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Michael Coles: Sergeant SQL

SQL Server development, news and information from the front lines

Calvinball Projects

I used to be a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, and when a friend today reminded me of the old game of "Calvinball" I couldn't help drawing similarities to database and programming projects.

 New Rule!

Here are the rules to Calvinball as they apply to database development projects:

1.1. All players must wear a Calvinball mask (See Calvinball Equipment - 2.1). No one questions the masks.

Anonymity is key to any development effort.  Never put your name on any code you allegedly generated.  Even the simple act of documenting code can give away too much information about you and your mental state.

1.2. Any player may declare a new rule at any point in the game. The player may do this audibly or silently depending on what zone (Refer to Rule 1.5) the player is in.

Managers in particular are allowed--no encouraged--to create new rules and add new features that are way out of scope.  Particularly during the implementation phase of the project.  The later the better, I always say.  You may wish to tell others about the new rule or the slew of new requirements.  Or not.  Your choice.

1.3. A player may use the Calvinball (See Calvinball Equipment - 2.2) in any way the player see fits, from causal injury to self-reward.

Feel free to substitute a mouse, iPod, or old-style 21" CRT monitor for the Calvinball here.  I highly recommend you use some else's though.

1.4. Any penalty legislation may be in the form of pain, embarassment, or any other abasement the rulee deems fit to impose on his opponent.

If a developer makes a mistake managers and coworkers are encouraged to apply the penalty legislation as described in 1.4.

1.5. The Calvinball Field (See Calvinball Equipment - 2.3) should consist of areas, or zones, which are governed by a set of rules declared spontaneously and inconsistently by players. Zones may be appear and disappear as often and wherever the player decides. Zones are often named for their effect. For example, a corollary zone would enable a player to make a corollary (sub-rule) to any rule that has benn, will be, or might be declared. A pernicious poem place would require the intruder to do what the name implies. Or an opposite zone would enable a player to declare reverse playibility on the others. (Remember, the player would declare this zone oppositely by not declaring it.)

Developers should be moved about the office, or on client sites, spontaneously and inconsistently to random seats by managers, coworkers, or janitorial staff as necessary.

1.6. Flags (Calvinball Equipment 2.3) shall be named by players whom shall also assign the power and rules which shall govern that flag for particular moment in that particular game.

Any employee or manager should adopt transient superpowers at random moments throughout the day.  It's cooler and more effective if you have a symbolic flag, magic staff, cape or conch shell to reinforce your symbolic (though transient) authority.

1.7. Songs are an integral part of Calvinball and verses must be sung spontaneously through the game when randomly assigned events occur. These random events will be named and pointed out after the player causes the event.

Spontaneously singing in the office, particularly if your singing voice isn't very good, will help deter both friends and foes from bothering you.

1.8. Score may be kept or disregarded. In the event that score is kept, it shall have no bearing on the game nor shall it have any logical consistency to it. (Legal scores include 'Q to 12', 'BW-109 to YU-34, and 'Nosebleed to Trousers'.)

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." -- Walt Whitman

1.9. Any rule above that is carried out during the course of the game may never be used again in the event that it causes the same result as a previous game. Calvinball games may never be played the same way twice (Figure 1.9)

Any type of repetition throughout a project indicates a pattern, and patterns make for a boring and predictable life.  As Vince the SlapChop guy said, "you're gonna have an exciting life."

Calvinball Equipment 

2.1. Mask - All participants are required to wear a mask

Remember, anonymity is your friend.

2.2. Calvinball - A Calvinball may be a soccerball, volleyball, or any other reasonable or unreasonable, spherical or non-spherical object.

Non-spherical objects include monitors, computers, printers, paperclips, books, chairs, and just about anything else you can find in the office, on the subway, or on the sidewalk.

2.3. Calvinball Field - The Calvinball Field should be any well-sized field, preferably with trees, rocks, grass, creeks, and other natural hindrances to health.

Offices that have bathrooms with leaky toilets are a good substitute.

2.4. Miscellaneous - Other optional equipment include flags, wickets (especially of the time-fracture variety), and anything else the players wish to include.

Pens, paper, pocket protectors, iPod cables, and cases of Red Bull are recommended.

Next time you're on a project that resembles a game of Calvinball, just think how much worse it could be :)

For full Calvinball rules, check out:

Published Tuesday, June 2, 2009 11:20 PM by Mike C


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