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07 Sep 2002: Why so much rain?

Last time, I whined about the heat of the summer. Well, not to worry, because this weekend it became cooler. Of course, I should have realised that nature would just take things too far; Tokyo was deluged with rain. I hope the weather doesn't continue to spite me and be kind enough to offer comfortable weather. You'd be surprised that there isn't much difference between sweating in the summer heat and soaking in the autumn rain.

I have always disliked hot weather and the Tokyo summer is quite a disaster for me. As a result, I've found myself concentrating more on the software development practice and reading books. I've been going through a lot of books recently; here are a few examples.

W. Edwards Deming's The New Economics (thanks to Nick at RidgePC but I need to return his book) was both inspiring and worrying about how companies should function as a system and not a set of independent components with their own goals. I got around to reading Frederick Brooks' The Mythical Man-month, which is now over 20 years old and still offers some important observations about software projects. The most famous of these observations can be summarised as "adding more developers to a late project will make it later" which is painfully true.

I also followed up on a recommendation to read First, Break All The Rules which conveys how the best managers do things differently to mortal humans. Emerging from years of research by Gallup, many important points were made but I found it intensely annoying as the book's language was over-the-top and I sensed a contradiction. The main principle is that you should use people's strengths and not try to "fix" people, because people excel where they have talent. That is, don't make your employees take on tasks where they are unable to apply their talents because talent cannot be learnt. For example, the best technical mind on your team could well be a poor project manager who will always be playing catch-up to those who feel project management is natural. However, I feel uneasy with the book telling managers how to emulate the best: surely managing is a talent as well, which means it cannot be taught. Despite my reservations, the book is useful; I consider it to be the Peter Principle in another guise, with statistical evidence to back it up.

I'm currently working my way through Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability which is sharp and illuminating, making me re-evaluate the design of my web sites. No, don't worry, I'm not going to go through another re-design! It's just depressing to read where you web site fails on usability, considering I had thought so much about it. However, Jakob is quite right and web site design is unique in many ways. Just need to remember that for the next web sites I get involved in.

Well, right now, I'm looking out of my apartment window and it looks grey out there. It may rain again so I think I should buy some new trainers. I don't want wet feet again.