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PROGRAMMING 101 – Learning to ask questions

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Visual Basic 6.0 is ONE of my preferred languages of choice, for one simple reason:

It’s VERY quick for tools, modeling, and prototyping Windows based applications and functionality. This should have been pretty evident in the days span it took to assemble the basic look and feel for the 3d Painter toolkit for the Holodeck.

The only problem is – where I left off last night.

The question I was asking myself was simple: Is my approach practical in trying to build a sustainable and evolving framework?

Did you know that nearly 80% of Information technology projects with programming end up in dismal failure because of simple flaws and flawed assumptions in initial analysis and design?

Case in point: . In 1994, I was sent by Microsoft to Mirage Hotels in Las Vegas – with one distinct assignment: to build a fancy and snazzy user interface working in coordination with the business analysts as fast as possible for Microsoft.

I had two weeks.

After two weeks, our joint effort was presented to Mirage Hotels management – who I heard oooo’d and aaaah’d – but the company I had been contracting through to Microsoft for – Mach 2 Systems – never heard a thing from again.

Two years later, I get an urgent call from my friend Ron Ostreim, who is up in Las Vegas. Mirage apparently contacted Microsoft directly, avoiding the partnership with Mach 2 System, and with 38 people, the business team scaled up fast, , and I was being recommended by the team to handle a good portion of the user interface codework.

Now the problems started pretty much before I got there.

The business team, desperate to sustain their job, had – unbeknownst to me – not actually contacted or worked with the actual customers – the people working at the front desk – at the time of the prototype – to determine if there was an actual need for this ‘upgrade’.

And WHEN they did contact the customers, the business analysts ‘shielded’ the development staff from direct conversation, so the rules and requirements were much like trying to nail down jello . With 3 primary business analysts and roughly 16 analysts each with their own agenda, there was a great deal of confusion for seeing this project go reach fruition.

The project was a multimillion dollar failure.

And who was to blame for that fiasco?


Now you may say – Don’t be so hard on yourself.

And in my defense, I will say – don’t worry, I have pretty thick skin after 30 years of IT development and experience for personal and project successes and failures.

In any case, just prior to taking the contract working for the Mirage Hotels and Casino, I had been working as a full time employee at UHaul and just prior to that – I was a contractor at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, where we didn’t have analysts.

For a full week I sat with a former Penthouse model – Deidre – who was now managing the call center operations at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I admittedly had some issues paying attention to what she did and watching and listening to her do her job, asking questions about what she was doing and why as we went along.

I didn’t believe her when she told me about her nude photos, Penthouse holds no punches on showing the female body, as pretty much everything goes, so one day she proved it to me by bringing in the issue and letting me see for myself. I was… besides myself shall we say.

On another occasion while working at Blue Cross, I had the opportunity to sit for a few days with a claims specialist.

At UHaul, I was literally embedded in the payroll department, working hand in hand with the customers – a garnishment specialist was sitting right across from my cube and variety of payroll personnel surrounded me.

Now with all this experience ‘sitting with the customers’ – quite literally the people who would be working with the applications I and my teams were providing – our ‘hit ratio’ was 100%.

That is – Without failure, we delivered what was expected simply by taking the up front time to ask questions and work hand in hand with the customers who invariably would be using the applications the most.

And as a developer – I took the ideas the analysts at Mirage on behalf of Microsoft – I gave their ideas teeth. And claws. And fangs. And that giant sucking sound from the failure that tapped nearly 10 million dollars from Mirage, was because I failed to learn from my own experiences.

Now here’s the key though – BECAUSE I had not had the experience of a single failure under my belt when this occurred, I learned a crucially valuable lesson for my own career progress which unfortunately cost me my credibility and any real relationship with Microsoft.

What was my failure?

With two weeks in Las Vegas.

Despite the fact I was working for 60 hours a week….

I had nights and a few weekends at my disposal.

IN this time – I had EVERY opportunity to sit down at the front desk and talk to the people at the front desk about their job, and integrate these ideas with the work I was doing.

Programming is easy in my opinion.

The real difficulty with programming is understanding that you can quite literally collapse a company, a government, and reality itself not knowing your environment and asking questions.

And even then, there’s no guarantee you still won’t fuck it all up.

Shit just happens.

That’s just how the universe rolls at times.

Now getting back to the failure of the project – it was simple:

I didn’t ask the real customer questions, despite knowing who they were.

I’d worked with the business analysts, none of which had any programming experience, so it should have been my responsibility as a programmer to ask the actual customer using the application about their jobs – knowing programmers tend to be much more analytical and look at the world MUCH differently than conceptually based business analysts.

As a programmer.

You translate concepts and ideas to a tangible real world deliverable.

Deliverables, as I have since learned, ultimately become your baby.

Going back to the end thought from yesterday.

Business Analysts have their time and place, but it’s important for a programmer to learn something I learned – the hard way – in the course of the last four years.

WHEN you develop code or want to become a programmer. I consider it fundamental imperative that YOU come to understand the fundamental structure and nature of reality itself.

The world around us and its structure is quite literally a manifestation of thought.

So what, you say?

Consider this.

Thought manifests individual AND consensus based values, equations and variables that form the basic fundamental concepts of reality.

Put in (semi) plain English – whether it’s gravity, the speed of light,  or the physical passage of time, all these are arbitrary constructs – labels and ideas created to identify and categorize the physical manifestation of thought itself

Is there proof to this? The proof’s relatively simple. Trace the ancestry of anything you can imagine, and ask the simple question “And what created that?”.

Now I won’t get into debating this subject.

I just ask that you ponder that.

Because being able to program is a pretty amazing gift.

But it can be a total mind fuck when you start realizing what it really means to be one.

And why was the failure

Getting back on topic.

The question I hadn’t answered as I dove into my design was pretty simple:

Who was my customer?

By george.

It’s me.

In hacking terms. There’s a funny term called a honeypot.

We’ve all heard the tale of Pandora’s Box, right?

I am building the holodeck to trap me and my mind.

You see. I suspect we’re both seeing eye to eye.

And if this is your goal.

No deception.

I’d like to ask for your assistance.

It’s my understanding you’d like to ‘return to a more simple time’.

I have a plan for you.

Because the one you’re running sucks.

Ask the customer questions.

To achieve success. Learn from my mistakes, will you?

On a final note.

I talked to the sky last night, and asked Rachel Gooch from when I knew her to marry me.

If I had a time machine or could time travel, or had a holodeck that looked like the real world – the one thing I would do is to be a real husband to my wives in the past.

I have mentally accepted that I am immortal.

And if I am not. Then I have absolutely no doubt that this all is currently achievable.

I want to revisit my past. And not that I want to ‘atone’ for my past sins. But I want to be more to the people who were in my life and played a part of it. Show them what they mean to me as I learned my lessons and went back to be someone I was not the first time through.

I know anything is possible in this and any reality.

And it’s not that I want to rule the world or take it over or bomb it.

I just want to experience it like I would imagine a god would.

With my limited conceptual understanding of what that is.

I’m fine with my self imposed limitations.

It makes for a good start.

Rachel. Of today. I dont want to be a part of your life.

Rachel. Of the time in the past. It’s her I want to be a part of mine.

In a fantastic and probably weird way that I think only makes sense to me.

It’s up to you. But that proposal’s real.

Do I have a fear of moving forward?


And until I can resolve my own past as I have come to understand the bendy/windy nature of time and space, I figure this fear is one of the healthiest fears I can and need to have.

You’ll learn this too. If you ever become a programmer.

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