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Quirky Engineers Gone the Way of the Dinosaur?

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the what-happens-to-the-engineers dept.

News 319

Milican writes "I think its time we ask our fellow Slashdotters, 'is there still room in a company for a quirky 'guru', or are projects so large now by necessity team-based development rules.' Read this article on and decide for yourself." I think this article didn't describe someone really 'quirky' though - it was someone who didn't really want to work.

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Quirky JonKatz gone the way of the dinosaur? (-1, Troll)

Trolligula (527461) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451480)

JonKatz homosexuality is dying
Yet another crippling bombshell hit the beleaguered JonKatz community when last month IDC confirmed that JonKatz accounts for less than a fraction of 1 percent of all homosexual fantasies. Coming on the heels of the latest GayMale weekly survey which plainly states that JonKatz has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. JonKatz is collapsing in complete disarray, as further exemplified by failing dead last [] in the recent comprehensive ass-raping test.

You don't need to be a CmdrTaco [] to predict JonKatz's future. The hand writing is on the wall: JonKatz faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for JonKatz because JonKatz is dying. Things are looking very bad for JonKatz. As many of us are already aware, JonKatz continues to lose market share. Bloody sperm flows like a river of blood. JonKatz is the most endangered homosexual Slashdot author of them all.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

Slashdot leader CowboyNeal states that there are 7000 homosexual fantasies of JonKatz. How many ass rapings of JonKatz are there? Let's see. The number of homosexual fantasies involving JonKatz versus ass-rapings involving JonKatz posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 homosexual JonKatz fantasy users. Anal penetraion of JonKatz posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of JonKatz homosexual fantasy posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of anal penetration of JonKatz. A recent article put reacharounds involving JonKatz at about 80 percent of the homosexual fantasies involving JonKatz market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 fantasies involving JonKatz. This is consistent with the number of ass-rapings of JonKatz posts.

Due to the troubles of the Anal Sludge Eating Corporation, abysmal sales and so on, homosexual fantasies involving JonKatz went out of style and was taken over by fantasies involving CmdrTaco who sells himself on the street corner. Now CmdrTaco's Ass-Sex Company is also dead, its corpse turned over to another charnel house.

All major surveys show that JonKatz fantasies have steadily declined in market share. JonKatz is very sick and his long term homosexuality prospects are very dim. If JonKatz's homosexuality is to survive at all it will be among homosexual hobbyist dabblers. JonKatz homosexuality continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, JonKatz's homosexual fantasy is dead.

JonKatz's homosexuality is dying

Re:Quirky JonKatz gone the way of the dinosaur? (-1)

Trolligula (527461) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451596)

where have all the trolls gone? sunken kursk, strom thurmond, trollman5000...?

Re:Quirky JonKatz gone the way of the dinosaur? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451613)

...where have all the trolls gone?

they are all at purplesplash [] , you rockstupid bitch!

European Friday angst for you Yanks! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451637)

The rain auditions at my window, its symphony echoes in my womb
My gaze scans the walls of this apartment
To rectify the confines of my tomb

I'm the cyclops in the tenement, I'm the soul without the cause
Crying 'midst my rubber plants, ignoring beckoning doors
Clippings from ancient newspapers lie scattered cross the floor
Stained by the wine from a shattered glass
Meaningless words, yellowed by time, faded photos exposing pain
Celluloid leeches bleeding my mind
You've finished playing hangman, you've cast the fateful dice
Advice, advice, advice me This shroud will not suffice

And thus begins the web

Attempting to discard these clinging memories
I only serve to wallow in our past
I fabricate the weave with my excuses
Its strands I hope and pray shall last
Oh please do last

Ground war has begun! Wjat (-1, Offtopic)

Kryptonomic (161792) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451724)

Armalite, street lights, nightsights
Searching the roofs for a sniper, a viper, a fighter
Death in the shadows he'll maim you, he'll wound you, he'll skin you
For a long forgotten cause, on not so foreign shores
Boys baptised in wars

Morphine, chill scream, bad dream
Serving as numbers on dogtags, flakrags, sandbags
Your girl has married your best friend, loves end, poison pen
Your flesh will always creep, tossing turning sleep
The wounds that burn so deep

Your mother sits on the edge of the world
W when the cameras start to roll
Panoramic viewpoint resurrect the killing fold
Your father drains another beer, he's one of the few that cares
Crawling behind a Saracen's hull from the safety of his living room chair
Forgotten sons, forgotten sons, forgotten sons

And so as I patrol in the valley of the shadow of the star-spangled banner
I must fear evil, for I am but mortal and mortals can only die
Asking questions, pleading answers from the nameless faceless watchers
That stalk the carpeted corridors of White House

Who orders desecration, mutilation, verbal masturbation?!
I in the guarded bureaucratic wombs

President, President care for your children, order them not into damnation
To eliminate those who would trespass against you
For whose is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever, Amen

Halt who goes there?!
Approach friend.

You're just another coffin on its way down the USA
When your children's stony glances mourn your death in a terrorist's smile
The bomber's arm placing fiery gifts on the supermarket shelves
Alley sings with shrapnel detonate a temporary hell

Forgotten Sons

From the dole queue to the regiment a profession in a flash
But remember Monday signings when from door to door you dash
On the news a nation mourns you unknown soldier, count the cost
For a second you'll be famous but labelled posthumous

Forgotten sons, forgotten sons

Peace on earth and mercy mild,
Mother Brown has lost her child

Just another Forgotten Son

Mod THIS off-topic hippy poetry shit down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451822)

Or I'll start talking about penisbirds, a Beowulf cluster of Natalie Portmans bathing in a tub of hot grits, Frist Psots, Frost Pists, etc.. .

Want some war poetry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451875)

And, yea, as I walk throught the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil...


I don't think so (0)

Dead Penis Bird (524912) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451490)

How could this be, given the popularity of Dilbert [] ?

I wish we had one!

