26 July 2014
I am sitting here listening to Stone Sour on Xbox Music (yes, I’m a hard rock/metal fan – always have been).
Stone Sour - what an excellent band. Not only because their music rocks, but because their stage performance is amazing. If you ever have the chance I suggest you see them in concert. Don’t bother to go out of your way to see Rob Zombie. His music might be good, but he is flakey and might skip out on a live show in the middle.
I say this because I was just at Rock Fest in Cadott, WI and that’s what happened. Stone Sour, despite the Corey Taylor having a rough throat put on an amazing performance – Corey gave everything he had left to put on a great show. Yes, it was sub-standard in terms of his voice, but it was perhaps the most amazing show I’ve ever seen.
Rob Zombie, having a rough throat, did just enough to get paid and then walked off the stage, unwilling to match Stone Sour’s ability to put everything into the performance. Rob Zombie said, in so many words, that he was willing to walk off stage rather than give a sub-standard performance, missing the opportunity to match Taylor’s dedication to his audience.
There’s a parallel to software development that crystallized for me with these two contrasting performances. It is something I think my friend Billy Hollis has been trying to tell me (and the rest of the industry) for the past few years.
When we’re younger we’re so ready to prove ourselves that we’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to get the job done – to build software that meets the user’s needs. It seems that many of us change as we get older, being more willing to abandon the user’s needs in our pursuit of “doing the right thing”. We focus on TDD and Agile and all sorts of other esoteric concepts at the expense of actually getting things done for the users who need our software to improve their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should write crappy software. But there’s a mantra in Microsoft that applies here: “shipping is a feature”. In other words, if you delay getting sh*t done because you’ll only release if your code is perfect then you are missing the whole point of writing software. We aren’t creating art, we’re improving people’s lives – which can only be done by putting our software in the hands of actual users.
There’s a balance to be struck between “doing everything right” and “getting sht*t done”. For most of my career I’ve leaned toward the latter, but it is true that as I’ve gotten older I’ve put a higher value on the former.
Thinking about this, I think it is the same misguided ego that caused Rob Zombie to piss off a couple thousand fans by walking off stage. Exactly the opposite of Corey Taylor who got sh*t done even if it wasn’t perfect – and thus won the love of a couple thousand of the same fans.
I’ll go out of my way to see Stone Sour again, but I if I see Rob Zombie it will be because he came to me – I’ll never bother to pay to watch him walk off stage again.
I suspect the same is true with the users of our software. If we actually release something – even if if isn’t perfect – our users will be happier than if we get halfway through a project and fail because we were so focused on making it perfect that it couldn’t be accomplished with reasonable effort.
In summary, things like Agile and TDD are great, as long as they don’t get in the way of getting sh*t done.