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All Nerfed out

I am now the proud owner of a Nerf gun, a Nerf N Strike Recon CS-6, in fact. My son has an N Strike Raider Rapid Fire CS-35 Blaster. Mine has a laser sight, and his has a 35-bullet rotating magazine.

Nerf is harmless. The guns fire foam darts at a reasonable speed, as long as you do not hit someone in the eyes or face, then there are no bruises. My vegetarian, tree-hugging mate found that Nerf guns are also good for killing the invasion of flies that we have locally. I’ve taken out a few myself, although I’ve found that I only stun them, and then need to move in with a secondary weapon.

Geeks and Nerf seem to go together like Fred and Ginger (aren’t they both dead now?) or drums’n’bass. Why is this? I had a desk calendar where each discarded page could be made into a model aeroplane, and these littered the desks of my fellow software developers. We loved them, and the managers hated them – even the ones who used to be softies themselves. Geeks love toys. Nerf, remote control airships, anything that they would have loved as kids seems to be OK. It’s as if softies haven’t grown up.

Perhaps this is one of the things that makes a good softie – a child-like imagination.Software development can be an enormously creative process. It’s been likened to art (Knuth titled his works the Art of Computer Programming, after all.) And creativity involves the imagination.

My manager asked me to take my plane calendar home – he did not like the mess and lack of order, with planes launched and scattered on the floor. But it did not affect our performance, we can be very focussed when we need to. And softies respect each other’s need for lack of interruption – in a lot of places I’ve worked, people will either see headphones on as a sign that says “do not interrupt,” or some people actually put signs up asking not to be disturbed.

The planes, nerf, toys provide a point where developers can let their brains take a rest. Being physical, it also gives them a chance to stretch their legs and get their butts off their chairs, even if it’s just picking up a plane or Nerf dart.

So, if you’re a manager and you see your geeks being unruly or untidy, please leave them to it – their apparent playing is part of the creative process. Don’t, however, let them take the mickey too much, as this cartoon shows:
Are you stealing those LCDs? Yeah, but I'm doing it while my code compiles (XKCD)

Incidently, this is why I prefer C++ to Java or Perl, you get time to put a fake moustache on.

Categories: Real Life, Software
  1. 23 April 2011 at 14:00 | #1

    Like it :) A sense of community and camaraderie can be as important as the temporary outlet of daftness. Thankfully management where I am now are much more tolerant and I think it has paid off well for them over the last two to three years.

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