Why Makers Hate Meetings

Found this very interesting article by Paul Graham (via facebook and freakonomics blog) about people who build things usually hate meetings, and find it as a big waste of time. At the same time, when you are in the management frame of mine, meetings are the most important thing you do all day. I find this explanation really hits the nail on the head, since I have been on both sides of the fence. This is what Graham says:

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

Completely true. When you are a developer, engineer, or architect (either software or real-world), by the time, you get around to understanding the problem at hand, and get the full perspective, its already a few hours, and if you have to head out to meetings at that time, the whole train of thought is lost, and you’ve go to restart again from pretty much the beginning.

Last few months, I have had to be on both schedules, and its a very difficult thing to handle. On the one hand, I develop software that goes into our solution, and on the other hand, I have to follow up with all the other developers, interface with Sales and Operations, and all the other aspects of business. And in most cases, you can’t draw up a schedule and take out chunks of a few hours and concentrate on the development. As a result, in most cases, at one time, I can wear only one hat – either be a developer and ignore everything else, forget about making phone calls, following up with people etc., and concentrate on writing code. At other times, there are complete days where I can’t afford to even open my IDE because I am wearing the managers hat and do all the other things I have been ignoring all the while. It also leads to a complete state of confusion at times when you change hats too frequently – and at those times, you know you’re losing it and its best to forget everything and take a break.

It’s a difficult balancing act – identify what requires your most immediate attention, and change hats frequently, so that collectively the whole organization is most productive, even if you feel that you are not at your most productive level yourself.

However, even though we may hate it, the way most of us (and with us I mean people who are never satisfied, and keep pushing ahead for more) we love it most when we have too much to do, rather than too little. Changing hats rapidly, probably take a hit on personal productivity, re-engineering yourself with the dynamics of the environment around you, basically going crazy, are a part of the job description, something you learn to hate – but do nevertheless – and grow along the way.


Always with You


I was amazed by this site. This site recites the stories of people from derived deprived (Thanks PS!) parts of the country (villages, poorer sections of the cities) and how they are changing under the influence of technology, and with help from philanthropy in some cases. I was completely amazed by the first story, that of Sarita, who has been able to get advanced education thanks to Abraham George. Her English was as fluent as top notch convent schools in the country!

In the words of the creators:

Always With You is a collaboration between Interactive Filmmaking and Microsoft Research India. It is an exploration of the impact of rapid growth in economy and technology in India, through the voices of those whose voices frequently go unheard.

Do have a look.

India and Development

P. Sainath, the Magsasay award winning journalist and writer of Everybody Loves a Good Drought wrote an excellent article in the Hindu today (link) about India’s standing in the Human Development Index of UNDP. India apparently stands among the bottom 50% lower than countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cuba and El Salvador, countries that have been devastated by civil strife and war. In fact, if you just consider India’s adivasis and dalits as a separate nation, they are in the lowest 25. He says,

Note that some of these nations rank up to 30 slots above us. Others fall within 30 nations below us. Not one of them has had our nine per cent growth. Few of them have been touted an emerging economic superpower. Nor even as a software superpower. Not even as a blossoming nuclear power. Together, they probably do not have as many billionaires as India does. In short, even nations much poorer than us in Asia, Africa and Latin America have done a lot better than we have.

India rose in the dollar billionaire rankings, though. From rank 8 in 2006 to number 4 in the Forbes list this year, but we slipped from 126 to 128 in human development. In the billionaire stakes, we are ahead of most of the planet and might even close in on two of the three nations ahead of us (Germany and Russia). It will, of course, be some time before we erase the national humiliation of lagging behind the top dog in that race, the United States. (Which, by the way, dropped from 8 to 12 in the HDI rankings this year.)

In fact, he points out that most statisticians had been using stale data for measuring Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). If you re-calculate based on the new 2006 data, India’s GDP (in PPP terms) reduces from $3.8 trillion to $2.34 trilliion (and the GDP at nominal exchange rate is $800 million billion, still less than a trillion), and the per-capita GDP falls from $3 779 to $ 2 341. He warns that we might soon be in for a surprise when agencies start using the new figures:

It is not clear yet how agencies other than the Bank, like the UNDP for instance, were working with PPP. Were they using updated measures or the old data? If the latter (which seems the case), and given India’s entry in the Bank survey is recent, even our awful HDI performance could get worse. The captain has switched on the seat belt sign. Buckle up: we could be landing soon on the updated numbers.

Aside: There is a new innovative way to crack CAT. This bloke added me on Windows Live Spaces (have you heard of it?) with the following message:

add me

i m perporsition on cat 08
so plzzzzzzzzzz.
help me

so add me

I still am at my wits end how my friendship will help somebody crack CAT. I think I should start enriching tuitions for CAT :P

[BTW, is he preparing for CAT, or is he proposing to a CAT?]

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