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A Reality Show About Programmers: Is the World Ready?

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A Reality Show About Programmers: Is the World Ready?

After catching a reality show on History, Zone Leader John Vester wonders if the world is ready for a reality show about programmers - offering three situations from his past.

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With our newborn child eight weeks old now, I found myself happily rocking him to sleep after he finished eating his latest meal. With the amount he has been eating, I cannot tell if this was his breakfast, brunch, snack or lunch. Anyway, the TV was powered on — showing the reality program Ice Road Truckers on the History channel.

This was the first time I had watched this show, but I do recall seeing commercials about it. As I watched, one of the rookie drivers had struggled to get the chains on her big rig. Later, on that same episode, she ended up getting her semi jack-knifed on the lonely frozen road — with her tools trapped inside her truck as a result of the accident. Of course, I wondered if the film crew had a set of tools, too ... since it appeared they had their own transportation — based upon the film angles that were included. I am sure there must be a rule that the film crew is not allowed to help since this is "reality" television.

Watching Ice Road Truckers made me wonder if the world is ready for a realistic TV show about programmers. Unlike other programs, which tell a story about a team writing an awesome search engine or portraying a programmer's life during the height of Silicon Valley, this show would be a day-to-day realistic look at a programmer’s life.

If I were to pull some events from my past, some segments might be as follows.

Waiting During the Release

During a code migration, Brian and Curt were at a point in the evening when they found themselves waiting for the application release to be deployed and then tested by end-users, who had returned to work for the after-hours deployment. Aside from the two programmers, there was no one else on the 16th floor of the corporate headquarters that evening. The person doing the web deployment had completed his tasks remotely, but the application owner wanted to make sure Brian and Curt were on-site — in case any issues surfaced.

While waiting, the two started talking about Jackie Chan and his awesome moves. Curt told Brian he thought he could do some of those moves. Brian, interested in a real-life demo, asked Curt to show him his moves.

The first move was one where Curt stood next to his desk. Immediately, he leaped up so that his feet landed flush on the edge of the desk — showing off some impressive vertical jumping skills.

Brian was impressed, then asked, "What else can you show me?"

Curt then told Brian to "Watch and learn."

Curt then walked all the way down the aisle of cubes, turned around, and raced back toward Brian. After passing Brian, Curt reached the wall where he planned to do the famous Jackie Chan wall climb and flip. However, Curt wasn't really sure how the trick worked.

So, instead of climbing up the wall, Curt basically jumped and slammed his two feet into the wall — causing them both to penetrate the very thin material that was used to separate work areas. Curt then crashed into the ground. While Curt was not injured physically, the attempt did have an impact on his pride.

Now, Brian and Curt realized they faced a dilemma. They had a hole in the wall that would likely require an explanation in the very near future. Most likely, the next morning when others filed into the office.

Then, they both saw it. A brand-new bookcase sitting outside a manager's office. Quickly, they grabbed the bookcase and moved it to the end of the aisle and against the wall — covering Curt's hole from view. They then grabbed a bunch of books and trade show toys and scattered them around, so that it appeared the bookcase had been in place for quite some time.

They got away with the hole, which I got to see first-hand when we moved to a new company headquarters and heard the story for the first time. The hole wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, but it would have been noticed. It turned out that the bookcase they used was something the manager had fought for over the course of several months. She never realized Brian and Curt moved it or that it was ever delivered since it arrived after she left for the day. I think she eventually gave up on getting the bookcase. To this day, I am not sure she ever heard the story.

Markets or Marcus?

If the reality show wanted to have a real segment on programming, we could relive the situation I had with Alex - when we were doing some pair programming. Our Scrum team was in a room shared by our team and another team. The desks had low walls, in order to facilitate collaboration. The downside of it is that conversations could be easily heard from one desk to another.

As Alex and I talked about this feature we were working on for the marketing and sales groups, we found ourselves saying the word "markets" quite a bit. That word happened to sound a lot like one of the testers on our team, named Marcus. So, every time we would say "markets" the tester (Marcus) kept saying, "what?" After a while, it did become somewhat humorous but wasn't near as funny to Markets ...er, I mean Marcus.

The other thing that happened between Alex and Marcus was their uncomfortable eye contact events that happened periodically. On that team, we had our laptop monitor, plus two 22" monitors. The way Alex and Marcus had their desks set up, each had their laptops positioned so that when they looked at the laptop screen, looking above the screen would put them into the eyes of the other person. Eventually, they both decided to place a box of tissues in between their line of site - to avoid those awkward eye contact scenarios.

Extreme Forklifting 2 and the Status Report

It is not uncommon for programmers to enjoy gaming. So, I wasn't surprised when the members of my team each had the Steam client loaded. During one of the Steam sales, we saw this game called "Extreme Forklifting 2" was on sale ... I think for $0.49. Russell had money on his Steam account and bought the game. The game is probably misnamed, as there is really nothing Extreme about it and I am not sure how it warranted a second release, but it was fun watching Russell navigate around the map in his quest to meet the objectives.

At that point of time, we were forced to submit status reports every Friday. I never understood this concept, since we tracked our work on Scrum and Kanban boards. Still, I complied and made sure my updates were sent to the product manager, who then forwarded the reports to his manager ... and so on ... all the way up to the CIO.

That next Friday, I decided to include a bullet point that "Russell made incredible progress at his extreme forklifting two skills." I figured the product manager would see it, get the joke and filter it out of the report he submitted. Well, the product manager did not notice my attempt at humor and the report made it to the C suite - who didn't seem to share our sense of humor. Turns out, my status reports had become something to rely on each week and the product owner simply forwarded them on without reading them.

Conclusion

I am not sure if any of these stories would avoid the fate of the cutting room floor, but I just wonder if there is an audience that would follow this new series. I mean, after all, I watched the rookie driver throw a tantrum because she couldn't get her tire chains attached - so I wonder if this series is all that bad of an idea.

Since we have a comments section here at DZone, I would enjoy reading some of your experiences that would make for great ... or at least good ... reality television if such a series existed.

Have a really great day!

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