So I had written a post about communication, and I want to go back and affirm that there good and bad communication, the type I was promoting was the good kind, obviously, but what are the dynamics of this bad joo joo you speak of?

This situation exemplifies a bad conversation

  • Dev Zero Cool looks up and sees Dev Skywalker coding away, obviously lost in the zone.
  • Dev Zero Cool decides to ask Dev Skywalker if he knows what the valid values are for the background-color property of a div.

Now you don’t need a blog to tell you this isn’t a good thing. But why did this happen? What can you do about it?

Don’t get caught up in that Dev Zero Cool asked such a stupid question, besides the fact that he asked something that could have easily been answered by a Google search, or an MSDN reference, was that the close proximity of the two developers promoted conversation, any conversation. It is just as likely Skywalker would ask Zero Cool about his fantasy football team or lunch plans and the situation would be reversed yet just as damaging.

Realizing you can’t solve this problem is key, you don’t want to kill all semblance of non work conversation as along with it would go your company culture (if you had it to begin with), but you can add road blocks. Roadblocks are great because your not preventing people from having great conversations, your just making it so people actually have to get out of their chairs, do something that takes just long enough for them to do a sanity check on themselves and make it take effort to bother another developer.

Note: If you make this to much of an effort, people will not want to talk to each other, very, very bad. There is a golden zone here for you to exploit!

Essentially, we are talking about offices, though if you were lavish enough, you don’t need the walls, you just need enough space between two developers desks so that they would actually have to walk over to one another and talk. (800feet ought to do it) Offices are great cause two developers could be right next to each other without disturbing one another, and then still have the obstacles of doors, walls, people in hallways, etc.

Managers HATE developers talking about offices, its very difficult for a manager to tell a developer that they don’t need an office while you are in theirs and they would be loath to relinquish such accommodations. Yet they don’t really have many good options, they can’t tell everyone to go home for two weeks while they tear down the cubicles and put up walls, even then they will almost never have enough space along the walls to give offices (with windows) to everyone. Which you know is what everyone really wants. But thats a different topic.

This is one of those great, spend money, get a productivity gain subjects. Which when considering developer productivity, how many topics fall under such a category? Training? sure. Equipment? You bet. Ummm, strippers? No, not quite. You’ve gone through great expense to find some of the best developers your money can buy, you shouldn’t have them working at anything but the peak level.

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