There has been times when you are stuck with Programmer’s block.
That phase when you can still write a programming statement, but you don’t know what to create out of it. You are waiting for someone to dictate the short term milestone for you
(And you secretly wish they don’t 😏)
You are too bored, because the cognitive reward of creating something out of nothing is amiss here. You aren’t fetching / updating data / creating awesome animation. Instead, you are doing trivial tasks: Caching, tiny UI makeovers here and there, some geeky settings to empower the smartest user.
You aren’t fetching / updating data / creating awesome animation. Instead, you are doing trivial tasks: Caching, tiny UI makeovers here and there, some geeky settings to empower the smartest user.
Seems great, but those will mostly not the things your boss / user applauds you for.
Because importance of million small things is only realized when they are amiss.
Just like working time leisures – a culture hack that today’s programmers rarely know, and companies have completely forgotten about.
What are working time leisures for software developers?
Working time leisures are things you do while you at your desk – but not coding. Or even if you code, that code isn’t aimed at your immediate milestone.
The entire cognitive load of having it done and heading home is absent.
But does it add value? Hell yes.
Something like this (all courtesy: Stackoverflow and Reddit):
#define TRUE FALSE //Happy debugging suckers
const int TEN=10; // As if the value of 10 will fluctuate...
long long ago; /* in a galaxy far far away */
// sometimes I believe compiler ignores all my comments
Hall of fame:
// I dedicate all this code, all my work, to my wife, XYZ, who will // have to support me and our three children and the dog once it gets // released into the public.
Creepy – Is working time leisure a culture hack?
Not quite nowadays. It once was. But working time leisures were, and are the norms in every other industry as well as in governments. Officers and other workers share insider jokes even while working on their machines or computers. On quite rare occasions, such concentration breaks result into severe mistakes. But their net effect on workers’ mental health, and hence the work output, has been positive.
It’s like driving while chatting with passengers in rear seat – sometimes it causes accidents. But most of the time it is harmless, and anyone who has driven most of their lives vouch for it.
So chatting with colleagues while programming a working time leisure?
Verbal chatting doesn’t go well with coding activity. Nor does software chatting.
The central idea of working time leisure is: Reduction in cognitive load. The amount of focus your code + any reading takes up must be reduced. Your eyes must also be relaxed more often, because fatigue hits eyes earlier, and more than the brain.
It doesn’t have to involve going to office gym, fidgeting the stress-buster balls, playing pool with your boss, or loitering around the cubicle of that attractive co-worker.
At times, such frequent excursions put you into an inefficient, unfocused stereotype box – i.e. less you are on your desk, more distractions you face (Even if you are 100x better than your chair warmer boss).
Ah – trolling on the company’s slack channel! Except that you must rely on topics / people to troll.
None of that was working time leisure.
Because working time leisure can be enjoyed not by task switch, but by context switch.
Task switch makes you inefficient and unfocused.
Your body doesn’t necessarily need that detour. Your brain does.
Coding Humor – the most priceless culture hack for relaxation:
Working time leisure is fun embedded into you work schedule, right at your workstation.
Like this comment:
// This line of code only exists because Scott doesn't know how to use const correctly
Every team has its own Scott, and it would be true, fair fun when everyone becomes that Scott in round robin fashion!
Some more gems:
// TODO make this work
Savage ones do it best:
# This job would be great if it wasn't for the F***ing customers.
// This should fix something that should never happen
// Jay knows what's going on here, but will he remember in a year? Not very likely, this code sucks, but it works so do not change it.
Most programming humor is dark – taking jibe at horrifying life of software developers and their completely fragile work-life balance.
Sometimes it can be downright silly, which makes it widespread among newbies:
Or a CS class cliche:
Or a geeky one:
Where has programming humor gone nowadays?
Because – despite so many perks + flex, there is too little time.
Programming humor was a defining aspect of software development in 90s and before. Primary reason was: the industry was made of few giants and staff mobility was less compared to today. There was ample time building teams and cultures. Even in the absence of cultural manifestos, people formed teams, had hearty laughs and snarky exchanges without being offended most of the time. Slowly, humor permeated the internal forums, and gradually code – samples of which were seen at the beginning of the article.
Today, there are million startups, most of them following Agile manifesto. Every programmer is super-concerned about the next standup meeting. Intermittent time is taken up by messenger apps, facebook timelines, or chitchat at coffee tables. Once daily task is over, work-life balance beckons, devs head home mostly even before full workday.
(Partly also due to remote work flexibility).
Remote work is great. Many organizations have vouched for its success on economy + efficiency. But it does little to reduce cognitive load on programmer because there is rarely an empty slot in programmers’ schedules – slots that could be filled with creative endeavors and funny exchanges. When working remotely whole day, devs are concerned about showing their remote effectiveness. When partly remote, the leisure time is occupied by commute. Commute provides rest if it is done via public transport, but does little to foster creativity.
What many organizations, especially startups, do not realize, is the fact that most of the work is done not on programmers’ chairs, but within their heads. Creativity in programmers is highly underrated.
Today’s developers have many more resources at their disposal than earlier – code forums to copy-paste code, packages and git repos to use readymade functionality, and tutorials to learn new technology.
But as a negative side effect, estimates are highly squeezed in favor of efficiency. There is little room for things that go long way in better products & mentally healthier developers. Things such as making funny (yet meaningful) variable / function names, writing witty comments, putting an informal / funny streak into UI or vetting the software workflow step-by-step without losing sanity.
Every company organizes celebratory events that could unleash lighter side of its employees, but those dedicated day-offs don’t necessarily add to make one’s work life more pleasing and fruitful. On the contrary, those events are often seen by many employees as extra baggage – yet another day to mingle with their colleagues to justify the great team culture.
Let’s bring back Programming humor:
Humor is culture hack that requires nothing except communication. Nourished well, it is the cheapest way to break taboos, keep brightest minds together, and avoid billion dollar lawsuits that arise from employee dissatisfaction.
Make programming fun mainstream. During your next standup, ask your devs to share the funniest thing online. Maybe make a dedicated repo or slack channel for coding humor. If it’s costing you, even Whatsapp group would do the job (and don’t abuse that group to get extra work at midnights)
If you don’t do this today, you may end up like that tech lead tomorrow: