Developer workstation placement WTF



  • I recently interviewed for another job which seemed to be a casual medium-sized company which does interfaces and modules for the automotive industry. These modules are fitted to vehicles on the production line. Typical modules would be reversing cameras, parking sensors, etc.

    At the end of the 3rd interview I was offered a chance to see where I would be working. I was shown to a desk with a minitower PC, what looked like a 19" CRT monitor and a pretty much standard Microsoft keyboard and mouse. It was an open-plan office with 7 other developers in front of me working on what looked like identical equipment, but was told that although I could introduce myself, I must not ask what they were working on. Across the other side of the room (about 1.5 desk sizes away) was technical & customer support, blabbering on the phone. 

    Who the hell came up with such an insane room layout I don't know (and who uses CRTs now?)



  • I must be missing something, but that sounds like a relatively normal office layout to me... What are you saying is wrong with it? The fact that you were in the same room as tech support? Or that you were all in one room, instead of cubicles?



  • 1) Developers typically need to concentrate, and how do you do that when you have people blabbering away on the phones all day

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    As a comparison, at my current job I have a dual 23" TFTs on a quad core PC (in fact, everyone has the same). The developers are in there own room where the only sound you hear is the vague sound of keyboards; technical support guys are in a partioned part of the sales office.There passes don't even allow them in the development offices. Heck, there's not even a manager in the same room as the developers! (They email and hold meetings in one of the conference rooms)

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?



  • @Mole said:

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?
    I find noise cancelling headphones useful.



  • @Mole said:

    room layout
     

    Strictly speaking based on the personas present in the area, my
    situation is about the same, although with a few people less, but the
    general atmosphere is basically like your description of the quiet
    tappity-tap dev room.

    Sales folk are in a different area, because THEY ARE SO LOUDDDD, obviously.

    So YMMV.

    @Mole said:

    although I
    could introduce myself, I must not ask what they were working
    on.

    WTF?

    @Mole said:

    There Their passes don't even allow them in the development offices.

    WTF. Restricted access within the same floor? Why the hell would support be not allowed to go to the devs? (unless you're doing sensitive hush-hush things or whatever)



  •  @Mole said:

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?

    Nope, but I've clocked up 20 years in the industry now and have spent approximately two months of that time in an office environment which was quiet and conducive to thought and concentration.  That was the couple of months when we commissioned a new office space on the floor above our current one and the management were too disorganised to get anyone else up there with us for a couple of months.  Just six devs and peace and quiet.

     It was the most productive two months of my career.



  • @Mole said:

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    At the first sign of CRTs hint that LCDs repay itself within a year on the electricity bill. (Which isn't true I think) BIG chance that the manager thinks that you know what you are talking about (you are IT, you know that stuff!) and replaces all the CRTs very fast. Of course actually checking if they save money is never done.



  • @Mole said:

    As a comparison, at my current job I have a dual 23" TFTs on a quad core PC (in fact, everyone has the same). The developers are in there own room where the only sound you hear is the vague sound of keyboards; technical support guys are in a partioned part of the sales office.There passes don't even allow them in the development offices. Heck, there's not even a manager in the same room as the developers! (They email and hold meetings in one of the conference rooms)
    Are you hiring? I'll pay you to work there.



  • @Mole said:

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.





    As a business owner, TRWTF is people who think that just because a business is in a potentially profitable area, it must be making a profit. I'm not sure how you guys manage to be so insulated from the top level of things, but there've been times where my business has hung on the balance of less cashflow than a few dozen 24" monitors - while we had a quarter million in accounts receivable. And there've been other times where we're forced to spend a hundred thousand dollars in a couple of months because corporate profit taxes will eat 40% of our cash on hand on January 1st (obviously, only small business have to worry about government WTFs like that). Our business is potentially very profitable. But hey, credit crunch, strong euro forcing our prices up 30% in our biggest market, rift in politics with our biggest customer... Monitors and quad cores start to look like a real luxury when you've got two weeks of cash and no orders.



