The Real Pain Of Software Development [part 1]

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UPDATE: I finally followed up with part 2, only 8 years later.

Typist In PainWhen you ask the average programmer what problems plague the practice of building software, you’ll probably hear responses such as:

The impedance mismatch between relational databases and object oriented code.

The difficulty of writing secure code.

Managing complexity and requirement changes..

Certainly, these are all worthy problems to tackle, but the problem that comes to my mind is how much pain I’m in when I write code and how few people really understand this. I hope to write a series of articles about typing pain and what to do about it based on my experience and research.

If you sit in front of the computer 8 or more hours a day, you’ve probably experienced pain at one point or another in your hands, wrists, shoulders, and/or back. Typically, if you’re like me, you’ll ignore it at first, maybe blame yourself for being weak, try hitting the gym more. However, at one point or another, you have to deal with it because it gets too painful to ignore. Friends and coworkers may not understand, but if you dig around, you’re almost guaranteed to find one or more coworkers who are silently dealing with this type of injury.

And yes, I do mean injury. Everybody seems to want to call it Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), but CTS is only one small type of injury within a family of injuries often grouped under the term Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). RSI ailments include tendinitis, neuritis, CTS, etc...

The real difficulty of these types of injuries is that they are a relative newcomer in the annals of medicine and are thus quite misunderstood. From outward appearances, you’re sitting on your ass all day, how can you get injured? Well let me give you some stats.

At the end of an average eight-hour workday, the fingers have walked 16 miles over the keys and have expended energy equal to the lifting of 1 1/4 tons. - DataHand

This rapid increase in RSIs coincides with the increase of personal computer use. There are now an estimated 70 million PCs in the USA. Dr. Pascarelli estimates that RSIs now cost companies \$20 billion a year. - WebReference.com

Hopefully the first quote highlights just how much work we make our little fingers do in a day, and the second quote appeals to your (and your employer’s) pocketbook. Much of these costs can be easily reduced dramatically by taking a proactive and preventive approach to RSI. For the company, that means saving a lot of money by not taking a short-sighted approach. Make sure your employees have the right equipment and an ergonomic evaluation. For you the individual, that means making sure you work in an ergonomic fashion and get help at the first sign of pain.

I will talk a bit about my experience in upcoming postings. I continue to struggle with pain, but I currently have Workman’s Comp which pays for my treatments and hooked me up with an ergonomic chair.

Some references of note:

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