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Podcast 040

[incomplete]

Intro, advertising

[01:00]

Spolsky: It's just like you're playing with your AM radio and you just tuned in on a station and it was in the middle of something

Lopp: That's awesome.

Spolsky: That's the illusion we're trying to create. We had an anemone die today.

Lopp: An anemone ?

Spolsky:Yep

Lopp: What color was it, are they all brown or green or what's the deal ?

Spolsky: I don't know it was like multi-colored, they're like brown green, they've got little tentacles

Lopp: Does an anemone float when it dies, or is it just sad and on the bottom ?

Spolsky: I don't know, I found out about it via email. I havent yet. But yesterday it was looking really sick. Our aquarium is a source of much sadness and stress. The people that visit our office, they only get the "Oh cool, its like, pretty fish", they don't have to live with...they don't have to stay up with the sea horses when they get a cold.

Lopp: There was, in college, I had a proctor who had a salt-water tank and had all of the maintenance of all of that. At some point, and I don't know what these things were, but she got these worms in the salt-water tank. And they got into the base [of the tank] and they slowly grew bigger and bigger, and they started to climb up out of the mud and started eating the fish.Which is like, it's like a horror movie in your fish tank. That just freaks me out whenever I thnk about it.

Spolsky: So, do they become, like, land animals, like they evolve?

Lopp: I think that at some point, she said, "They might win" so I think she got the water out of the tank, but I can imagine them, like; my vision was always them coming out and going after you, because, you know, that's just kind of freaky.

Spolsky: We had Starfish that would eat the other fish. Like fish would just go missing completely and we were sure the starfish were eating them. So we got rid of the starfish.

Anyway, Jeff: What's new?

Atwood: Nothing. I was just afraid that with those worms there was going to be Spice involved. It wouldn't be good.

Lopp: Nice Pole.

Atwood: Yea.

[3:11]

(...)

[17.20]

Atwood: The only thought I had there was that a lot of the times my concept of leadership as a developer is a) it's hard to scale it to a really large group and I'm kind of curious how big are the groups you're managing, it sounds like they're pretty sizable ?

Lopp: I moved into the senior management role which is a managing managers which is a whole other ball of wax, so yeah that what's the next book is going to be called

Spolsky: Managing documents

Atwood: It's going to be called: "I'm screwed"

Lopp: But it's fascinating because its totally, it's more like management than engineering is like management but it's a very different role, whereas, anyway we won't go there. So the teams are anywhere from, I actually have a magic number of about 7 where I feel like that's sort of the point that you can get it all done and over that, you know, given that the team is sort of normal. Over 7 or so it just turns into, it's just too many people and people aren't getting the attention that they need to kind of grow and do that so.

Spolsky: I used to wish that you could have larger teams than that where people sort of self-manage in a way. I think I might have been being naive.

Lopp: I don't know, in this 7 there are all those personalities you were just describing in terms of all those chapters and whatnot some of them need a lot of attention and some are self managing, but again at that 7 number around there, it gets to be too many. And whenever I inherit a team that's like, "How many people do you have?", "I have 10." I am like, "How is it not working?" and the answer is almost always, "I'm not talking to so-and-so, or this person is about to quit and you can go back to, it's this weeding thing again, people need daily attention, not that their needy, but it's just that's part of who they are as humans, that they want to be touched, that's getting a little weird there, but they need to have that constant, not constant, they need to have consistant attention. I think is the right word.

[19:10]

(...)

[59:02]

Spolsky: The trouble is that the stuff that's available to read these days is, except for your book Michael, is just getting worse and worse.  There's so much crap.  I don't believe how much time I spend just going, "next, next, next," in Google Reader and just being fed these little drivets of randomly useless information.  We were having a conversation yesterday at lunch, and I noticed about half the conversations at Fog Creek lunch are usually of the form, "Did you see that thing on the Youtube with the guy with the cat and the cat was…?" And it's like we're this community that just uses like RSS feeds and Google Reader and Reddit and Digg and Twitter and whatnot to just sort of like munch a little bit, just surf around on this huge gigantic…junk heap, like a huge trash…tip, like a gigantic dump of garbage, and we're all walking around, and we're like, "Oh did you see the other day that kind of that rusty kitchen sink that was sort of arranged in a funny way?"  And the guy's like, "Oh with the dead cat?" "No! No! With the dead dog." "Oh yeah, that was cool."

[1:00:04]

(...)

[1:04:27]

Atwood: I think the people who come to you and they say "Here's are all the ways that I've screwed up" are gonna be your best people, because A) they are reflective...

Lopp: Yes.

Atwood: they actually think that they've screwed up.  And B) they understand the value of going in and taking this and preventing it from happening again.  That's the nature of software development, it's very iterative.  It's all about failing and then saying "How can I not fail the next time."  If you're not doing that, then you are kind of doomed.

Spolsky: Alright, I was gonna wrap it up, but go ahead, give us something to make people cry as the music plays on the way out.

Atwood: Oh Crap.

Lopp: I think that what I look for when I hire engineers, it's a balance of two things.  First off, I look for a little ego.  "Do you know what you are talking about?  Can you really explain it to me really well?"  But, I also look for that humility thing which we were talking about here which is "Boy did I screw up, and these are the lessons that I have."  Those are the two things I am looking for.  And they are sort of contradictory because the big ego person - I am not interested in hiring the big ego person who isn't able to tell me why he screwed up.

Atwood: Oh yeah.  That's awesome.  That's a great balancing, a perfect way to phrase that.  They balance each other, and you've got to have that.

[1:05:41]

[Spolsky closes the show]

Last Modified: 12/22/2009 3:02 AM

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