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Hacker FAQ now has a sibling!

By seebs in MLP
Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:37:52 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Thanks to IBM DeveloperWorks, the Hacker FAQ now has a corresponding Manager FAQ.


A long time ago, I wrote The Hacker FAQ. It's been copied, reposted, and even translated into Slovak.

For a long time, I've wanted to write a corresponding document about managers, because too many people don't really appreciate what their managers are good for. IBM bought the Hacker FAQ for their DeveloperWorks page... and also bought a corresponding Manager FAQ. So, if you ever wondered why your manager even exists, maybe this will help you tolerate him. Special thanks go to Steve Hinkle, my manager at BSDi, for demonstrating that managers can be useful, and to Heidi Carson, the editor at IBM who turned the Manager FAQ into a reality.

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Poll
I am...
o A hacker 39%
o A manager 1%
o A hacker and a manager 9%
o Neither, but I would like to be a hacker 14%
o Neither, but I would like to be a manager 1%
o I hack my manager 12%
o I manage a hacker 1%
o Sick of seing CmdrTaco in poll questions 20%

Votes: 83
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o DeveloperW orks
o Hacker FAQ
o Manager FAQ
o The Hacker FAQ
o translated into Slovak
o Hacker FAQ
o BSDi
o Also by seebs


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Hacker FAQ now has a sibling! | 11 comments (10 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Bad! (3.75 / 8) (#1)
by Signal 11 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:48:56 PM EST

The Hacker FAQ was written from the standpoint of an employee trying to communicate something clearly to their manager - specifically how they work. This FAQ is by a manager trying to explain how the employee should act around managers. Fundamental difference here, and the two FAQs are only vaguely related.

A manager can dramatically improve your performance, both as an individual and as a member of a team, or a manager can get in the way and keep you from working.

This is a good way of looking at things and, had the author continued along this style of writing, I might not have been rubbed the wrong way by the article. The big thing that rubbed me the wrong way though was the politically correct "She she she she she" over and over again. The male pronoun is clear and concise - nothing else is. Even worse, the author was not consistent - referring to the manager as "he" and the employee as "she". How sexist! That was my second indication the author was not only a suit, but a trendy suit.

He seems to do a good job, but he's not getting along with the engineers.

Didn't we just say that the reason managers dress in suits is to be sociable, and that the primary function of a manager is to facilitate social interactions to improve productivity? If he's not getting along well with engineers, not only has he failed in his primary role, but he is now also interfering with others' ability to work. Yet we get justification for this?! Strike two.

4.3: My manager wants me to promote me into management; I am not interested, and she seems offended by this.

The Hacker FAQ already asked and answered this, and not only was their answer both concise and well-reasoned but it also happens to agree with my view on the matter. Why didn't the author make any of the suggestions that the Hacker FAQ made - such as a job title improvement, or discounts on computer hardware as the original FAQ mentioned? Strike three - not grasping the source material.

Conclusion: Bad advice, and not meant for employees. This was written as a justification for continued poor performance by a manager, not as a tool to help employees better understand management.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Attention to detail (3.33 / 3) (#2)
by sugarman on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:07:55 PM EST

Just answer me this: Why are you criticizing the author of the Manager FAQ and the posted article, as opposed to the Hacker FAQ (which identifies more closely with your personal beliefs) when all 3 were written by the same person!

Would this fact change your commentary at all?

--sugarman--
[ Parent ]

Writing Styles (4.33 / 3) (#3)
by Signal 11 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:15:36 PM EST

Would this fact change your commentary at all?

In a word, no. The author contradicts himself practically answer by answer... it's hard to give him much credibility either way but I tend to agree more with his assessment of how managers should look at hackers than the converse, which reads more like a justification for poor management style.

Lastly, I care not who writes it, I care about the content. In this case, the author wrote a good FAQ once, and followed it up with a terrible sequel.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Manger FAQ (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by Tatarigami on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:40:42 PM EST

I've afraid you've picked a lost cause -- nothing will convince me my manager is earning her oxygen!

:o)

Writing styles, he-vs-she... (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by seebs on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:05:04 PM EST

I alternated people, and I did it because I wanted to see what people would do. I have gotten amusing email about this in the past. Yes, the so-called "male" pronoun is perfectly correct, and that's how I normally write. I did it differently in the Hacker FAQ because I wanted to play with the language, and in the Manager FAQ for consistency.

