How To Be Lazy...or...Understanding Requirements

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If you’re a lazy mofo like me, there’s one thing you’re not lazy about, getting out of having to do a lot of work. An important skill that should be on every lazy developer’s utility belt is the ability to understand requirements.

However, there’s a subtle technique to this. When I say, “understand requirements”, I don’t necessarily mean understanding what the client tells you the requirement is, but taking a moment to dig deeper and get to the real purpose of the requirement. Let me tell you a story based on a true story.

WeLikeCustomers.com has a two email systems for communicating to its clients. One system sends news letters and “Please come back” emails to clients who have opted in. The other system sends emails welcoming newly registered users as well as password reminders etc... The second system is designed to send only the most important emails so as not to get blacklisted.

Millard in Marketing decides that the second system should route emails through an email delivery service that guarantees delivery. He tells Damien the developer that only emails in a certain category should be sent through the new delivery service, and all others should be sent in the current manner.

Well Damien thinks about it and tells Millard it will take a day or so to add this routing within the second system. Currently the system only supports sending emails to one configured SMTP server. Now he has to add the ability to send some emails to another SMTP server based on certain criteria. He dives right into designing a general purpose email routing system. After a bit of time, he has the sudden thought,

“Now why the hell are they routing only a portion of emails to this new service anyways?”

So he asks Millard, who replies,

“To make it easier for you of course.”

After some discussion, Damien finds out that Millard would prefer to send all emails to the delivery service. So he changes one setting in his config file pointing to the service’s SMTP address, closes his office door, and takes a nap. Meanwhile, Millard is sending out emails complimenting Damien for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Be like Damien.

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