One of the topics we touched on is about work spaces and environments. I want to zoom in slightly on the desk / workspace itself.

Here follows a bit of a history on my desk experience.

I started off at 2 different companies with enclosed offices. In many ways I loved it. I could spend hours behind the computer, crafting the most creative software. I would constantly be in flow (as described by the Peopleware guys) for hours. Sometimes, this was a bit lonely because I could be stuck and frustrated with what I was busy with.

+ Get (solitude) work done
– Communication suffers

My desk at Momentum

Moving on to another job was the most horrible time (for me, at the time) in an office space that had no partitions at all, with theoretically “unassigned” desks (not my own desk!) I then landed up at Momentum, with semi-enclosed partitions. After a fight, we got to higher partitions, which had a similar feel to enclosed offices. This did not last long and I soon found myself with small (about 1 metre high) partitions.

The desks that I’ve worked on for many years are L shaped, with a “credenza” underneath one leg. 99% of people in the company push their screens right into the corner of the L. Of course, this discourages working together or pair programming strongly. After what felt like a field battle, I got the building management to remove the short leg of the L. This meant that we had smaller desks, but we could pair. Yay! It lasted for a few weeks and then we had to move to a different area in the building. Although asking for the short leg to be removed, the underground resistance for the revival of the short leg won and we got them back.

+ Can easily throw stuff at people
+ Promotes interaction
Interruptions …

At Equinox the straight, rectangular, desks (about 1.8m x 0.6m) worked well for pairing. Ivan started this interesting idea of writing on the desk. We used white-board markers and discussed things as we paired, writing the designs on the desk. It got smudged and our clothes got a bit more colourful, but hey, this was fun. We had 3 of them, but did not join these desks. They were scattered across the room in various arrangements.

+ Pairing!!
– Putting them against walls took up some valuable wall space for white boards.

Setting up our own offices gave an opportunity to try different desk arrangements. We also got long rectangular desks, but joined them so that developers sat facing each other. We have a lot of white boards and we even write on the walls where we want to.

+ More white boards
– Interrupts? Not really, in the war room, it is better

What’s next?

  • I’d like to try Ron’s idea: To sit facing each other, working on different computers but sharing a desktop. I know there is a picture of this somewhere…
  • Get the office out of the office and into nature
  • Explore more radical ideas of what does it mean to have an office, or not. After all, we live on the internet anyway.


  1. Oct 8, 2010
    2:51 pm


    Bietjie jou tafel regpak né!

  2. Oct 13, 2010
    9:29 pm


    Here is a monitor rack that would be useful if you wanted to pair facing each other:

    but I personally like the round desk:

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