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By Hendry_Betts ·
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An Early Summer's Nights Dream

by Hendry_Betts In reply to Binary Output

Ok.  It's been a full day down here in Georgia and the temperature is hotter than a dachunds' underbelly at midday on the blacktop. (in case that wasn't graphic enough for ya' it's danged hot).  Now I have begun to participate more in this environment (TechRepublic) and I am beginning to wonder about the state of software architecture and software architects.<br /><br />I have seen posts and blogs from many TR members who posit that they are developers and architects, but have yet to see the thought process that would qualify one as a true software architect.  So, now that I have someone's attention as they scream "What does that Nimrod mean? I am an architect and I danged well think like one!"  Let's talk this one out.<br /><br />I have always compared architecture to architecture.  The software architect is a kin to the building architect.  They plan, desing, specify, and then give the work over to the skilled craftsmen (and craftswomen) who produce a high quality product that is as close to specifications as required.  If there is deviation, the construction lead comes and discusses with the architect why there will be differences and tries to get the architect to incorporate those design changes or find a way around the issue that has appeared.  Perhaps I am oversimplifying things, but heck man... I am just a poor ol' redneck from the back woods of Georgia...  it's what I understand.<br /><br />So why do I say that I don't see the thought process that qualifies architecture?  Because people are not architecting.  They may be building, they may be project managing, they may even be advocating or testing.  But they are not architecting.  This is not a cry for "Let's Develop Standards"  -- face it folks, it ain't gonna happen.  There will be pockets of compliance but as a general rule, big business will opt for a customized solution from someone like IBM or Oracle or even Micro$oft.  Medium business will afford a home grown approach -- sort of a one-off of existing big packages.  Where developers apple pick the best and brightest features from many packages and then cobble together something that works and carries the business forward... and that everyone becomes comfortable with.  And finally, small business will either adopt OTS solutions (off the shelf) or write their own.  <br /><br />But where is ANY architecture being done?  You don't architect a solution for big business because the software is off-shore and you are integrating.  Plugging into existing systems and praying that someone didn't change a primary class that will cause the entire system to crash down around you in test.  You can't architect for small business because there is no time and no money.  And, unfortunately, there is only a limited amount of architecture being done in the medium business space.  So, are the only architects out there in the software development firms and the open source community?<br /><br />Somebody make me feel better about this and help me to believe again.<br /><br /><br />

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I can't stomach ACID

by Hendry_Betts In reply to Binary Output

<h1>Where does it all end?</h1><p>As I sit at my desk, pulling what is left of my hair out, I have to stop and think about being objective. Yesterday, Opera 9 was released and there was a great deal of hype that this could be the next big item in the browser wars. So, let me see if I have this correct. I have to code my web page styles to account for the IE rendering engine and its differences, the Mozilla and Geko engines which are (largely) W3C compliant, and Opera. When will the madness end? I already have customers that are upset because the site that is designed and looks great in IE looks like someone puked on the page in FF (and vice versa).</p><p>Of course, there are conditional statements that work in the header (of IE only) that will allow you to load IE specific CSS... but where does it end? I am losing what little bit of a mind I have as it is just trying to make things work "cross browser" with JS. Now I have CSS issues to boot?</p><p>Sometimes I just wonder if the browser developers are considering their support structure as they work blythely on...</p><edit> <br />Since this original post, I have found that the issue is actually in the Mozilla engine. It is not ACID2 compliant where Opera is. Oh well, let's get rid of the hacks that are in the CSS for FF and go from there.</edit>

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I can't stomach ACID

by JohnnySacks In reply to I can't stomach ACID

I feel your pain, the days of trying to code HTML, DHTML, JavaScript and the rest of the crap that makes up a semi-decent web application to the least common denominator are gone.  Everyone wants the eye candy, an ounce of appearance rather than a pound of performance, and so forth.  Even as an end user, I'm really hating the web, seems like every business my life has anything to do with is perpetually sucking the life blood out of my wallet and has replaced their customer support with a web site and some offshore band of illiterates half way around the world, including my cable ISP.<br /><br />Then what happens to 'improve' the web interface 'user experience' (GAAAAAH!), along comes the AJAX hype to throw yet another layer of incompatibility into the mix.  Google toolkits, Yahoo toolkits, DOJO open source toolkits, no, wait, let's use Macromedia/Adobe Flash with their toolkit.  The only players I see using this stuff effectively are companies with huge development budgets.<br /><br />I did application and web development in the 90's and loved it.  When it all went to **** in the dot com crash I moved to database work and really miss application development, unfortunately all I see is the Wizard of OZ shouting marketing hype, looking behind the curtain, there's nothing there but kludgy crap.<br /><br />

