Esther Schindler

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Recent posts by Esther Schindler

I'm working on an assignment -- not about programming directly -- where I thought I could collect some data useful to the community. At least in a "How about that!" way.

In short: I've been asked to review five applications that help put together online surveys. And while I could ask dumb questions like, "What is your favorite flavor of chocolate?" I think it'd be more fun to find out what job attributes -- beyond tech considerations -- developers feel are most important. This isn't scientific, and I can't use it for "real data," but wouldn't it be nice to know whether this group of people cares more about telecommuting options than flexible work hours?

The results are, obviously, completely anonymous. I'm just trying to get enough data for my screen shots to have pretty charts. But I'm happy to share the results with anyone who participates. (That lets me check out the software's reporting features, too.)

So if you're willing to help me... follow this link?

FWIW I aim to finish the article by the end of the week, so if you could do this in the next few days it'd be dandy.
4 years ago
Maybe this article will help...

Take This IT Job and Shove It: Test-Drive a New Career
Want to trade software development for golf instruction or pastry creation? One internship program provides an immersion course with a pro in your dream field.
12 years ago
This article has posted! Thanks to everybody here who contributed.

Getting Clueful: Five Things CIOs Should Know About Software Requirements

Software requirements documentation was supposed to itemize everything that the application required. But the project was late, the users were unhappy, and the budget spun out of control. Why? Just ask the developers.
13 years ago

Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
Is there an easy-to-print version of the article available? Didn't see a link on the site, but might just have missed it, too...

I'm afraid not. :-(
Thanks to everybody who contributed -- my article is now online!

The Enterprise Committer: Employees writing FOSS code on the company's dime

Originally posted by Jeroen T Wenting:
his CIO may not need more than one sentence, or be unable to interpret more than one sentence at a time

Heh. That might be true, but I'm writing this for the CIOs who want to get a clue. Let's give them as much information as we can, shall we, to help them make good decisions!

And do keep it in the scope of software requirements. I'm sure that there are a lot of things you might say to your CIO (or a past CIO) if you didn't fear for the consequences... but I'm taking this one topic at a time. :-)
13 years ago

Originally posted by Eric Pascarello:
I HAVE A FAMILY and it is not my job!

Er, could you provide a little more background?

I can make an intelligent guess, but the single sentence isn't much to go on.
13 years ago
Howdy, folks. As some of you know, I have a new job. I'm now senior online editor at (and more invisibly at, where I can get into trouble in my very own blog ( I am, of course, still paying a lot of editorial attention to the software development community. It's just that now I have the ear of the boss.

Among the things that CIOs most desperately want to know -- really, they say this -- is what their development staff thinks, but doesn't SAY. At least, the developer won't say it directly to the CIO or other top management. So I'm starting a series of articles about "what CIOs really need to know about..." which will cover various topics. The first one is about software requirements.

My question to you is a very simple one. If you could get your CIO to understand one thing, just ONE THING about software requirements, what would it be?

And then, the obvious follow-up: why did you pick that? War stories to illustrate your point would be great.

You can touch on anything to do with the software requirements process; I'm game for whatever you give me.

Ideally I would quote you by name and company and location ("Esther Schindler is a senior developer at the Groovy Corporation in Scottsdale Arizona") but as long as you give me some kind of context I'm willing to work without one. That is, I do need some identifying characteristics to give the article credibility ("Esther works at a large finance company in the Southwest") but I don't want you to lose your job when the CIO realizes that the developer quoted works for *her*! <grin> So please be sure to let me know how to refer to you in the article.

I'll be sure to stop by here (as I expect others want to participate in the conversation), but it'd be great if you could send me a private message. I don't want to miss any responses. Reply privately if that's easier, too.

I plan to work on this during the holiday and to collect responses over the next week or so. I'm hoping to publish the article on by mid-January at the latest.

So: what clue would you like your CIO to get? about software requirements, that is?

Esther Schindler
senior online editor
CXO Media
13 years ago

Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
Additionally we are in the process of preparing our own OS project for going public.

This was initiated by the developers, induced by problems with questions of intellectual property.

Basically, developers were bringing helpful classes from hobby projects to work, where they got enhanced and polished. Now the question arose whether it was ok to let those changes flow back into the hobby projects again.

Since this is code that isn't about our core competency, we could convince management to open source it. This leads to a win-win situation - the organization benefits from code developed in leisure time, and the developers get more benefit from code developed at work. Additionally, we hope for some publicity for the organization coming from publishing a high quality open source project.

Oh, cool!

What were your managers worried about, before you were able to convince them this was a good idea for everybody? What rules did they put in place -- and how formal were they about it?

Originally posted by Jeanne Boyarsky:
Congratulations on the new job. Since you were wondering, this post is in the correct forum.

Thanks -- on both counts!
Howdy, folks! I have a new job, which I (already) really love: I'm now senior online editor for communities at and Naturally, that doesn't keep me from writing articles -- and the first one that I decided to tackle is among the rough spots between management and developers.

(This may be in the wrong message section, but I couldn't find one with a better fit. Moderators are welcome to move it elsewhere.)

I know, from Evans Data research, that a rather high percentage of software developers write open source code, whether on their own time or the company's clock; some meaningful percentage of those developers also contribute the changes back to the open source community. And one of the factoids mentioned in passing at the Gartner Open Source summit in September was that a growing percentage of corporations are paying their own developers to work on open source projects, some of whom do so full time. IBM is probably the easiest example, with several people on the Eclipse project employed by IBM.

