Comment On Hurry Up and Wait

Nate worked on software that communicated with onboard computers for large machinery and industrial vehicles. Two releases a year made for a tight development schedule, but the fast turnaround created plenty of variety. With the next release cycle, he’d be taking the lead on the highest-priority feature: an Engine Theft Deterrent (ETD) system, something unprecedented but interesting. [expand full text]
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Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 06:38 • by Laurens (unregistered)
Just frist it with a gun!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 06:41 • by Hannes (unregistered)
I needed the requirements so I could be frist. But I had to wait.

A patent, huh?

2013-08-06 07:21 • by robbak
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a patent on a guy with a gun protecting a computer. It's not like there is any prior art on that, is there? No one else has patented 'guy with a gun protecting a computer'.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 07:38 • by Keyboard Goop (unregistered)
So is this it? Is this how it's going to be? If you can't come up with any sort of punchline you just put something at the end of the story that sort of looks like a punchline without actually being one and call it a day?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:05 • by UnlimitedLTD (unregistered)
Am I correct in assuming that the end of the story implies that "hire a guy to stand by the engine with a gun" was the final solution?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:07 • by radarbob (unregistered)
414396 in reply to 414393
Keyboard Goop:
So is this it? Is this how it's going to be? If you can't come up with any sort of punchline you just put something at the end of the story that sort of looks like a punchline without actually being one and call it a day?


The never-ending story IS the punchline. A looonnggg on and on, blah, blah, blah, letters, meetings, email, process, process, process, bureauacy-busy, busy, busy .... The punchline of bureaucrats is process; it hides their incompetence.

I've seen it with the simplest of projects - a one developer task taking 8 months to even approve requirements gathering.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:12 • by EvilSnack (unregistered)
If there' ever a site named TDPHB, this would make a good entry.

Captcha mara: "I'll 'ave those requirements for ya first thing t'mara."

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:12 • by mediocre (unregistered)
If there are multiple engines, like in marine applications, one guy with a gun might not be enough

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:17 • by Hmmmm
Cool effect on the front page with the float:right image. Very proffesionnal...

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:27 • by Steve The Cynic
The title of the article made me think of something else entirely. Back in the day, around 1989 I think it was, in my first real job I had a 20 MHz 386 machine to work on. Not exactly blazingly fast, even by the standards of the day, but it did the job. It had an interesting feature - when the floppy drive was working (more specifically, any time the light was on and the spindle motor was running) some doodad on the motherboard would slow the system clock from 20 MHz to just 6 MHz. It was some sort of compatibility mode to avoid a particular category of timing-related problems with copy-protected software that used fingerprinted disks. (This was during an era when parallel port dongles existed, of course, but there was still software that wouldn't work properly if the floppy drive timing was off, and the 20 MHz full speed was sufficiently fast to do that.)

So you started to load something from a floppy disk, and the machine slowed down for compatibility purposes, then that stage of the load completed, and the machine would go idle waiting for you to insert the next disk. After a few seconds, the timers would shut off the spindle motor, and the compatibility mode with it, so now that the machine was just twiddling its thumbs, it would do it quickly.

Hurry up and wait, indeed.

And the line to fix this is "If you don't want me sitting in your office all day every day, get me the requirements. I have nothing else to do, because I am at 100% on your project. If you don't get me the requirements, I'll be here every day, billing you for sitting in your office." Or at least you ask your boss for permission to do it.

And the numbers seem off. It was something like 18 months from when the project supposedly began to when the SBU somehow didn't have any code written to do the testing, and yet all and sundry between them had only billed 1200 hours. For a typical US firm, you'd normally count on being able to bill 2000 hours a year per person. OK, not all of that time goes to projects (e.g. performance appraisals, company meetings, and so on), but Nate's end of things racked up only 600 hours in that >12 month period. Nate's "velocity" therefore averaged only 30% (assuming 12 months exactly) down to 20% (18 months) or 15% (24 months).

Sigh. I'd guess it's an anonymization failure.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:37 • by KattMan
They are bureaucrats, throw them off a building and it will still take a week for them to hit the ground.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:37 • by Nagesh
Guy with gun would be cheaper or what?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:37 • by Andrew (unregistered)
TRWTF is he got a patent.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:39 • by Nagesh
414405 in reply to 414398
mediocre:
If there are multiple engines, like in marine applications, one guy with a gun might not be enough


Get Rajnikanth.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajinikanth

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:42 • by lizardfoot
We don't get requirements where I work.
They just wait for QA to test the requirements into the software.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 08:42 • by dkf

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:14 • by Recursive Reclusive (unregistered)
In a century long gone, I, and 4 other developers, were flown to another country for a two week introduction to the proprietary WTF-y development tool we would be using for this very important project we were contractors on. That was in early October. Two of us stayed for more training well into December.

All while staying in a hotel, eating in restaurants, riding taxis and flying back home every other weekend.