Interview? (1, Insightful)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451494)

For fuck's sake, did they not interview this stinky flea-bag?
Someone who can't take any care over their appearance is not liable to take any care over anything else, either.

interview techniques? (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451575)

Any interviewer I have known would have wanted to see code samples of some sort, with a discussion of how it worked, etc.

or have a stack of test questions to see how wise they were in the ways of programing

Uncommented code? ACK!

It just sounds like truly awful interviewing techniques.

Never hire people without basic social graces. (3, Insightful)

Confused (34234) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451712)

Very easy check:

If he's not able to make himself socially presentable for an interview, don't hire him.

Why should I hire a candidate, who doesn't grasp the simple rules by which the hiring-game is played? He gives the impression about himself, that he's either stupid, or that he doesn't care about the rules a business operates. In both cases, he'll be a liability I don't want on my team.

Re:Never hire people without basic social graces. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451846)

The ignorant protect their own.

Re:Never hire people without basic social graces. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451858)

Actually, I have just witnessed the common problem of people who clean themselves up for the interview and then show up for work unshowered and sloppy every day.

You can NEVER tell everything from the interview, that's what probation periods are for.

Re:Interview? (2, Funny)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451659)

Have you seen a picture of Alan Cox? He takes care of quite a bit, however.

Software has grown a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451497)

The time when a pair of hackers would put out an operating system is gone, nowadays OS teams are large, specially in the Redmond area. This applies to other kinds of software as well. I'm affraid it's not 1968 anymore.

Not true of course (4, Interesting)

youreanidiot (521687) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451505)

There is always room for someone who is different who actually does work, and actually does know his shit.

Even in a team based environment. There is an example here at my work in the Unix SA team. The smartest person I have probably ever met in respect to Unix just sits there and plays chess online and reads slashdot, but when there is an actual problem to be fixed, he not only fixes it, but documents it well enough that he shouldn't have to be bothered from his chess playing next time it comes up. I respect him anyway, and from the rumors of his paycheck, The Man does also.

quirky isn't enough; you need to be *good*, too (4, Insightful)

hawk (1151) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451599)

the difference here is that your quirky guy s good, while the one in hte article is just quirky . . .

heck, if all you want is quirky, just go downtown in any big city . . .


Re:Not true of course (3, Interesting)

iomud (241310) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451600)

I think everyone knows that guy who at a moments notice of trouble waves his hand in front of the servers jedi mind trick style and all is right with the world again. That guy is worth what they pay him because his technical chops are just that good, his skills are too honed to ignore. When the crap hits the fan you want him on your team.

Re:Not true of course (1)

TheMidget (512188) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451619)

The smartest person I have probably ever met in respect to Unix just sits there and plays chess online and reads slashdot,

Ibaa Oueichek?

Re:Not true of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451769)

The smartest person I have probably ever met in respect to Unix just sits there and plays chess online and reads slashdot, but when there is an actual problem to be fixed, he not only fixes it

Sounds like he doesn't care to exercise his abilities to the full extent on the behalf of the company.

Quite frankly, if I were his boss I'd confront him and if he showed any arrogance I'd fire him on the spot.

If he's so damned good that he can waste his time (valuable time!) he should be doing stuff for his pay: helping other admins, planning for the future and so on.

Just letting him sit idle for the most of the time is costing your a lot. In short: BAD MANAGEMENT!

Re:Not true of course (1)

buck_wild (447801) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451833)

If he was really a Jedi in relation to his UNIX skills he'd be working on preventing the problems, and not just documenting them.

Instead of playing chess he'd be researching new technologies, or perusing user groups to asses their problems so that they don't happen to his machines. Chess-playing doesn't make him smart, it makes him a shit-bird! In Utopia, he should have a Jedi-in-training to prevent a single point of failure.

Bottom line: If he's using company time to play chess, his position could probably be 'right-sized.'

Re:Not true of course (2, Funny)

kirkb (158552) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451857)

I read slashdot for hours at work, and play tons of chess online. Unfortunately my boss hasn't reciprocated by offering me a huge paycheck yet. Are you guys looking to hire another "guru"?

Re:Not true of course (2)

atrowe (209484) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451860)

Bruce Perens?

Quirky my ass (4, Insightful)

Gaijin42 (317411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451511)

He just didnt want to work.

There is always room for individualism and outright wierdness on a team, as long as the person can communicate and somewhat meet deadlines.

However, the best developers and engineers I have ever known are always out working on personal projects. Its a way to get your juices flowing when you have been stumped on a problem for a few days/weeks.

If it only lasts a day or so, and only happens every few weeks, it was encouraged in all the teams I've been in.

There will always be "The Knack" (2)

swordboy (472941) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451513)

Even if you don't want to live with the "quirky guru", they will always exist [] !

Re:There will always be "The Knack" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451608)

No one qualified to comment on "quirky gurus" would play a sound at you on page load like that.

Quirky Engineers (1)

Green Aardvark House (523269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451514)

With the cooling of the economy, and a squeeze on corporate profits, a lot of the "quirky" types will get downsized, in favor of keeping the truly productive.

I don't think they've gone the way of the dinosaur, the demand is cycical. So they'll be back when the economy grows more rapidly.

Re:Quirky Engineers (-1)

LinuxIsForAssholes (527253) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451561)

I agree, someone mod this one up!

Re:Quirky Engineers (3, Interesting)

Zen Mastuh (456254) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451664)

I think you hit the nail on the head--the demand itself is cyclical. It's merely a side effect of capitalism. With product development cycles being what they are, I think the wise company--financially stable and driven by realistic, sustainable profit growth--will dominate its competitors by keeping a quirky guru or two around. That sort of thing allows "impossible" ideas to flourish and become real products that everybody uses.

It drives accountants crazy to see a guy on the books with a large salary and apparently low productivity. Same goes for the assembly line MBAs coming out of state universities. Anybody with a long-term view will certainly ignore the noise from the numbers people and nurture a company whose name will still be around five years from now.

Re:Quirky Engineers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451898)

>a lot of the "quirky" types will get downsized,
>in favor of keeping the truly productive."
Well, maybe true...

