Developer Descriptions and Distractions

The other day, upon the stair, I met a developer who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today – oh how I wish he’d go away.

Yes, I know it’s a little off, so sue me – but we’ve all had people that have worked with us like this, whether they were mentally “not there” (not in their work, goofing off most of the time, etc) or really physically not there. This last type of developer really has two types – the type that’s just not at work a lot of the time (“I’m sick.”, “My alarm didn’t go off.”, and, my personal favorite heard on the radio this morning, “God didn’t wake me up.”), and the type that’s there but never at their desk. They’re either up and about running between asking useless questions to the other people in the office, or their off just hanging out somewhere, abusing the company policies of leniency.

Any of the above kinds of developers can be detremental the course of a company. I don’t have any kind of experience beyond just what I’ve seen in the corporate culture around me, but I think that’s enough to know dead weight when I see it. Sure, not everyone works the same way, and, to be fair, most of these kinds of developers still get their jobs done – they just aren’t as efficient as others. It’s easy to see how, with not much time spent thinking about work-related things or actually (*gasp*) sitting down long enough to get some work done, they could be seen as not pulling their own weight. It’s a shame really, that there are people out there that sometimes make it their mission to see how much they can “bend the system” before something snaps. Am I guilty of a little bending myself? Sure – I think we all are in honesty. Everyone’s called in sick when they weren’t (and according to statistics, the most-called-in-sick day is Wednesday, go figure) or taken the easy way out of reassigning things when they just wanted a break, but it’s a sad state of affairs when the worker makes a habit out of it.

I don’t want to come off as self-righteous or snything, so feel free to knock me down in the comments on this one, but I think everyone out there (that’s worked in a corporate environment) can sympathize with what I’m saying here. We’re all human, and sometimes we all just need a break – we really weren’t made to be sitting in offices doing the same kinds of tasks over and over again. Why do you think weekends are so enjoyable? If everyone loved their job, weekends might be just another day. As it stands now, though, they’re “not long enough” or they “went by too fast” despite them being the same length as any other day (though I have my suspicions about Saturday…)

So, as a way to try to remedy some of the things that could make one a less-than-stellar developer in their neck of the woods, here’s a few handy tips that can keep you on your toes:

  • Avoid Distract….that dog has a puffy tail! – Yes, computers can be both the greatest things since sliced bread and the worst thing for productivity, all at the same time. I’m particularly guilty of this one, having 20-someodd windows open most of the time, with ALT+TAB being one of my best friends. (Clicking is just too dang slow sometimes). Between IRC, email, instant messages, and just plain ole surfing the web, there’s tons to distract you from the real task at hand. I suggest something I read a while back – use a reward system to help condition you into working in bursts. No one I know works for extended periods of time all the time – they can do it for a bit, but it wears on them. This method, while a little silly to start off with, can help down the road. You simply block out time with applications…for example, you say that for the next hour, the only things you can have running are a web browser, your IDE, and a local copy of the PHP manual. It will take a while, and if you’re not particularly good with temptation, maybe longer, but it can help to just not have that temptation there.
  • Care about your work, and your work will care about you – Sure, it sounds a bit trite, but if you really do enjoy what you’re doing and take the time to really craft the scripts you create, you’re doing more than just coding another application – you’re giving birth to a bouncing baby of code. Treat it as such. Sure there’ll be scripts that are a 10 minute hack job – I’m not really talking about those. Larger projects, however, are the prime example of why you should “baby” the code – find the “right” way to do something rather than a hack (yes, you know what I mean – don’t even pretend like you don’t), think flexible/give it room to grow, teach it to share, keep track of its growth, don’t let it hang out with “the bad kids”, and, most importantly, don’t push it off on someone else – this only leads to trouble and code juvenile delinquency.
  • When you’re at work, work – As mentioned above, there’s some developers that come in and make a game out of seeing how much work they can avoid. They do just enough to not get fired (Office Space, anyone?) – no more, no less. Not only does this tend to bring everyone down, but it also makes it a nightmare for the management staff. Employees that can esentially manage themselves are very much desired. No one likes the guy that has to call every 10 minutes to ask a question about an app they’re writing. So, stop, sit down at your desk, focus on the work in front of you – even if it’s only for 10 minutes – then take a break. Get something done, something real…if you get something accomplished, chances are, there’s something right behind it that’ll need doing. Do that. Get it done. Get motivated about your job and your work! I don’t know about you, but time spent “at work” for me is some of the most (PHP-related) productive time that I spend each day. I work from home occasionally, but it’s just not the same. I know it’s mostly psychological, and I know I could work just about anywhere, but it still helps me to be there – wholy there – and get the job done.

Alright, that’s about enough of that…if you have suggestions to add to the list, feel free to leave some comments below. I’m really going to try to bring some more PHP-related things into this blog as time goes on. I knowI’ve been getting more into the whole “corporate culture” thing lately, and if it hasn’t been your cup of tea – sorry about that. But keep an eye out – more PHP goodness is yet to come!



  1. By reading this text i really recognized myself. Too often I seem to be one of the persons who look for any other things to do just to not have to start coding. I mean i really enjoy planning new applications but when it comes to start coding i´m suddenly losing my motivation and waste a lot of time surfing and instant messaging. This mostly happens when i image the big amount of work i will have to do to get the project done and get frustrated. One thing i figured that works for me is not to think about the projekt as a whole but to just concentrate on a single class method and work on this till it´s done. So after maybe 20 lines of code the method is done and i feel happy and get motivated for the next method.


  2. Everyone goes through phases too, sometimes you’ll go flat-out, other times you’ll be lazy and not do what you should be doing (I know I do!).

    A task that you’ve been working on for a long time will probably induce more breaks as you need a bit of space from it to stop thinking about the problem at hand (I’ve had some great ideas in the car on the way home when I’m not thinking about work).

    So in some cases it’s all relative (other times, people are just lazy and don’t do their work).


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