    Anyway, just because it's a medium-sized business doesn't mean it's making a profit. And just because it isn't making a profit doesn't necessarily mean it's mismanaged. Running a business is exceedingly difficult in the best of times, and the egotism I see here with people dismissing any company that hasn't got big monitors is obnoxious.



    Oh, and for the record, my office has a 30" and two 24"s running on eyefinity on the main computer, and two other computers running three other 24s. And a projector on a 50" screen. And a mini fridge. The nice thing about risking your ass running the edge down to two weeks of burn money is that you and only you decide when it's time to reward yourself when you're up to 8 months of burn money...



  • @PeriSoft said:

    @Mole said:

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.





    As a business owner, TRWTF is people who think that just because a business is in a potentially profitable area, it must be making a profit. I'm not sure how you guys manage to be so insulated from the top level of things, but there've been times where my business has hung on the balance of less cashflow than a few dozen 24" monitors - while we had a quarter million in accounts receivable. And there've been other times where we're forced to spend a hundred thousand dollars in a couple of months because corporate profit taxes will eat 40% of our cash on hand on January 1st (obviously, only small business have to worry about government WTFs like that). Our business is potentially very profitable. But hey, credit crunch, strong euro forcing our prices up 30% in our biggest market, rift in politics with our biggest customer... Monitors and quad cores start to look like a real luxury when you've got two weeks of cash and no orders.



    Anyway, just because it's a medium-sized business doesn't mean it's making a profit. And just because it isn't making a profit doesn't necessarily mean it's mismanaged. Running a business is exceedingly difficult in the best of times, and the egotism I see here with people dismissing any company that hasn't got big monitors is obnoxious.



    Oh, and for the record, my office has a 30" and two 24"s running on eyefinity on the main computer, and two other computers running three other 24s. And a projector on a 50" screen. And a mini fridge. The nice thing about risking your ass running the edge down to two weeks of burn money is that you and only you decide when it's time to reward yourself when you're up to 8 months of burn money...
     

    I'm not going to say that you are doing it wrong or whatever, I haven't ran a business with employees yet. However, the cost of hardware  is almost nothing compared that that of an employee, by spending an extra months worth of money when hiring a new employee you ensure he will be happier and productive. And when your liquidity is taking a hit and you don't have any money to spare, i doubt you will be hiring employees anyway.



  • @dhromed said:

    @Mole said:
    There

    Their passes don't even allow them in the development offices.

    WTF. Restricted access within the same floor? Why the hell would support be not allowed to go to the devs? (unless you're doing sensitive hush-hush things or whatever)

    Process! You are expected to follow the process. Sales & Tech support are expected to fill out a tech support request. We have lots of restricted access within the same floor. For example, sales & tech support are not permitted entry into the IT offices either, but development staff are by default allowed full access apart from the main server room (they are considered IT knowledgeable and able to do their own IT whilst sales staff are known to ask stupid questions and do rather bizarre things).

    @stratos said:
    I'm not going to say that you are doing it wrong
    or whatever, I haven't ran a business with employees yet. However, the
    cost of hardware  is almost nothing compared that that of an employee,
    by spending an extra months worth of money when hiring a new employee
    you ensure he will be happier and productive. And when your liquidity is
    taking a hit and you don't have any money to spare, i doubt you will be
    hiring employees anyway.

    Exactly. The purchase of equipment is typically a fraction of what it costs to pay an development employee for a month.  I know my quad core PC was well under $600, and the monitors are under $200 each. It's not like we need specialist hardware. If you can't afford the hardware, chances are you can't afford the employee either.



  • @Mole said:

    1) Developers typically need to concentrate, and how do you do that when you have people blabbering away on the phones all day

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    As a comparison, at my current job I have a dual 23" TFTs on a quad core PC (in fact, everyone has the same). The developers are in there own room where the only sound you hear is the vague sound of keyboards; technical support guys are in a partioned part of the sales office.There passes don't even allow them in the development offices. Heck, there's not even a manager in the same room as the developers! (They email and hold meetings in one of the conference rooms)

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?