I'm looking for other people in that situation -- either the salaried open source developer or that developer's management -- so I can write an article to provide guidance to IT Managers who are contemplating such options.

What I'm hoping to find (or create) are management guidelines for companies who want to take advantage of open source code, and know that they need functions that aren't currently in the software. The easiest solution is to add the features they need to the existing open source code base, then contribute the enhancements back to the development community. But doing so can raise intellectual property questions (such as "what does it mean for 'work for hire'?")... and perhaps several other issues that make lawyers and CEOs uncomfortable. I'd like to get your input on what issues the open source developer and her manager need to deal with. (Feel free to forward this to developers you know who might be able to help.)

Note that I'm NOT looking here for people who are using open source tools at work; that is, I'm thrilled if you write code in Eclipse or you target your site to run on the Apache Web server, but I'm not after the users. Rather, I'm in search of someone who writes the code _of_ the open source software: a committer to Plone, a contributor to Drupal, a programmer who's given code to samba. And who has done so on company time, whether as part of the job description or simply to get the work done or for any other reason. With or without management approval, though I'm most interested in those who can say "with."

So, if you're the right person, here's the questions I'm wondering about:

* How did you convince management that this was a good idea? Or did they approach you?

* What concerns did management have regarding intellectual property issues? How were they resolved?

* People issues: Were there "team" challenges, since the open source developer is sort-of working on corporate applications (but not quite)? Have the needs of the open source community ever presented a conflict with your company identity? Do people in the open source community know for whom you work; that is, does your e-mail sig identify you as or, and does that have any side effects?

* What other problems came up? How have you dealt with them?

* In short, what should a manager know before she decides to say, "Okay, we'll let you work 20 hours a week on the such-and-so project"?

I'm writing for the manager and CIO here; let's help them make the best decisions possible.

I'm hoping to post the article sometime at the beginning of December, so I'd appreciate any advice you can offer me -- publicly or privately -- sooner rather than later. Also, let me know (privately if necessary) about your company and open source community affliations; we can work out the details of "how should I refer to you" one-on-one.

Esther Schindler
senior editor,

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
One correction (aside from the fact that I haven't been a software developer in years): I actually do like the bowling ball in the lake type problem and listed it as a contrast to the manhole cover problem.

WRT the end of the article, I do evaluate candidates based on the questions the candidate asks. As a candidate myself I used to ask, "why do you work here?" (akin to, "what's the best part about working here?") but amusingly found that, not unlike "what are your strengths?" 90% of the answers were "the people." While the 10% who answer with something else provide useful information, the 90% do not. Much as when I ask about a candidate's strength, I will often follow up this one with, "now given that 90% of the companies I meet with tell me that, can you give me another reason more unique to this company?" (Surprisngly, about 50% of the time, the interviewer has to reach for an answer.)

I'm happy to make a change, Mark. How should it read?
13 years ago
The article is live. Thanks for your help!

The Best and Worst Tech Interview Questions
Your manager put you on the list of people to interview the latest programming team candidate. What do you ask that isn't lame, and that helps you choose the right person? Techies share their best and most-hated questions.,1895,2027748,00.asp
13 years ago

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Side story: for one of my first jobs, I mentioned during the interview that "I'm pretty good at documentation." I was referring to documenting my code. I realized later that he read that as general documention which is why my first two weeks were spent writing the user manual. Not what I wanted to be doing. That said, I was very glad I did it, it gave me a good overview of the system and forced me to work on my writing skills (and kept me out of the hair of the engineers during the final weeks fo the release). Early in my career I was set on a path where I learned to write well and appreciate its value in the engineering process.

I was given the job of documenting a computer language while the designer was still making changes to it. It was awful, but I learned how to be precise and rigorous.

And look at where I ended up!
13 years ago

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I think your misunderstanding the purpose of the question. The motivation is not to take a shortcut ("gee, he says he's great with dataases, so now I won't bother asking any and will just check it off on my candidate evaluation form") but rather to see the values of the candidate. Does the candidate emphasize technology breadth? depth? a particular tier? domain knowledge? communication skills? oral? written? teamwork? creativeness? etc. It's not that you take what they say as verbatim, but more tells you what the candidate brings to the table. Unfortunately, most people give the answers I mentioned above which don't help distinguish them for the rest of the applicant pool. But if you get a question like this, understand that it's not an evaluation of your skills so much as an exploration of them.

My response is somewhere in between. If you, Mark, asked me to identify my strengths -- just person to person -- I could probably give you an answer. And the answer would probably give you some insight into my values, my self-perception, etc. (It would also likely include something about chocolate.) But interview situations have a certain degree of falsity about them, because we're trying to impress, not to be ourselves. Every answer is judged, so you tend to give an answer that will paint an attractive picture rather than something that reflects reality.

On the other hand, it does tell the interviewer something, and few people should be judged on a single answer. The bizarre job app to which I refered in my original note also had a question, "What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?" which I thought was pretty dumb. Until, some years later, I was sitting in a client's office, telling her the same tale. I'd just mentioned that question to her, and we'd chuckled over it. One of the junior "wet behind the ears" programmers -- who nonetheless would tell you he was a star developer -- came into her office for some reason. Sandra turned to Victor and asked, "What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?" He faltered a moment, then replied, "Chocolate chocolate chip. [a nervous beat] Is that right?"
13 years ago