Monitoring job performance for programmers

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As I noted previously, the reason that employers don't tightly monitor performance of (say) software engineers isn't because the software companies are somehow nicer but because there aren't any good metrics because we haven't figured out how to systematize programming to the extent that we can systematize (say) machining. Imagine if things were different:
Having got that out of the way, she dives into work. She is an applications programmer for the Feds. In the old days, she would have written computer programs for a living. Nowadays she writes fragments of computer programs. These programs are designed by Marietta and Marietta's superiors in massive week-long meetings on the top floor. Once they get the design down, they start breaking up the problem into tinier and tinier segments, assigning them to group managers, who break them down even more and feed little bits of work to the individual programmers. In order to keep the work done by the individual coders from colliding, it all has to be done according to a set of rules even bigger and more fluid than the Government procedure manual.

So the first thing Y.T.'s mother does, having read the new subchapter on bathroom tissue pools, is to sign on to a subsystem of the main computer system that handles the particular programming project she's working on. She doesn't know what the project is--that's classified--or what it's called. It's just her project. She shares it with a few hundred other programmers, she's not sure exactly who. And every day when she signs on to it, there's a stack of memos waiting for her, containing new regulations and changes to the rules that they all have to follow when writing code for the project. These regulations make the business with the bathroom tissue seem as simple and elegant as the Ten Commandments.

So, she spends until about eleven A.M. reading, rereading, and understanding the new changes in the Project. There are many of these, because this is a Monday morning and Marietta and her higher-ups spent the whole weekend closeted on the top floor, having a cat fight about this Project, changing everything.

Then she starts going back over all the code she has previously written for the Project and making a list of all the stuff that will have to be rewritten in order to make it compatible with the new specifications. Basically, she's going to have to rewrite all of her material from the ground up. For the third time in as many months.

But hey, it's a job.

The major reason that things aren't that way isn't this way isn't that programmers are cool and creative--though of course they can be--but because we haven't figured out how to turn programming into a job that can be done by drones. If you're a programmer, you should be giving thanks for the sorry, disorganized state of software "engineering".

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