    You are definitely not alone! Quiet is absolutely essential for me to really concentrate on writing code. I too have a set of noise-cancelling headphones, but I also have a big head and it gets painful after several hours of wearing them. Also, my company brought in billions last year and the majority of the building is still using 17" CRTs. Those of us with LCDs had to fight to get them. I finally achieved a triple-head setup a couple weeks ago but it took five years of cajoling and outright lies.



  • @stratos said:

    I'm not going to say that you are doing it wrong or whatever, I haven't ran a business with employees yet. However, the cost of hardware  is almost nothing compared that that of an employee, by spending an extra months worth of money when hiring a new employee you ensure he will be happier and productive. And when your liquidity is taking a hit and you don't have any money to spare, i doubt you will be hiring employees anyway.

     

    Fair enough. And even in our case, when we hired a guy on (even as an evaluation position) we got him - drum roll - a quad core with a 24" LCD. I'm just saying that if you walk into a shop and see CRTs, you shouldn't immediately think, "Bunch of fuckups!". We've still got a couple of busted ass CRTs in a test station in the shop, because when you use it three hours a month and want to run triple-head resolutions on one monitor, CRT is the way to go. I can feed the CRT any weird-ass res and it works, unlike LCDs which barf if they get a resolution too high, or with anything other than 60hz (usually)... LCDs are great, but if I want to know whether there's a sync signal? CRT.

    One of the CRTs is a WTF in itself, by the way - it's a 19" Mitsubishi flat-face; it was hot shit in 1998 when I got it. Anyway, a year and a half later its input stage barfed and it went dimmish and effectively had the red gamma through the roof. Viewable but bad. It was under warranty, so I did a cross ship. New monitor, yay, sent the old one back.

    Six weeks later, we got a UPS shipment. It was the old monitor, in a beat-to-fuck box; you could see the corner of it poking through the cardboard. It'd been in the wars. Turns out it got to California (from New York), ground, and for some weird-ass reason the Mitsu center rejected the shipment.

    So, UPS sent it back to me.

    It got to the UPS center in New York, and they looked at the label and said, "Hey, this needs to go to California!" and off it went. Ground. It got to California, and was rejected, again. It got to New York, and they said, "Hey, this needs to go to California!..."

    They did this six times. The UPS tracking manifest was 20 pages long.

    It did six full cross-country trips, UPS ground, before coming back to me. 18,000 miles, give or take, if my math isn't wrong. The upper left corner is actually smushed in from something, like a block of soap you drop on its corner. The power button was pushed in. The case was cracked.

    I fixed the power switch, and fired it up. It worked just as well as when it left - no convergence issues, no sputtering, no bad focus, nothing. I could actually read text with it running at 3076x768 and the vertical size set to 0 (we don't do that any more since HDMI outs and the ATI eyefinity, but when we had to run analog Matrox Tripleheads, which were finnicky, it was really useful).

    So, we use it out in the shop now, where it's worked for about 10 years without a hitch. I pop up the blue and green gamma and change the levels, and I can actually get it looking halfway decent. I'm gonna keep using that thing until smoke comes out... it rocks.



  • @Mole said:

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?

     

     I'm in a general "engineering" cube farm which also houses electrical engineers, systems engineers, test engineers, etc. The main reason I have ever wanted an office to myself here is because of this one guy in test engineering whose job seems to consist entirely of being constantly on the phone with other test engineers yelling at them about how they're doing the tests all wrong. And whenever he's not doing that, he's on the phone with a friend talking as loudly as possible about playing golf.

    Last month, he got an office, which as far as I'm concerned is just as good as having one myself. Now, for the most part, it's quiet, aside from the clicking of keyboards and occasional conversations.



  • @PeriSoft said:

    Six weeks later, we got a UPS shipment. It was the old monitor, in a beat-to-fuck box; you could see the corner of it poking through the cardboard. It'd been in the wars. Turns out it got to California (from New York), ground, and for some weird-ass reason the Mitsu center rejected the shipment.

    So, UPS sent it back to me.

    It got to the UPS center in New York, and they looked at the label and said, "Hey, this needs to go to California!" and off it went. Ground. It got to California, and was rejected, again. It got to New York, and they said, "Hey, this needs to go to California!..."

    They did this six times. The UPS tracking manifest was 20 pages long.

