Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Or why my boss is dumb.

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22 Replies - 3573 Views - Last Post: 26 June 2008 - 11:02 AM

#1 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 02:01 PM

Alright. I love my job. I REALLY REALLY TRULY do. I am assigned my clients. I sit in my little cubby hole, listen to music and code my ass off 40 hours a week. No one really bothers me or interrupts. And it's fabulous. I could work that way for the rest of my life and die happy.

However, Thursday afternoon, we had a "Development Department Meeting". Mind you, the entire "Development Department" is me and one other guy with a hunchback and a bad attitude. The meeting was comprised of the two of us, the CEO and the Chief Technical Officer. Neither the CEO nor the CTO have any programming/coding/design/development experience at all whatsoever.

They both have degrees in marketing. They both spent years as food service managers prior to embarking on their present company - which is supposed to specialize in IT security, but has expanded to include an ever-growing list of secure websites.

I will fully agree with the bosses that we need a couple more developers on staff. Quasimodo and I are getting horribly overrun by the work. Too many clients, not enough time. We've both been working 30-40 hours of OT every week (Hence my massive absence from DIC and damn near everything else I once did for enjoyment).

The CTO - in his infinite wisdom and pulling from his obvious superiority in food service management experience - wants Quasi and I to set up a plan of attack to turn our office into a lean, mean, site-spewing machine. He wants to hire on roughly 50 minimum wage workers, split the code into tiny chunks, and have the so-called "coders" copy and paste the tiny code chunks in assembly line fashion all day, every day - to maximize our output. He would then "promote" Quasi and me to "Development Managers" where we would spend our days standing in a room supervising the retarded little web site sweat shop in action.

Being that I am in a coding forum, I wager you all would understand the utter outrage expressed by Quasi and myself. The CTO's point in all this? He wants the company to run like the "backline at McDonald's".

I started this job a little over a month ago. When I started, I was told they want their company to be "a Rolls Royce in a sea of Hondas" .... is this what it's all about, guys? Am I gonna spend my entire professional life chasing the Rolls while working for the Hondas?

And how do I explain to the CTO that his idea is the stupidest damn thing I've heard in years?

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#2 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 03:16 PM

Ouch. There is this pervasive managment myth that some computer work can be boiled to down fundamental elements that can then be worked on by under payed primates. "Sure, we need people who know what they're doing for the hard stuff, but can't you just throw the rest of it to the chimps?" Like there is a "rest of it" to be that can somehow be completed by people who don't have enough knowlege to do the whole thing.

I believe part of this comes from the need to apply physical metaphors to virtual work. Many real world jobs can have the grunt work taken over by worker bots. Basically inexperienced people can drive nails, read meters, flip burgers, whatever. Some occupations can be broken down easily a foreman and worker kind of system. Computer coding just doesn't have this kind of work.

I occasionally cook for volunteer organizations. In such an environment, it's not uncommon to get someone sent into the kitchen with no idea what to do. In moments, we can have them washing, cleaning, sorting, chopping any number of things. If they have some experience, they'll get to play with sharp pointy objects. They just got there, they don't know what the service is, but they can still be used. If they have some experience, they might be breaking down whole chickens in parts, but if they've never done it we don't have time for them to learn now. They will not be touching any pans, checking for doneness, butchering large animals, or any of the things for which experience is required.

The point is, computers require experience. Unlike so many places, there's not a lot you can do with someone who doesn't understand most of the process. If they understand enough to the process to do the little bits, they can do the big bits too.
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#3 Amadeus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 04:55 PM

baavgai is correct. you begin by telling your CTO that (perhaps unknown to him) , the concept is not new. Assembly line modularization works very well in the physical world, but not always so well in the realm of the intangibles. Even the software application of this model is not new...this is the common model used in third world countries by outsourcing shops. Your CTO has likely researched this option (outsourcing) and rejected it for quality and control reasons. You might mention the connection between the model and the known results.

Should he not be swayed, sit back, and let the hilarity ensue! :)
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#4 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 07:57 PM

View PostBenignDesign, on 21 Jun, 2008 - 05:01 PM, said:

He wants to hire on roughly 50 minimum wage workers, split the code into tiny chunks, and have the so-called "coders" copy and paste the tiny code chunks in assembly line fashion all day, every day - to maximize our output.



Maybe if you show him how little is performed by cut-n-paste, he'll understand that paying 50 (or any amount) of workers to do it will require that 1 person already has it coded, & that there is no real output.

Besides, if you McDonald's the production, then all of your websites will look & function the same. If this is what he wants, I'm sure clients will go elsewhere.

This is an almost EXACT situation that a friend of mine experienced. A woman that had many years experience in managing a Pizza Hut was given the job of IT manager at an ISP that concentrates specific clients. Needless to say, the idea of security & technology isn't there, so it's a constant struggle where she doesn't have respect for the work force, because they are under her. So every decision that is flat out wrong or ill-based (because of her lack of understanding of the subject & severity) becomes a power struggle. In her mind it's never based on what's best for the company or situation, but just because she said so, & no one is listening.
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#5 JBrace1990  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 08:11 PM

*reads post*
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *dies laughing*

but, in all seriousness, your boss is not very intelligent... with coding you need people who know how to do it, there's no copying and pasting.... you can't just hire people who have no idea what they're doing and expect them to make something... the phrase "give an idiot a hundred years and he could write the Odyssey", is not entirely true in the field of programming...

