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AAAAAAAAAH! Productivity in a Time of COVID

AAAAAAAAAH! Productivity in a Time of COVID

Most software developers have just spent over a year working from inside their homes. What has that meant for how we work? What has it meant for productivity? And come to think of it, what IS productivity? What does being productive as a software developer even mean? How do you know you're being productive instead of just feeling like you're being productive?

It's time to take a journey through the history of work to find out how quantitative metrics were invented, and how they came to rule the modern workplace. From Florence Nightingale to Frederick Winslow Taylor to W. Edwards Deming, all the way to today with velocity and the Scrum methodology, there's an unbroken thread of metrics defining what work is and what our workplaces are like. Together, let's explore whether these metrics make sense for software, and how we can use what we learn to maximize our ability to solve problems, be creative, and maybe even have a little fun.

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Arthur Doler

May 04, 2021
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  1. @arthurdoler Arthur Doler Resources: Boring details about me are at

    https://arthurdoler.com Slides will be posted on my Twitter post-conference
  2. @arthurdoler Not pictured: the other 364 dumpster fires

  3. @arthurdoler him a l’il angry boi

  4. @arthurdoler Not, as it turns out, experiments performed by raccoons

  5. @arthurdoler Not that people don’t have a lot of opinions

    normally.
  6. @arthurdoler tbf, talking about the biases of a survey like

    this would take all day
  7. @arthurdoler Data available at: http://bit.ly/productivity-survey

  8. @arthurdoler “I find it easier to focus on the task

    at hand when working from home.” “Personal productivity increased.” “I was able to maintain my professional productivity while also strengthening my personal productivity.” Data available at: http://bit.ly/productivity-survey
  9. @arthurdoler “Team cohesion and getting help from each other is

    still more difficult, coming from an office that was heavily in-person.” “Group productivity decreased.” “I used to think I would love to work from home all the time but I do miss the small interactions and being in the same room as someone.” Data available at: http://bit.ly/productivity-survey
  10. @arthurdoler A good question.

  11. @arthurdoler An even better question!

  12. @arthurdoler The duality of existence - cookies and trees

  13. @arthurdoler Ask me about my time working in a Nabisco

    subcontractor someday.
  14. @arthurdoler Getting’ all Econ 101 up in here

  15. @arthurdoler Cue the Monty Python skit…

  16. @arthurdoler Safety equipment generally encouraged for this step

  17. @arthurdoler Creamsicle beret… ♫

  18. @arthurdoler Not a tape measure long enough

  19. @arthurdoler As it turns out, also an abridged history of

    work
  20. @arthurdoler FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, NURSE & STATISTICIAN Lady of the Lamp

    and Innovator of the Infographic 1855-1856
  21. @arthurdoler Florence Nightingale, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

  22. @arthurdoler FREDERICK PHISTERER, HERO & STATISTICIAN Moustache and Medal Bearer

    1861-1865
  23. @arthurdoler ,Frederick Phisterer, Statistical record of the armies of the

    United States (via Internet Archive)
  24. @arthurdoler FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR, THE FIRST MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT The Man

    I Love To Hate 1911-1926
  25. @arthurdoler By M. W. Toews - Own work, based (in

    concept) on figure by Jeremy Kemp, on 2005-02-09, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1903871
  26. @arthurdoler W. EDWARDS DEMING Seemingly-Forgotten Hero of Reform 1950s- 1960s

  27. @arthurdoler

  28. @arthurdoler THE DAWN OF THE CUBICLE Advancements in Modula Resource-Containing

    Productivity Units 1970s- 1980s
  29. @arthurdoler THE AGE OF JIRA The Domination of Metrics and

    the Salting of the Earth 2000s- Now
  30. @arthurdoler WE TYPICALLY CALL THESE MEASURES “METRICS” As in “a

    system or standard of measurement.”
  31. @arthurdoler THINGS WE HAVE USED AS METRICS LOC Velocity Tickets

    Completed Sprints Finished …AND MORE There’s a pattern here…
  32. @arthurdoler The measuring of countable things!

  33. @arthurdoler Literally comparing apples to oranges here

  34. @arthurdoler Leaping to conclusions, as it were

  35. @arthurdoler Name That Measurement!

  36. @arthurdoler WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!

