Explaining WTF Work to Non-Programmers



    • You write Visual J#
    • You use something resembling MUMPS
    • You customize a Synergistic End-To-End Enterprise Content Management Portal Solution
    • Your company has their own brilliant “framework”

    Wether it’s a WTF language, a WTF framework, or WTF policies, we can recognize a WTF from a mile away, and are quick to say so when we spot one. Non-programmers (our coworkers, managers, friends, spouses) often have a hard time understanding when we complain that things suck.

    So, I have been trying to come up with a way to relate to people with other jobs or hobbies exactly why a programming job might, indeed, suck. I think a big part of it is the fact that they can’t understand the types of tools we work with, and that bad tools are potentially the worst thing that could happen. Now, let’s have some poor metaphors, shall we?

    A graphic designer:

    Your editor wants you to assemble an entire magazine layout using Microsoft Paint, and a trial version of some rather questionable PDF software.

    A doctor:

    You’re a brilliant doctor working at a new hospital. The hospital gives you a pair of scissors and a roll of duct tape, and asks you why it’s taking so long to cure patients of everything from diabetes to cancer.

    A mechanic:

    You have worked on every kind of car imaginable, and have decades of experience, and your new job actually turns out to be changing oil with a pair of rusty needle-nose pliers. The pliers are mandated. No, you cannot bring other tools to work.



  • @djork said:

    A doctor:

    You’re a brilliant doctor working at a new hospital. The hospital gives you a pair of grade-school safety scissors and a roll of duct tape, and asks you why it’s taking so long to cure patients of everything from diabetes to cancer.

    Fixed that for you.  🙂

    I'll have to see if I can come up with some other analogies.  Lawyer and airline pilot are kind of percolating right now...

     



  • How's this?

    Lawyer:

    Your client signed a written confession and was seen by multiple eyewitnesses leaving the scene of the murder with a large knife in hand.  You must prove his innocence using only the lead of a #2 pencil, a red magnet shaped like a horseshoe and a well-thumbed copy of Crime and Punishment.  If you fail, he will stab you to death in front of the entire courtroom.  The judge has already offered to loan him his letter opener.



  • A teacher: 

    You're the best teacher the school's had, but a not insignificant proportion of the brats misbehave which distracts the other pupils. You are prevented from enforcing dicipline in children by threats of legal action both from the parents and the children themselves.

    Oh - you wanted metaphors, not what actually happens.

    Apologies. 



  • Project manager:

    PM's Boss: I need a project plan for the Internet and what we are doing about it, along with a SWOT analysis of tainted beef and its impact on the project plan.  I have a meeting with the shareholders at 3:00, so I need to review these by 2:58.  That gives you at least a solid hour to work on this.



  • @GalacticCowboy said:

    Project manager:

    PM's Boss: I need a project plan for the Internet and what we are doing about it ...

     

    Wow, that resulted in audible LULZ! 



  • McDonalds "chef":

     You are a competent burger flipper at McDonalds.  Ray Cro has been resurrected and is coming to the store.  He has called 2 hours in advance and he wants filet mignon.  You can only use the materials we already have, but to aid you in this task we have assigned to your charge 10 new people.  5 are from sales, 3 are managers but they don't know how to cook, and 2 of them have cooked at home before, but are unfamiliar with any of the equipment here.  Considering the challange of this you have also been assigned a team of 30 minimum wage bus boys and burger flippers who are in the next state over.  It is up to you to bring these people up to speed before begining your work on the filet.



  • Carpenter:



    You are asked to repair a house built entirely out of particle board and finishing nails, with the second floor overhanging every part of the first floor because the inhabitants needed extra room after the birth of their new baby. Of course they knew they were having a baby when the house was originally built, but they didn't expect the need for additional room after it was born. The inhabitants are complaining that they are getting wet when it rains; the Architect didn't bother building a roof because he never considered the possibility of bad weather. None of the doors have locks because the house began as a private abode that nobody else knew about, and security was too bothersome to implement because the inhabitants would have to remember to bring their keys. They didn't build a staircase either because there wasn't any place to put it on the first floor; they get to the second floor by climbing a ladder outside the house. The wiring consists of a half-unwound spool of cable in the living room leading to every outlet in the house, with jagged holes cut in the ceiling of the first floor to bring power to the second floor. The kitchen and the bathroom are one and the same because they both use water and the Architect thought it would be a neat idea to optimize them together.



