Keep an Eye on That Clock

Things don't always go according to schedule. Applying yardsticks from other fields, such as printing, plumbing, or manual calculations, is no guide to how long it will take to write the code to computerize a routine. What is easy to describe can be complex to code, and what might seem monumental can be a cinch. For example, to extract every individual word in Shakespeare's ascribed works can be written in as little as three lines of code. The answer is 29,066. To write and populate a Web form that allows you to use conditional dropdown menus to take you from country to town to street to house number, by contrast, can take an experienced programmer eight working hours.

Programmers can often supply guesstimates, and these are given in good faith and assume the code works as planned with no ramifications. However, the code they have just typed may affect a routine elsewhere in the program. Cause and effect can be the very devil to trace. So, while it is sometimes possible to affect a day's work in a minute with a computer, at other times it can take a day to do a minute's work. Monitoring and managing the operation is the only mechanism you have to bring this activity under control.

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