SPUG: Results of Work Space Survey

dancerboy dancerboy at strangelight.com
Mon Nov 19 21:42:18 CST 2001

At 12:50 PM -0800 11/19/01, Jim Flanagan wrote:
>--On Monday, November 19, 2001 2:08 PM -0500 "Michael R. Wolf" 
><MichaelRunningWolf at att.net> wrote:
>     > I use white boards, stickeys, colored markers, and lots of
>     > other visuals to help solve a problem.  A standard desk doesn't let
>     > me work. I get into a "thrashing" problem where I spend more time
>     > reshuffling my papers than I do putting work into the code.
>     >
>     > Any thoughts on that front?
>  I think the main issue is that not all spaces are appropriate for all
>  types of work,

Or for all types of workers: what's optimal for one person may not be 
optimal for another, even if the two people are doing the same type 
of work.

For example: I'm very easily distracted by conversations and other 
activities going on near me.  I think the bullpen environment you 
describe wouldn't work very well for me -- I mean, I could find ways 
to *make* it work (a discman, noise-cancelling headphones, and a 
stack of good ambient CDs comes to mind) but it would not be ideal.

This raises all sorts of interesting cost/benefit problems, in terms 
of trying to accommodate the different work-styles of a diverse group 
of developers; and more general questions of just how diverse a 
development team should be, ideally.  There are obvious advantages to 
having a development team made up of people who all have similar 
work-styles: it's easier to set up all the different aspects of the 
development effort -- from the physical layout of the office to 
general procedures and guidelines -- in a way that works well for 
everyone, and the more similar people are, in general, the more 
easily and efficiently they can communicate with one another.  OTOH, 
there are significant problems with having an overly-homogenous team 
as well: it can be especially difficult in such a situation to "think 
outside of the box", and it's extremely easy for a group of very 
similar people to develop collective blind-spots.

>  There are offices and
>  closed meeting rooms, but they don't "belong" to anyone. You can check
>  them out for short periods, or pop into an unoccupied one for private
>  phone conversations.

One potential advantage to this that intrigues me is that one could 
probably equip a "collective" office much more lavishly than would be 
practical with most private offices.  E.g. there was some talk on 
this thread about the importance of physical desk space.  For me, I 
would gladly trade physical desk space for screen real-estate.  I 
think I waste much more time shuffling the windows and icons on my 
desktop than I do shuffling physical objects.  I just recently got a 
second monitor for my home office, and not only do I believe that 
this has made a huge improvement in my productivity, but I don't 
think I've even come close to maxing out the improvements that 
increased screen real-estate *could* make.  I think I could have 4 or 
5 monitors on my desk before I started seeing diminishing returns. 
But I'm guessing that, at most companies, it might be difficult to 
justify equipping each developer with a 5-monitor workstation...


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