     

    So did you ever find out why Mitsubishi rejected the shipment?



  • @PeriSoft said:

    It did six full cross-country trips, UPS ground, before coming back to me. 18,000 miles, give or take, if my math isn't wrong.
     

    Dude.

    You monitor has... mileage.



  • "Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think? "

    It's not just developers. Some people don't seem to be sensitive to noise, though - I've worked with people who were doing exactly the same job as me, and they saw no problem with a working environment I found very hard to work in. I'm not sure if they're better at blocking it out, or just that they can do meaningful work in short bursts where I need to concentrate for a decent period to get anything useful done - I spend the first few minutes after an interruption (when I'm really thinking about something) getting my head round everything again, and then spend another few minutes going over the last few minutes' work.

    Out of interest, am I the only person who'd handle this by talking to the prospective employer about the problem some people have with concentrating in that environment? You'd not only have a chance of possibly changing something, you'd also find out one way or the other how the bosses deal with reasonable requests.



  • my cubicle same as all the other devs is in the "hallway" between two different call center groups....  basically I'm in the middle of the room in the central aisleway surrounded on all sides by people chattin all day



  • @PeriSoft said:

    Monitors and quad cores start to look like a real luxury when you've got two weeks of cash and no orders.

    I'm just a small fish but IMO the decrease in employee productivity usually costs more than decent hardware would

    But who am I to complain, a Pentium 4 with 1GB Ram is the best reason to use the "code's compiling" excuse for a break:

    http://xkcd.com/303/



  • @topspin said:

    @PeriSoft said:

    Monitors and quad cores start to look like a real luxury when you've got two weeks of cash and no orders.

    I'm just a small fish but IMO the decrease in employee productivity usually costs more than decent hardware would

    Sure better tools makes for better productivity, but cash flow trumps all other business concerns. Been there done that. Oops actually visiting there right now!



  • @topspin said:

    I'm just a small fish but IMO the decrease in employee productivity usually costs more than decent hardware would
    In a well-capitalised business, it's true that long-term cost will usually outweigh short-term gain, but sometimes it's a choice between doing the expensive, short-term thing, or going out of business. As usual, Terry Pratchett puts it better than I can:

    "The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

    Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

    But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

    This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness."
    (Men at Arms)


  • @Daid said:

    @Mole said:

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    At the first sign of CRTs hint that LCDs repay itself within a year on the electricity bill. (Which isn't true I think) BIG chance that the manager thinks that you know what you are talking about (you are IT, you know that stuff!) and replaces all the CRTs very fast. Of course actually checking if they save money is never done.

    More to the point, since you're interviewing and they (presumably) want to hire you, you can simply lay out a few terms in your contract. Hey, I'll work here if you give me a dual core (or better) PC, 6 GB RAM, and 2 20" or larger LCDs. (Something like that.) Heck, shove the noise-canceling headphones on there, too.

    The real WTF is that people don't negotiate when hiring anymore. Or, possibly, that the developers they've already hired are so beat-down by life that they simply don't care if their facilities suck. Or, possibly, that they've all been there for 10 years and they've gotten completely disconnected with the outside world to the point that they're not even aware LCDs are the new hawtness.

    Either way, give them some conditions. If they take 'em, great. If not, walk.



  • @Mole said:

    1) Developers typically need to concentrate, and how do you do that when you have people blabbering away on the phones all day

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    As a comparison, at my current job I have a dual 23" TFTs on a quad core PC (in fact, everyone has the same). The developers are in there own room where the only sound you hear is the vague sound of keyboards; technical support guys are in a partioned part of the sales office.There passes don't even allow them in the development offices. Heck, there's not even a manager in the same room as the developers! (They email and hold meetings in one of the conference rooms)

    Am I the only developer who likes it quiet so I can think?

     

    Wow what a world you live in. The developers here are usually louder than the tech support. I am surprised we don't all get mandatory giant noise canceling headphones.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @Daid said:
    @Mole said:

    2) 19" CRT monitors. I mean really? I thought this was the 21st century.That kind of business should be making a decent enough profit each year to buy some decent equipment.

