💬 Issue #42 - It’s a Brave New World
and we’re just typing in it
An opening salvo in the productivity wars, extreme collaboration in the outer reaches of space and time, and the computer scientists trying to stave off a Q-Day global meltdown
Attack of the Killer Bean Counters
The ship has arrived. As the steam clears from the spacecraft door, we gain a glimpse of our visitors. Their weapons go by the names .xlsx, ActivTrak, and Swarmia, and their tentacled reach is long. Here before us is MANAGEMENT, the merciless minions of consulting, and they have come to measure our worth.
This August, McKinsey released a framework for measuring developer productivity. As LeadDev explains, McKinsey connected four of their own performance-focused metrics to existing DORA and SPACE frameworks, an approach Dave Farley compares to astrology.
Not everyone is ready to welcome our visitors from outer space. As Kent Beck (see below) and Gergely Orosz have noted, the McKinsey framework misses a whole half of the developer lifecycle, focusing entirely on output and leaving impact high and dry. The framework also ignores the question of team and company culture, trading big-picture perspective for the measurement of individual workers.
And all of this, of course, leads to the question of how this sort of framework will be used by individual firms. Will these measurements show up as justification for layoffs and reorganizations? And will hyper-focus on the coding part of development, as opposed to the softer tasks of leadership and collaboration, lead to inefficient, burned-out and brittle teams?
Two Four Six Eight, How Do You Collaborate?
Programming giant Kent Beck has a new post on the hows, whys, and the is-it-even-possibles of bringing Extreme Programming to the remote workspace. As Beck notes, “Extreme Programming is a deliberately social style” of development, but it was developed in an era in which most, if not all, of the work of software development occurred in the office. Now that teams are more likely to work remotely, does EP still have value?
Given that, as Beck notes, “working remotely doesn’t block communication so much as it blocks communication getting started,” communication looks different in the remote environment. Whereas regular meetings in the office are often signs of inertia and waste – if it’s so important to talk, why wouldn’t I roll my chair up to yours? – scheduled time is vital in the remote space because it turns time into communication and communication into action.
And ultimately, these actions express value. As Beck puts it, values themselves don’t change with physical location, but the expression of these values changes at distance. Unless they think deliberately, remote work can slide teams into patterns that don’t fully address their needs. He gives the example of flow and the principle that smaller, more frequent releases better suit the needs of developers and their customers. The difficulty of remote collaboration might push a team toward working in larger batches, but with a more deliberate organization of time, developers can work in smaller batches, integrate more frequently, and deliver better product along the way.
In the spirit of our current 90s cultural revival, we’re facing Y2K the Reboot: Q-Day. This is the eventual day that quantum computers have enough power to unravel encryption that safeguards everything from “credit card transactions and stock exchanges … air traffic systems and GPS signals …and the security of critical infrastructure, like nuclear plants and the power grid.”
We don’t know when it could happen, as today’s most powerful quantum device uses 433 qubits, and experts estimate that a quantum computer would need tens of thousands to millions of qubits to unlock current encryptions. Still, it’s clear global financial, travel, and security systems need new algorithmic standards that can’t be cracked by future quantum computers.
To that end, the federal government agency NIST put out a global call in 2016 for new algorithmic models, and has since selected four algorithms to recommend. These lattice grid algorithms will be tricky to implement by the ambitious goal of 2035, but the hope is that large American tech companies with mega technological reach will be able to implement new methods with less friction than the smaller players.
Elsewhere on The Internets
Yesteryear tech of the week
See ya next week,
– The EiT crew at Status Hero