Saturday, August 23, 2008

1968 Visibility, Part 5 - compatibility testing

Saturday, August 23, 2008

So, the line item to change all the externals to make them compatible (previous posts) between the two systems began. Although I was in a design and usability department, because I owned the externals and everyone knew about the test generator I had written, I was asked to do the testing.

(By the way, testers don't get the credit they should. That'll be another post someday.)

There were many line items being added, functions in the old system being ported to the new system and hardware. I would be ensuring not only that all the old externals were compatible, but that all externals for the new would also match. That's every variation and combination of every option on every old and new command, error condition, and operator info situation under every possible condition.

It will mean nothing to anyone but another tester, but in one year, I wrote, ran, verified, and compared results on over 350,000 variations on TWO operating systems.

As new code for new functions was added to the system, I waited until it had been fully functionally tested, and then I ran the compatibility tests for that function.

If I found incompatibilities, I wrote them up and passed them to Peter's group, who then decided whether it had to be changed to be compatible, or whether there were compelling reasons to allow an incompatibility. We had to keep track of those to warn the customer later that if their application depended on this message or return, they'd have to change it.

If I found an actual bug in new code, I'd write a PTM (Program Trouble Memo) which would go to the development group responsible for coding of that function.

If I found a bug in old code, code that had been in the system for ages, I'd write an APAR, which would go to the design group owning that function. (One of these days, I'll do a post on the origin of APARs.)

For that release of the operating system, there were 30-some testers testing new function, and 10 testing old function. Keep in mind that I didn't get the code to do my tests until it had been thoroughly tested and approved by those 40-odd people, and by then the programmers in the development groups had figured their work was done, passed test, and had moved on to other things.

I found bug after bug. Old code, new code. During development and testing of that release, something like 1800 PTMs were written, and of those, over 1,000 were written by ME! After the programmers thought they were finished. Some functions looked like they hadn't been tested at all!

So besides all the testing, simply processing PTMs was a full time job. Plus I wrote about 100 APARs.

By the time I was finished, that system was CLEAN! It had been a superhuman effort.

You'd think I ought to get some kind of recognition. I kinda thought so.


By finding so many bugs so late in the cycle, I pissed off the programming groups by messing up their schedules, making them redo what they thought was finished.

By finding so many missed bugs after they had "thoroughly" tested and approved the new code, I pissed off the testing departments. I made them look like crap - and from what I saw, what they'd handed me, they DID do a crappy job.

Everybody hated me. Because I was right? Because I made them do things right? Because I exposed their inadequacies? Whatever. The release slipped schedule, and it was all my fault.

All my fault? Because I did my job well? Because I found a lot of bugs? You didn't have to fix them all, you know. Oh, I forgot, you did have to fix them to keep up the pretense that quality matters.

Yeah, I forgot Quality Rule 1. Schedules are always more important than quality.

Minor "quality" awards had always been given to the tester who found the most bugs. They skipped the award for that release. After all, I wasn't a tester. I was in design.

Lots of visibility, but all the wrong kind.

Friday, August 22, 2008

1967 Visibility, Part 4 - Peter and the foils

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Company had two big-iron operating systems that were very similar, the older one supported in Endicott, NY, and the newer, which took advantage of newer hardware technology, in Kingston, NY. The Company decided to combine them on a base generated from the newer system, and to "transition" all customers to the new combined system. (Partly because they wanted to retire the old hardware.)

It was a major effort. Functions that existed on one system and not the other would have to be combined on the new system, so there were a lot of new line items.

Externals - messages, responses, return codes, command syntax, etc. - would be hit hard. Although I owned the externals, another design department was in charge of identifying what would have to be done, writing the specs, making the projections, planning, etc. There was a team of five, with Peter C. as the team leader.

I went to Peter, and asked what it looked like so far. He confessed that he had no idea how big it was. He was looking at just comparison of text of commands and messages. I pointed out that there are differences in function, too. The same command didn't necessarily work the same on both systems, because they are based on different hardware, and that there are user applications that capture return codes and responses "under the covers" and perform different actions based on those return codes.

