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by: Bernard Teo






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Wed 24 Sep 2003

A Hiatus

Category : Commentary/hiatus.txt

Just realised that it's been some time since this weblog was last updated. But I've needed to take that break. I remember reading about how William Gibson ("Neuromancer") has stopped writing a weblog because it interfered with his writing. When writing gets to be a chore, we should stop. Fullstop. And give time for the daily impressions to settle. And germinate. And hopefully, sprout fresher ideas.

I've just finished reading "Artful Making - What Managers Need to Know about How Artists Work". I believe that it's an important book, putting aside the rather clumsy phrase, "Artful Making". It describes, quite accurately, what we actually do in software development projects.

But I've realised that it may be totally at odds with my objective of making my business work like a well-oiled business machine, like a MacDonald's.

I know it's possible to help our clients make their businesses work like a smoothly efficient business machine - we know we've done that - but it takes a whole lot of care, improvisation, and not a little bit of doggedness on our part to do it.

It does not help that, at the end of the book, the authors (Rob Austin and Lee Devin) describe how artists often do their work for the sake of doing their work - as if the need to uphold the standards of their craftsmanship takes higher precedence than the mere thought of remuneration. ("Most actors earn considerably less than $20K a year doing acting.") Shades of the starving artist. And that's what sends a chill through me.

I often see the Bangladeshi workers toiling under the sun, being paid pittance, yet their work is the hardest any man can do. It may surprise people but high-tech is not any different. The guys who work out the programs, design the loops, fix the bugs - the software coolies - they're paid, if at all, rather grudgingly. The legions of Linux programmers contribute their work for free, yet it's the people at Red Hat who, by and large, benefitted from being able to do an IPO.

Maybe craftsmanship does not pay. Just look at Apple. But I never want to be the starving artist. It's silly. If you're smart enough to make a complex piece of software work flawlessly, you must believe that you're smart enough to make yourself reasonably rich. How do you make this work? That's the question.

Posted at 9:35AM UTC | permalink


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