Then they put half of each group together in a silent room, and the other half of each
group in a different room equipped with earphones and a musical selection. Participants in both rooms were given a Fortran programming problem to work out from specification. To no one's surprise, participants in the two rooms performed about the same in speed and accuracy of programming. As any kid who does his arithmetic homework with the music on knows, the part of the brain
required for arithmetic and related logic is unbothered by
music—there's another brain center that listens to the music.
The Cornell experiment, however, contained a hidden wildcard. The specification required that an output data stream be formed through a series of manipulations on numbers in the input data stream. For example, participants had to shift each number two digits to the left and then divide by one hundred and so on, perhaps
completing a dozen operations in total. Although the specification never said it, the net effect of all the operations was that each output number was necessarily equal to its input number. Some people realized this and others did not. Of those who figured it out, the
overwhelming majority came from the quiet room.
Many of the everyday tasks performed by professional workers
are done in the serial processing center of the left brain. Music will not interfere particularly with this work, since it's the brain's holistic right side that digests music. But not all of the work is centered in the left brain. There is that occasional breakthrough that makes you say "Ahah!" and steers you toward an ingenious bypass that may save months or years of work. The creative leap involves right-brain function. If the right brain, is busy listening to 1001
Strings on Muzak, the opportunity for a creative leap is lost.
The creativity penalty exacted by the environment is insidious. Since creativity is a sometime thing anyway, we often don't notice when there is less of it. People don't have a quota for creative thoughts. The effect of reduced creativity is cumulative over a long period. The organization is less effective, people grind out the work
without a spark of excitement, and the best people leave."-Peopleware[http://www.amazon.com/Peopleware-Productive-Projects-Teams-S...]
I don't think it makes me more productive, but it does make me happier.
Makes me wonder if one of the subconscious motives for encouraging people to listen to music in cubicleville is to subtly keep them cowed and contented with doing the repetitive tasks they are assigned without thinking too much about how the process might be improved, without asking too many questions, and so on.
Instrumentals, electronic music, or classical music are fine.
The car's on fire, there's no driver at the wheel
and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides.
On web app tests I normally find plaid or other ambient electronica works better for me.
For coding I find that swing, jazz and blues works best. I've been listening to a lot of cab Calloway of late which is mostly instrumental or scat focused. If theres too much by way of lyrics or if it's too catchy it tends to disrupt my concentration though.
What I've found to deal with this is 2 of SomaFM's channels:
Drone Zone and Space Station Soma
Turn those up on some noise-cancelling headphones and lock out everything else. Good times.
People talk to me about the lyrics to songs I know and I have no idea what they're on about. I can listen to, and even sing, songs whose lyrics I've never verbally parsed. So I get on great with songs that sound good but have idiotic or nonsensical lyrics (Phoenix or The Smashing Pumpkins, for example) because I don't interpret them anyway. I have to listen deliberately and with full attention to "get it."
Despite that, I can't really program while listening to songs with lyrics. Somewhere in my brain a thread is running parsing the lyrics and stealing cycles.
However, if I'm browsing/wasting time online/working out at the gym/running, I definitely prefer stuff like hiphop to keep me entertained. I think this is because these are more passive tasks.
In general, I prefer silence when concentrating.
Mixes and things like last.fm are no good because I always have to stop to see what is playing.
I just stick it on repeat. It segues in and out to itself nicely too.
I was thinking about getting some other ambient music, but it can be hard to set up a good playlist.
Of course, headphones also mildly discourage others from interrupting, but that's no way to live your life.
Do people value programmer productivity so little that they're willing to throw so much of it away to save a few dollars in real estate costs?
The main thing, though, is serendipity: overhearing party A ask party B a question to which party B doesn't know the answer, but I do, or hearing people planning to have a meeting I'd want to be in, but which they don't know I'd want to attend, etc. A closed office would be slightly more useful when head-down coding for hours or days at a time, but so much of my time as a developer is spent chatting about coding, helping people solve language or environment problems, talking with users who wander in looking for help, and other miscellaneous interpersonal activity that a closed office would hamper my job quite a lot.
