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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Alice the programmer creates a system that implements the spec handed to her by her boss. Because she didn't understand one of the lines of the spec, her software deletes cancelled products rather than marking them as "discontinued."

    This is, to me, at least partially Alice's fault. If the spec is even the least bit unclear then the programmer has a duty to seek clarification. A good way of doing this is for the programmers to take the customer's spec and write their own more detailed version, and get that approved before starting work. Many ambiguities are caught by this.

    Bob the manager has a responsibility to ensure that programmers understand his specs. Bob has to make sure that QA has drawn up an acceptable test plan and fully implemented it.

    Managers have to take certain things on trust. If the QA guys show him what looks like a good test plan, claim to have implemented it - but are actually lazy or incompetent or just misinterpreted the spec - then you can't put all the blame on the manager. It is unrealistic to expect the same level of technical competence from a manager as from his underlings. In fact, the best managers I've had were technically INcompetent, but had sufficient people-skills to let techs get on with their jobs while still being able to tell when they were trying to pull a fast one.

    It's *really* hard to write anything which is not ambiguous in some way. The onus is on both the reader *and* the writer to ensure that both are reading it the same way.

    • Again, while it may not be the manager's fault, it's certainly the manager's responsibility. If issues like this happen once or twice, no big deal. If they happen repeatedly, the manager has to deal with this. Any manager who just points to others whose work he or she has control of doesn't understand the term "manager." When I first started managing, about 15 years ago, I almost got fired for this. After a while, I realized that I had to assume that responsibility lest their be no accountability. O