I like that... (none / 0) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:49:37 PM EST

I just want to say that I've always liked that method as it doesn't really disrupt the flow of the text with wierd constructions like "s/he" or "he or she" and is pretty damn close to good English construction, unlike "they", which people sometimes use to be gender neutral.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Hmm, Dilbert anyone? (5.00 / 3) (#7)
by deefer on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:38:32 PM EST

I like the Hacker FAQ, but the Manager's version seemed a bit frothy and written from the wrong perspective.

Sadly lacking is coverage of what makes a "good" or "bad" manager. Some lipservice is paid to the idea of what a "good" hacker is in the Hacker version.

So I'll add them on seebs' behalf:
* A good manager will note whenever you are under pressure, and firstly offer any help (s)he can. Then they get the fuck out of your way. (I once had a manager stay late - 11pm - with me on a really knotty problem that had to be finished before the next day. And he bought me pizza out of his own pocket. Cost himn less than a tenner, but he won my undying loyalty that night - he had places to be, too.) This feeds in to the idea of never asking your subordinates to do something you wouldn't. (like stay late when you had a dinner party to go to)
* A good manager _will_ understand the basics of what you do. If they have not picked up on the counting from zero part, then what chance have they on grading your performance come review time? And tech-illiterate managers (when managing IT staff) will get the wool pulled over their eyes so many times they'll be out of a job unless they _know_ that solar flares don't put bugs in code...
* I forget who said it, but there's a lovely quote that I'll paraphrase here - "judge a man not by how he treats his equals, but by how he treats his subordinates".
* Remember that your staff are the producers. What they produce is what pays your salary. Even though you have "power" over them, just remember you are there to make them more productive. As a manager, you must accomodate your people rather than the other way around.



Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

Good managers (none / 0) (#8)
by Signal 11 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:41:27 PM EST

I once had a manager stay late - 11pm - with me on a really knotty problem that had to be finished before the next day. And he bought me pizza out of his own pocket. Cost himn less than a tenner, but he won my undying loyalty that night - he had places to be, too.) This feeds in to the idea of never asking your subordinates to do something you wouldn't. (like stay late when you had a dinner party to go to)

It is managers like those that make working cool. I will work so much harder if I know my manager understands what it's like to be in the trenches. It's total respect. Love the story, btw.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Good Manager... (none / 0) (#9)
by deefer on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 05:16:54 PM EST

This guy was a kick arse coder as well, which probably helped. Probably the best manager I had - he let me come in at 10am so I'd miss all the traffic, knowing I'd be there at 9pm that night...
Another time, I'd screwed up at a client site. He came in, took the heat for me, let me get on with fixing the problem. Once we were back in the office, he gave me a gentle chewing out about what I'd done, then spent a week listening to me and bouncing suggestions back at me about how to make sure the problem didn't happened again.
Sadly, this manager was culled in a malicious redundancy sweep. Not because he was a bad manager, but because he was always taking the heat for us coders, denying our sales department their insane deadlines (like we said 8 months to delivery if we really pull out the stops, sales said 4 months is all you've got boys and girls...) and generally being an unwelcome voice of reason to sales & marketing. That, I think, is the fine line between a good managers' manager, and a manager of coders - "up" and "down" the corporate tree for most team leader level managers frequently have differing agendas thrust on them.
That was the last time I ever had a manager who was genuinely interested about how I'd solved a problem. And he _really_ knew how to make a hacker feel good - I once wrote an OCR library in a couple of days, when I should have been doing something else. He spent an hour talking to me about the basic concept, then asked me what I could make it do by next Friday, after reassigning the project I should have been working on. Sheer class, and his btrieve code was _flawless_.


Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

[ Parent ]
Fighting the guys upstairs (none / 0) (#10)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:46:02 PM EST

Not because he was a bad manager, but because he was always taking the heat for us coders, denying our sales department their insane deadlines (like we said 8 months to delivery if we really pull out the stops, sales said 4 months is all you've got boys and girls...) and generally being an unwelcome voice of reason to sales & marketing.

This dovetails with my own two brief stints as a manager. In both cases, I got the damn project done on time and on budget in two different companies that had previously never had any experience with "on time" or "under budget". And in both cases, my job seemed to end up consisting mostly of telling the people upstairs "no". It was incredibly stressful and it was very clear to me that despite my success at the actual job, I was not going to be successful at those companies career-wise. So I gave up any silly notions of management.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Hacker FAQ now has a sibling! | 11 comments (10 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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