    At the first sign of CRTs hint that LCDs repay itself within a year on the electricity bill. (Which isn't true I think) BIG chance that the manager thinks that you know what you are talking about (you are IT, you know that stuff!) and replaces all the CRTs very fast. Of course actually checking if they save money is never done.

    More to the point, since you're interviewing and they (presumably) want to hire you, you can simply lay out a few terms in your contract. Hey, I'll work here if you give me a dual core (or better) PC, 6 GB RAM, and 2 20" or larger LCDs. (Something like that.) Heck, shove the noise-canceling headphones on there, too.

    The real WTF is that people don't negotiate when hiring anymore. Or, possibly, that the developers they've already hired are so beat-down by life that they simply don't care if their facilities suck. Or, possibly, that they've all been there for 10 years and they've gotten completely disconnected with the outside world to the point that they're not even aware LCDs are the new hawtness.

    Either way, give them some conditions. If they take 'em, great. If not, walk.

     

    hear, hear. Totally agree.

    and if anyone thinks that making demands while in contract negotiations because you are just a resource, or they are too big, or they won't make exceptions just for you. Then you probably shouldn't be wanting to work there anyway.

     



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    "He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars."




    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.

    I guess employers there could be forgiven for not splashing out the equivalent of 18 grand on a 24" display for their new hire...



  • For comparison, I work in an open-plan layout. This floor is IT and Marketing, and I'm on the edge of the IT area that's next to the Marketing area. Even apart from the incessant phone calls, they're a much noisier crowd than the IT people. It used to be worse, actually, but the main culprit transferred to an office in another state.

    I don't have proper noise-cancelling headphones, but I do have noise-reducing earphones. The trouble is that I keep getting interruptions from my manager, team leader or colleagues and I have to take them off to hear what they're saying, so I wind up spending half the day without them anyway.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    Some people don't seem to be sensitive to noise, though - I've worked with people who were doing exactly the same job as me, and they saw no problem with a working environment I found very hard to work in. I'm not sure if they're better at blocking it out, or just that they can do meaningful work in short bursts where I need to concentrate for a decent period to get anything useful done - I spend the first few minutes after an interruption (when I'm really thinking about something) getting my head round everything again, and then spend another few minutes going over the last few minutes' work.
    I recently saw a documentary about this. Apparently extravert people need external stimulants (like office noises) to help them concentrate, while introvert people prefer quiet surroudings.



  • @bjolling said:

    @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:
    Some people don't seem to be sensitive to noise, though - I've worked with people who were doing exactly the same job as me, and they saw no problem with a working environment I found very hard to work in. I'm not sure if they're better at blocking it out, or just that they can do meaningful work in short bursts where I need to concentrate for a decent period to get anything useful done - I spend the first few minutes after an interruption (when I'm really thinking about something) getting my head round everything again, and then spend another few minutes going over the last few minutes' work.
    I recently saw a documentary about this. Apparently extravert people need external stimulants (like office noises) to help them concentrate, while introvert people prefer quiet surroudings.
     

    That makes some kind of sense I guess - I'm not remotely fussed about noise (hence my confusion about the OP's description), I think because I'm good at filtering it out. Perhaps sort of related to the fact that I can sleep anywhere... I wonder if the people who like it quiet to work also need silence and dark to sleep? But then I wouldn't say I was particularly extroverted... maybe a little more extroverted than a 'typical'(?) developer though.

    I'll stop wasting your time not really saying anything now, and get on with going to work :)



  • @PeriSoft said:

    @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:
    "He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars."




    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.

    I guess employers there could be forgiven for not splashing out the equivalent of 18 grand on a 24" display for their new hire...

     

    More along the lines of a city police force than an army. But no, not exactly the most economically satisfying job available.



  • @Someone You Know said:

    @PeriSoft said:

    @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:
    "He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars."




    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.

    I guess employers there could be forgiven for not splashing out the equivalent of 18 grand on a 24" display for their new hire...

     

    More along the lines of a city police force than an army. But no, not exactly the most economically satisfying job available.

