Just Stop Doing It

If you are working long hours, and you can't see your family or play with your puppy or shoot pool at night, then you have a responsibility to change the way you work.

I would like all of us to be able to work however long we want. Unfortunately, if you know anything about game theory, the system has set up a game that makes us fail to work as long as we need to. The game makes us work so long that we are most probably less productive than we could be.

Here's a mantra for you all: A long day does not equal a perfect engineering day.

I recommend that someone, someone who's sick of it, just start to organize his or her workplace. This is what we will eventually need:

  1. How much is everyone working in my organization?
  2. How much money does my coworker get paid?
  3. How much does my salary go up based on my experience?
  4. How much does my salary go up every three months against the CPI?
  5. Am I paid overtime? Are "higher-ranking" members compensated for overtime?
  6. Does overtime really factor into advancement, or is it required for maintaining my job?

You are not a professional! The term "Professional" was invented by the system to make you believe that your work has no intrinsic valuation. You are a worker. You must work for your bread. Do you think any of the above queries are unprofessional? Then you deserve not to get paid as much as the other programmers, you deserve not to have your salary go up against the cost of living. You deserve not to be paid overtime like your coworkers. This is the cost of calling yourself a professional!

We have to organize. It doesn't work to convince our coworkers to stop being silly. That just makes a cartel. Cartels fail. Organized labor succeeds.

-- JohnDuncan

Do I appear to be a pinko? Very well then, I appear to be a pinko.

Wow. A programmers' union, huh? That's likely to cause controversy of unprecedented proportion. It's true that software people ruin their lives doing what they do - this lament is documented in DeathMarch and ExtremeProgrammingExplainedEmbraceChange. But there is also evidence that software people are doing this voluntarily. Why?

On the one hand I agree that the expectations of Business ("what do you mean I can't have it next week?") and society ("when will you IPO, and at what expected share price?") are crushing on us JustaProgrammer -types (See also: WeWillTry, and news://edemo.gemstone.com/38C885BF%2E3CB7EE23%40gemstone.com). On the other hand, shouldn't it be our responsibility to estimate as best we can, and play the PlanningGame as frankly as possible? I believe that estimation is at the bottom of a lot of this - and estimation is hard when technology keeps changing, team composition keeps changing, process keeps changing, and problem domains keep changing.

The curious gemstone link above doesn't seem to work or even be recognized as a link in IE. -- It's because it's an NNTP (Usenet) link, a link to a message at a webserver. The current versions of InternetExplorer and MozillaFirefox don't even ship with basic NNTP reading. It used to be that they both shipped with NNTP support. I think you can gently persuade MicrosoftOutlookExpress into opening that. Yes, Outlook Express.

I've never been a fan of organized labor - I've tended to view it as an idea whose time is past, and a symptom of an EntitlementMentality?. But the suggestion that programmers are modern-day coal miners and factory workers does have some ring of truth to it, in my personal experience.

-- RandyStafford

People who work in software, getting paid huge amounts of money to do pleasant, creative work in safe and comfortable surroundings, are complaining? Maybe it's time to look at this from another angle.

If you'd like to work fewer hours and still live comfortably, there are many ways to accomplish this. I know lots of programmers who've accomplished it by working part-time. Some people work 6 to 9 months a year: they take one or two very long vacations a year. None of these approaches require organizing into a union. You can do them yourself, by virtue of the very strong bargaining position that your software skills give you.


For OpenSource oriented programmers there is a brand new option to combine individual freedom with economics of scale: AsynchronyDotCom -- FridemarPache

With all due respect to my unionized brethren, unions support the mediocre and worse at the expense of the good. Screw it. Be competent and act like it. -- RonJeffries

That's the key here: programmers tend to be meritocrats. I got mine because I'm good at what I do, you don't deserve it because you're not as good.

This approach must have a unique effect on team morale. I'm aware of more than one (UK-based) organization which employs programmers at below industry rates. Survival pay is then determined by the individual's (not the team's) ability to deliver development component(s) on or before a specified date. If you're late ..... better luck in the next phase. By the way, code quality is not part of the package and, as I'm sure you now realize, they do not use XP or Evo ideas.

You are not a professional! [...] You deserve not to be paid overtime like your coworkers. This is the cost of calling yourself a professional!

You may not be, but I am a professional, contrary to the above, which means that I take responsibility for ensuring that I remain an effective worker, receive suitable remuneration, etc. and so on. Money isn't the only determiner, by the way, I've in the past taken a salary cut to get to do more satisfying work.

I can tell that I'm a professional because, like other professionals (lawyers, or prostitutes, for example) my clients are billed by the hour. I'm not an entrepreneur, so I forego some of my potential income in return for some additional security, having someone else compute my tax, and other useful services that employees receive.

I don't get paid overtime, but then I don't do overtime, and won't, other than for a short period when I choose to for some particular reason. I do spend a lot of my own time doing what might be called "professional development" activities. This makes me a more valuable professional, able to command higher rates. It also is the difference between having a job, and having a profession. Professionals do what they do because they love it, and can get paid too! Workers do what they do whether they hate it or not because they can't otherwise pay the rent.

The cost of calling yourself a professional is taking responsibility for your own career. -- KeithBraithwaite

Tell it, brother! (Note, too that the title of this page doesn't have much to do with the point of the initial contribution. A more accurate title would be "Just try to persuade all of your colleagues to join you so you'll have the confidence to demand that management stop asking you to do it." Which is obviously not the same thing. :-) -- GlennVanderburg
It is on the fringe of the current zeitgeist for us as Americans to weigh the number of hours we work against the overall quality of our lifestyles - especially our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. But as IT engineers, we are among the best-paid, most individually powerful and free "workers" that have ever existed, regardless of whether we call ourselves "professionals". Every day, up goes the ratio of our number to the number of jobs that require us. Very few non-management American workers are as ceaselessly hounded by headhunters as we.

It is not just our careers for which each of us must take responsibility, but the quality of our lives overall. Each of us lives at the level of material simplicity or complexity, at the level of emotional awareness, at the level of physical fitness and mental health that we can sustain -- that we are comfortable with. Programming well is truly hard, but it is trivial by orders of magnitude compared with living a healthy life overall.

We are programmed as Americans to believe that our core values are career and performance and achievement. We are programmed to measure success in intellectual or commercial terms. I no longer do that. I measure success in terms that the Europeans I know find more familiar: quality of life: time with my family, time to relax and become aware, wellness in all its forms, the quality of my relationships, time for music and art and reading and travel. I am slowly bringing my life about, like a very large boat, to sail in that direction. After twenty years working in IT, I have Just Stopped Doing It, where "it" means pursuing work as an end, not a means. I can now get the satisfaction of a job well done from many sources, most of which do not pay me money. -- PatrickWelsh

JustStopDoingIt also applies to any really nasty personal habits that you would not like to see appear on the worlds funniest home videos ;)

Your managers don't think of you as professionals, they think of you - especially the 'freelance', 'paid by the hour' folk - more like growers think of casual field hands. Andrewa.

Due respect to folks not liking unions, I was there for 9 years. But now my understanding of unions is that they are about the people at a work place. Yes, that is the union. Not the union bosses or union hierarchy that emulates corporate structures. The people doing the work. The more people that understand that, the stronger the union. -- MarkDilley



See also GetaLife, ThisIsYourLife, WhyDoYouPermitThisToBeDoneToYou, OpenSourceUnionism; contrast JfDi.

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