Programmer diary — programmer productivity experiment #1

Programmer diary — programmer productivity experiment #1

One of the most intriguing ideas described in the book “How Google works” is writing “snippets.” In this case, the snippets are tiny status reports, status reports that resemble tweets. They are something that requires no more than a few minutes of work, so people have no excuses.

The only purpose of the snippets is to communicate programmer’s progress and accomplishments to the management. Programmers post snippets in a place where everyone employed in the organization can see them.

Snippets includes the most important activities and achievements of the week and quickly conveys what the person is working on right now.

Why would I want to do it? To show the progress on a project, to document decisions and the reasons behind them, to hold myself accountable, and to track time spent working on the current project, maintaining the previous projects, random requests, and office bureaucracy. Also, I like that idea because the “snippets” resemble a little bit a laboratory notebook.

If I decide to continue writing such snippets for the whole year, they may help me to prove my accomplishments during the next performance review. It is likely that I am going to be the only person reading my “snippets,” but I am not going to hide them.

It is supposed to be an experiment so let’s describe it using the steps of the scientific method (also, I do such things for fun ;) ).

Observation: Engineers in a well-respected IT company have a practice of writing a “diary” that is available to everyone in the company. The practice is so vital that their CEO decided to write about it in his book about the company.

Question: Is the practice useful for engineers who work in different companies even if nobody is going to read it?

Hypothesis: Every engineer can benefit from writing such “diaries” because you don’t need to make the same decisions over and over again. Instead of that, you can read your snippets, find the relevant decisions which you made in the past, and check whether they apply to your current situation.

Prediction: If snippets are useful outside of Google, I will at least once use them to justify a new decision. I can prove it only if in such a situation, I will document the decision in another snippet with a link to the old snippet. If during the experiment, I won’t write a snippet which mentions being inspired by one of the past notes, I must reject the hypothesis.

Experiment: For the next 3 months, I am going to post “snippets” in one of our internal knowledge-sharing tools. After 3 months, I will read the content and check whether I referred to a past snippet as a justification of any decision described in another snippet.

Let’s see what happens ;)


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Bartosz Mikulski
Bartosz Mikulski * data scientist / software engineer * conference speaker * organizer of School of A.I. meetups in Poznań * co-founder of Software Craftsmanship Poznan & Poznan Scala User Group