It's already been stated that quirky types *need* to know there stuff as well as being 'quirky', but how do you measure productiveness? If a 'quirky guru' web browses 7 hours a day, but the one hour (s)he spends working saves the team more than 7 hours effort; is that more, less or as productive as the drone that 'works' for 8 hours?

Not extinct, just in hibernation. (2, Interesting)

eclectric (528520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451519)

People like to expound on the successes of tortured geniuses who work 20 hour days, failing to recognize that for the most part, they fail miserably at the tasks they set themselves out to do. It's true, some people do work their best when left alone, but most of us would rather just not work if we're not being scrutinized. Laziness is always easier.

It's a fact of human nature that we limit our perceptions... our eyes can sometimes ignore a certain color, we tone out people we don't want to hear, and we don't see that extra " mark in the code no matter how hard we try. Working on a team might add an extra amount of burden to solo-flying engineer, but it also means someone can catch the big, flaming errors he makes.

Having recently been in the "want-to-be-hired" position, I found many jobs were wary of hiring people that had an abundance of technical skills and no interpersonal skills. Ten years ago a company would have to just suffer with those quirky engineers... these days, there are lots of great workers who might be 90% of what the "quirky" guy is, but who you definitely would rather have around more.

It is a problem from a legal standpoint. (2)

ruebarb (114845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451522)

I remember the headaches we had when a real bad former employee used us as a reference on another job interview...

If you say you wouldn't hire that person again, there is a threat of legal we just said he had worked here and let him become someone else's problem

First Dildo Post!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451535)

Mad propz to my double-headed strapon and molecule-thick penis.


It's true (2)

Bouncings (55215) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451538)

I think this is article is accurate, to an extent. In my experience, the geeks lacking social skill in high school often develop it later on. Plenty of 'geeks' end up funny, socialable, and rich. The combination of the three feed of each other, in the business community.

Hmm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451544)

Looks like they had a bad experience with one guy and concluded all lone geniuses do not exist. What's wrong with this picture?

Motivation is all (4, Insightful)

ColMstrd (103170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451550)

This piece raises more questions than it answers.

I'm curious about how the quirky one managed to demonstrate mastery of the system he was being employed to develop, yet so spectacularly failed when he actually had to produce the goods. Certainly it seems like he didn't have single-minded attention on the job in hand (but even engineers deserve a life).

I'd be interested to hear his side of the story: there could have been plenty of internal organisational reasons or technical reasons why he didn't gel, which the author of the piece may not be so forthcoming about.

And, if his body odour was really a problem to his inter-relationships with colleagues (and it sounds like it was), why did he not obtain medical help? (Or work from home?)

It all smells a bit one-sidedly fishy to me.

Weird co-workers (5, Funny)

eusdlwy (76228) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451551)

A pretty normal co-worker of mine once told me of a software engineer he had worked with at a previous company. This engineer would write software and during the debugging process hold a conversation with his hand concerning the problem at hand. The best part was, his hand (he) would talk back to himself in the voice of Donald Duck.

The same guy was also said to have hit a deer with his car on the way to work one morning. The next day he came to work with a home-made "cow catcher" like contraption (imagine the front of locomotive) welded to the front of his car to avoid any further damage due to auto-deer collisions. The big problem with this "solution" was that the contraption was so heavy, every time his car hit a bump in the road, the front end would scrape the pavement and send off sparks.

Anyone have weird co-worker stories to share?

Re:Weird co-workers (5, Funny)

The Panther! (448321) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451770)

One of my office mates was an interesting fellow. He had a real problem making eye contact with people, loud noises, or physical contact. I wouldn't call him a guru, exactly, but competent I suppose. It's hard to call someone a guru when they largely remind you of a squirrel. For kicks, a coworker would sneak up behind him and scream AHHHH!! just to watch him go white and literally run out of the room.

Another guy was a neat freak. He knew exactly the precise angle of every object on his desk. A coworker would screw with him by rotating his stapler 180 degrees. Every morning the ritual was to watch him rearrange everything into precise order. He couldn't work unless everything was perfect.

And then there's the really freaky people that you only hear about in whispers... like the guy who would walk around in socks mumbling calculus to himself, drinking beer and eating reeses pieces at noon, and while drunk, getting naked in front of the security guard because he forgot his identification in his office and she wouldn't let him in... best that we don't think about that too much!

Re:Weird co-workers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451842)

i shared a double-office with a seemingly normal, quiet guy. then one day corporate security showed up and asked him to pack up all of his belongings because they were going to escort him out of the building and he wouldnt be allowed back in.

strangely enough he didnt even act like it was a big deal. so he opened his filing cabinet and pulls out a blanket and pillow and a plastic shopping bag.

i found out days later that he had been sleeping (living!) in the building (showering every morning in the bathroom) and going through peoples offices in the middle of the night.

Re:Weird co-workers (1)

nexex (256614) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451870)

Heh, I would be worried that he would want to "help" me sometime

Electricians (2)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451903)

I worked with an older programmer who started off as an radio/electronics guy back in the 50's (yes, that old). He said HE had a coworker who used to test if *house current* was live by sticking the wires in his mouth.

But the really weird part is that I happened to mention this to the electrician that was visiting my house to install my central AC. He said HE knew a guy that did that too.

Must be the result of some kind of Excess Electron Syndrome that only electricians get...

Risk Analysis and good management (5, Interesting)

sien (35268) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451564)

I've only worked in a few places, so I've not seen many circumstances, but this is my take.
Most of us, the committed ones, who are reasonable with people, will be quite able and produce good code and do good things.
However, the ones who do spectacular things tend to be quirky and a bit crazy. It's my guess that a lot of times these people aren't that great, but that once in a while they will do things that 'normal' people won't. They are the ones who code almost non-stop for six months to produce a first class engine. Would anyone describe what Linus did to start the kernel as normal ?
Normal people tend not to do this. We have normal interests and try to live balanced lives.
To quote Henry Rollins:
"Want a good body? Work at it. Want to be a success? Work at it. Want to be truly exceptional? Be a touch insane...You need a little bit of insanity to do great things."
So, if you hire a quirky person, be aware that he might save your shop, or kill it and be totally ready to sack the person. And that's what these people did. On the other hand, if you have a few engineers, a few risky bets that might just pay off bigtime are probably a really good idea. And of course, as with anyone else, keep track of them. Very few of us work well in a vacuum.

