Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Codewright Mentality

If someone asks you, "What is a Codewright?" how would you answer? You could provide something out of a dictionary, "A Codewright is someone who does x, y, and z" but would you be prepared for the next question, "What if they do a, b, or c"? While coming up with a definition for a Codewright is not impossible, it must take into account those people who have the Pakled-like tendency to want simple answers to complex questions.

Is it possible that a set of questions would be more useful in our attempt to explain the Codewright mentality? I propose that we start collecting a set of questions that help us identify candidates while not rigidly being definitive. This would keep the poseurs at bay. In all fields, there are those who can talk the talk enough to get chosen to do the work but have no real desire to know what it takes to do a good job or even the desire to improve themselves. We call these people "Consultants".

The desire to do a good job would seem to be related to what we call customer service. I recently read an article about Fog Creek's attempts to provide good customer service. For those who study business, Fog Creek's approach sounds not too far off from a well-known discount airline. I submit that the desire to provide good customer service is not only an attribute of a successful business but of a Codewright as well. It is entirely possible that the traits that make-up a Codewright are shared by many of the top-performing individuals regardless of their field. Someone who desires to do a good job and is driven to continuously improve by learning from their mistakes will find themselves near the top of the heap eventually; passing those who found a comfortable niche and live by the motto of "it's always worked for me before". If all it took to be a successful airline was to fly 737s, have goofy ads, and hire cheerful flight attendants, the low-fare airline serving as our model would have much more competition than it does. It would need nice if all it took to be a Codewright in the software world was to subscribe to the language-dujour (Java these days), be fluent in UML, and exhibit a pollyanna-like belief in the latest methodologies like Extreme Programming, Agile, Scrum, etc. If it were that easy we'd be producing systems of such quality and timeliness that questions like "Why is software development so hard" or "What's wrong with Software?" would be a fading memory.

So, one attribute of a Codewright is the desire and drive to provide remarkable customer service. Desire is not enough. Everyone desires to be in good shape but if all you ever do is say that you need to visit the gym 5-times a week, you'll eventually rationalize with yourself, "I'm in shape - round is a shape!" Having the drive without the desire is more like the demanding parent who relive their childhood vicariously through their children.

One criteria down, umpteen to go. Any suggestions?
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