More Space = Better Code

I had the good fortune to attend a training course conducted by Tom deMarco and Tim Lister. (I may be swapping an “i” for an “o” in their names, and my apologies go to them if I am.)

Tom and Tim were experts in software productivity back in the early 1990s, and their research revealed a stunning finding: software productivity was most strongly correlated with the space of one’s office.

Not experience. Not programming language. Not age. Not education.

Space. As measured by square feet (or metres). The more space programmers had, the better they performed.

The reason was profoundly simple. Space is correlated with an even more important commodity: silence. Larger offices tend to have doors and walls to the ceiling, which produce even more quiet. With silence, a programmer can focus better, and therefore write better code. With a door, programmers can close out a large number of interruptions.

This was very bad news for managers with cool corner offices, who had not written a line of code in years. It probably explains why Tom and Tim’s ideas weren’t widely accepted. To accept these ideas would be to buy into the premise that space is a productivity tool, rather than a perk.

They had the right idea with respect to one of the goals of 2Time, also, which is to help the user to enter the “flow” state more frequently. A user who is allowed to enter that state will be more productive, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reported in his book “Flow.” They will be much more likely to fulfill their commitments, both micro and macro. What sets them apart is not their knowledge or experience, but their practices.

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