     

    Man, they must have police corruption out the wazoo - 'cause if you take it the other way around, 10 and 50 bucks is about equivalent to real world pricing, so his salary is equivalent, too. 40 bucks a month won't get you very far here - police corruption must be a pretty serious problem there... It's worse than Sao Paulo!



  • @PeriSoft said:

    Man, they must have police corruption out the wazoo - 'cause if you take it the other way around, 10 and 50 bucks is about equivalent to real world pricing, so his salary is equivalent, too. 40 bucks a month won't get you very far here - police corruption must be a pretty serious problem there... It's worse than Sao Paulo!


    Unless I'm mixing stuff with "Guards! Guards!" (I never remember which of the two is first), at this point in time the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch consisted of... five(?) people and existed only because they weren't noticeable enough for the goverment to get around to closing it...



  • @PeriSoft said:

    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.
    Yeah, there can't be more than, what, five billion people with that problem in the real world, so he's being unrealistic...

    To be fair, though, at that point in the books Ankh Morpork is basically just coming out of it's equivalent of our mediaeval period, and a prosperous middle class is just developing. If you haven't read them, I find it hard to recommend them - not that they're no good: just the opposite, it's practically philistinism not to have read them - because the more recent ones are genuinely brilliant, but much more satisfying having read the early ones, which are merely very good. Start at the beginning and you might not see what all the fuss is about, but start with the recent ones and you might not get as much out of them.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    @PeriSoft said:
    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.
    Yeah, there can't be more than, what, five billion people with that problem in the real world, so he's being unrealistic...

    To be fair, though, at that point in the books Ankh Morpork is basically just coming out of it's equivalent of our mediaeval period, and a prosperous middle class is just developing. If you haven't read them, I find it hard to recommend them - not that they're no good: just the opposite, it's practically philistinism not to have read them - because the more recent ones are genuinely brilliant, but much more satisfying having read the early ones, which are merely very good. Start at the beginning and you might not see what all the fuss is about, but start with the recent ones and you might not get as much out of them.

    So what order do you recommend reading them in, to someone like me who hasn't read any yet?



  • The order they were written in, really, although each book can be read standalone(you're just missing some a lot of background and flavor). If you want to follow just a specific "arc", (keeping in mind that they're all interconnected"), it's also possible.



  •  While it does get referensed later on, the light fantastic can pretty much be skipped. I personally think it's the least fun boo, and the story is just all over the place.



  • @Fred Foobar said:

    So what order do you recommend reading them in, to someone like me who hasn't read any yet?
    I find that a very difficult question to answer. Broadly speaking, sticking to the order they came out is a good thing, but there's no need to be obsessive about it. There are sub-groups of books that feature recurring character groupings - the City Watch books, the Witches, the Unseen University (wizards), and the Death books (he's a character) - and reading the books of each subgroup in order is good but not essential. Every Discworld book is certainly a novel in its own right, so you could pick any of them up out of sequence, but the hard part is that every one you might pick up, you might just as well pick up the one before it - there is no hard line to draw, and yet the later books are noticeably better than the early ones.

    You could do worse than start with Mort and Guards! Guards!, in my opinion, but other people might disagree.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    @Fred Foobar said:
    So what order do you recommend reading them in, to someone like me who hasn't read any yet?
    I find that a very difficult question to answer. Broadly speaking, sticking to the order they came out is a good thing, but there's no need to be obsessive about it. There are sub-groups of books that feature recurring character groupings - the City Watch books, the Witches, the Unseen University (wizards), and the Death books (he's a character) - and reading the books of each subgroup in order is good but not essential. Every Discworld book is certainly a novel in its own right, so you could pick any of them up out of sequence, but the hard part is that every one you might pick up, you might just as well pick up the one before it - there is no hard line to draw, and yet the later books are noticeably better than the early ones.

    You could do worse than start with Mort and Guards! Guards!, in my opinion, but other people might disagree.

     

    I'd agree with that.  Although I did read them (mostly) in order, I don't think it would have made that much difference if I hadn't.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    @PeriSoft said:
    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.
    Yeah, there can't be more than, what, five billion people with that problem in the real world, so he's being unrealistic...



