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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    Question to programmers: what is this called?

    Hi everyone,

    I work as a do-it-all web developer in a small company, where my manager is a graphic designer who knows nothing about my work.

    Many times when I'm programming something, my manager would call and ask me to finish a task related to the design of the site IMMEDIATELY. The problem is, when I finish that design issue, It takes me some time to go back into that programming "mode" again. Some times I even forget where I was!

    I know many programmers experience the same thing as well, I just don't know what this is called so I could explain it to my manager (and maybe link him to an article or two on the internet showing him that I'm not the only person in the world who's like that).

    Any idea what is this called or how can I find information related to it? I remember reading something once relating this to how our memory works, but I'm not sure.

    Appreciate your help

  2. #2
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    I don't know of a word for it, but I've read about it many times as well

    But the only reference I could recall off the top of my head was from Getting Real:
    http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch07_Alone_Time.php

    The book references this page which talks about it as well:
    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articl...000000068.html

  3. #3
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    Mittineague's Avatar
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    Funny, I know exactly what you mean, but I'm unsure what I'd call it.
    "mindset" seems kind of close, but not really "it".

    Maybe something more slang like "in the groove" or "on fire".

    EDIT: Maybe "focused"? Although I like the phrase from the article Dan linked to "in the zone".

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    Disoriented / Reoriented

    Those may not be the best terms, but they might help get the point across.

  5. #5
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    I call that 'context switching'.
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  6. #6
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    I'd call it "getting in the groove" or "getting in form".

    I hope you realise your argument won't fly though, because as a graphic designer, your manager will be aware himself of having to work through his own times of lacking inspiration.




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  7. #7
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    I love your use of "context switching" to describe this Tommy, perfect analogy to how computers context switch to change threads/processes.

    It's not about inspiration, it's not like writer's block.

    To write software means keeping a mental map of the entire code base in your mind, as well as keeping local variable names, data structures and functions relevant to the piece you're coding right on the top of your head.

    When you're interrupted while programming, you drop all these balls. To get back up to speed again, you have to place them all back up there, re-exploring the class hierarchy, scrolling up and rereading the code of the chunk you're working on to recall all the variable names and data structures involved, looking at the functions you're calling nearby, etc. That's before you can start writing code again.

    With graphic design, you can see the whole thing on the screen. You can't see a program all at once, especially not with dozens of classes and hundreds of files, you have to construct an image in your mind each time you go to work.

  8. #8
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    In Code Complete 2nd Edition pg 684, Steve McConnell talks about programming environment. He cites a study where the top 25 percent of programmers in a programming competition had bigger, quieter, more private offices, and fewer interruptions.

    I remember reading some data about this somewhere else too maybe elsewhere in Code Complete or in The Pragmatic Programmer but I can't find the reference.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard rozner's Avatar
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    Funny I've had this same problem recently. I have a business partner I'm working with on a little side project and lately I've been insisting on not working in the same room (at least while I'm doing dev) since she'll always ask me to make some insignificant text change while I'm in the middle of some more complex coding and it's quite irritating since I lost my "coding momentum". Although I like the use of "context switching" as well.

    In Code Complete 2nd Edition pg 684, Steve McConnell talks about programming environment. He cites a study where the top 25 percent of programmers in a programming competition had bigger, quieter, more private offices, and fewer interruptions.
    This is my dream, a quiet and private office, doesn't really need to be that big. Right now (my day job) I'm in an "open space" which some people think is a brilliant idea. While it is sociable, and certainly better than a cubicle, it's very loud and distracting. But I bill by the hour here so I don't really care to make that big a fuss about it.

  10. #10
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    Interruptions and context-switching are the worst things as far as productivity is concerned. I don't think your manager needs any knowledge of programming but maybe he needs management and planning training.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. Your replies were very useful. My manager (thankfully) got what I meant when I referred to it being "taken out of the zone". But all these terms will definitely be useful for non-technical people I work with in the future.


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