I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Cluestick

Unless you’ve listened to I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue, the BBC Radio 4 “antidote to panel games” which was chaired by the recently departed (and much missed) Humphrey Lyttelton, this post may not make a lot of sense to you. That’s not intended to guarantee that it’ll make any sense to you even if you have listened to it, mind you.

ISIHAC was full of very silly improvisation games. I was listening to an episode last night, and thought a developer version could be equally silly. Games played might include the following: (links show the Wikipedia description of the original)

  • One language to the API of another: Not so much a joke as a strategy now at both Microsoft and Sun, but I’m sure it could be taken to extremes. Ever fancied using the ZX Spectrum BASIC functions from C#? How about SmallTalk from Java?
  • Singleton Crescent: Players name design patterns, seemingly at random to the unenlightened observer, until one of them declares “Singleton”. Multiple variations exist, such as Gamma’s Folly: “After a diagonal move ending on a creational pattern, a behavioural pattern is not permitted.”
  • Fluent Gorge: Players start with a single method call and add additional expressions. The player who inadvertently completes the statement is the loser. This game is already played at lunchtime in many ISVs, some of whom accidentally check in the tortuous code afterwards.
  • Pick-up algorithm: A player begins copying code out of a book, which is then removed after a few lines. They then have to continue coding as accurately as possible until the book is brought back. Points are awarded if they’re within a gnat’s semi-colon of the original. Bonus points used to be awarded if the resulting code had fewer bugs in than the printed original, but this practice has recently been discontinued as being a near-trivial way of achieving a high score.
  • Call my bluff: One player is given a single-line project goal, and then several sets of requirements purporting to support that goal. The player has to guess which set of requirements is the real one for the project. The twist is that none of the sets of requirements is even slightly realistic. Again, this game is in widespread use, played by Business Analysts on unsuspecting developers.

Right, that’s more than enough silliness. Something more serious next time, I promise.

4 thoughts on “I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Cluestick”

  1. One game that is played in development teams around the world is “One language to the syntax of another”. Every so often, you’ll see code written by someone who obviously learned to program in FORTRAN or BASIC, but is now required to write those FORTRAN programs in C++ or some other language that makes his life difficult.
    Then there’s “Just a Checkin”, in which the developer has to write a piece of code that performs a common task, without hesitation, deviation or reuse of existing code.
    Must go – Samantha’s promised to show me the best way to Oldham.


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