Eyewitness Testimony 1

EVERYONE tells you how important it is to know the business requirements. And, presumably, you find out what the business requirements are by talking to your business users. That’s all well and good, except no one tells you how unreliable your users are.

Probably everybody has a story like this one: I was working on a purchasing system and, as part of gathering the business requirements, I asked my users, “Do you ever do a split order?” (A split order occurs when you place a single order but plan to receive the goods in a series of shipments.) “No,” I was assured. “We never have split orders.” So we implemented a system without split orders. When I’m doing seminars and tell this story, I stop here and ask the audience “How long after implementation?” Like I said, everybody has this story, and everybody knows that I’m asking how long until the first split order showed up. People are much more cynical than I am—most answers are in the one-to-three week range. In actual fact, it was about two months before I got the call: “Peter, we’re up here trying to put in a split order and can’t seem to figure out how to do it. Could you come up and give us a hand?” Continue reading

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Definition of Insanity

So, I have a cat. At night, when I get in bed, the cat, desperate for love/attention/pets, throws his whole body against me. But that’s not enough—he then slides up along my body and mushes his face into my face while purring like a washing machine with a bad set of cogs.

It’s not nearly as attractive as you might think.

If I don’t respond because I’m too tired and want to go to sleep, the cat performs this act again. And again. And again. Eventually I punt the cat. A definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting to get a different result.” This is also, apparently, the definition of having a brain the size of an apricot. Continue reading

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AN enormous amount of my work revolves around e-mail. I get requests for work, and I get the components of the jobs that I’m working on through e-mail. I send the results of my work and progress reports out through e-mail. A lot of what I do involves receiving e-mail, reacting to it, and either returning it or sending it on.

Much of what I do with e-mail generates more than just e-mail. E-mail turns into appointments in my day book, reference notes, and portions of projects that I’m working on. Continue reading

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Competitive Advantage

MY oldest son, Christopher, is deeply interested in video games and, as a result, I’ve been exposed to computer gaming more that I probably wanted to be. I should also add that none of my three sons are computer programmers—or even interested in programming (in fact, Jason’s computer seems to actually hate him). As part of his interest in computer games, Christopher picked up a book called Postmortems. This book consisted of nothing but discussions of games by the people who had built the games. Much of the discussion assumed some understanding of game programming, and so I was called on to provide some background. Continue reading

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For someone who makes a sizeable portion of his income from technical writing (there are years when my tech writing revenue matches my consulting revenue), you’d think I’d be better at communicating. As I get older and deafer, most of my problems arise when listening to people—especially people with accents (I, of course, have no accent). Continue reading

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