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I just watched a presentation about simplicity by Rich Hickey at InfoQ where he goes over the constructs programmers use to produce artifacts and how those constructs make various trade-offs when it comes to achieving simple artifacts. I think that most programmers would agree with a lot of what he says but at the end of the day I don't know how many development shops are actively practicing development processes and using tools that allow them to make simple artifacts.

As an interview candidate I would like to work at a software development shop where producing simple artifacts is a top priority. What are some questions I can ask to figure out if the place that is interviewing me is actually such a place.

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In my experience, it's probably just a safe bet to assume that they're not. Even if a few of the core team focuses on simplicity as a main design goal, any sizable team will have someone who has learned a new shiny bauble to abuse or simple code rot has led to unneeded complexity. –  Telastyn Jun 24 '12 at 1:56
"what's your development process?" –  Mathew Foscarini Jun 24 '12 at 3:05

2 Answers 2

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One of the approaches to get info about the culture of a software development shop would be meeting and speaking (some call it networking) the actual developers who work there. There is a number of local user groups where you can meet them, depending in which area are you living. Here you are some info that might be helpful.

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IMO, you need to be just as prepared with your questions to ask them as you are with your answers for expected questions from the prospective employer.

As Mathew Foscarini pointed out, my leading question is "what's your development process?" And then I start drilling in from there based upon what I hear. I'll ask about source code control; what their experience has been with that product; defect tracking; how rigorously they follow whichever development process they said; how they handle last minute change requests; etc...

The interview is a two way street and you want to make sure that you agree with the overall development methodology of the shop. I'll admit some of my questions are biased based upon areas I've been burned before, but that's just human nature.

Specifically on "Simplicity": I think you're going to have a harder time interviewing / asking for this concept. Full disclosure, I didn't watch the presentation (TL;DW), but the concept is not that unique. Apple products are well known for simplicity in elements but powerful in functionality. As more and more iProducts find their ways into consumers hands (which includes development managers), we'll see more and more of a trend towards minimalist design with powerful functionality. It's actually more expensive to design and code, but the converts will swear it's worth the extra effort.

Find some companies whose products you admire and target them for getting an interview / consideration for employment.
To directly answer your question - I don't think you can really "interview" for simplicity / simple artifacts, but you can find the companies that are following that approach.

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