  37. @arthurdoler SOFTWARE IS A GENERAL PURPOSE TECHNOLOGY Question: Is the

    GPT3 a GPT? Discuss.
  38. @arthurdoler The spoiler for the chariot was backordered

  39. @arthurdoler I’m pretty happy about this one

  40. @arthurdoler This is a frustrating device to draw

  41. @arthurdoler GPTs can enable other GPTs, too

  42. @arthurdoler SOFTWARE DOES NOT EXIST FOR ITSELF, IT EXISTS FOR

    A PURPOSE “Can code be art” is a wholly different presentation.
  43. @arthurdoler For all varying levels of automation

  44. @arthurdoler Maybe while causing other problems

  45. @arthurdoler Messaging – the original “killer app”

  46. @arthurdoler The $1,000,000,000 question for any software developer

  47. @arthurdoler Always keep an eye out for J-curves, too

  48. @arthurdoler Hopefully it was *someone*.

  49. @arthurdoler Or, neither. Neither is a valid option, too.

  50. @arthurdoler The motley-est of crews

  51. @arthurdoler What, did you think I was going to show

    it? This isn’t National Geographic.
  52. @arthurdoler There are some other metaphors hiding here

  53. @arthurdoler Bikeshedding Resume-driven development Mismanagement of technical debt Spite-driven development

    happens for different reasons
  54. @arthurdoler Big thanks to Yvonne Lam (@yvonnezlam) for letting me

    snip this tweet!
  55. @arthurdoler https://slate.com/technology/2021/04/elis-uscis-digital-immigration-system.html

  56. @arthurdoler Basements staffed with contractors tasked with … unsticking cases

    that were caught up accidentally due to a faulty ELIS algorithm were filled to overflowing… https://slate.com/technology/2021/04/elis-uscis-digital-immigration-system.html
  57. @arthurdoler One … noted that a large portion of her

    day was occupied by undoing what ELIS had automated for her. “I spend three and a half hours every morning un-assigning the cases that don’t have evidence and going through the ones that do,” she told researchers... https://slate.com/technology/2021/04/elis-uscis-digital-immigration-system.html
  58. @arthurdoler “They had the idea that they needed to get

    off paper, but they had all sorts of expectations about why—what they would accomplish by getting off of paper—and it wasn’t clear what the priorities were or how they were going to actually link getting off of paper to accomplishing those particular benefits,” Schwartz said.” https://slate.com/technology/2021/04/elis-uscis-digital-immigration-system.html
  59. @arthurdoler Coding to minimize shortcuts blocked is “prairie-dog style”

  60. @arthurdoler The Developers of the Large Round Table with Beanbag

    Chairs
  61. @arthurdoler THIS INCREASES OWNERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT IN THE STUFF YOU

    ARE BUILDING If you provide the necessary autonomy
  62. @arthurdoler “Tempus fugit,” as they say

  63. @arthurdoler This slide is great out of context

  64. @arthurdoler Everyone in this scene is confused

  65. @arthurdoler YOU CAN’T RELY ON USAGE NUMBERS ALONE Even if

    it’s what your investors want to see.
  66. @arthurdoler “YOU GET WHAT YOU MEASURE” Richard Hamming, The Art

    of Doing Science and Engineering
  67. @arthurdoler You can’t succeed unless you know how they succeed

  68. @arthurdoler THAT REQUIRES: Understanding the problem that the user has

    Creativity and innovation to arrive at the solutions to those problems Uh oh, someone said “creativity”…
  69. @arthurdoler Requires a whole extra bit to represent that amount

    in his universe
  70. @arthurdoler Time Preparation / Learning Gathering / Attributing Cziksentmihalyi, Creativity:

    Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
  71. @arthurdoler Levi, 2017

  72. @arthurdoler Cannon-Bowers et al., 1995; Cohen & Bailey, 1997

  73. @arthurdoler tfw it takes you 35 minutes to get from

    the fridge to your desk
  74. @arthurdoler An accurate depiction of what the last year has

    felt like
  75. @arthurdoler IN A REMOTE-WORK SCENARIO, EVERY INTERACTION NEEDS TO BE

    INTENTIONAL This is why your calendars are filled up.
  76. @arthurdoler INTENTIONALITY ALLOWS GREATER PARTICIPATION… IF YOU LET IT Especially

    for various sorts of neurodiverse folks.
  77. @arthurdoler Every presentation can use a good meme

  78. @arthurdoler Saves us energy by maintaining a model of the

    world Quick answers with little effort Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow; Tsipursky, The Blind Spots Between Us
  79. @arthurdoler Costs energy to use More accurate Avoids many cognitive

    biases Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow;Tsipursky, The Blind Spots Between Us
  80. @arthurdoler My, what big stack traces you have!