I'm not minimizing the importance of communication, but I'm wondering whether the benefits you've cited are actually worth the costs to yourself and others.
A new head honcho is not long in post, and has decided to make his mark by moving the entire department into newly refurbished offices at a cost I understand that's about equal to 3 months salary per head. The plan is for long rows of desks so we'll have even higher density and less private space. I'm not optimistic for its effects on the department.
I finally realized that I can make more money freelancing on my own, since they charged $99/hr but only paid $15/hr. The levels of inefficiency at that job were staggering, and I muddled through for 3 years.
Now I am living the dream coding on my own and don't look back. The funny thing is, based on my pay stubs and commission, I know I was making them on the order of $100,000 per year. They only acted like they wanted me around...the day I gave notice.
If your employer doesn't understand these concepts, then you may have to think about finding other work with people who are more at your level. You won't regret it.
For someone else who asked about HH's desk location - yes, he actually moved from his precessor's private office into the bearpit. However he spends so long in meetings that he's very rarely at his desk. Which also helps to explain the new 'clear desk' policy that will leave the office looking immaculately tidy overnight for the cleaners, security and any burglars ;-)
I've never really had any problems with words in music being a distraction. I read somewhere that singing and talking/writing are two completely separate parts of the brain, which is why some stroke or brain damage are able to sing before they can talk.
Also, I prefer speakers to headphones, which is one of the reasons I opted for an actual office instead of working out of a coworking space.
And I find listening to music of any kind helps me fall into zone-coding a lot faster.
Classical is good too, but lately I've not chosen that much.
Something about Futurama especially is just the right (I don't have a property to describe this...) color to keep my brain right in the sweet spot.
I actually feel a bit bad for netflix because of this. I'm almost constantly streaming futurama in my house, it wouldn't surprise me if they were losing money on me as a customer.
Sometimes though if my concentration is more robust for whatever reason then I can afford to listen to some music - usually instrumental jazz or classical.
Also, instrumentals without vocals (taken from Jamendo [particularly that of artists Silence / StrangeZero], or mellow ones (SomaFM Lush) are others that I play in background. Helps me a lot.
>>instrumental jazz or classical
hmm. Even this, I like. Jazz / classical piano/violin. [ e.g, OSTs from The Conversation, by David Shire]. At times, even celtic music helps for me.
(may have been me)
"Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting." -Gottfried Leibniz
I'll check out glitch, though, thanks!
What if maybe the way we work as a developer can be improved? What if we should think outside the box and be a problem solver not just in coding, but also in real-life?
How about breaking a big task into smaller chunks of 5 minutes tasks? I've seen plenty software developers who just put their head down and start coding immediately without some planning. I've seen developers to take on complex problems with no plan or strategy.
What if the problem can be solved within 5 minutes, the developer should grab a few other developers and start brainstorming? Make a decision tree. List options.
I mean... it's not that all of us need to solve Google type of problems. Even a Math exam question can be done (and should be done) within 5-15 minutes.
I think the main reason is when in the office environment other peoples conversations is more distracting than music, so a good pair of headphones really helps
When I put on faster paced metal of any variety I find myself tapping my feet with the bass drums and then tapping with my fingers, then I'm hooked.
I freaking love this little music track from oomwriter:
I've been trying to assemble a collection of similar ambient music and haven't yet figured out the magic words to feed Google.
Edit: Oh hey, the youtube vid mentions the composer put together an album. Must buy.
By this I mean most jazz music is slow-tempered and chill-out while also offering impressive musical talent for lead instruments (sax solos, piano, strings...). This is just what works for me - a buddy of mine swears on the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack.
Here's a great native Mac OS app for that (source available):
I has White, Pink, and Brown noise with an adjustable filter.
Try out some Hot Chip next time you are in the coding zone and tell me you are not in love ;-)
Like others here lyrics don't really bother me because I'm listening to stuff I have heard before.
On topic, music without lyrics is the way to go.