Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An IM with IB

We are going to the grocery store tonight, per your request
What do we need?

my request? as I recall, I asked you if you were planning on going to the store and you said yes

My request was generated by your need for a sandwich, and that need depleting our bread supply below standard levels.

my inquiry was clearly couched in such a way as to determine a pre-existing scheme to visit a food and goods selling establishment

Ah, but that inquiry was submitted at such a time where alternatives to the bread need were limited, and alternatives would have still lead to a need to go to the store.

At said point in time, you had no way of knowing the reason behind my request, as no mention of bread supplies had been mentioned

If I recall correctly, it was the usual time for dinner deployment, so any requests in that timeframe are considered 'dinner' ticket items, rather than general requests. Also, you submitted your request in the venue of the kitchen, further flagging it a 'dinner' item.
F* I've been documenting too much.

I win

But what color is it?!

You have some really strange conversations when you're trying to document a project. For sake of tech neutrality, I'll use an analogy: house building. We've built a house. Now I need to document what color the walls are.

"What color did you paint the walls?"

"They were yellow a few months ago."

"... But what color are they now? Are they still yellow?"

"Industry standard is eggshell, but of course, we didn't go with that."

"Okay... they're not eggshell. I don't think they're yellow. What color are the walls now?"

"I'm planning on painting them green in the future, but the current budget didn't allow for it this time around."

"What color are the walls now? At this time? At this juncture in the space-time continuum?"

"I just want to let you know... the customer insisted on the colors. We had nothing to do with it."

"Do you want me to guess? Are they blue?"

"Pfft. Everyone knows blue isn't scalable."

"Please. Just tell me. What color are the walls?"

"I used Benjamin Moore flat, applied with a 2" polyfiber roller with edging done by a 3/4" angled camel hair brush."

"There was not one color in that sentence."

"But it's important. Write it down."

"RRRrrrrr Fine. I'll go look myself."


"Okay, they're pink."

"Technically, they're salmon."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life as a documentation fairy

Being a business analyst means that, when you show a slight aptitude for doing something, you often get to try out that aptitude on a task that's a few orders of magnitude above 'beginner.' Sometimes, I get to do exciting things, like code, or do graphics, or re-learn CSS. This go around, however, I'm doing documentation. I've learned quite a bit about documentation in the last few weeks.

Nobody likes documentation. Everyone knows they should be documenting a project as they go along. Everyone starts off with the best of intentions. Of course they'll document everything! There'll be a wiki, a discussion list, a note taker for every meeting, glamorous spreadsheets and presentations... And then the end draws near, and in the midst of the final crunch, it occurs to people that, maybe, just maybe, they'd left a few things out. Like an updated server architecture. A few tables of their database. What their application was actually supposed to do in the first place. Little things like that.

Enjoying documentation can make you odd. It's like being a coroner. No one, when they're five, says, "Hey! I want to cut open dead bodies and weigh stomach contents for a living!" Even me, in spite of what you may have heard. No one enters a career and thinks "Gosh, I want people to cringe when they see my email pop into their inbox." So you find odd reasons for liking what you do. Some coroners like the hours, or the strange things one can find lodged in someone's eye socket. I'm finding doing activity diagrams rather soothing.

Everyone thinks they document. It's kind of funny, when you start going around, asking for documentation. What people have is never, ever up to date. The best I've gotten was a graph that was a few months old. It's like being an oncologist in a town of herbal remedy folks. They think they're doing great until they realize they're losing vital bits.

Documentation specialist != therapist. Everyone just thinks it does. No project goes smoothly. None end with everyone thinking everyone else is just the keenest people ever. If you offered a group that had just finished a long, painful project a free vacation to an isolated beach house, I guarantee the only ones who would take it up have malice on the mind. You'd pick them up after a week, and there'd be suspicious bleach stains everywhere. I get this vibe from the venting I get every time I ask someone for something. I keep expecting it to leak into the diagrams I get handed.

Everyone swears they'll be better next time. Like the teens who forget the condoms, they swear, next time, they'll plan ahead. They'll keep track of everything and plan ahead and not toss extra man hours at what is a not a man power issue. Really.

Next time.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've always loved e. e. cummings. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, and for my post-modern, I usually go to film, but there was way he could bring disparate elements together and make them make sense. Like Calder junk fish, where a bunch of nonsense objects are put together in a way that's whimsical, but a little sad. The whole is made of these tiny junk objects that have come together for a short time to make sense.

Plus, cummings has the habit of driving people crazy, and when isn't that fun to watch?

I'm a person of disparate elements. I draw. I program. I write. I design. I'm usually good enough to get recognition by my peers, but not an expert at any of it. Maybe I could be, but I've always worried in back of my mind that I would lose a skill if I focused too much on another. It's why I chose to go into psychology. For all it's reputation of leather couch toting nodding hypothesisers, it actually is a field that requires you to be diverse in your abilities. Math for reading and conducting studies. Science for understanding chemical interacts and neuroscience. Writing for creating readable journal articles. I even fit in art on the margins of my notes.

These days, I'm what they call a business analyst. I've come to the conclusion that it's corporate speak for "We don't know what they do, but we bet the do it all." I've been where I am for over a year now, and I've done the following:
  • Programmed
  • Designed the UI for a site
  • Created graphics
  • Written copy
  • Translated a UI from an image into functional CSS
  • Written manuals
  • Been a sys admin
  • Held the occasional hand when a customer was at the end of their rope
I get the push now and then to hop a fence, and go fully to bed with a certain group. I'm happy balancing on fence posts, though. I may teeter more, but it's more fun being uncertain.