Unless you learn the language (in which case they'd ask for more then minimum wage), you're not going to be able to do anything productive...

and if your boss doesn't understand that, and doesn't listen to his coding team, he's not a very good boss >_>
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#6 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 09:45 PM

I suppose that it is possible to build simplified application framework that you can hire and train chimps to use to roll out cookie cutter web pages. It is possible -- but I seriously doubt it would be profitable.

Problem #1: The sphere of web development is VERY dynamic. To keep this this cookie cutter application current it either has to be sophisticated enough that chimps can't really run it, or it the engineering team has to be working overtime.

Problem #2: Customers don't want their websites to look cookie cutter crap! Web design tends to lean heavily upon *design*!!! Customers will always have unique business requirements that inevitably will not work well with your predefined modules (unless the system is sophisticated enough to require specially trained users -- i.e. not minimum wage chimps).

I think that as a programmer the McDonald's reference would really have ticked me off. I like to think of myself as a craftsman. McDonald's has nothing to do with craftsmanship -- your lucky if they remember to actually put your fries in your bag. Ever notices that you can't get a shake after about 9pm because the machine is"broken" (down for the night).

But in my professional opinion -- this is a bad idea. BUT -- it has to happen eventually. There will come a day when the sheer volume requires that things get dumbed down enough for the chimps. Maybe your CEO is just the visionary who will make it happen... but I doubt it.
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#7 RodgerB  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 21 June 2008 - 10:05 PM

View PostNickDMax, on 22 Jun, 2008 - 02:45 PM, said:

I think that as a programmer the McDonald's reference would really have ticked me off. I like to think of myself as a craftsman. McDonald's has nothing to do with craftsmanship -- your lucky if they remember to actually put your fries in your bag.


Subway call themselves artists I think (I don't get out much).

@Benign: LAL. I don't know much about the workforce, but couldn't you just make references to the title of your job, what you do in your job, what the chimps do in their job, get pissy about how it's your ass on the line if they f' up doing their job.

job job job ^_^
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#8 KYA  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 12:16 AM

It seems redundant. I have been told I have little tact, so approaching this guy with some tact would be in order. What possible purpose could having 50 "monkeys" work on mini assembly language code? My mind has officially been boggled.
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#9 BetaWar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 12:55 AM

Quote

with coding you need people who know how to do it, there's no copying and pasting

Very true. Even when you are making the same overall type of thing it will be different in how things are implemented depending on what is needed (assuming that it isn't just a clone of something that came before, which differing clients rarely are). Handing out the sme product time after time is only good if you are in an industry where you have created a name for yourself with the quality of your product, like McDonald's.

There must be a way to get them to understnad that thisis a bad idea, before you beat their brains in with a spare monitor, or monkey (whichever is closer at the time) ;D Hopefully...
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#10 mensahero  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 04:40 AM

Your bosses are a genius. Imagine starting a company that you don't have any solid knowledge and information about it.

The best way for them to understand the situation is to let them visit DIC and READ the replies in this thread. That way you don't have to explain everything. Let the Ideas of professional members here do the explaining.

This post has been edited by mensahero: 22 June 2008 - 04:40 AM

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#11 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 06:47 AM

That would be a plausible idea, except that knowledge of the thread will eventually get back to the other coder... and being that I referred to him as "Quasimodo".... I really don't want the extra stress of him loathing me for all eternity. The situation is screwed up enough as it is.

At this point, I have come a pretty basic conclusion about the whole mess: right now, I love my job. I have the skills, the knowledge, the ability to do it and do it well. If they turn the place into a cookie cutter grunt monkey farm, I can always take my skills, knowledge and abilities to a different company. They pay me decently, but not enough to remain eternally loyal to a job I may despise two years down the road.
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#12 mensahero  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 06:52 AM

View PostBenignDesign, on 22 Jun, 2008 - 06:47 AM, said:

That would be a plausible idea, except that knowledge of the thread will eventually get back to the other coder... and being that I referred to him as "Quasimodo".... I really don't want the extra stress of him loathing me for all eternity. The situation is screwed up enough as it is.


LMAO. :D I found that really funny. What will happen if indeed he is a member here and read that.

This post has been edited by mensahero: 22 June 2008 - 06:53 AM

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#13 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 09:28 AM

That would suck moose balls. Let's hope he uses some other forum. :P
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#14 Ellie  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 10:56 AM

View PostBenignDesign, on 21 Jun, 2008 - 10:01 PM, said:

When I started, I was told they want their company to be "a Rolls Royce in a sea of Hondas" .... is this what it's all about, guys? Am I gonna spend my entire professional life chasing the Rolls while working for the Hondas?


They actually spoke those words? Did they think they were advertising at you or something? Christ I hate management/marketing speak. I would have been cringing inside and biting my tongue.
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#15 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: Assembly Line Code Farm!?

Posted 22 June 2008 - 07:04 PM

haha... yes... that is a direct quote. Word for word what was actually said.

As I mentioned, they both have degrees in marketing ... and very little IT experience....
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