Jester

Five Funny Moments in Developer History

by on March 31, 2014 9:00 am

I’ve been working in development environments my whole career, over 30 years. I started out sharing an office that actually had a door on it; yes, that was a really long time ago. I’ve gone from offices to cubes to open spaces. I’ve worked on really large teams, very small teams, and lots of medium-sized teams. I’ve also used waterfall, iterative, agile, and cowboy methodologies. One sure constant is that there are always plenty of sources of humor. Just ask Scott Adams.

So rather than a technical blog, I decided to share five funny moments from my developer team history. I suppose you had to be there to get the full effect of the humor, but hopefully you can relate or, if not, this will make you think about what your top five funny moments are.

5. Better off not opening your mouth

In the 1990s, I worked for a second-line manager that had a southern drawl that made him sound… less than intelligent. Don’t get me wrong; I am from the south and was “raised as a young’n” who needed a whole lot of vocabulary help when I got to college. But this particular manager made no attempt to correct his style of speech or improve his language skills. Additionally, my colleagues and I had little respect for his decision making because of previous events, so his backwoods drawl did nothing to help that.

On this particular occasion, one of his key direct report managers, his lead product planner, and his lead architect (me) were trying to convince him that he was heading down a bad path and should reconsider his decision as none of agreed with him. His response still makes me C.O.L. (chuckle out loud). He said, “Team, team, team. Our problem is that we are diabolically opposed.” Yep, that’s right, he said “diabolically.” We all bit our tongues hoping he meant “diametrically,” but maybe not. He did tell someone that he was “operating on different plane from everyone else.” We did lose it one other time, though, when we were in a meeting (with customers!) and he started a sentence with “Maybe it’s my understandin’ of the English language, but…”

4. Don’t go there

As a consultant, you want to be jovial with your clients and keep things light and fun, but sometimes you find yourself sliding down a slippery slope that you know you should avoid. On this occasion I was working with a team that was just starting to adopt an Agile Scrum methodology and so we were using a physical task board with post-it notes, or stickies, as we called them.

The business analyst was a nice young lady that liked to cut up and crack jokes like the rest of us, but of course we had to make sure we didn’t let our humor go down a bad path. This can sometimes be hard to do when you don’t see it coming. As we made progress in our project, our board became covered with multiple colors of stickies which this BA tried to keep track of. She was also the keeper of the stacks of sticky note pads. One day while we were admiring her skills at keeping things organized, she blurted out without thinking, “I guess you could call me the ‘Sticky Queen.’” No sooner had the words left her mouth, than she wanted to yank them back in. As for me, I froze. That is the kind of statement that those of us who live in the land of puns want to grab hold of and never let go. There are so many places to go with that statement, but political correctness prohibits it. So, I tried my best to redirect the conversation, but you could tell we were all about to burst. I have on a couple of occasions brought this statement back up, but each time I quickly retreated, having made my subtle point.

3. I get no respect

Around 2003, I was leading a team of a dozen consultant developers. As with any team of developers, personalities (when present) varied greatly. This one developer, let’s call him “Stewie,” was kind of quiet, a bit unique, but talented. He and several other consultants and I were having a design discussion where I was presenting what I thought was a good approach and near the end of my “lecture” I noticed he was not engaged so I asked him his opinion. His insubordinate response did not make me happy, but it was nevertheless funny. He responded with “What you were saying sounded stupid, so I stopped listening.” I’m not sure if it was the pure lack of respect or boldness of the response that made it funny, but in the end, he no longer works for us, so I guess the laugh is on him. (Just kidding, Stewie.)

2. Don’t try this at home

Around that same time in 2003 with that same team, I delivered a classic line that my team has never let me live down, especially since it was also a major technical faux pas. We were working on estimates for future work and decided to use a shared spreadsheet. I spent a lot of time using Microsoft Excel and, in fact, the team liked to kid me by saying Excel is not a programming language. I knew that, but I took great pride in all the tricks I could do with Excel. Unfortunately, I did not have much experience with a shared worksheet.

Near the end of our hour long estimation session, I became curious about how more than one of us seemed to have write-access to the same worksheet. My curiosity got the better of me and I blurted out this classic line that they have never let me live down, “I wonder what would happen if I hit save?” And so I hit save. I did so immediately after the scribe for the meeting who had been making all the changes hit save; only I had none of the changes. All changes were lost and we had to go back through the exercise again. But that statement will always haunt me, thanks to none of them ever letting me forget it.

1. Good clean humor

My favorite line of all time was delivered by one of the most genuinely kind and loveable programmers I have ever met. I want to call him Gomer because he comes from a small mountain town in North Carolina and sometimes you can hear the twang in his voice. I am reluctant to use this nickname though because he is really brilliant and successful. But for this story, I will use that name. So keeping with theme, I will call his buddy, Andy. Andy, too, is a very bright developer and the two of them together were extraordinary problem solvers.

One day I was commenting on how good this team was at solving problems and Gomer blurted out what I think is the funniest, unintentionally awkward compliment ever uttered. He said, “Andy is great in the shower!” We all just stopped and stared at him as he didn’t realize at first what he had said. As it dawned on him, he turned red and quickly explained that on multiple occasions he and Andy would work on a tough problem and leave work late without an answer. The next day Andy would come in with the answer that came to him while he was in the shower. While many of us can relate to what he meant, we will never ever let Gomer forget that line.

Software development is a serious business that requires a lot of discipline, knowledge, and professionalism. But there is no better cure for stress than friendly humor. Whether your sense of humor is dry, blatant, hilarious, or just plain stupid, use it wisely and it can be one of your most important soft skills.

