Re: Do you voluntarily develop long-term projects on the job?

Subject: Re: Do you voluntarily develop long-term projects on the job?
From: "Gary S. Callison" <huey -at- interaccess -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2003 20:01:29 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 28 Aug 2003, JPosada -at- book -dot- com (John Posada) wrote:
> I know that most of us are up to our eyeballs in keeping up with the
> incoming workload.
> However, I'd like to know how you approach working on side projects that
> require long term development before introducing tem to your boss.
> I'll give you an example. My documentation provides a subset of information
> in a certain way, over a span of 200+ pages of static information. The users
> like it and they use it. However, I know that if presented in a different
> way, it could be so much more valuable. Therefore, when I get a chance to
> work on it, maybe 30 minutes a day, I'm converting static pages of
> information to a searchable database.

Example #2: our information management system is, er, 'kind of chaotic',
in much the same way that Lake Erie may contain some water. Now, one look
at my desk will tell you that I'm hardly an organizational freak or
anything, but I don't do well in large complicated systems organized in
the "most recent and most important stuff is nearer the top of the pile"
methodology. So, I set out to do something about it.

Step 1 was a fileshare in a heirarchical structure that mirrored the way
projects break down into functional modules. Step 2 involved "some sort of
change management". The change management system proposed was 'most recent
change is in red text, next most recent change is in blue text, and
updated documents will be emailed to all of the stakeholders'.

This bothers me deeply, knowing that there's stuff out there like VSS and
SharePoint and automated change management tools. So step two: I got the
local network guy to give me a castoff PC, and built it with
Debian/Apache/exim/RCS/twiki, and got it to play nice with the local
mailserver for email notifications of changes.

Downloading and building all of the software, a couple kernel recompiles,
and general making sure everything works, I probably invested 30 hours in
this project over the course of a month or two.

> I've been working on this for about a month and nobody here knows about
> this, though I'll be ready to introduce it in about 2 weeks.
> Does anyone do this type of thing? If so, do you tell anyone or do you
> surprise them with this?

I told everyone "I'm not sure the way we're doing things now is
necessarially the best way. Let me get this server, and I'll build
something, and see what you think?" Boss knew I was 'up to something', but
didn't really know what it was going to be. (Nobody here including myself
had ever heard of 'twiki' before I did some research and discovered it
might be something we could use...)

> If you've done this, what has been the reaction of your management. Do they
> like this/ Do they mind not having been informed every step? This is the
> third time I'm doing something like this here and my manager loves it.
> What has been the reaction to those around you?

So far, I've gotten two "Wow, that looks really cool, wish I had time to
learn how to use it"s. Everybody is too busy chopping wood to stop and
sharpen axes.

*le sigh*



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