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Jack Woehr

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Programeter or Pragmatometer?

November 17, 2008

Browsing Progameter's website and product reminds me that Life imitates Art perhaps more often in programming than in other occupations.

Programeter is groupware coalescing a development team's view of their progress. It offers programmer- and team-centric Key Performance Indicators and other summary data, some generated objectively, like changes, ownership, coverage and experience, etc., and some subjectively, such as programmer assessment of peer performance.

When company evangelist Vytas Prazarkevicius contacted me about Programeter, my first take was that fancy methodological attempts of this sort to fix what's wrong in the software workplace resemble Gnossos Pappadopoulis's bronzing the turd in Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

"We run government according to the same mistaken theories with which we manage our businesses," I told Vytas, along with pointing him to more cheerful and on-board Dobb's Codetalk reviewers than the sour and dour yours truly.

Vytas responded that "It's easier to communicate with a incompetent manager by using data (metrics) which you understand better than he does. Mark and Anton, the co-founders, aren't managers-by-education. They came up to the idea of Programeter out of their frustration working as first programmers and then managers in big software development teams. So Programeter came out of the need of two (smart I must say) managers who knew coding not just from books."

In any case, much of the methodology tool craze reminds me of a passage from one of my favorite technodystopic science fiction book of the 1940's. It's probably a coincidence that the name in the book of the fictional device, the pragmatometer, resembles so closely the name of Programeter ... probably ... hmm ...

"They've got a wonderful gadget - I was shown the model last time I was in town - by which the findings of each committee print themselves off in their own little compartment on the Analytical Notice-Board every half hour. Then, that report slides itself into the right position where it's connected up by little arrows with all the relevant parts of the other reports. A glance at the Board shows you the policy of the whole Institute actually taking shape under your own eyes. There'll be a staff of at least twenty experts at the top of the building working this Notice-Board in a room rather like the Tube control rooms. It's a marvellous gadget. The different kinds of business all come out in the Board in different coloured lights. It must have cost half a million. They call it a Pragmatometer." - C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

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