    Naturally, your first instinct is to demolish the house and start over, but sadly this is not an option because the inhabitants feel they have invested too much money in it to give it up and they have no other place to raise their baby, whose increasing demands are difficult to fulfill with the current layout of the house. However, they can't invest any more into the house because of the baby's needs, so you have to work with the meager tools you brought with you plus whatever scraps are lying around the ground outside.



    Oh, and can you get it finished next week? The grandparents are coming in and the inhabitants would like to show off the new baby without the house causing any problems. If all goes well, the kid will get a nice investment into his college fund.



  • Builder or Carpenter

    Your clients want you to turn a one bedroom tar-paper shack into a 30,000 square foot "McMansion", complete with helipad and inbuilt Olympic size swimming pool.

    To that end they have equipped you with two rocks (one to hammer nails and one to cut wood), 939 used matches and a budget of $500. They expect a completed home by the end of the week. They will regularly attend the building site demanding changes and insisting that their 12 year old nephew would've completed it by now, using only 437 of the matches and costing only $138.76.



  • @Erick said:

    Carpenter:



    You are asked to repair a house built entirely out of particle board and finishing nails, with the second floor overhanging every part of the first floor because the inhabitants needed extra room after the birth of their new baby. Of course they knew they were having a baby when the house was originally built, but they didn't expect the need for additional room after it was born. The inhabitants are complaining that they are getting wet when it rains; the Architect didn't bother building a roof because he never considered the possibility of bad weather. None of the doors have locks because the house began as a private abode that nobody else knew about, and security was too bothersome to implement because the inhabitants would have to remember to bring their keys. They didn't build a staircase either because there wasn't any place to put it on the first floor; they get to the second floor by climbing a ladder outside the house. The wiring consists of a half-unwound spool of cable in the living room leading to every outlet in the house, with jagged holes cut in the ceiling of the first floor to bring power to the second floor. The kitchen and the bathroom are one and the same because they both use water and the Architect thought it would be a neat idea to optimize them together.



    Naturally, your first instinct is to demolish the house and start over, but sadly this is not an option because the inhabitants feel they have invested too much money in it to give it up and they have no other place to raise their baby, whose increasing demands are difficult to fulfill with the current layout of the house. However, they can't invest any more into the house because of the baby's needs, so you have to work with the meager tools you brought with you plus whatever scraps are lying around the ground outside.



    Oh, and can you get it finished next week? The grandparents are coming in and the inhabitants would like to show off the new baby without the house causing any problems. If all goes well, the kid will get a nice investment into his college fund.
     

    You, sir, are awesome.  I award you 10 points.  Feel free to pick them up at the information kiosk.



  • @bstorer said:

    @Erick said:
    Carpenter:
    You, sir, are awesome. I award you 10 points. Feel free to pick them up at the information kiosk.

    Seconded. Do you write for a living (yet)?



  • @magetoo said:

    Do you write for a living (yet)?

    Yes. C# and SQL.
    Thanks for the kind words. 🙂



  • Bus Driver:

    Every day you take your passengers on your regular route across the river. Part of the journey involves you carrying the bus on your back across a wobbly footbridge. There is a perfectly good bridge just beside it, which every other vehicle goes over. Your passengers don't even want to go across the river anyway. You have queried this with your manager on a number of occasions, but every time he stares at you blankly and asks what's wrong with the footbridge, before shuffling off to a meeting.



  • Skyscraper architect:

    A rich entrepreneur asks you to build a skyscraper for him with lights that shuffle, he shows you the Empire State Building, which he owns. He asks you what kind of skyscraper would be best suited for lights. You show him some examples from some skyscrapers in Tokio. He wants the skyscraper to be just as big as the Empire State. After some discussion it is decided that you will work with a team of other architects on the new skyscraper of new-super-modern design.

    The other architects have no experience building such skyscrapers, but they will have to learn. The rich entrepreneur bought a book on civil engineering for them, so they can design the skyscraper. After talking with the other architects, it turns they have no experience designing skycrapers at all. All they really did in the past, was building wooden houses in New Orleans, and painting friends houses. Also, there is no room for another skycraper in the part of Manhatten that the entrepreneur owns. So it is decided, that the Empire State will be outfitted with shuffling lights.

    You will have to talk of the architect who built the Empire State, which gives the detailed design plans of the Empire State for you to study. The plans reveal a very obscure design, the internals of the Empire State are built with plastic and bubblegum. The foundations are a couple of old subway trains stacked on top eachother. The other architects reveal to the Empire State architect that they want to rebuild the Empire State using the Japanese method of steel foundations. The architect disagrees, and says he doesn't support building with steel foundations. You also argue that the foundations are not very stable or extensible. The Empire State architect says you are correct, but there is no reason to implement a steel foundation.