    Yeah, but my point is that the character is a pretty well employed person; he ought to be in the middle class or at least a little bit below it, and making ten times as much as the impoverished 90%.


    In India (which has plenty of people who really do make 38 bucks a month, and who live quite horribly - I can attest to that having been there) a police captain would be making quite a bit more, and would be close to middle class vs. local cost of living... which is the other reason it's not the same; cost of living is generally much lower in places with very low incomes. He'd have a scooter or maybe a Tata Nano now, and would have a reasonable little apartment with a good roof and be able to go watch terrible Bollywood movies on a regular basis. Otherwise nobody would have any house or be able to afford any food at all, but obviously a lot of them are surviving, if only just.


    As for reading the novel series, I'd love to, but my meager free time is taken up with my son, The Economist, and posting on tech failure forums - a habit which will recede once I get my music gear going again. If I were flying as much as I was last year, though, I'd definitely do it, since I can blow through two novels on a cross-country flight.


    Also, referring to a different post, "Guards! Guards" and "After him, you fools!" are two phrases I wish could be used in a serious way in real life.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    and yet the later books are noticeably better than the early ones.
     

    Most definitely. I started ages ago with "The color of magic" and almost died laughing - but every time I re-read it (I revisit the whole series every year or so) I find less in it. Te later novels just keep getting better and better.

     @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    You could do worse than start with Mort and Guards! Guards!, in my opinion, but other people might disagree.

    I especially love all the city Watch novels, and also the more recent "Going Postal" and "Making Money," and of the older ones  "Pyramids" also springs to mind.



  • @PeriSoft said:

    @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:
    @PeriSoft said:
    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.
    Yeah, there can't be more than, what, five billion people with that problem in the real world, so he's being unrealistic...



    Yeah, but my point is that the character is a pretty well employed person; he ought to be in the middle class or at least a little bit below it,
     

    I think it's rather weird trying to argue that without knowing the books. If you had read the books you would know that the police station was understaffed and underfunded at that time. 
    Also later in the books when the watch is doing much better he actually gets married to a baroness, but still refuses to live in a life of luxury simply because he's a copper and he won't have any of that wishy washy luxury stuff. Like decent boots.

    The books are full of over exaggurated stereo types, which is exactly what makes it fun. 

    We are talking here about a city which among others has a guild of thieves that leave receipts when they steal so that you know it was a legal robbery.



  • @PeriSoft said:

    @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:
    @PeriSoft said:
    Damn! A captain (in an army presumably? Haven't read it) has to spend a third of his monthly income on a pair of shit cardboard boots? For us that'd be the equivalent of spending, say, six hundred freaking dollars on a pair of crap walmart boots and three grand on some carharts... Tough world he's envisioned there.
    Yeah, there can't be more than, what, five billion people with that problem in the real world, so he's being unrealistic...



    Yeah, but my point is that the character is a pretty well employed person; he ought to be in the middle class or at least a little bit below it, and making ten times as much as the impoverished 90%.


    In India (which has plenty of people who really do make 38 bucks a month, and who live quite horribly - I can attest to that having been there) a police captain would be making quite a bit more, and would be close to middle class vs. local cost of living... which is the other reason it's not the same; cost of living is generally much lower in places with very low incomes. He'd have a scooter or maybe a Tata Nano now, and would have a reasonable little apartment with a good roof and be able to go watch terrible Bollywood movies on a regular basis. Otherwise nobody would have any house or be able to afford any food at all, but obviously a lot of them are surviving, if only just.

    We might be reading this too closely, because I don't think the cost of boots was intended as a strict representation, so much as an approximation for the purposes of the example. In that context, even just a couple of dollars makes a big difference. That said, I'm not sure Pratchett takes anything that lightly...

    In the later books, there is much more of a middle class, and the Watch becomes a respected form of employment. At the point the quote came from, though, the job is considered about as low as you can get, and paid accordingly. Captain of the Night Watch is roughly equivalent to, say, head warehouse guard (with archaic ceremonial duties of state on odd occasions) in stature. I don't recall the early books well enough to remember properly, but I think the cost of living is so low that a handful of dollars a month will feed and house you reasonably well.


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