Re:Risk Analysis and good management (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451720)

Sometimes, as you describe, those of us who are hit with sparks of inspiration and yield that 95% persperation, get buried in the humdrum. I do what I must, but when there's a crisis, again I'm acheiving the status of the go-to-guy because I can be tenacious and creative and grind through problems and get the ship right again. The key for managers is to know when you have someone like this and to assign them to projects where their strengths are best used.

ecentricity = intelect? (3)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451568)

I think most people expect someone at a genius level to be quirky, but to be quirky and effective, and to be quirky and not effective are still 2 different issues.

I have long hair and a beard (not zz top, just a short beard) and on some level I feel that I must uphold an image of excellence to pave the way for others that might not want to be 'Johnny clean cut'(no I don't mean dirty vs clean I mean different vs "normal"). I'd bet others like me feel the same and as a result now society has accepted that I'm problaby real smart as a result of seeing me wear my hair long and being into computers instead of just figuring me for a dead beat stoner. If you wear a Mohawk, or have several Piercings, or just refuse to wear a TIE, do us all a favor and BE REAL GOOD AT IT.

The article didn't really answer the question... (2)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451577) there still room in a company for a quirky 'guru'?

From what I read, while this guy was "quirky", I'd hardly call him a "guru"...

...arrived with his program, thousands of lines of uncommented and convoluted assembly language. Nothing worked; even the simplest tests we constructed failed spectacularly...

Shouldn't one of the prerequisites for guru status be that your stuff actually works? Sounds to me like he was something of a charlatan...

In a word... yes... (4, Interesting)

Your_Mom (94238) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451579)

The days of the 'software jockeys' are numbered. Businesses are not going to put up with the furry-toothed geek who works from 5-9 because it hurts productivity. For example: FTG come in at 5 codes until 9, leave, testers show up, program doesn't work, they have to wait until the next day for the FTG to fix the problem. Testers sit around twiddling their thumbs all day. This is stupid and businesses are not going to put up with it. Within 10 or so years, computer programming is going to be more of an assembly line business with each programmer doing a certain section of a large project, working 9-5 on a salary.

Honestly, I think its better this way, I speak from experience with the above example.

Not even about the quirky engineer (2, Interesting)

daoine (123140) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451582)

This story is really about "How not to maintain hiring standards in a time of need."

Honestly, it's a huge jump to go from:
-There is a guy who seems to be a good hire, but there were some red flags from his references. We hired him anyway, and were shocked to find out it was a mistake!
-The quirky engineer that we once considered a staple of a company is gone.

It's a big stretch -- especially when the fault lies in the hiring practices...

Huh? (1, Interesting)

zpengo (99887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451589)

Am I the only person who, upon reading this, thought what the hell kind of Ask Slashdot question is this?

I've submitted a dozen hard-hitting, insightful, and clever Ask Slashdot questions that have been immediately rejected, and then I see stuff like "Is there room for quirky gurus?"


Oh, well, that's what makes it Slashdot I suppose...

Corporate Borg (1)

worldwideweber (116531) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451595)

First of all, I didn't understand why this "manager" spent most of the time in the article making fun of a geek stereotype. It smelled like propaganda: people who shave and wear suits are great people, geeks stink and wear black which is the color of evil-doers. An engineer's professionalism have nothing to do with his style of dress (non-conformism) or his smell... the latter can be affected by diet which could be affected by nationality, for example, and is hardly a measure of "hirability".

Second of all, it seemed to me like this was a big failure on the part of management. This employee clearly had skills (enough to ace all the questions he was asked). The fact that the engineer kept himself busy doing other programming work speaks to the lack of challenging/interesting work at the company. This is part of a trend in most companies: the complete lack of research and development. I am sure that if this employee were shifted into a more "R&D" role at the company that it would have proven profitable and manageable for the company. Just my 0.02.

That really does depend... (5, Interesting)

trilucid (515316) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451597)

The question posed is *really* overly broad:

'is there still room in a company for a quirky 'guru', or are projects so large now by necessity team-based development rules.'

I'm a developer, and always will be. I've worked on projects ranging from simple contact managers to the actual Bank of America telephone banking system (I'm sorry to say, 99% written in VB 6.0) via a company in Atlanta.

Here's a little secret about the BOA project. The core development team is 6 people. Yep, that's right, *six* people to manage a project that allows millions of people to do their banking by phone. Those people are developers; there are three primary guys above them, one dev manager, and two project managers. (Well, one more guy, the VP over that division...)

Now, that kinda puts things in perspective. The "apparent size" of a project in no way guarantees how many dudes it takes to get the job done. Likewise, some "very small" projects end up requiring a whole lot of coders to whip out new releases. It all depends.

Now, about the guru bit... with the BOA project, there's one guy (good friend of mine still) who's the "guru" of that team if you will. He codes VC++ and VB, and is a freakin' maniac at it. The team would be seriously hurt if he up and left (or got hit by a Marta bus) one day. Even so, nobody minds this, because he does a damn fine job.

I think you also have to consider the fact that even in teams with a guru of sorts leading at the helm, most often he/she isn't the uber-asshole elitist coder the media would like us to believe. Sure, he may not get along very well with folks down at the local bar, but he *does* get along with the developers and project people at his job pretty darn well in most cases that I've seen.

Room? Yes, there'll always be room. It all depends on the personality merits of who you've got.

h4x0rz luv vb!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451699)

I've worked on projects ranging from simple contact managers to the actual Bank of America telephone banking system (I'm sorry to say, 99% written in VB 6.0)

7h4nk u!!! u r0x0r!

If you do your job well you're "eecentric" (2)

disc-chord (232893) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451598)

I could be defined as "quirky" in that I am not conventional... at all. But I get the job done, and do it better than most, so there is alot of tolerance for me.