  81. @arthurdoler Tsipursky, The Blind Spots Between Us; see also, your

    life
  82. @arthurdoler Triplett, 1898

  83. @arthurdoler WE ABSOLUTELY CANNOT MEASURE THE BENEFITS OF A TEAM

    SIMPLY VIA NAÏVE PRODUCTIVITY If it were that simple, we would stop inventing new metrics and methods
  84. @arthurdoler This is more true the more users you have

  85. @arthurdoler Get ready for it…

  86. @arthurdoler WE NEED TO BE GATHERING QUALITATIVE MEASUREMENTS, NOT JUST

    QUANTITATIVE Those words are too dang close to each other
  87. @arthurdoler OUR ENTIRE HISTORY OF PRODUCTIVITY IS ON A QUANTITATIVE

    MEASURING SCALE STEM has a huge quantitative bias, ironically enough
  88. @arthurdoler Don’t @ me about the Red Delicious, it’s a

    garbage tier apple
  89. @arthurdoler Only getting half of the story

  90. @arthurdoler I know this feeling very well.

  91. @arthurdoler QUALITATIVE MEASUREMENTS LET US MEASURE THINGS YOU CANNOT MEASURE

    QUANTITATIVELY Anything that isn’t a number
  92. @arthurdoler 1) SEND A BROAD SURVEY TO YOUR USERS ABOUT

    THEIR USES AND GOALS Make sure you’re gathering from a proper sample set of users
  93. @arthurdoler 2) FOLLOW-UP WITH DETAILED USER INTERVIEWS TO GLEAN SPECIFICS

    OF THOSE USES AND GOALS There’s a lot of UX references on how to do this
  94. @arthurdoler 3) IDENTIFY TRENDS, KEYWORDS, CATEGORIES, AND OUTLIERS BASED ON

    THE DETAILED INTERVIEWS This involves a lot of context and nuance and is best done manually
  95. @arthurdoler 4) PROFIT! … Theoretically! 4) FIND THE WHY! 4)

    PROFIT!
  96. @arthurdoler Another good question, thank you.

  97. @arthurdoler This talk has a lot of electricity in it

  98. @arthurdoler The original question, back again.

  99. @arthurdoler PEOPLE FEEL MORE PRODUCTIVE BECAUSE: A lack of the

    social costs of a team mean you can achieve a higher productivity – if you’re measuring it naïvely More autonomy over their environment / schedule This list is not exhaustive, just representative
  100. @arthurdoler PEOPLE FEEL LESS PRODUCTIVE BECAUSE: Creative work requires explicit

    and constant intentionality, which is draining Every attempt to pay social costs must also be intentional and usually requires a virtual meeting This list is not exhaustive, just representative
  101. @arthurdoler PEOPLE WORK DIFFERENTLY AND THEIR SITUATIONS ARE DIFFERENT Always

    a good thing to remember.
  102. @arthurdoler *gestures wildly at Everything*

  103. @arthurdoler Here’s the part with the takeaways

  104. @arthurdoler Single contributor, team member, whatever

  105. @arthurdoler Take time to understand what it is you are

    writing, and why Don’t think of productivity simply as a count of completed work over time Try to center the user in your thoughts tl;dr – slow down and think a little more
  106. @arthurdoler Either official or unofficial

  107. @arthurdoler Advocate for taking the time to understand the value

    of the solution you’re proposing Push for capturing the complexities of your team’s generated value as qualitative data Build intentionality into your team’s paying down of team social costs – whether your team is remote or not tl;dr – don’t over-focus on quantitative data because it’s easy to collect
  108. @arthurdoler NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP

    FOR THINGS OUTSIDE YOUR CONTROL This is the most important one, though
  109. @arthurdoler Arthur Doler My website is probably still https://arthurdoler.com Resources:

    Slides will be posted on my Twitter post-conference