He turned green. He didn't know where to start.

The problem interested me. On my own time, I wrote a super-generator that allowed me to execute every variation of every command in both systems, and then it automatically compared the results. It was a super-human effort. In total, going after all options on all commands, and all responses, messages, and return codes, there were over 30,000 variations. Then I obtained some examples of user applications, and scanned them to identify which externals were heavily used, and which had less impact. Major, major effort. No sleep for weeks.

When I had the results, I asked Peter to call a meeting of his team, where I presented foils of my results, identifying all differences between the systems, sorted as to impact, including a recommendation as to which were mainly used by the old-system applications, and which the new, plus an estimate of the man-hours required to consolidate and test them. Peter's manager attended the presentation.

A few months later, Peter got a HUGE monetary award, one of those corporate-level things, PLUS a huge promotion, for his work in identifying and prioritizing the external differences.

It turns out that he had made presentations to the management chain, all the way up to the product owner level.

Although none of us "grunts" had been invited to, or even knew about, the presentations, my friend Edith had somehow seen a copy of his foils. She came to me and asked if I had seen them. I said no, why. She said I should ask Peter for a copy. That's all she said.

I asked him, and he kept putting me off. He'd get them. He'd make a copy. It was a long time ago, he didn't have it anymore. So I found me someone, a manager, who had been at one of the meetings, and whom I was able to bamboozle into locating a copy for me.

It was my foils. Exactly. My name had been removed and replaced by his, and my name was not mentioned anywhere as so much as a contributor. Not a whisper.

I immediately marched straight over to Peter's office. I stood in his doorway until he looked up and noticed me, and I said, "You don't have to keep looking for those foils for me. I got a copy." He turned white and actually literally shook. "They're very interesting," I said, and I turned around and left.

I was furious. Not simply at what Peter had done, but his manager had been at the meeting where I had presented those foils, and she had to have known what Peter had done. His team and department knew what he had done. Within days of the award announcement, most of the several hundred people working on the operating system knew what he had done. Edith was the only person who actually said anything to me. Everybody else just looked at me funny.

That was MY work, and should have been MY award, MY acclaim, MY promotion, and everyone knew it.

I waited a while to see if he would confess. He didn't. I knew there would be no benefit to me in raising a stink. But for the next year and a half, every time he saw me in the hall, or in a conference room, he shook. He couldn't follow a thought if I was around. He stuttered. He dropped things.

Me? I smiled at him. I was pleasant. I looked him straight in the eye, as his eyes shifted off. And because I owned those externals, I had a natural interest in the activities of his team, so I made it a point to attend every meeting he called, every presentation he gave, for the rest of my time in that lab.

You know, it would not have occurred to me to have taken the presentation up the line. It wasn't necessary. No management approval was necessary to act on that material. They didn't even need to know about it, and I'd have seen it as wasting their time. There was no other reason for Peter to do those presentations except to draw attention to what a wonderful job he'd done. Too bad he didn't do it. I did. And it wasn't even my job - it was his job, but he was incapable. Of everything but taking the credit, I guess.

Heh heh - he lives near me. Twenty years later I still run into him in the pharmacy or grocery store, and he still quakes when he sees me, and I am still pleasant. I'm almost (but not fully) content with that. He knows what he did and he's suffering his own hell.


Phooey - I'm gonna put his name here. It's all true, and I've got witnesses who will back me up so I can't get in trouble for it. Hi, Peter Chenevert! Yeah, I'm still pissed.

1966 Visibility, Part 3 - translation

Friday, August 22, 2008

In the late '80s I was in a design department. I owned all the externals - commands, messages, responses, return codes, everything that the user saw - for one of The Company's big iron operating systems. At that time, I wrote a guide to translation that was so well received that it became a part of The Company-wide operating system standards. (It's possible to write interfaces that cannot be translated.) The Company was expanding into other countries, and translation was important.

I didn't follow my own advice on that one. I don't think anyone in management was at all aware of the guide.

