What is Code?

Paul Ford:

You are an educated, successful person capable of abstract thought. A VP doing an SVP’s job. Your office, appointed with decent furniture and a healthy amount of natural light filtered through vertical blinds, is commensurate with nearly two decades of service to the craft of management.

Copper plaques on the wall attest to your various leadership abilities inside and outside the organization: One, the Partner in Innovation Banquet Award 2011, is from the sales team for your support of its 18-month effort to reduce cycle friction—net sales increased 6.5 percent; another, the Civic Guidelight 2008, is for overseeing a volunteer team that repainted a troubled public school top to bottom.

You have a reputation throughout the organization as a careful person, bordering on penny-pinching. The way you’d put it is, you are loath to pay for things that can’t be explained. You expect your staff to speak in plain language. This policy has served you well in many facets of operations, but it hasn’t worked at all when it comes to overseeing software development.

For your entire working memory, some Internet thing has come along every two years and suddenly hundreds of thousands of dollars (inevitably millions) must be poured into amorphous projects with variable deadlines. Content management projects, customer relationship management integration projects, mobile apps, paperless office things, global enterprise resource planning initiatives—no matter how tightly you clutch the purse strings, software finds a way to pry open your fingers.

Here we go again. On the other side of your (well-organized) desk sits this guy in his mid-30s with a computer in his lap. He’s wearing a taupe blazer. He’s come to discuss spending large sums to create intangible abstractions on a “website re-architecture project.” He needs money, support for his team, new hires, external resources. It’s preordained that you’ll give these things to him, because the CEO signed off on the initiative—and yet should it all go pear-shaped, you will be responsible. Coders are insanely expensive, and projects that start with uncomfortably large budgets have an ugly tendency to grow from there. You need to understand where the hours will go.

He says: “We’re basically at the limits with WordPress.”

Who wears a taupe blazer?

The CTO was fired six months ago. That CTO has three kids in college and a mustache. It was a bad exit. The man in the taupe blazer (TMitTB) works for the new CTO. She comes from Adobe and has short hair and no mustache.

Here is what you’ve been told: All of the computer code that keeps the website running must be replaced. At one time, it was very valuable and was keeping the company running, but the new CTO thinks it’s garbage. She tells you the old code is spaghetti and your systems are straining as a result. That the third-party services you use, and pay for monthly, are old and busted. Your competitor has an animated shopping cart that drives across the top of the screen at checkout. That cart remembers everything customers have ever purchased and generates invoices on demand. Your cart has no memory at all.

Salespeople stomp around your office, sighing like theater students, telling you how embarrassed they are by the site. Nothing works right on mobile. Orders are cutting off halfway. People are logged out with no warning. Something must be done.

Which is why TMitTB is here.

Who’s he, anyway? Webmaster? IT? No, he’s a “Scrum Master.”

“My people are split on platform,” he continues. “Some want to use Drupal 7 and make it work with Magento—which is still PHP.” He frowns. “The other option is just doing the back end in Node.js with Backbone in front.”

You’ve furrowed your brow; he eyes you sympathetically and explains: “With that option it’s all JavaScript, front and back.”

Those are all terms you’ve heard. You’ve read the first parts of the Wikipedia pages and a book on software project estimation. It made some sense at the time.

This article was published back in June, but it’s a good read and worth reading.

One of our goals with Flybase, and our upcoming new companion service is to provide a platform that lets you build your apps with less resources, so articles that walk you through all the resources you might need to build an app is handy to see.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/