Broken build rituals

Thursday 25 March 2004

One of the common components of software engineering culture is the shared build. A team of people work together to produce a piece of software, and on a regular basis, often daily, that software is built for the team. One of the cardinal sins in this culture is breaking the build: changing the software so that it can no longer be built. To punish the offender, and provide a bonding experience for the innocent victims on the team, a ritual develops around how to treat the offender.

At a previous startup, a totem figure would appear on the culprit’s desk. At Kubi, we’ve taken to using ordinary caution tape to identify the problem source.

BrozillaA cubicle draped in caution tape

An additional benefit of these tribal behaviors is that it gets people talking about the process. When opinions differ on the severity of an infraction, people will talk about whether the punishment was deserved or not. Without a visible and derisive consequence, the process failure may not have been discussed further once the build was working again.

Comments

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Mark Eichin 5:35 PM on 25 Mar 2004

At a previous startup, once we got to the point of having nightly builds, if you broke the build you had to bring in chocolate for the whole team. This had the side effect of having other parts of the company come by to see what was up and to mooch chocolate, but that did improve communication somewhat :-)

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brian 7:57 PM on 25 Mar 2004

Well, at least at BR, we got a domain name(brozilaa.com) out of it. Looks like www.cautiontape.com is already taken. But I'm sure you already checked that out...

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Michael Morrissey 9:14 AM on 26 Mar 2004

Back at Be (of BeOS and BeBox fame), we had a giant red dunce cap (the word 'dunce' was written large on it). If you checked something in, went home, and came back the next day to find the dunce cap in your chair, you knew you were in for a bad time...

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andrew 9:54 AM on 26 Mar 2004

All of which are worse than Brozilla, who was an engaging chap that you could use to hash out ways of getting out of your current mess.

How does one work with yellow caution tape strewn everywhere?

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