Outlawed Words: SOME and OK

In my first company (Feld Technologies), we wrote customer software for medium sized businesses. This was back in the late 80’s / early 90’s – pre client/server (remember dbase, Paradox, Access, Clarion, and DataFlex.) It was hard – and our goal – as I’ve said before on this blog – was to suck less.

I just had an email exchange with one of my companies where I said “if this takes ZERO engineering on our side other than packaging and support and ZERO licensing fees” then I’d support chasing after a specific opportunity in the near term. The answer back was “there is potential for SOME engineering.” The debate ensued.

At Feld Technologies, I used to walk down the hall and ask folks “how things were going.” The most common answer from our consultants and engineers was “OK.” After a while, I realized OK could mean anything from “it’s great – I’m on plan, on budget, kicking ass, and feeling good” to “my life sucks, I just broke up with my boyfriend, the client is a shithead, the last build is completely broken, and I want to kill Joe because he’s such an asshole when he gives me feedback on my code.” SOME is similar – it could mean “all I’ve got to do is spend an all-nighter and all is well” to “it’ll take our entire engineering organization the next 12 months.”

At Feld Technologies, we outlawed the word OK. Whenever someone used it, a sit-down meeting was generated to find out what was really going on. SOME – and plenty of other words – are the same. Outlaw them – don’t make decisions based on vagueries.

  • Steve

    Yes, I remember those… dbase, Paradox, Access, Clarion, and DataFlex. Infact I still support systems using Access and dbase. Not in any hurry to rewrite them either. Not every blue chip ran to .net and mamoth centralized sql server boxes in the sky.

    In my opinion there are still some situations that are favorable to the good old desktop relational databases.

    I love how all the young blood IT is always quick to write off everything not developed in the last five years. Yet they just can’t seem find a way to replace some of the good old stuff. Maybe it’s because they have no idea at how complex and lengthy the original development was.

    Hey there’s still a lot of COBOL code in use by major corporations around the world. Good jobs, good money. I wouldn’t be suprised to see it around another 20 years. Though, it’s not the same old COBOL it used to be.

    Some of these old environments will inevitably disappear along the way. Too bad, good code is worth preserving. The best of the ‘oldies’ will offer a migration path to the looming trend of centralization. And the see-saw sways yet again.

  • The first major customer application that I ever wrote is still in production today. I wrote a dental billing and practice management system for Bellflower Dental Group (a very large practice – over 30,000 patients at the time) in DataFlex 2.x and put it into production in 1986. Dave Jilk did a year 2000 update in 1999 (yes – there were tons of Y2K issues) and – as far as I know – it’s still running. I also know of a few Clarion-based systems we wrote in the early 1990’s that are still in production today. Some old code just never dies.

  • The first major application I built is (err… was till Interland bought all our stuff) still in production today..

    And the funny thing is:

    I wrote it at Interliant in Atlanta 🙂

  • Dave Jilk

    My experience with “OK” at Feld Tech is that it meant “things are ok in my personal life and with my health.” It said nothing, positive or negative, about how work was going. It’s an interesting outcome of “management by wandering around” that if you ask people how they’re doing, they don’t automatically give you a work-related answer.

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