    The Empire State architect is part of a special group that supports the paradigm of building skyscrapers with old trains, plastic and bubblegum. This group has agreed to train you and the other architects to built skyscrapers with plastic and bubblegum. After a few sessions of training, the architects you would be working with, refuse to go on, and you are left on your own.

    You argue, in order to support the new lights on the Empire State, you need to replace the old electrical system, which works by using dead rats tied to eachother as an electrical current transportation system. This system is troublesome, and outages in the building are not uncommon. The Empire State architect disagrees, and says you will need to fix the system instead of replacing it. However, you do replace it with conventional electrical wires, and the Empire State architect is amazed on how good it works.

    Meanwhile, the rich entrepreneur buys a lot of expensive cars, and bought 99 rolls royces. Also he takes trips to Paris, the Middle East and Hawaii. He is never there, and all the trips he and cars he buys, he books on the project budget.



  • Parent-to-be:

    Due to a change in hospital child-delivery targets, we have had to forwardly-optimise the schedule for your child's birth 6 months, from August to the 2nd week in March. Since we recognise that your project doesn't currently have the required womanpower to bring the deliverables to market in the required timeframe, we have retasked 15 other women to assist you in this endeavour.

    Since the project will be working at an accellerated pace, we will instead be requiring your status reports hourly, instead of weekly as previously. Which reminds me, didn't you get the memo about the new report cover sheet?



  •  Professional Chef:

    You are forced to prepare a banquet for 500 with rancid, month old, ingredients.  The owner continually adds new head chefs to the kitchen at the rate of 1 per hour.  Finally, 30 minutes before dinner service, Gordon Ramsay has just been hired to help improve kitchen morale.

     



  • Firefighter:

    Upon being bussed to the scene of a burning building, you are giving a circus clown-sized fire engine and a diuretic and told, "Make with the water, Clown boy!"



  •  <font color="#0000ff" face="Arial" size="2">A Party Caterer:</font>

     
    <font color="#0000ff" face="Arial" size="2">You turn up to meet a prospective client expecting to have an initial discussion about the requirements for the food at an upcoming party.  </font>
     
    <font color="#0000ff" face="Arial" size="2">You arrive to find the party in full-swing and the prospective client is furious that you're late.  The client then hands you: five loaves, two fishes and a jug of water, and then demands enough food and wine to feed 5000, explaining that they know this is possible, because they read it's been done before.</font>


  • A Bank Manager.

     

    You are drafted in by your CEO to help opening a new city-centre "banking concept".

    You are told that the bank must be 100% secure, and allow no-one the opportunity to steal at any time, ever. No member of staff or customer is ever to be made aware of the amount of money held in the bank, or the balance of any account, for security reasons. All movements and activities within the bank, or near to the bank, or which could impact upon the bank in any way, must be recorded and stored.

    Customer convenience is paramount. Any customer must be able to access their money instantly, simply by walking along the street outside the bank and picking the money up from a pile. The CEO is also pioneering a cash delivery system, where a customer can phone the bank and have money delivered to wherever they currently are. The customer should not need to remember details such as the bank's phone number, nor should they be required to have a phone.

    The bank must be mobile.

    The CEO has already had the bank partially constructed by contractors, however these contractors have had no training in construction and have simply piled up many thousands of bricks in a heap on the street. Before work commences on the bank, you must assess each brick individually and determine which ones are in the wrong place, and by how far.

    You have three weeks and a staff consisting of one other bank managers and two builders. During the final week, you will be required to start working on a second bank, and one of the builders will be on holiday. The other bank manager believes they are overseeing this project, and will immediately cease work if they find out otherwise.

    All further communications regarding the bank's construction are to be handwritten, and delivered via mail. The CEO requires hourly status updates, and will be unable to accurately read your handwriting no matter how clearly you write.

    The success of this project is directly tied to your salary and future employment prospects.



  • Quality Assurance Technician at a Matchstick Factory

    You are told by your boss that you must personally guarantee that each and every matchstick the factory produces will light the first time by testing each match to destruction.  Absolutely no sampling will be allowed!

    After considering this request until cognitive dissonance kicks in, you begin to drink on the job and develop incipient pyromania.  Finally, you take to wandering around the factory in a dressing gown, posting on Internet forums about how much your job sucks and fielding replies that say, in equal parts:"Harden Up!", "Quit Already!", or "Burn the place down!"

     



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