Chapter 12. Politics and People

This chapter concludes this book with a look at what a toolsmith can do for a project , what a toolsmith shouldn’t do, and what to look for on a résumé for a toolsmith. The chapter finishes with some of the most complex issues that can affect projects. These issues involve people more than process and are sometimes referred to with a grimace as “political problems.” These sections are included in a book with a practical focus because it’s good to be forewarned (or reminded) about some of the people-related problems that arise so often in projects. Some of the ideas mentioned along with the problems might even help ease your pain.

First, for anyone who wants to understand more about the kind of person who enjoys writing software, there are some classic books on the subject. Good places to start are The Psychology of Computer Programming, by Gerald M. Weinberg (Dorset House), and Computer Power and Human Reason, by Joseph Weizenbaum (Freeman), particularly Chapter 4, “Science and the Compulsive Programmer.” Another way of seeing how people think about writing software is to look at the phrases in “The Jargon File” (, which is maintained by Eric S. Raymond and was also published as The New Hackers Dictionary (MIT Press).

The Role of the Toolsmith

In traditional factories (that is, factories that produce things you can actually pick up and drop on your toes), there is often a tools department. This department is responsible for ...

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