— Keith Shakib, asktheteam@keyholesoftware.com

 

4/1/14 Addition

So in enumerating funny moments in history I may have left out one of the funniest. Let’s call it…

INSTANT Messaging

In a project 10 years ago we had a dozen consultants working with a large client here in Kansas City. One of the newest members of the team, let’s call him Nike, was one of the most fun loving guys on the team and was always goofing around. As an example, when he would instant message me he would start off with “Hey poopy.” One day, when I was in a meeting he did this exact thing only this time, within a minute or so, other consultants as well as clients started messaging back responses, like “why are you calling me Poopy?” and even one response was from a client he didn’t even know. By the time I returned from my meeting, Nike was totally frazzled. He said his text to me must have somehow been broadcast out to a large group. He had tried everything including shutting down his laptop and restarting and was about to uninstall and reinstall the instant messenger as well as Windows if necessary.

I was trying to keep my composure but just couldn’t and finally broke down laughing. As it turns out, when he messaged me I was in a conference room with some of the other consultants and one or two clients and was projecting my laptop. When the “hey poopy” message came across, everyone in the room thought it was funny and agreed to all message him back and even messaged other people around the company to get them in on the joke. On our end, all we saw was that the messages stopped and Nike signed off. We had no idea we had the exact impact we were hoping for. Be careful throwing around your “hey poopy”; it may land right back where it started.

Filed in: Programming
Tags: ,
  • Share:

5 Responses to “Five Funny Moments in Developer History”

  1. Lou Mauget says:

    Okay, I’ve got to know:who is Gomer?

  2. Clayton says:

    Hey poopy!

    And for #2, you’re welcome.

  3. Dave says:

    I’m disappointed we didn’t make the top five. We need to work harder on that for your next blog…

  4. Adi Rosenblum says:

    What great times we had on that team… let’s do that again!

  5. Jay Smith says:

    The way I remember the line in #1 was “Gomer” saying “I am awesome in the shower”.

Leave a Reply

Things Twitter is Talking About
  • It feels like primitives could have been left out of the initial implementation of #Java. See why - http://t.co/A8ChCBHXJO
    June 29, 2015 at 4:05 PM
  • Developers in a bounce house! I repeat, developers in a bounce house! We had a blast at our 1st company picnic. Pics: http://t.co/XIqs7ECUst
    June 29, 2015 at 1:40 PM
  • New #SpringBatch tutorial from @jhackett01: Spring Batch – Replacing XML Job Configuration With JavaConfig http://t.co/PmdXnriKQu #java
    June 29, 2015 at 11:46 AM
  • We had such a fun time at the Keyhole company picnic! Pictures to come, including some of our developers in the bounce house. #loveourteam
    June 29, 2015 at 8:41 AM
  • In #JavaScript, how do we harness the power of callbacks without the confusing mess of nested functions? Promises - http://t.co/j1gAJ9hi3D
    June 29, 2015 at 8:40 AM
  • .@zachagardner We are so happy that your family attended! This will definitely need to be repeated every year!
    June 28, 2015 at 8:14 PM
  • Thank you to all on the Keyhole team who came to our first inaugural company picnic! Wonderful food, family and bounce house fun!
    June 28, 2015 at 7:50 PM
  • Debugging is a challenging part of being a programmer. We have a tutorial series to help, with a #JavaScript focus - http://t.co/rfhjJo64P7
    June 27, 2015 at 1:45 PM
  • We love #KCDC15! @PinsightMedia's James Hayes just was drawn as the winner of the @KeyholeSoftware drone giveaway. Stop on by the KHS booth.
    June 26, 2015 at 2:24 PM
  • Congratulations to James Hayes! You have won the Keyhole drone giveaway, come up and get your prize! #KCDC15
    June 26, 2015 at 2:09 PM
  • There are just 15 minutes left to register to win the drone from us at the Keyhole Software booth - come say hi and grab some frogs! #kcdc15
    June 26, 2015 at 1:45 PM
  • RT @duanenewman: So many great attendees and speakers at #KCDC15. Sad that we already are at the last day.
    June 26, 2015 at 1:34 PM
  • And thank you to @jonathanfmills! We just ran out of characters in our tweet. #KCDC15 is/has been such a great experience. Thank you to ALL!
    June 26, 2015 at 12:24 PM
  • Huge thank you to @boontlee, @leebrandt & all the #kcdc15 / @kc_dc conference organizers. So valuable for #KansasCity & such fun to sponsor!
    June 26, 2015 at 10:53 AM
  • RT @sixthpoint: Slides from today's presentation "Building a more responsive design with JSF + Bootstrap 3" http://t.co/R2R6KocrUC #kcdc15
    June 26, 2015 at 10:32 AM
  • #KCDC15: Using Java EE 6 Interceptors to provide Business Rules Validation on Stateless EJB Services is @ 10:10 - http://t.co/vtJU358WZk
    June 26, 2015 at 8:06 AM
  • BIG news from the @KeyholeSoftware #KCDC15 booth: @eastlack just set the new world record... his #GrokOla Frog Flinger just went 73 feet!
    June 25, 2015 at 4:02 PM
  • DYK? There is package for Node.js that allows you to invoke .NET code in-process from a #Nodejs app – Edge.js. Info: http://t.co/fYNjfiF3al
    June 25, 2015 at 3:05 PM
  • Debugging is a challenging! @zachagardner wrote this tutorial series to help you hone your strategies - http://t.co/rfhjJo64P7 #JavaScript
    June 25, 2015 at 2:06 PM
  • Just met impressive young women from @MindSTEMs (robotics) @ #KCDC15. They say the best way to help = IT professionals volunteering time!
    June 25, 2015 at 12:55 PM