Think about it from a hiring manager's point of view, you have 2 candidates with strong backgrounds in their field and a proven track record... but one is a straight laced drone and the other is a consumate class clown. Who is going to fit better in your enviroment? For some people the more conservative candidate will fit in, and for others a loose cannon is an accet more than a liability.

Some people want people to just produce, others want people to think outside the box and challange everything... including their supervisor's patience.

Guru Uniform? (2, Funny)

tshoppa (513863) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451607)

I'm not sure that I fully appreciate the characterization of your typical engineering guru having a big beard, long hair, and enormous belly.

But what else would be a "guru uniform"? I could wear a slide rule on my belt, but I suspect most slashdotters wouldn't even know what the 18-inch-long implement was for.

Re:Guru Uniform? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451658)

Dude, if I had an 18-inch-long implement, I'd give up engineering and go into porno.

Re:Guru Uniform? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451739)

I got yer 18-inch long implement right here...

Quirky "guru"? (5, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451611)

"Guru"? Nothing he did worked. How, exactly, did this person attain "guru" status? Sure, the guy trying to get rid of him claimed he had knowlege, but why assume he had skills? (Esp. for the people posting without reading the article.)

There's an amusing stereotype at work in the posts here... we are automatically granting "guru" status because he is quirky. Sorry, I still look for skillz, and all the evidence suggests that was lacking. (Uncommented assembly may indicate guru status, but only when it works... when it doesn't work, it indicates an overestimation of personal skill. Not much middle ground here.)

The fact is that there is every bit as much room for an exceptionally talented person to bend the rules as there ever has been. Our definition of exceptionally talented is rising, though. (Besides, eccentricity itself seems to be on the decline.)

It's all in the beard. (4, Funny)

Nindalf (526257) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451696)

Guru (gu'ru): from ancient Hindi guy (guy) and uru (beard) literally "guy with a freaky big beard." Modern meaning: guy with a freaky big beard (generally bad personal hygiene habits add. imp.).

Re:Quirky "guru"? (1, Insightful)

MeerCat (5914) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451722)

I'm trying to convince management that a pool table, nerf guns and a collection of gadgets around your monitor does NOT make a team of coders into geniuses, and, whilst it might motivate some people, they'd do better to ask the staff what they want first....

Re:Quirky "guru"? (2, Insightful)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451752)

"Sure, the guy trying to get rid of him claimed he had knowlege, but why assume he had skills?(Esp. for the people posting without reading the article.)"

Question: did YOU read the artice? I did, and here is what I read:

"Fred went on to relate how this candidate mastered every question, knew as much about the products we made as some of our own engineers, and easily fielded even the most arcane embedded questions."

To me, that statement would give credibility to classifying him as a "guru"

Many projects still need a star (3, Insightful)

Snowfox (34467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451621)

Some of our most valuable guys are borderline insane. These are the guys you put on the graphics engine behind a well-defined interface, and with a video game, these are the guys you turn loose on optimization toward the end of the project.

I don't think our most valuable guy could design a way out of a paper bag, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to touch code after he's been through it. But in a few hours, he can singlehandedly double or triple the performance of code that most people are afraid to touch.

It's okay, in my book, if people want to pursue weird interests during office hours, or if they want to keep really weird hours, so long as a steady amount of work is getting done. A lot of the best programmers I know work this way to some extent, and it keeps them fresh and interested.

That said, the guy in the article wasn't a quirky genius. He was a circus side-show. If I have to keep pushing someone to work, they don't stay on my team, because having to spend hours each day supervising them eats into my productivity. If their code doesn't work and they can't fix it straight off, that's also useless to me. And I don't think I should ever have to remind someone to get into work - if they disappear for a few days and they haven't been in a coma, sent a postcard from wherever they eloped to, or come back with some really fucking amazing code to show for the time, I don't think there'd be a position to come back to.

Re:Many projects still need a star (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451896)

he can singlehandedly double or triple the performance of code

That's all he can do? Oooh, real talent there. Tell your manager to fire him, with a list of the reasons why, and you'll thusly gain browny points which help when that 3 month review comes around. Especially when your manager notices the productivity of your team has increased despite the 'loss' of a teammate.

King Ludwig dead at 41! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451634)

King Ludwig died in a mysterious drowning in Lake Starnberg... there are rumors swirling about that it was an attack by the right-wing terror group BFWV (Bavarians Fuer Weiss Volkswagens... perhaps better known as the Bavarian Cream Front).

President Bush was upset he couldn't attend the funeral due to the current Middle East situation (and the 115 year time difference). He leaves behind two swans, and a much-loved horse.

:o) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451638)

Nearing the end of a satisfying, and somewhat loud and productive session in the company restrooms, I took out my mobile phone to play a relaxing game of Snake. To my horror, my traitorous phone had just recorded every last detail of my rather generous bowel movement on the answerphone of the first person in my phone book. I shan't be going round to his for dinner for quite some time, I can tell you.

Interesting (1)

spagma (514837) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451639)

We had a discussion about this the other day at work. It was whether it was better to have the "quirky" brilliant engineer, as apposed to a conformed just qualified engineer. Well, the discussion soon turned into an all out arguement as our "quirky" engineer, defended his brethren, and our office manager spouted about how much of a pain in the ass they are. Shortly thereafter, there were slamming doors, and only the sounds of each of them mumbling something to themselves. Personally, I would rather have the "quirky" engineer in a pinch, but for an everyday living, I would rather have the conformed individual. I guess that is like having my cake and eating it too.

Lesson to be learnt... (1)

dreamquick (229454) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451641)

The article seemed to have very little to do with quirky engineers.

It had more to do with companyies blind faith in the fact that pushing candidates through a series of questions that are largely irrelevant in real life will yield your ideal candidate.

In reality it takes more than the ability to answer questions to be a good employee, something that his manager seems to have overlooked!

You do have to wonder how he could have so easily overlooked the stench though...