I noticed that many of the existing interfaces were not translatable. They needed to be rewritten. I couldn't do it, because my plate was full, so I went to a few people in the usability design departments, and asked if they could help. Several of them were enthusiastic and wanted to do it. So I met with them and their managers, to get permission for three of them (from three different departments) to work on it, and a fourth person from programming to make the code updates. I marked the externals that needed fixing, including what they should be changed to. While we were at it, it was a good time to fix grammar and punctuation, too, and I marked those up.

Some months later, the rewritten materials went to Japan for translation, and the Japanese translators were wildly enthusiastic about our externals.

Then, one day, there was a multi-department meeting of the design area. The umpty-high manager got up and talked about how happy the translators were with our externals, and announced that the people who'd done this "on their own" were getting awards. They each got a bunch of money, and a ticky in their personnel folders.

Yup, those four. Not me. Even though it was I who recognized the need, and identified all the externals needing improvement, and wrote what they should be changed to. That was more work than simply making the changes, which was essentially a clerical job.

I was stunned. The other four kept glancing at me and shrugging, like "don't blame me!"

To their credit, the four went to my manager, and pointed out that I should also have gotten an award, since I was the one who recognized the need, did all the design work, and negotiated the resources to accomplish it. It would never have happened without me.

A few days later, my manager called me into his office, alone, no witnesses, and handed me a steel ball point pen with "Outstanding Contribution" stamped on. He said that was the best he could do, and that I should keep it quiet, or people would think all they had to get an award was complain and drum up support.

That was like a slap. I was ready to ask for a transfer.

And then something worse happened which pretty much steeled my resolve to get out of there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

1965 Visibility, Part 2 - the pig joke

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I have several examples of occasions when I lost credit (or more accurately, credit was stolen) because I was too quiet.

This one is small, but even though it was like 15 years ago, it still rankles.

The local Mensa group has a camping weekend every fall. I don't camp, but I'll go for the day Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday nights, they used to have a bonfire, and a sing-along, finishing up with a joke-off.

There are two of our male members who always have a stock of jokes, and they study up for the joke-off, and it usually ends up with the two of them trying to outdo each other.

I can never remember jokes. Don't know why, I just can't remember short jokes. I do marginally better with long jokes or "shaggy dog" stories. But this one year I had a terrific new joke - it was new then, but old now. You've probably heard some version of it. It's called "The Wonderful Pig". There are a few versions of it out there on the web, but it's been shortened. It loses effect shortened. When I had it, it was new, full, and punchy. And I'm durn good at telling a story.

So, that night, the joke-off had been going a while, and the two guys were starting to slow down. It looked sort of like Bill was winning. And then I raised my hand and told "The Wonderful Pig". No one had heard it before, and it got a very good reception.

Then I went home for the night.

The next morning at breakfast, they had the vote for best joke told the night before. I don't know what the ballots looked like, whether they had the name of the teller on them, whether it was a show of hands or a secret vote, because I hadn't arrived yet. Shortly after I arrived, they announced the winner for the best joke told the night before.

It was unaminous. The winner for the best joke, "The Wonderful Pig", was Bill. Everybody cheeered and clapped, Bill got up to collect his prize.

I sat there stunned. I turned to NJ and said, "Bill didn't tell that joke, I did." She said, "No, Bill did. I remember." She had been sitting right next to me when I told it. Later I went to Bill, and I reminded him that the The Wonderful Pig was my contribution. He said no, it was his.

I suspect that whoever made up the ballot put him as the teller, because it was most likely, and after that it became fact in everyone's mind.

After all, I never tell jokes.

I'm still angry. Still. Angry. Still.

I told you it was a little thing....


The Wonderful Pig

One day a salesman stops in a bar in a small country town. While he's sitting there, a farmer enters, accompanied by a three-legged pig. The farmer sits at the bar, and the bartender, without being asked, draws a beer for the farmer, and a bowl of beer which he sets on the floor in front of the pig.

After the farmer and pig finish their beers and leave, the salesman calls the bartender over and asks him, frowning, if he usually serves farm animals in his establishment.