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by Hendry_Betts In reply to Binary Output

A misanthrope is defined as one who hates or mistrusts human kind <a href="http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/misanthrope" target="_blank">see yahoo reference site.</a> And now we come to the crux. I am <strong>seriously</strong> beginning to hate end users. I spend a great deal of my time working in coversations like this:<br /><p><strong>Customer:</strong> "I want a web site for my business."</p><p><strong>Me:</strong> "Ok. What do you want it to do?"</p><p><strong>Customer: </strong>"I don't know. I just feel like we need a website so we can communicate with our customers."</p><p><strong>Me:</strong> "Ok. What I hear you say is that you want a web site that will allow you to get feedback from your customers. Is that right?"</p><p><strong>Customer:</strong> "Yes. But it also needs to promote our widget manufacturing plant."</p>and this conversation continues until we finally understand what Customer wants. Then I ask the ever present question, "What do you want it to look like?" I may as well have asked to sleep with their wife and daughter at the same time. They look at me like I have lost my mind. Mind you, I am a programmer and not a graphic artist, and I tell Customer this before he/she engages my services. I even go so far as to point out that if they want graphic design services such as setting up a business identity or creating a look and feel that they will have to hire/contract a graphic artist or marketing company. And they blythely nod their heads saying they understand (<em>My first step toward misanthropy</em&gt.<br /><br />So we (Customer and I) work through a design with which they feel comfortable. I get the graphic artist to give me the final proofs so I can begin work, and start to produce the site. Now, as a programmer, I am trying to give them a sustainable, maintainable, scalable product that answers the business question they put on the table (see Customer/Me conversation). I provide them with milestones and a staging area to check progress at their leisure. Everyone seems to be ok with it. ... Then <strong><em>it</em></strong> happens. Someone at the company, maybe even Customer, sees a web site and "wants to do that."<br /><br />This is clasically known as "scope creep" (<em>My second step toward misanthropy</em&gt. They want to add features or functionality to an already agreed upon project plan. Or even better, change user interface entirely. Realize that Customer is a Small to Medium business and being such didn't really bother to read the contract that they signed when they engaged me which states -<br /><br /><em>Developer is not responsible for changes in project scope (as attached). Should Project scope change, Developer has the right to either adjust the development timeline, engage additional help, or disengage from the project. In any of the above cases, Customer assumes all responsibility and agrees to pay any additional funds required to complete the project under the revised and agreed upon scope.</em><br /><br /> GREAT! I have an out... or do I. Because I feel an obligation to Customer, to deliver a quality product that meets their needs, I will slog it out trying to make it work with the resources I have in the time we have alloted. This leads to many sleepless nights and my wife being extremely testy. (<em>Yet ANOTHER reason to be a misanthrope</em&gt<br /><br />So, finally, after great pains and many hours (about half of which go unbilled) I produce the site that Customer wanted, asked for and told me their business could not continue without. I am as proud as I possibly can be. Yet another creation is out there. Then comes the final ****. Six months later, Customer has contracted with a marketing company who has redefined their business identity and hired their preferred web developer to create a new site that throws out all the "Must Have" features that customer screamed for and I busted my proverbial tuchas to get them... (<strong><em>now this is the final straw, adding insult to injury</em></strong&gt.<br /><br />Sure there are some "ownership" issues about the software. But then there is the question, how did they (the other firm) get away with developing something less than Customer <em><strong>had to have</strong></em>? I will never understand. I don't even bother to ask. I just have decided that I no longer trust humans. So I lean down and pet my sad little e-machine running my sad little Slackware setup and tell her "It's ok baby. Daddy will always love you."
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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by Mark Miller In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

<p>I understand the impulse to try to include everything the customer says they want. I've been there. I think, however, that the developer maxim holds true: "The customer does not know what they want." From the very first instance (from your article), your customer indicated this. Quoting you:</p>
<p><strong>Me:</strong> "Ok. What do you want it to do?"