Don't get too hooked on hero engineers (4, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451643)

The heroic developer is the opposite of software engineering. While its often the case that one developer will carry the load of many (the 90/10 rule - 90% of the work is done by 10% of the staff), organizations often end up depending on this individual for more and more, until sooner or later the system simply breaks down.

That said, we don't live in Utopia - some programmers are simply better than others, but if you don't have a process in place to support migration and redistribtion of that work load, you will regret it.

...or if you're smart. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451764)

Fire the less productive 90% and use the money to hire more geniuses.

Times they are a changin' (3, Insightful)

BluePenguin (521713) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451646)

Looking around my current environment I find several things:
  1. The SD (software development) guys make thier own hours. I've never seen an engeneer face to face and never reached one before 9 am or after 3 pm.
  2. The Unix group makes thier own hours, supplied by a wink and nod from management as long as the windows group doesn't find out.
  3. The Unix guys stash ties in thier desks in case really senior management ever drops by, but by and large, they push the envelope of the dress code.
  4. The windows group is so clean cut, crisp, and polished I could slice vegetables on their creases and use their shirts as drafting boards.

Windows guys, hardware techs, network techs, and most any position that can be filled with a few hundred hours of training or an associates degree is becomming very clean cut and corperate. There is an abundance of these guys and management can hire people who fit the corperate image rather than more "quirky" candidates.

In other areas, the supply is still scarce, and you take what you can get. (As the article says, they were having a hard time finding someone qualified).

The place I see the most freedom these days though, is with Web Developers and Graphic Artists. They're supposed to be creative, expressive, and different. I think they have to be a little quirky to get past the interview.


Niches key to Quirky success (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451651)

There's always a niche project that comes up (like fixing the ^%$#&* key bug in slashdot posting, "Hey, I've got a revolutionary idea, let's test the new changes in production!") that eventually get assigned to someone creative. They'll do it in some way that's really 'neat' and they'll show a lot of enthusiasm by way of explanation if you give them half a chance.

This 'Tom' guy didn't strike me as 'Quirky' as much as distracted, possibly on drugs, and reminiscent of some of the coders I've seen hired in the high employment years, up to late 2000. Some just were out and out liars on their resumes and probably paid off their references. You needed bodies and you took what you got, sometimes someone like Sid from userfriendly would pop up. Usually not a bad idea to chat with some of these people because some really do have a view how projects can and should be done, which has somehow been lost in the 'now we're totally focused and NEED to make a PROFIT or there will be LAYOFFS era' of today.

HAHA funny question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451660)

What if all the mental energy, the rage on the Slashdot message boards, had been concentrated on building solid business models?

Because it's so much easier to rant about it than to write code. Probably less than 1% of the Linux zealots could code their way out of a wet paper bag anyways.

You have to define 'quirky'. (3, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451672)

There are folks at my office whom I would define as quirky. They are not, however, people who neglect to come into work, and do not meet their project deadlines.

There are quite a few of us, whom, unfortunately, work into the night and on weekends. Sometimes it's just because that's the only time that we can get downtime for a machine. Normally, it's because of production problems [which have been most commonly caused by upper level management setting drop-dead deadlines, and not giving us sufficient time to load test the system before it goes live, which was in turned partially caused by production problems -- wash, rinse, repeat]

Of our rag-tag group, we have two-ex military [one retired, who's seen a lot, been lots of places, and you really don't want to piss off, because he gets really, really, quiet, until you're just sure that he's planning revenge somehow], the other's we never see as he only works part time, and always seems to be fixing problems in other offices.

We've got our stereotypical grizzled 'unix engineer', an ex-military contractor who used to build pools for a living, but now just bitches when people keep changing stuff at the last second. We've got your typical BOFH, who can rebuild a solaris box damned quick, but you really don't want to catch her on a bad day.

We've got a handful of 'boring' people, who just sit there, do their work, and you never really see causing trouble. [I think they're actually allowed to go to meetings].

And of course, there's me, who finds every opportunity to send subversive e-mails, complain about the dress code, etc. [I've since been asked not to wear armour to work, even though a gorget, is, technically, a collar]

You do, however, had to know your environment, and how far you can push your 'quirkiness'. I make sure that I just shoot people's screens with nerf guns and make 'em jump back, I don't shoot them in the back of the head [anymore]. I know that my work is so paranoid about lawsuits that I would have to actively assault someone, or steal something to be fired, so I can give it a good push. [That's not to say, however, that I won't be passed over for promotion, etc, but well, I don't want to be management, so that's fine for me] I've also proven myself as a hard worker, and can make my deadlines, and I've been here long enough that I've made friends in enough departments that I got requests to transfer when I had to leave one department when my manager pissed me off.

So well, 'quirky' is here to stay. 'Incompetant' and 'lazy piece of crap' are not. 'Scares co-workers' is out, also.

Legal Problems (2, Insightful)

Armaphine (180636) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451682)

Maybe it's just me and being somewhat inexperienced in the ways of company legalities, but how would there be issues with not giving someone good references? Shouldn't there be something there to allow one employer tell another about a guy like the one in the story?

Quirky, or Creative? (2)

scotpurl (28825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451689)

There's a big difference between the two.

Quirkyness Can = Good (2)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451691)

Okay, first, an agreement that this guy wasn't just quirky.

But, I wanted to share an overall perception that my management readily agrees with. Your best Systems Administrators *ARE* a bit unusual. The more normal a person is, chances are, the less skilled of an SA they are.

Knowing this helps quite a bit in the interview process. "This guy seems normal. But he doesn't seem to be very skilled."

It also helps when dealing with members of a team, "This guy can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but he really has some great ideas."

My team is full of unusual people, with a few normals mixed in. Generally, as long as the person isn't in outer-space, or is outrageous, you can mesh their quirks quite nicely, and sometimes take advantage of them.

But none were as "quirky" as that guy.

Could this "Mike" guy have been... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451693)


Teamwork. (2)

Matt2000 (29624) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451695)

Quirkiness should always be accepted in the workplace the same as other traits of personality should be allowed for. What shouldn't be allowed for is the primmadonna attitude fostered by engineers who decide that they're irreplaceable.