The bartender says "No, just that one. He's special. That's one wonderful pig", and goes on to tell the salesman the story.

Last spring the farmer and his wife were visiting neighbors for the evening, leaving their new baby boy in the care of their 12-year-old daughter. Somehow, a fire started in the basement. The daughter had been asleep on the couch, and had fallen unconscious from the smoke.

The pig, in his sty, must have seen the fire or smelled the smoke, and he broke out of his sty and ran to the house. He kicked in the door, grabbed the daughter by her collar, and dragged her out to the porch, where she regained consciousness.

By now, the flames were in the living room. The pig, undeterred, ran through the flames and up the stairs to the baby's room. He picked up the baby and carried him outside, depositing him far from the house.

The flames were now starting to spread to the barn. The pig ran to the barn, and threw himself against the door until it burst open. He opened all the stalls, and bit and nipped and kicked until he forced all the panicked livestock outside.

He then ran a mile to the neighbor's house, where the farmer and his wife were visiting. He set up such a ruckus that the farmer, his wife, and the neighbors came outside. They saw the glow in the west, and knew exactly what it meant, and they headed for the farm. The neighbors did not have a telephone, so the pig ran another mile to the town, where he set up a ruckus at the fire hall, pulling the rope to ring the bell. The townsfolk looked out to see what the problem was, saw the glow, and knew what it meant.

The pig ran the two miles back home, leading the fire truck. He dragged his food trough out of the sty to a safe distance. Then he sat down and licked his burns.

The farmer's family was safe, the cows and horses were all saved. The house was half burned, but the barn was only slightly damaged.

"Yup," said the bartender, nodding, "that's one wonderful pig, and he can have a beer here any time he wants."

The salesman was impressed. "He did all of that on three legs?"

"Oh, no, he had four legs then."

Salesman: "What happened? Did he lose a leg to the fire?"

Bartender, shaking his head, "Oh, no. It's just that, well, when you have a wonderful pig like that, you don't eat him all at once."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1964 Visibility, Part 1 - an unwritten book

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I was cleaning out the den file cabinet, and found some notes I had made on a book I'd planned to someday write. I have no memory of my impetus. It must have been a very long time ago, because the topic was apparently important to me then, but is nothing but a passing interest now.

The topic was how to get ahead at work. You don't get promotions and raises from doing a good job, or by making a contribution. If I learned nothing else during my years with the company, I learned that. You can do a mediocre job, and still get rewarded primarily for being visible.

I know this is true. I did ok with The Company, but if I'd been more visible, or more accurately, more visible in more generally approved ways, I'd have done better. Poor Jay was a superstar among his coworkers, highly respected, he was the source of all knowledge, the person to go to for answers and assistance. His own work was almost perfect ("almost" only because he would always stubbornly sacrifice schedules to quality). But he was otherwise completely invisible, and constantly passed over.

Ok. From my notes, these are the things you have to do to get the rewards:
  1. Be visible.
  2. Be indispensable to management.
  3. Take credit for everything you reasonably can, blow your own horn.
  4. Get on the right projects, avoid the dogs. All you need is one important project that you can then use to avoid dogs, because " will impact this big important, blah blah...".
  5. Stay educated, take classes whenever they're offered.
  6. Stay aware of everything around you - future projects, office politics, etc. Be the one in the know.
  7. Produce weekly accomplishment (not activity) reports, and request frequent 1-1s with management. A few months before an evaluation, request an interim (how am I doing so far, and how can I improve?) evaluation.
  8. Notice areas for improvement, and make formal suggestions.
  9. Do not work overtime, ever!, except in rare cases when management has requested it for a specific purpose. Then volunteer. Constant overtime, accepting more work than you can complete in a workday, smacks of poor time-management, and leaves you unavailable in a crisis.
  10. Don't step on the toes of loud equally-visible people. Be diplomatic.
  11. Arrive every morning at the earliest "start time", but don't come in earlier than that. The people who make decisions are often early, and will notice you, but coming in too early means either you're working overtime (see #9), or you will be perceived as leaving early. Try to walk in from the parking lot with, or a few feet ahead of, your manager.
Of all of these, "Be visible" is the most important.

