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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Premature software release celebrations

I used to work on a team which ran the testing infrastructure for a bunch of kernel and platform developers. There were two major groups more-or-less working together. The people in my immediate vicinity were all kernel developers, and they had various deadlines and goals to meet every so often.

One afternoon, a particularly vigorous spontaneous celebration started in the hallway outside my office. I poked my head out and saw just about everyone there, and they were very happy about something. I asked around, and found out it was because the new kernel was done.

I was confused. This kernel was still a couple of steps from acceptance. There were still significant downstream checks which needed to be run by the people who would actually use this release. Kernels could and had been turned back at this stage for various reasons in the past, and they were declaring victory?

This seemed like a premature celebration to me. I decided to mark the occasion in my own way with the help of my markerboard, previously seen in a post from February. If you look closely, you can see that it's stuck onto a glass wall with suction cups.

Those boards were actually usable on both sides. So, I popped it off the wall and drew a banner flapping in the breeze. On the banner, I put just two words:

Mission Accomplished

Then I stuck it back onto my glass wall with that side facing out. Anyone who looked toward my office was sure to notice it.

A few minutes later, some manager type popped his head in and wondered where it had come from (answer: me), and whether I was serious or not. On that second point, I just smiled and went back to work.

Looking back at it, I wonder if maybe they had started throwing release celebrations prematurely just in an attempt to rescue developer morale. I'll never know for sure if that was going on, but if it was, that can't be a good sign.

Just because something is "in the can" doesn't mean it's any good.