I read one time on here that some guy refused to open a document someone had sent him at work because it wasn't in an "open format." Give me a break.

As the economy gets tighter, more and more people have the luxury of working with people that are team players and lots of "gurus" who are assholes are going to find their skills more replaceable than they thought.

Better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451698)

Has Reseach and Development gone the way of the Dinosaur?
I thought R&D was critical for a company's survival. Judge from the amount of layoffs I guess the fat cats think they can make product on their own.
Oh well, I guess they'll start looking for people when their funds run out.

Quirky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2451710)

As in "Dharma and Greg" quirky? That's just plain stupid.

Quirkiness had nothing to do with this article. (2)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451715)

When I read the article I expected to read about some developer who was highly skilled but eccentric who ended up being fired because his/her boss could no longer deal with the developer's eccentricities. Instead what I read was a typical story of a developer who got canned for being unable to deliver. His "quirkiness" or eccentricity had little to do with it and in fact it looked like his employers may even have practiced a little reverse discrimination in assuming that simply by being eccentric he ws a high performer which turned out to be false. Kinda reminds me of how most companies expect their Indian programmers to be geniuses and react with surprise when some of them turn out not to be.

Anyway, from my experiences working in different software companies over the past few years, "quirky" engineers that deliver still exist and are respected by many in their organizations.

Someone needs to be in charge (2)

bluGill (862) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451725)

I've worked on large projects where there is no one person in charge. It didn't work. It was fun, and all, but in the end it didn't produce.

You need someone to stand up to management and say "java 0.9 might be the latest thing, and it might be the future, but it doesn't work today, so lets not make it our only interface". You need someone to stand up and say "The GUI is not the place to put critical error checking." You need someone to stand up and say "a remote boot device doesn't specify what software it runs (including version) , a remote device specifys what it is, and what the proms version is, and we figgure out the proper software based on what is installed."

The above are just a few of the real examples of where a project goes wrong when you don't have one smart, EXPIRENCED guy in charge who has power over management to say how it works.

Marketing tells you what sells, enginerring says what can be done, and project management makes sure it gets done on time, and upper management makes sure the budget works out. The cheif engineer screams "It has to work" and "That can't work" at the other engineers all day until something that is designed right and works is produced. (at which time you go on to the enxt project part time, and maintian the old junk).

If there isn't one engineer who management gives absolute power to say how this will be designed, then the project will fail.

Quirky my ass (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451740)

This guy doesn't sound quirky at all. Just a Type 2 Prima Donna, the sort who hide their incompetence behind bravado. Face it: if you want creative solutions to problems, you need creative people. Who are usually a bit weird.

I couldn't help but notice that, in all the replies I've read so far, their hasn't been a single reference to quirky folk who happen to be female...


Re:Quirky my ass (2)

radja (58949) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451786)

I don't care if my coworkers are male or female..

actually.. I do care, since I've been single too long, but that's another story. As long as they're just coworkers though, I couldn't care less.


Mel (1)

Sideways The Dog (513515) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451766)

Don't forget Mel! []

Capability people and capacity people (2, Interesting)

speed_bump (104415) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451768)

I've found that if you look at people and organizations closely enough you find people broadly divided into two groups (beware: sweeping generalization approaching). The groups are capability and capacity. As an organization, you need both, but it is important to recognize the roles they play.

Capability people are the people with the skills to build new things and handle complex, unknown situations in an effective manner. They are the "heavy lifters" that are capable of solving complex problems that don't have text book solutions and don't show up in the policies and procedures manuals. They enable you to do things that weren't possible before. In other words, the add capabilities to your systems (whether technological or organizational).

Capacity people are your solid performers. They are reliable and have the skills to get the job done. They make sure that the "i"s are dotted and the "t"s are crossed and do the grinding sort of work which isn't always glamorous, but keeps things running every day and distinguishes the pros from the amateurs. As an organization grows, these are the people who provide the horsepower to keep it moving.

It's crucial to recognize which group a person fits into and how their values to an organization differ. The capacity people aren't really geared toward creating new things or adding features to a system. They are valuable because they keep your organization going and free up your capability people. Capability people are usually not well suited to grind-it-out sorts of tasks, but when the going gets tough, these are the folks who pull your fat out of the fire. They also enable you to do things that simply wouldn't be possible for your organization otherwise.

So back to the question at hand: is there room for the "quirky" engineer? The answer is that there certainly is, but you need to know where to put that person and how to use them. I suspect that most of the "quirky" types will fit in the capability group. Your expectation of that person is to solve the really nasty problems that no one else can tackle. That person must also be able to communicate somewhat effectively with the rest of the team as well to enable them to fill in the blanks. Don't put them in a place where you expect them to attend lots of meetings and crank out line after line of mundane (but necessary) code. They will not do well in that environment.

As a manager, you need to ensure that the capability people communicate effectively with capacity people (who will do the leg work of getting the results out the door). You also need to ensure that the capability person is living up to his/her billing and getting the job done. In the case sited in the article this was clearly not happening. To me that has little to do with the quirks and more to do with actual performance (the two are not mutually exclusive).

Of course, it's also possible that this is the product of a completely insane train of thought on my part. But what the heck, it's Friday.


Hi, I'm a "quirky engineer" (2, Interesting)

raindog2 (91790) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451779)

Well, I call myself a "software developer", actually. I've got the beard and ponytail, I weigh about 300 pounds, I haven't worn a suit or tie to work in years, I'm not one to pretend I'm heterosexual, and oh, by the way, my last company credited me with saving their financial ass last year.

I provide expertise that no one else in my area seems to have and I stay very, very billable. I've pulled one all-nighter in the last decade but will do whatever is necessary to get a project done on time. I will work by myself or as part of a team, and I don't think anyone I've worked with would equate my "quirkiness" with an inability to help my team reach its goals.

