Herding Cats

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression herding cats before. When you’re trying to manage programmers, the expression certainly comes to mind. What if programmers were cats, which one would you be?

In no particular order:

  • The Scottish Fold. Its recumbent pavilions are a natural adaptation what seals the ears and renders it immune to communication. While you give it instructions, it looks at you with its large Banderas eyes and makes you feel that this time, it’ll work. Actually, it didn’t hear a thing, or maybe some kind of white noise.

    Yes, yes, indubitably, yes, I am very intensely ignoring you

  • The Black Cat. It believes it can do low-level black magic with the code, and that only it possesses the wisdom of deciding whether or not some optimization is worthwhile. Naturally, all the code it writes is unreadable, written in some dark and forgotten script, which can only be maintained by the black cat, making lock-in its only effective superpower.

    Let's add some SSE4 to this word processor!

  • Siamese Cat. Vocal and social, the Siamese cat constantly chirps, quacks, peeps, croaks, blubbers, whines; voicing its opinions while distracting the maximum number of cats. Built as an output-only device, the Siamese cat is impermeable to the other cat’s opinions or points of view. Furthermore it’s needy and doesn’t really achieve anything.

    Are you listening? Do you listen? Hey you? Are you listening? Do you listen? Yo? I'm miawing! Do you listen? Do You? Hey! You!

  • The Tabby. The generic cat that actually does catch the mice (that is, it actually does some work) without being petulant. It doesn’t have any special powers: it may know build systems, some shell script language, and a couple of generic programming languages like Java but without great mastery. It just does the stuff it has to.

    Gimme that rat! (Photo: Lyne Boucher)

  • The Junior Tabby. Playful and curious, does more damage than actual useful work. The junior tabby is easily startled and confused, and its utter lack of experience (as fresh out of school) is both a blessing and a curse. It may have to be litter trained.

    J'ai rien compris.

  • The Persian. Its flat faces allows it to focus on really tiny, unimportant, details, as it can look at them from really, really, really close. This, however, comes with a complete lack of perspective and a complete ignorance of the “big picture”. It will fight over a minor detail to the death (or at least until it clearly can’t win in which case a week of intense passive-aggressive pouting ensues) and it may be hard to convince that there are larger goals and problems than whatever triviality it’s focusing on.

    If I can only get closer to the screen...

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Of course, that’s not entirely fair to cats, but if you have ever worked in a large group, I’m pretty sure you can now say “ah-a, this guy’s really a [expletive] Siamese” or “what a junior tabby!” Of course the view I present is overly sarcastic; you may be lucky enough to work with both competent and understanding people; and your team chemistry may be really great. I think all the teams I’ve worked with so far are great, despite some cattitude showing underneath once in a while. Just remember, you may just have more cat in you than you think.

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“Belle” the tabby, picture by Lyne Boucher, used with permissions.

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So, what kind of cat are you? Do you have suggestion to embiggen the list?

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