In Defense of Interruptions


Many believe that the global minimum number of interruptions is good for software development. I disagree. Interruptions are inevitable and often useful.

"Interruption" Is A Slur For Collaboration

Interruptions are inevitable. In typical agile shops, there are stand-ups, sprint-plannings, retrospectives, and other corporate meetings. Communication takes place on Slack, HipChat, and the like. To butcher Kurt Vonnegut, being anti-interruptions "is like being anti-glacier."

But, are interruptions all bad? No!

In fact, in the cases listed here, they are merely the realities in working in a collaborative environment 1. Can we not lend 15 minutes to perform a code review for a colleague? Should we skip answering a question from an intern because it would interrupt our current work?

Even if meetings are a drag2 and you don't have any of the aforementioned, would you permit being interrupted for a P0 bug? Of course!

I think we should celebrate interruptions rather than demonize them. Yes, retrospectives are valuable even though I haven't finished my current story. Of course, I will teach you about mime types, rising sophomore intern, instead of just using the term in context. Give me a minutes to finish what I'm typing3, but then yes, I'll review your PR.


1. Lone Wolf Programmers (noun): extinct or mythical-beasts. ↩︎

2. I like the advice of setting agendas before meetings and ending early when possible. ↩︎

3. I hope it's evident by context that I'm not taking "interruptions" to their semantic extreme. ↩︎