jeez... it seems like the only time that I get to code is when I come in to work at 11:30pm.

Two pots of coffee, a tab of ephedrine... staying up late is an integral part of the coding-stimulant connection.

The slogan on one of the bumper-stickers that I aquired at MarCon last year.

Carpe Noctem
We get more done after 2am then most people do all day!

It's pretty obvious why this saying could be true outside of CSH. Things available at 2am include:

  • Eating places that are 24 hours, empty and rather quiet.
  • No one to bother you in the office or at home. You don't have to worry about waiting 30 minutes to get back into "the zone" just because John the fellow worker distracted you out of the zone when he "broke" the printer because his printer control panel is on pause.
  • You can't do any sort of business, so no random interruption.
  • There is no business that will deal with you, so you won't be distracted with worries about going to various places to pay bills (by this time you'll say I'll do it tomorrow).
  • There's real genuine SILENCE(TM)(C) 2000. If your boss was too cheap to get real sound isolation barriers and windows, you will either hear the servers next door, the people next room, or the sound of traffic and construction--all during the day time. But usually not at 2am.
  • When you make coffee, the entire pot is yours, and it is rarely empty most time you get to it.
  • The corporate net is YOURS. Sure the backup might be humming taking some servers with it. but all your online docs will be coming to you fast. Usually the websites you surf are on your island or continent. Most other users of such shared web resources are asleep. The printer is yours too. Anything that you have to stand in line for is yours. So major productivity boost. It also happen to be prime time to run parallel simulations with all of the idle corporate PCs (see Inferno, Jini, Cosm and Beowulf).
  • If you need to just get away from the workstation for a moment, you can do your roam and brainstorm throughout the entire work complex without guilt.
  • If you still eat with your friends (Tarzan think good for social life) chances are your breakfast is really a HUGE dinner and your inspiration for the rest of the day is a big juicy Sci-Fi 9pm film at the theator. That means you don't need any mind-provoking interruptions (which equates to no excuses for procrastination!) nor food for a while--so again, long duration of clear thinking time during the prime early hour hours of your day (err night).
  • You have something wonderful to return home to:
    • 1. you got some real work done
    • 2. you can drive pretty darn fast back home at 4 - 6 in the morning on the empty high ways. If you want to wait a while you might try and drive to some mountain park to check out the sunrise (East Coast deal--no coastal sunrise to speak of West Coast--but morning jogs in that fresh mountain morning air is pretty good)
    • 3. The air is fresh during your driving or biking time--no fume.
    • 4. You can spy and check out your love ones while they sleep--and that's just a curious cute sight.

In short, you're not just weird or prefering to be a loner, you're being sensibly productive.

P.S. A common variation on doing all your work in the graveyard shift is good ol' crazy law-firm, pre-med, or Microsoft overtime. Where folks come in early and go home really really late. Just because they slept from 2am to 5am they consider themselves more normal than the techies! Sure it's "night time" but it's 3 hours of sleep daily for weeks at a time!! :)

P.P.S. However, actually getting paid to work at 2am regularly is a serious matter. You should be compensated accordingly and you shouldn't do it regularly (chances are your company is run by monkeys if you really feel your daytime environments are that bad). There are all sorts of ways your company can help make day time work as productive:

  • Some companies (MS for example) ensures all coders have private offices (presumably with enforced do not disturb/ring hours and good sound barriers).
  • Most experienced tech co's ensure ready upgrades happen and do not micromanage computer orders. If you need them they order them without question. After all you are probably responsible for million dollar contracts at some point--if they can't trust you with pens and extra hard drives it just doesn't make sense. So resources are always readily available so you don't have to stand in line.
  • Many companies are realizing and implementating the hiring of professional consultants to help you take care of things you just can't be bothered with as over-worked as you are. Most anything that can't be automated pretty much (a bills or appointment consultant or party arrangement or whatever you think will steal your time and can't be handled at predetermined hours)
  • A company should design their work flow so that when you work on a portion of a project you should own it and that's final. Middle managers and fellow works or other departments should not be allowed to interrupt your days frequently with micromanagement and unnecessary meetings. It is entirely possible for a democratically run project where you actually do trust people to do what is right to do just as well.
  • As a last resort if your company can't be fair to you you can always change to a better company.

I'm not going recite all the possible things a company can do because this one guy call Joel already did it. Check out his site at joel.editthispage.com.

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