However it wasn't until March the next year, the client paying for all this got around to providing us with a development server and we could start producing anything. At that point we were well behind schedule and we had forgotten most of our training.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:15 • by Nathaniel (unregistered)
The real WTF for someone from Balkan is a serbian soldier!
http://www.bosnjaci.net/foto/cetnik_i_kama_big.jpg

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:18 • by Derf (unregistered)
What do we want? - We dont know!
When do we want it? - NOW!!!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:41 • by Neil (unregistered)
414411 in reply to 414410
Derf:
What do we want? - We dont know!
When do we want it? - NOW!!!
You forgot "When will we be able to test it?"

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:47 • by Chronomium (unregistered)
414412 in reply to 414411
Neil:
Derf:
What do we want? - We dont know!
When do we want it? - NOW!!!
You forgot "When will we be able to test it?"
When can we test it? - .....We want it NOW!!!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:49 • by Drenrab (unregistered)
Hopefully I'm not going to start an Agile flame war, but this sort of thing is why I prefer Agile development. Most people don't know what they want until they see it. Giving them some prototypes to look at (I know, it doesn't require Agile to prototype) can help. It's easier for an untrained manager to tweak a prototype than to come up with satisfactory requirements ahead of time.

I worked on a project where 16 months was spent on requirements development and then it was delivered to us to work on. 2 weeks into coding everyone realized the requirements were completely inadequate. A week later the project was cancelled because they ran out of money. Over $6M flushed down the drain.

How much better the project would have been if they had spent 2-3 months roughing out some requirements, then got the development team involved and maybe in 6 months, or even sooner, had something working they could demo.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:49 • by Captain Oblivious (unregistered)
So, why wasn't Nate building a configurable EDT framework while he was "waiting"?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 09:50 • by operagost
414415 in reply to 414398
mediocre:
If there are multiple engines, like in marine applications, one guy with a gun might not be enough

Guns akimbo would cover two engines, but there's prior art (Rise of the Triad).

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:02 • by eViLegion
414417 in reply to 414415
operagost:
(Rise of the Triad)


Played the new one? It's hilariously exactly the same as the old one. Today is a good day to be alive.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:02 • by Hmmmm
The word patent can be an adjective too. E.g.

They posted with patent disregard for the intended meaning of the word "patent".

Filed under: patent troll is patent

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:06 • by Ronald (unregistered)
TRWTF is that SBU isn't defined and a Google search doesn't help at all in its definition. Define your acronyms!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:12 • by zelmak
414420 in reply to 414419
Ronald:
TRWTF is that SBU isn't defined and a Google search doesn't help at all in its definition. Define your acronyms!


Serious Business Unit

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:20 • by keigezellig
414421 in reply to 414420
Serbian Business Unit?? Since the picture shows (indeed) a Serbian soldier.. (why?)

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:24 • by Tim (unregistered)
414422 in reply to 414411
Neil:
Derf:
What do we want? - We dont know!
When do we want it? - NOW!!!
You forgot "When will we be able to test it?"
We'll just avoid making mistakes and ship it fresh from the coders, and what's important - NOW!!!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:27 • by Hannes (unregistered)
414423 in reply to 414402
KattMan:
They are bureaucrats, throw them off a building and it will still take a week for them to hit the ground.


Unless you have the permission to throw them off a building, they will refuse to even fall down. And even IF you have the permission to throw them, it doesn't mean they have to permission to actually fall down to the ground!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:30 • by Ronald (unregistered)
414424 in reply to 414420
Thanks. Since it was a "Army" post, the closest thing I could find was Sensitive But Unclassified, which still made no sense.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 10:53 • by C-Derb (unregistered)
414425 in reply to 414424
Ronald:
Thanks. Since it was a "Army" post, the closest thing I could find was Sensitive But Unclassified, which still made no sense.
Strategic.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:02 • by EternityForest
Why is management always TRWTF? It's almost like managers are usually all incompetent or something... Makes me really appreciate working with people that actually know not to put peanut butter sandwiches in the CD hole even more.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:14 • by Anonymous (unregistered)
414427 in reply to 414426
They only put them in just partially? Lucky you. :(

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:23 • by n_slash_a (unregistered)
414428 in reply to 414413
Drenrab:
Hopefully I'm not going to start an Agile flame war, but this sort of thing is why I prefer Agile development. Most people don't know what they want until they see it. Giving them some prototypes to look at (I know, it doesn't require Agile to prototype) can help. It's easier for an untrained manager to tweak a prototype than to come up with satisfactory requirements ahead of time.

I worked on a project where 16 months was spent on requirements development and then it was delivered to us to work on. 2 weeks into coding everyone realized the requirements were completely inadequate. A week later the project was cancelled because they ran out of money. Over $6M flushed down the drain.

How much better the project would have been if they had spent 2-3 months roughing out some requirements, then got the development team involved and maybe in 6 months, or even sooner, had something working they could demo.

16 months on requirements development IS the massive failure. I think you are confusing high level system requirements and lower level software requirements. Even in Agile development, you still have to have system requirements.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:28 • by hank (unregistered)
414429 in reply to 414419
Ronald:
TRWTF is that SBU isn't defined and a Google search doesn't help at all in its definition.
Here, let me actually Google that for you: strategic business unit. That was what, something like the 3rd link of the results?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:30 • by hank (unregistered)
414430 in reply to 414413
Drenrab:
this sort of thing is why I prefer Agile development.

