Mark Burroughs writes "Leave it to a SubGenius preacher to take normally mundane subjects, like software maintenance, and expose the unholy conspiracy behind them. I think the following quote from the introduction sums up the tone of the book nicely: 'Rather than shield your eyes from the sordid realities of the software industry, I am going to dust off my old 8mm films and let you take a good look at the uncensored truth for yourself. You may want to keep a paper bag handy in case you get sick.'" You know you want to read on for the rest of Burrough's review.
|author||Right Reverend Bill Blunden|
|rating||two thumbs up|
|summary||Tactics for Maintaining Legacy Code|
Reverend Blunden's sermons focus on things that the college professors, in their tweedy jackets, will never talk about. As such, this book should be required reading by computer science majors, who often have a number of misconceptions concerning the industry that they are about to enter.
I doubt very highly that your instructors will tell you how to handle all the nasty little things that can occur when humans work in groups: backstabbing, stonewalling, sabotage, etc. The sad truth is that the people who do actually learn about these tactics (under the guise of "organizational behavior") are MBAs, the people who end up being managers. Folks, the deck has been stacked: The MBAs have been given whips, and the CS majors have all been given saddles. It's called animal husbandry; ... now go look up the word "cull."
Glancing at the back cover of the book, Reverend Blunden looks like the type of subversive individual that the ATF would like to have a chat with. As such, he is not one to let the reader leave without a few useful weapons (some of which may be questionable from a legal standpoint ... but hey, business is war). For example, the book tells you construct a paper trail so that even the shiftiest weasel cannot switch sides if it's suddenly convenient. Reverend Blunden even goes so far to refer the reader to a vault purveyor in New York so that evidence can be stored securely at home (hint: it's sure as hell not safe at the office). Don't kid yourself; a solid paper trail can save you during a witch-hunt.
The book also looks at how to deal with legacy code in situations where internal competition has encouraged people to hoard information, or to escape responsibility via promotion (i.e. VPs have been known to develop amnesia about the code they worked on). It explains the forces that cause these shenanigans to occur and then describes how to flush the guilty party out into the open, where their slimy tactics won't work. As before, generating a trail of evidence and possessing a degree of intellectual humility go a long way.
Then there is privacy, an issue that employers will definitely try to skirt. Management types tend to be keen on metrics to measure productivity. In addition, software engineers typically have access to code, or algorithms, that may be considered proprietary secrets. This has led many companies to monitor their engineers in some way or another (i.e. key loggers, remote desktops, sniffers, TEMPEST, etc.). Reverend Blunden provides a couple of easy, but extremely effective, counter tactics that the reader can use to foil this kind of Big Brother antics.
At the end of the day, Reverend Blunden tells it like it is. He hasn't been bought off and he doesn't have an agenda. His only goal is to warn new hires about the various landmines that exist, buried under the polite exterior of the corporate landscape. You may not like what he has to say, but no one ever said that software engineering was a pretty job. If they did, they were telling you a lie. Praise Bob.
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