(I'm not saying I was so wonderful. I did ok. I could have done a lot better had I taken my own advice, but a lot of this stuff requires a cynicism I don't have. I respected myself too much. I did 2, 5, 7, 8, and 9.)

Of the things you could be assigned to or volunteer for, some are higher visibility than others, and therefore get you more goodies than others. In order of decreasing visiblity:

  • Presenting
  • Reporting
  • Tracking (planning, scheduling, resource management)
  • Innovation
  • Problem solving
  • Productivity
  • Contributing to quality-ensuring procedures
  • Teamwork
  • Teaching
  • Enabling others
  • Customer relations

If everything you're doing is in the bottom six, you're stuck.

You might say, "Hey, I'm in a customer relations department! I'm very visible to my immediate management chain." Fine. But in a large US corporation, sales is highest on the budget and passing-out-goodies ladder, and customer service is the lowest. You might be the biggest frog, but you're in the smallest pond.

Copyright mine. If you want to write the book, I'll be happy to consult.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

1963 County Fair

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I went to the county fair today. I went to every barn, every building, looked at every stand, every animal, every display. I considered riding on the carousel, but it needed three ride tickets, and when I finally found a ticket booth it was at some distance from the carousel, and tickets were $1 each. Yeouch!

I bought french fries (small size, with lots of salt and malt vinegar), a $15 ring that I thought was unusual, five packages of dry soup mix (each of which makes 2 quarts!), a frozen custard sundae with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce, and clip-on sunglasses that fit my frames perfectly.

I walked a few miles, I think.

And then I came home.

That's officially the end of summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

1962 Fiberglass, Back Help, etc.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Disappointment is the distance between expectations and reality."


Remember when I think I came into contact with fiberglass dust last spring, and was sprouting what looked like glass slivers for days? Shreve at The Daily Coyote says bathing in vinegar dissolves the stuff. She says it feels weird. I almost can't wait to test it.


Saturday, when I was wearing the tight boned laced bodice, when I got in the car, the mirror was too low. It was showing back seat and a sliver out the back window. I had to adjust it up. Yesterday, wearing a loose dress, the mirror was too high, showing the roof and a sliver out the back window. Even sitting as straight up as I could it was too high. I had to adjust it down.

Conclusion - the bodice made me taller. My posture is usually pretty good. If I slump, my back goes out. So it wasn't just posture. I really think the bodice lifted my ribs and lengthened my spine.

I'm glad I found that site a while ago with all the different lacing. I'm going to need a lacing that doesn't self-adjust. By the end of the day Saturday, the laces had widened at the bustal area on the front and sides and down the tummy point in front, and had cinched very narrow at the waist all around. My lace gaps took on an extreme hourglass shape, and so did I.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

1961 Olympic Rowing

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Women, pairs, rowing. A boat passed the camera, and it says "Kunstwerk" on the side. I misread it, switched the "s" and the "t", and thought, "That's terrible! But yeah, they are, working, that is."

1960 Olympic Fencing

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The horses are finished, and now it's fencing. I'm sitting here frowning. I haven't watched fencing since the '70s, when I fenced a bit myself. (I quit when I realized I was building enormous thighs.)

Man, has the form changed! It's no longer a graceful and balanced dance. These guys are facing each other square on, presenting a huge target. Their free arms are dangling, waving around, often in front - and hey guys, I've noticed that about half the touches are on that arm. They're jumping around and frequently crashing into each other. It seems a touch needn't be with the point - they're flailing and whacking at each other, and scoring with the side. I thought that was allowed in saber only.

It's ugly. I am unhappy.

1959 Olympic Horses

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm watching the Olympic equestrian events, jumping this afternoon. I'm not particularly interested in anything else but the equestrian stuff. I like the announcers today - they give some credit to the horse. I get annoyed when the commentators act like the rider is running around and jumping all alone.