Antisocial Engineering

Definitions for Engineering vary wildly depending on who is delivering them, but for a minute, consider Engineering as a behaviour, in the same way as your accountant can “account” in a good way, or a bad way, Engineers can “engineer” in many different ways. My least favourite way? Unsociably. There’s no need for it, there’s no excuses for it and YOU shouldn’t do it.

Antisocial Engineering is all around us, but we let people get away with it, often because we’re too scared to confront others for fear of being “a jobsworth” or sometimes simply because we don’t recognise it. Think I’m being picky? Then you’re probably an Antisocial Engineer.

Antisocial Engineers are a tricky breed, indeed many of us show Antisocial Engineering behaviours on occasions and don’t even recognise it. Antisocial Engineering is the skipping of steps because it’s convenient. It’s the quick change from the specification because that will get it working (when you ultimately forget to later update the spec.). Antisocial Engineering is asking someone else to be non-compliant to the ICD so you don’t have to up issue the document. Get the idea? Antisocial Engineering is for your own convenience.

Why is antisocial Engineering so bad when it gets the job done? Well the problem is that so often it only gets YOUR job done, and then you have to spend your time (or watch others waste theirs) convincing others to overlook your small changes, or help them implement fixes so that their system/subsystem/component/artefact conforms to your new pseudo-interface. As soon as your team size rises above one, it no longer becomes effective to make undocumented changes (i.e hacks) to get things done. To be really harsh, if your team size is one and you’re making undocumented hacks to get the job done then you’re hacking, not engineering.

This view is often at odds with a number of other viewpoints. From the viewpoint of a “results driven business” it is picky and anal at the expense of the project. From the viewpoint of a PM looking to close out a project phase it is inhibitive and frustrating and from the viewpoint of an Antisocial Engineer it is unnecessary. Unfortunately, the merit of this rigidity lies beyond the scope of these individuals and lies in that of the greater good. It might not be in the phase of your project, it might not even be within your company or your phase of the lifecycle but the merit lies there and others will thank you.

So dot your “I”s and cross your “T”s, do what you have said you’re going to do, stick to the script and document your work. Be a “Social Engineer’ and slowly, together, we will make the world (of engineering!) a better place.