by on August 3, 2005

Once in a while you get “one of those moments” on a project. This time, it was courtesy of the off-shore developers we’re working with. I’ve inherited the acceptance phase from the first iteration of an application that was specced up before I got on the project (I’m picking it up on the second iteration).

The requirements for iteration one are pretty simple, so I found it odd that while some aspects of the application were fine (the layout, menus etc.) others were just utterly wrong. It was almost as if they’d not even read the specs there were given.

And today it turns out I was right. After pressing the point about the non-implementation of some things that are pretty clear in the documents that I’ve been working from, their lead developer mentions in an email that they have not seen any documentation for those aspects of the application.

Smack! So all this time they’ve just been imagining how large parts of the application should behave? These things were referred to in the document they had, but expanded in the one that they didn’t have. But did they not think to ask us where the missing specs were before they started coding?

I know life is a crisis of communication, and specs and documentation is traditionally rather thin, but to regard no documentation as being acceptable certainly says something about the state of things.


Developer run off
I’ve worked with a surprising number of developers who are happy to run off and do a build without any reference to documentation. Sometimes this can be excused by documentation not being provided (or not existing) – but I have often seen developers who are quite happy to completely ignore documentation, specifications and even simple instructions with which they have been provided, and build something which come from (presumably) the machinations of their own brains. The result is at best different from the specification, and at worst bafflingly incomprehensible. What drives them to to this I don’t know – a febrile imagination, or perhaps delusions of omnipotent power…

One could blame the project managers I guess, but sort of developers who like to indulge in this free-style methodology can be exceedinly hard to rein in, and purposefully obtuse with their communications – “It’s fine, it’ll be done in time, of course I am working to the specifications”, etc. So it is often only after they have checked their precious, secretive code into a source control system that the problem is unearthed.

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