back to article Surprise! Developers' days ruined by interruptions and meetings, GitHub finds

If you want to make a software developer's day, don't interrupt, minimize meetings, and encourage moments of self-reflection. By doing so you may enhance productivity and promote worker retention, according to GitHub's latest research. The Microsoft-owned code-hosting giant, with the help of 40 software engineers, set out to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you want to be happy at work, never meet more than twice a month

    1. Notas Badoff

      Re: FIFY

      If in a meeting the CIO asks the question "What's a class B address?" your morale is shot for the whole month. Productivity too.

      How about once a quarter and with a script?

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: FIFY

      So Microsoft tried to determine if people preferred fewer interruptions by pestering them multiple times a day with stupid questions.

      Why am I not surprised?

      1. Mike 16

        Re: FIFY

        Those particular interruptions were apparently not as disliked as the rest of the daily harassment. Perhaps MSFT has re-discovered the lesson of the Western Electric Relay Plant experiment.

  2. oldtaku Silver badge

    Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

    Okay, some days you will end up with two meetings a day, but if you have that every day your productivity is just destroyed.

    Every meeting is a one to two hour stick into your eye, destroying all motivation with their crushing repetition and boredom (good meetings do not do this, but good meetings are rare) and it ruins you for at least a half hour before and after, because before you can't start anything useful, and after you're just completely unmotivated and need to get back into your problem solving headspace.

    Just personally, my real productivity is probably about 4-5x higher on days where I have no meetings at all. And most meetings aren't getting any real work done - it could all be done via email - it's just because managers have nothing better to do.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

      It seems to me that there are so many people who are paid to sit in meetings all day.

      A whole generation of people who think that spending most of the day in meetings is actual work.

      I'm sure if they were required to output actual productivity they would complain to HR.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

        didn't you know, they're just implementing AGILE...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

        The peasants are paid to work. The royalty are paid to govern, and to do that, they sit in meetings all day being fed contradictory info from the peasants from which they need to decide how to allocate insufficient resources.

        The peasants think the royalty do nothing because they have no clue how to run a business, close sales & make payroll. Some subset of the royalty were once peasants, and hopefully there are enough of those to keep governance reasonably grounded.

        None of either group are indispensable, peasants or royalty, although the royalty think they are.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

          If you think these “royalty” are in some way productive, you are deluded.

          I’ve sat in these meetings and they are a total waste of time. They add nothing to deal closing and payroll making.

          The people doing that are not in meetings.

          Stealer’s Wheel summed them up nicely in the 70s.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

      and make sure that "that one guy" *TURNS* *HIS* *PHONE* *OFF*

      Invariably, the "ball and chain" call that (for some reason) everyone in charge of the meeting always pauses for, can easily ruin ANY meeting, and perhaps affect productivity along with it.

      (Phone "emergency" rings are a curse anyway, even on vibrate. Just check for missed calls once or twice a day. Unless you have a receptionist, tell everyone to use e-mail or slack or even IRC, and DO NOT DISTURB you while you're coding)

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

        I don't seen anything wrong with that. I often consider arranging to be called 5 minutes into the meeting anyway so I have an excuse to get out of the pointless waste of time. A call in a meeting is a total blessing.

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

          Just use "Where's My Cellphone". You can program it to call you up to 5 minutes ahead.

      2. ShadowSystems

        ,At Bob, re: ringing phone.

        Not *all* ringing phones are unwanted. Annoying & inconvenient perhaps, but not unwanted.

        Back when my (now ex) wife was expecting, I let my (then) employer know that she was due & that she would call me once she needed to go to the hospital. She would go in an ambulance, I would meet her at the hospital via my car. My phone was set to "Baby Elephant Walk" & the volume on low, but it was still audible enough to get my attention.

        When it went off, my coworkers cheered, slapped me on the back, & damn-near shoulder-surfed me out the office in their eagerness to send me on my way. My boss shouted "OCTUPLETS! MUH Hahahahahahahahaha!" I laughed most of the way to the hospital.

        Not *all* calls are unwanted, sometimes there's a damned-good reason for them to be pounced upon immediately, so please don't lump them all into the same bucket.

        *Hands you a pint*

        Here's to folks that pick amusing ring tones to take the sting out of the interruption. May all their interruptions be as joyful as can be. =-)

    3. swm

      Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

      The worst is when some people start talking in a meeting to get actual work done and the PHB says, "Let's have just one meeting here." This eliminates any possible use for a meeting.

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

      "The meetings will continue until morale improves" is, I find, not an original thought.

  3. Handy Andy

    Well scum(TM) micro McManagement meetings certainly ruin my days

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      though I really do like scumm(-vm).... (yeah, I know what you meant, I agree)

      Should dig out my copy of Monkey Island (now _that_ will destroy productivity, should I push that idea forward among my geek colleagues...). I guess we can enter into our timesheet that we have been working with the scumm-vm, solving problems through HID-interactions. Maybe try and sell playing it in a group via screen sharing as a team building exercise?

      For German-speaking groups:

      Tons of fun in the combination with a telco, people complaing about the words they need to draw. Good in a group of four to six (maybe seven) people. Nice way to spend the lunch break with the few colleagues you miss the social interaction with while secluded in your basement home office (or the kitchen table).

  4. xyz Silver badge

    No shit Sherlock

    They should have used me as a "metric"... Interrupt me mid code and I go bat shit crazy.

  5. Dr Scrum Master

    What's a meeting?

    What actually constitutes a meeting?

    Does a developer or two and a tester or two getting together to work out a problem or understand a situation count as a meeting?

