April 17, 2006
We're currently undertaking some painting projects at home. Which means I'll be following the instructions on the paint can.
But what would happen if I didn't follow the instructions on the paint can? Here's a list of common interior painting mistakes:
The single most common mistake in any project is failure to read and follow manufacturer's instructions for tools and materials being used. In regard to painting, the most common mistakes are:
- Not preparing a clean, sanded, and primed (if needed) surface.
- Failure to mix the paints properly.
- Applying too much paint to the applicator.
- Using water-logged applicators.
- Not solving dampness problems in the walls or ceilings.
- Not roughing up enamel paint before painting over it.
What I find particularly interesting is that none of the mistakes on this checklist have anything to do with my skill as a painter. My technical proficiency (or lack thereof) as a painter doesn't even register! To guarantee a reasonable level of quality, you don't have to spend weeks practicing your painting skills. You don't even have to be a good painter. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the paint can!
Sure, it seems like common sense. But take a close look at the houses on the streets you drive by. Each street has that one house where the owners, for whatever reason, chose not to follow the instructions on the paint can.*
For years, software development was an entire subdivision of badly painted houses. But the field of software development is now mature enough that we have a number of paint cans to refer to. Here's one such checklist from Joel Spolsky, circa 2000:
- Do you use source control?
- Can you make a build in one step?
- Do you make daily builds?
- Do you have a bug database?
- Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
- Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
- Do you have a spec?
- Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
- Do you use the best tools money can buy?
- Do you have testers?
- Do new candidates write code during their interview?
- Do you do hallway usability testing?
The type of paint can you choose – and the instructions you follow – are highly debatable, of course. But make sure, at the very least, you're following the instructions on the paint can for your software development project.
* oddball color choices notwithstanding
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I hope you made a copy of the instructions before slopping paint all over the original.
I wish I could make every engineer at my company follow that checklist...
On another note, I've been in Tech Support a few times and 95% of the problems are easily fixed by reading the manual.
Interesting, James Bach is "Studying Jeff Atwood's Paint Can"
I like this bit "I want to talk, here, about the danger of following instructions, and more specifically, the danger of following people who tell you to follow instructions when they are not taking responsibility for the quality of your work. The instruction-following myth is one of those cancers on our craft, like certification and best practices."
Yes, James emailed me about that. Like all of his stuff, it's great and well worth reading. It's funny because he actually dug up something I hadn't consciously realized: I used to run a painting business, so a lot of the paint instructions are easily understandable to me.
It will take me a little while to formulate a response, but here's the Reader's Digest version: I think we disagree on the meaning of "following the instructions".
I working as painter basically to paint your place you need to have right time's work slow, prime good, sand good, use the right paint,
read instruction on can's
What about good ol' shlemiel? Fundamentals are important, such as knowing when to ask questions not asked on the paint can. Just look first, eh?
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know where to bury the bodies.
Are you really painting your house lilac?
Do follow the instructions.. I had a bad experience of not following them made me to stay on bed for 1 week.. :(