ineffective project planning can lead
to an egregious amount of time where
progress alone will not be enough to
sustain the employees’ motivation. If
excessive crunch time continues to occur, the employees—the company’s
most valuable resource—should work
to either change the organization or
they will be compelled to move to a
more supportive company. The books
Peopleware and Slack: Getting Past
Burnout, Busywork and Total Efficiency
are great reminders on why we should
work hard to take care of our teams.
mark Guzdial’s “the impact of open source on computing education” http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/ blog-cacm/72144
We had a Georgia Tech alum, Mike
Terry (now at Waterloo) visit us a couple weeks ago. Mike’s research is on
usability practices in open source. I
got a chance to chat with Mike, and
we talked about the impacts of open
source on computing education, such
as high school students getting started
with computing by working in open
source development. Overall, though, I
came away concerned what the growth
of open source development means for
the future of computing education.
At a time when we are trying to
broaden participation in computing,
open source development is even more
closed and less diverse than commercial
software development. It is overwhelmingly white, Asian, and male. Some estimates suggest that less than 1% of open
source developers are female.
Many kids and parents worry that
all computer science jobs are being
offshored and that it’s not worth studying computing. As more and more of
the software we use daily is created via
open source development, I wonder if
kids and parents will hear the message,
“Most software developers work for free,
or at least have to work for free for years
before they can become professional
and get paid for their work.” Of course,
that’s not true. Neither is it true that all
IT jobs are being offshored, but that’s
still what some people believe.
One of our challenges in computing education is convincing people
that computing is broad and about
more than programming. Open source
values code above all, or as Linux’s
originator Linux Torvalds said, “Talk is
cheap. Show me the code.” We’re trying
to convince students that talk is also
valuable in computing.
Finally, Mike’s talk was about how
common usability practices are rare in
open source development. Of course,
that’s a concern in itself, but it’s particularly problematic for newcomers.
When students develop toward being
professionals, they frequently engage in
a process that educators call legitimate
peripheral participation (LPP). It’s LPP
when you start out in a company picking
up trash (doing something legitimate
on the periphery), and in so doing, figure out what happens in the company.
Students can get started in software
development at a company by doing
tasks that aren’t directly about writing
software, but are about the whole enterprise. These legitimate peripheral tasks
serve as a stepping stone into the process, like writing documentation or running subjects in usability testing. If you
don’t have usability testing, you don’t
have that path into the process. Breaking into an open source development
process is hard, and that keeps more
students out than invites them in.
I wrote on this topic in my regular
blog, and was surprised at the response.
I learned that it is not acceptable to
criticize religion, Santa Claus, or open
source development—it’s a “good” that
should just be accepted as such. I disagree. Open source development does
generate enormous good, but it could
do more good if it improved its practices.
It’s hard to change open source development, because of its distributed nature.
Open source developers should worry
about the messages they send future developers, especially if they hope to grow
and attract the development talent pool.
“Paucity to Plethora:
Those of us of a certain
age remember when the university
computer (note the singular) was a sci-
entific and engineering shrine, protect-
ed by computer operators and secure
doors. We acolytes extended offerings
of FORTRAN, ALGOL, or COBOL via
punched card decks, hoping for the
blessings that accrued from a syntac-
tically correct program that compiled
and executed correctly.
Ruben Ortega is an engineering director at Google.
Mark Guzdial is a professor at the Georgia Institute
of Technology. Daniel Reed is vice president of Technology
strategy & Policy and the eXtreme Computing Group
© 2010 ACM 0001-0782/10/0700 $10.00