    Or is it just some intra- or inter-departmental snooze-fest where a bunch of jerks engage in their own fantasy battle whilst their audience is comatose/resentful for being there/drifting away into their own more interested worlds?

    1. John70

      Re: What's a meeting?

      I would say the latter because as soon as you have one of these meetings, you've lost all concentration on what you were doing and becomes a wasted day.

      If it was the last meeting in the afternoon then the day won't be so wasted.

      Be they never are...

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: What's a meeting?

        Nooo! Never schedule late afternoon meetings for developers.

        They've had lunch, they've dealt with the post-lunch meeting if there was one, they've settled into their chair, they've made some progress and they've finally achieved some flow.

        They'll surface when they are done, at which point they can go home. That might be 3pm or 7pm but you can't predict it, they probably can't either and if you drop a meeting on them at 4pm they'll need another day to finish whatever they were working on because the productivity hit will be that high.

        Have a 'meetings morning' or once a month a whole day of 'we know you wont get any work done but lets deal with all the corporate stuff today'.

  6. batfink

    Interruption question

    Does filling out a survey once or twice a day to confirm a "no shit sherlock" thesis count as interruptions?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Interruption question

      The article suggests that it doesn't. Developers didn't have as much problem with those questions, and I think I would feel the same had I gotten questions like that. They're short, probably can wait until I want to click over and answer them, and they imply that the system asking them actually cares about what I'm feeling. Also, it's the chance to put more data behind the call for fewer meetings. So I think I wouldn't mind that kind of question popping up from time to time.

  7. Filippo Silver badge

    I wonder whether they looked at the quality of meetings. Three people attempting to nail down a tricky requisite definition is a thing. Twelve people from five different departments, discussing ten points, each of which is only relevant to three or four participants... is another thing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having a meeting to discuss something important and relevant is fine.

    Having a pointless meeting every single day because the project management religion du jour says that we have to is just retarded.

    Particularly when the only purpose of the meeting is simply to tell someone, who isn't smart enough to understand what I do, that I'm working on the same thing today that I've been working on every day for the past month. Even more so if the project management religion says that I'm not allowed to use the opportunity presented by the meeting to discuss something that actually is important and relevant instead. I'd have to call another meeting for that.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Even more so if the project management religion says that I'm not allowed to use the opportunity presented by the meeting to discuss something that actually is important and relevant instead. I'd have to call another meeting for that.

      The solution to that is to arrange with a couple of colleagues to call meetings for that and arrange it in such a way you all have a couple of weeks with all days fully booked with meetings, preferably just before an important deadline. One of the subjects can even be that the team is going to miss the deadline due to the number of meetings, but schedule it at a date/time when missing the deadline is already a certainty.

  9. John Sturdy

    Not just the time taken

    It's not just the time the meeting takes, but the effect on the surrounding time... things before the meeting get compressed or dropped or suspended, and after the meeting it takes time to get going again.

  10. EarthDog

    2 days a week free of meetings

    That was my goal when I was leading a department, and when I moved over to other roles at other companies I fought for the same thing. I usually tried to get Tue. and Th. meeting free. Most of the time I could get it. I think it worked well.

  11. ShadowSystems

    Ignore all meetings.

    If it contained something that pertains to your specific duties then get it via email so you can maintain the paper trail of whom said what to whom, whom ordered what & when, etc. If it didn't contain anything pertinent to your duties then there was no point in attending in the first place.

    Boss, shouting: Shadow, why weren't you at the All Hands meeting this morning? It was blocked out on your calender.

    Me, not giving a shit: I don't check that thing, it's nothing of any importance anyway. Besides, I was too busy getting actual work done to waste (looks at calender) FOUR HOURS verbally masterbating. Who the hell schedules a four hour meeting on a Monday? That's insane!

    Boss, angry: *I* did. It was *NOT* ''masterbation'' I'll have you know. We discussed important changes to the software.

    Me, still not giving a shit: So what color is the font to be now?

    Boss: Blue... Are you implying that the font color isn't important?!?

    Me, smirking: Implying? No. I'm stating it flat out. It's. Not. Important. I've got a list of, in your own words, ''super urgent'' fixes to make & not a lot of time in which to make them. Instead I get stuck in time wasting meetings that prevent me from getting any work done. You will then penalize me for missed metrics. Metrics that YOU caused me to miss by requiring time wasting meetings to discuss why I've not finished the tasks I can't do because I'm trapped in time wasting meetings. (Looks at digital watch) Like THIS one right now. You've just wasted fifteen minutes I could have used to Get Shit Done(TM). I'll make sure to record the interruption on my calender, shall I?

    Boss, hands akimbo, scowling: This was NOT a waste of time! I came here to talk to you about why you had missed an important meeting!

    Me, resigned to getting nothing done: A meeting during which a committee blathered on & on & on about until they finally came up to decide to make a font blue. Any other important decisions?

    Boss, huffily: We decided to have another meeting tomorrow to discuss why we're so far behind schedule. Nobody ever seems to get anything done around here! Something needs to be done about the lack of productivity!

    Me, sighing: Can you meet me up on the roof in about ten minutes? I need to show you something...

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Ignore all meetings.

      ::hands @ShadowSystems the keys to the fence surrounding the Quicklime pits::

      1. ShadowSystems

        Re: Ignore all meetings.

        *Notices the keys, smiles, & shakes head*

        *Fishes out my own set of keys to the company van, the locked cabinets of quicklime, and the other supplies Simon & I typicly use in large quantities*

        If you'll help me with a body in a few minutes, I'll buy the first round at the pub afterwards. =-D

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like