"Build me an anti-theft system!"

Ready ... set ... iterate!

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 11:30 • by eViLegion
414431 in reply to 414429
hank:
Ronald:
TRWTF is that SBU isn't defined and a Google search doesn't help at all in its definition.
Here, let me actually Google that for you: strategic business unit. That was what, something like the 3rd link of the results?


I think it stands for "Son-of-a-Bitch User", as in "Hank is an SBU"

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 12:18 • by herby
Maybe we can have the patent number so we can all approve the wishy-washy nature of requirements planning.

It might be an interesting patent, who knows.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 12:21 • by cellocgw
This is going to sound like a joke, but it really has happened on many programs I've been part of. The customer (often a certain branch of the US gov't which resides in a building greater than square but less than hex) has no clue as to the requirements, so we design, analyze, and write the spec docs and hand them over to the customer so they can sign off as if originating with them. Then they send the specs to us so we can work to them.

Hilarity (and overbilling) ensue.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 12:27 • by RFoxmich (unregistered)
Not being in the business world I had to look up SBU...I'm still not clear on the role of a Self Balancing Unicycle in this or any other project http://focusdesigns.com/sbuv3/ ...but I suppose stress relief might be a good start.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 12:41 • by no laughing matter
414438 in reply to 414430
hank:
Drenrab:
this sort of thing is why I prefer Agile development.

"Build me an anti-theft system!"

Ready ... set ... iterate!
Agile development is certainly the silver bullet when the product to develop is mostly hardware and changing the assumptions means producing new hardware:

Nate: Here, let me show you our first iteration of the ETD. Just test it by trying to steal one of the machines!

SBU-manager: *lifts machine*

ETD-Unit: *shoots SBU-manager in the head*

Nate: So what is your feedback on the first iteration? Hello!?


Seriously, i have to wonder about the questions Nate asked in the story!

What if there are multiple engines, and thus multiple instances of the software to manage at once— like in marine applications?

It's an Engine Theft Deterrent system, you stupid prick! Of course it should deter the thief from stealing any of the engines!

Imagine someone wanted to steal a boat and had an extra control module lying around, with an older release of the software. What then?

What kind of clueless idiot are you? It should deter the thief from stealing the engine! Is that so hard to understand?

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 12:52 • by Anonymous Coward (unregistered)
414439 in reply to 414399
Hmmmm:
Cool effect on the front page with the float:right image. Very proffesionnal...


Proffesionnal, indeed.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 13:15 • by Gurth
414440 in reply to 414410
Derf:
What do we want? - We dont know!
When do we want it? - NOW!!!

Or: I don't know what I want, but I know how to get it.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 13:32 • by DrPepper
Nicely written story; and I'm sure many of us have experienced this at some time.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 13:54 • by Mr. Bob (unregistered)
414442 in reply to 414438
no laughing matter:
hank:
Drenrab:
this sort of thing is why I prefer Agile development.

"Build me an anti-theft system!"

Ready ... set ... iterate!
Agile development is certainly the silver bullet when the product to develop is mostly hardware and changing the assumptions means producing new hardware:

Nate: Here, let me show you our first iteration of the ETD. Just test it by trying to steal one of the machines!

SBU-manager: *lifts machine*

ETD-Unit: *shoots SBU-manager in the head*

Nate: So what is your feedback on the first iteration? Hello!?


Seriously, i have to wonder about the questions Nate asked in the story!

What if there are multiple engines, and thus multiple instances of the software to manage at once— like in marine applications?

It's an Engine Theft Deterrent system, you stupid prick! Of course it should deter the thief from stealing any of the engines!

Imagine someone wanted to steal a boat and had an extra control module lying around, with an older release of the software. What then?

What kind of clueless idiot are you? It should deter the thief from stealing the engine! Is that so hard to understand?


I can tell you're a "people" person.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 13:55 • by Saluto (unregistered)
414443 in reply to 414438
no laughing matter:


Seriously, i have to wonder about the questions Nate asked in the story!

What if there are multiple engines, and thus multiple instances of the software to manage at once— like in marine applications?

It's an Engine Theft Deterrent system, you stupid prick! Of course it should deter the thief from stealing any of the engines!

Imagine someone wanted to steal a boat and had an extra control module lying around, with an older release of the software. What then?

What kind of clueless idiot are you? It should deter the thief from stealing the engine! Is that so hard to understand?


Well, it's an ENGINE theft deterrent. If they go and steal the whole boat, that's a completely different feature.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 14:27 • by no laughing matter
414444 in reply to 414443
Saluto:

Well, it's an ENGINE theft deterrent. If they go and steal the whole boat, that's a completely different feature.
As long as the engines stay in place. So the ETD should help the thieves to dismantle the engines.

Re: Hurry Up and Wait

2013-08-06 14:52 • by Kevin (unregistered)
414445 in reply to 414400
You had a 386 20MHz in 1989 and consider that slow? My first PC (well aside from a Commodore 64 as a teen) was a 486 66MHz in 1993, 386 20MHz was probably a super-computer by 1989 standards :O
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