In search of stupidity

I just finished reading "In search of stupidity – Over 20 years of high tech of marketing disasters" by Merrill R. Chapman, a funny weekend read with a rehashed history of the growing pangs of the computing industry. One of the better parts of the book is the afterword aptly titled "Stupid Development Tricks"; an interview with Joel Spolsky, and true to the form, starts with some neat buildup –

"Major failure doesn't just happen: To achieve it, everyone must pull togather as a team"

The interview has some more interesting soundbites than the rest of the book, including this closing gem

SMS: You paint a picture of the programmer almost as a semi-deity. But in our experience, we've seen powerful technical personalities take down major companies. ….. How do you manage situations like these?

Joel: This is a hard problem. I've seen plenty of companies with prima donna programmers who literally drive their companies into the ground. If the management of the company is technical (think Bill Gates), management isn't afraid to argue with them and win — or fire the programmer and get someone new in. If the management of the company is not technical enough (think John Sculley), they act like scared rabbits, strangely believing that this ONE person is the only person on the planet who can write code, and it's not a long way from there to the failure of the company. If you're a non-technical CEO with programmers who aren't getting with the program, you have to bite the bullet and fire them. This is your only hope. And it means you're going to have to find new technical talent, so your chances aren't great. That's why I don't think technology companies that don't have engineers at the very top have much of a chance.

The online version of this interview is longer and is full of wisdom just as the numerous articles on the Joel On Software site.


Out and about

Keeping the economic benefits of diasporas aside, the following passage from A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul rings a bell:

"In the arcade of Hanuman House, grey and substantial in the dark, there was already the evening assembly of old men, squatting on sacks on the ground and on tables now empty of Tulsi Store goods, pulling at clay cheelums that glowed red and smelled of ganja and burnt sacking. Though it wasn't cold, many had scarves over their heads and around their necks; this detail made them look foreign and, to Mr Biswas, romantic. It was the time of day for which they lived. They could not speak English and were not interested in the land where they lived; it was a place where they had come for a short time and stayed longer than they expected. They continually talked of going back to India, but when the opportunity came, many refused, afraid of the unknown, afraid to leave the familiar temporariness. And every evening they came to the arcade of the solid, friendly house, smoked, told stories, and continued to talk of India".

Now! we all know this, don't we?