<p><strong>Customer: </strong>"I don't know. I just feel like we need a website so we can communicate with our customers."</p>
<p>There are some customers who have been "initiated" in the ways of a software project, and so are more clear about their objectives. And of course there are those customers who are not. I think there are some customers a consultant just should not take on, because they're more trouble than they are worth. Maybe they'd be more suitable to a more experienced consultant, one who has had years of experience dealing with customers, and has learned enough about how to coach and educate them about how this really works. Plus, the customer probably thought impulsively that they "needed" something, without thinking about the IT implications of it. My intuitive sense from your description, is the customer needed someone who could hold their hand, to guide them through the process of creating a business system that would do what they wanted, with the level of maintenance the customer could handle, and would be within their budget.</p>
<p>I suspect that when your customer dealt with a different individual/company, this is what happened. They were able to dissuade the customer from making certain requests, perhaps for legitimate business reasons that they made the customer aware of.</p>
<p>From your description, you went in with the assumption that the customer already had their IT business objectives in mind. That may have been naive. It sounds to me like they wanted "something", but were not clear what they wanted, really. What they really wanted was something that would help out their business, but I don't get a sense that they really knew what that would be. It sounds to me like they were brainstorming. This isn't bad, but you and your customer both needed something more concrete.</p>
<p>I can tell you from experience, a lot of customers want to change requirements in the midst of a project. That's just a given, even when they DO know what they want.</p>
<p>Us developers often get into the trap that we want to serve the customer at all costs. I personally hate the idea of leaving a project incomplete. As you also indicate, however, you need to take care of you, as well as the customer. Find that balance. You said yourself that your contract stipulated that if any further modifications were necessary, beyond what was signed off on, that this would involve lengthening the deadline, and increasing the budget. You indicate they probably didn't read it, but legally that doesn't matter. If it's in there, it's their responsibility to make themselves knowledgeable of it. Apparently they were able to talk you out of sticking to those provisions of your own contract. You don't necessarily have to put your foot down. Just put it on the table: "The contract you signed with me said that if you added any requirements to what we've already agreed to, that we would need to renegotiate the timeline, and add more to the budget of the project. Given what you want me to do, I feel it necessary to enforce that provision. If you're willing to go ahead with this (lengthening the timeline, and increasing the budget), I'm willing to move forward on the changes you want." Plus, you could also say, "Just so you know, features like this in other web sites typically require you to spend X amount of time updating the such-and-such, to keep it up to date. Are you willing to put in that kind of time?" You might want to mention this sort of thing first, actually. Hearing about the business case might convince them to drop it.</p>
<p>I don't mean any of this as a slam against you, like you should've known better, or anything. Take this as a learning experience. We learn by making mistakes (if we're not taught how to do it first).</p>

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by Hendry_Betts In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

<p>Ok.. please note... this is JUST FOR FUN.  I don't hate my customers.. I don't even hate my life.  But I have heard these types of complaints so much over the last 20+ years of my IT life that I thought it would be HUMOROUS to bring this one out...</p>

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by jerome.koch In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

<p>I imagine you are a tried and true techy more than a saleman. I agree with the above post. Larger consultanting firms, or a more expirenced consultant could coax the customer into what they "wanted'.</p>
<p>I used to do some contract network work on the side. I stopped primairily because of the kind of things you go through. I told the customers (SOHOs) ahead of time what my rates were - and they were free to change the "scope" of the project, but it would cost them. Most of these SOHO didn't have the money to spend on fancy projects. Yet, they would get irked when I struck down thier ideas (email and webservers, wireless barcode readers, etc... this was 1999-2000). It takes a special talent to sell a solution to a small biz that the small biz doesn't initially envision.</p>

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by zkent In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

I understand your sentiments exactly.   I have been working as a web developer for the last 15 years now.  Occasionally I have to do some web design as well.  For me its like turning an ocean liner around to switch from the logical side of my brain to the creative <em>but</em> they are both there.  Sometimes the projects (read: customers) make me hate ever learning to program in the first place.  I tell my wife often to not be surprised if she comes home to find all of our PCs and laptops in the trash bin and find me hunkered over a drafting table never to see a computer again.

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by LocoLobo In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

<p>From the customer side I can tell you how the marketing company does it.  Their salespeople promise the moon with examples and customer testimonials, etc.  But when you sit down with them and discuss price, some of those "Must Have" features don't seem as important.  Especially if you are a small to medium business firm.</p>

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How Customers Turned Me Into a Misanthrope.

by cindyp In reply to How Customers Turned Me I ...

Very funny. The title alone had me laughing. I'm one of those evil designers ... but trust me, I face the same blank stare when I ask new clients what they want. It's always someone's secretary/brother/uncle's cousin who saw something cool on another site and now they absolutely have to have it! Thanks for the laugh.

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