're going to continue focusing on search engine and dialogue robot technology, hoping that the future will look more bright.


I havent finished "The Satanic Verses" yet, because I've been pretty busy planning my new work situation. It's also a pretty tough read, so I have taken some temporary leave, reading Flashman. Now that's good entertainment :-)


I have been reading more .net documentation, and have also been looking at C#. I think that the entire platform will do lots of good for Windows development. I also find the Mono project interesting - it would be cool to get platform independence almost for free, when writing .net framework apps.

28 Jan 2002 (updated 22 Nov 2005 at 14:58 UTC) »


Started reading "The Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie.

Started reading "Modern C++ Design" by Andrei Alexandrescu. That guy is a template nut, but he does some really really cool stuff using esoteric C++ features.


Installed Visual Studio .net. I will look forward to spending some time getting into it. It looks very promising.

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