Why is Outlook Web Access 7 years old?
Why are we still using Outlook Web Access, an internet email client that is seven years old and terrible design even for seven years ago. It pains me that my office uses a program that was bad even by the standards of 2003 when it came out. But the real question here is… why the hell hasn’t microsoft updated this piece of crap at all? Seriously? The company has billions of dollars, couldn’t they spare a quick million to rewrite the damn thing? Hell, for a mere $2 million, right now, I’ll quit my job and go write it for them. It should take about eight weeks to produce something better. Eight weeks… tops. And i’ll even write it to support IE.
Lately I’ve been the subject of what I call developer drift.
Developer Drift is the process by which an unchallenged developer slowly moves from one project to the next. The project may be in house or external or something completely fabricated by the developer’s mind, but it basically means a developer is less interested in the current project than the project over the horizon. It’s the “Grass is always greener” truism made concrete in software engineering.
For me, this has taken the form of the fact that our customer wants really boring user interfaces which I can crank out like they are nothing. Problem is, I almost never crank them out, because they are meaningless and I never feel challenged/creative by them. (For me challenged=creative.) So I take forever to implement them and tend to make a lot of excuses on why this is taking so long. I feel justified in why it takes so long in the fact that when I am challenged, I really do crank out the code at an extraordinary rate which borders on the obscene when compared to average developers. I’m very prolific when I want to be.
The same thing was true when I was back in college studying English Literature. I could crank out a paper that I found interesting in no time flat, but assign me something that was pedantic and I’d sooner rip my own teeth out with a spoon (“because it will hurt more”).
So the real question I’m trying to find an answer to is “How do you deal with developer drift?” How do you stop people from losing interest when they are bored because the project has become boring? A project I used to work on is suffering from this very problem… they want to keep the team together, but the more boring stuff they do, the less likely they are to be able to keep the team together? Is there a way for this project to challenge it’s developers at the same time as doing boring things? Would contests or “feats of skill” help keep things from getting stale? Or should they just accept this as the life cycle of the developer, assume that people are going to drift away, and prepare for the next generation?
You tell me… how does your project deal with developer drift?