While bad economic times can force people like me to at least pretend to conform a little bit, I've gotten a lot of mileage out of fixing systems created by guys from companies run as though they were temp agencies. I think the author needs to examine his company's interview style as others have suggested. But he should also take a look at his own motivations: people who make part of their living lecturing are effectively salespeople, and salespeople require an entirely different set of traits to be effective.

Appearance and political prowess aren't valid measures of engineering competence; productivity is.

Quirkiness is relative (2, Interesting)

istvandragosani (181886) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451783)

As one of two engineers out of 40 in my company that sport long hair and hippie-ish attitudes, I take exception to this article. I don't think the example of Tom was a good one -- there are still lots of us anarchistic (and, yes, given my proprensity to dressing in medieval garb, anachronistic!) hippie types making a *difference* in their company. And I have to prove myself even more -- because I am a college drop out and many of the more clean cut folks I work with are degreed CompSci engineers. Do they think I am quirky and eccentric (you should have seen the looks some peopel gave me when i pinned up the "history of Unix" flowchart that wraps halfway across my cubicle)? Hell yeah. Does it interfere with my work (who do they come to when they have obscure Unix questions)? Hell no! Does anyone give me a hard time for being 'quirky'? You're damn straight they don't!

The Comic Book Store Owner!!! (1)

Velex (120469) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451793)

Well, it should be obvious to anyone that the problem is that they hired the comic book store owner, who, as we all should know from the Simpsons, knows nothing about embedded systems at all. Why were these people even using a comic book store as a reference anyway?! I mean, the guy can tell you why Aqua Man can't marry Wonder Woman, but as for embedded systems, what was the author of this story thinking?

Seriously though, as it's been pointed out before, this guy is far from a guru. A guru writes stuff that works; this guy doesn't, his "quirkiness" notwithstanding. I don't know about the rest of slashdotters, but I think the whole team-approach that's supposed to be the new "paradigm" (gah! there's that word again!) is a bunch of hooey. People aren't a bunch of lemmings, and, contrary to what the Man would have you think, one person with a MSCE or whatever does not equal another person with an MSCE or whatever. Every person is unique, and some people just have a knack for certain things. Sure, every person can learn programming, but very few ever reach guru-like wisdom. Not only is it unfair to people who have better skills to treat them as though they don't because they're in a "team," but it shortchanges the company in the end. If the gifted aren't recognized for their skills, they'll pack up and look for a place that does recognize them as something more than a means to an end.

Lets turn this crap into fertilizer. (0, Offtopic)

DougNYC (523846) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451796)

Instead of arguing with the author, lets focus on something useful. He writes:
"We've spent a lot of time making Linux techie-friendly - powerful, configurable," he says, "but not enough time making it easy for Aunt Tillie to use." Why should Linux try to lure Aunt Tillie? "Because," Raymond says, "dat's where da money is."

Well, I couldn't care less about Aunt Tillie I'm a programmer. Note, I'm not a developer. Developers, IMHO, are people who need pretty little drag and drop silliness to get their work done. It may be that they need these "IDEs" because they really can't program or it may be that when a manager says "The SVP of Marketing promised The Big Customer delivery by this afternoon" developers need these drag and drop tools to meet deadline, it doesn't matter. Developers are the people who care about Aunt Tillie and her OCD need for cute WYSIWYG apps, and to a developer Linux sucks.

Why should we care? Because were ever the developers go Aunt Tillie follows, NOT the other way around. Remember, Aunt Tillie couldn't spell computer before she learned about Quicken. Now she changes banks because they don't support online bill paying. She thought AOL was a country music station until her daughter went off to college and forced her to learn how to email. Now Aunt Tillie can't live without v-mail images of her 18-month-old grand daughter, and she wants broadband so she can video stream with her sisters on the coast.

I'm a programmer and I think Linux has been and still is a beautiful programming platform, but it has a long way to go before it's can claim to be a good development platform, and we need the developers if we want Aunt Tillie.

How do we turn Linux into the most powerful development platform ever built? How do we make it so powerful even MS Windows developers will want to work on it?

Part of quirkyness is creating your own room (1)

Blnky (35330) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451797)

There is indeed still room for quirkyness in a company. In fact, from my own experiance, it really enhances a team to have at least one oddball. This oddball tends to think "out of the box" generating new and usefull ideas. It can be even better to have a team of oddballs with one who is really different. I could spend a lot of time trying to prove this, but instead I will leave you with this following information for encouragement. First, my team is a group of oddballs surounded by other teams who could be classified as "normal". Second, I am most definately considered the oddest of the odd in this team. Third, we are the most intensive and successful team here. Analysis of information flow shows other teams defering to us by their choice based off of our successes. Third, I work for a Fortune 500 company that most would guess as stoic and unaccepting of the wierd and unusual. Fourth, tho just a working geek, I sit directly outside the offices of the directors, vice president, and president of the company. So, not only is there room, but everyone here finds it exceedingly benificial. We don't have to hide the fact that we tend to be much different from the average worker here. I hope this encourages everyone else who specificaly hunts out the differant and unique over the normal.

red herring (2)

trb (8509) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451799)

Read the article and factor out the "quirky" part. He looks and smells grubby, both are irrelevant to his productivity. He got some "quirky" references from former employers. I have never really understood the references thing, how big a loser does a hacker have to be to not be able to find someone on earth to vouch for him?

I have have worked with quirky/grubby folks who are God's gift to hacking, angels fallen from heaven. RMS is quirky, I wouldn't mind having him hack on anything I needed done, warts and all. And I don't dress like a GQ model since I spend all my time typing and staring at a screen and crawling under tables pulling cables and arm-wrestling robots.

Of course, quirky is a subjective matter. For some people, quirky means a beard, for others, it means sacrificing children to Moloch. Hiring a good hacker is a a bit of a crap shoot, but whether he seems quirky just isn't relevant.

FWIW (2)

overshoot (39700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451802)

I've been in the electronics industry for more than 25 years, am (as they say) "not unknown in my field" and consulted by senior management in one of the largest electronics corporations in the world.

My business card reads, "Mad Scientist."

I may not be Bob Pease, but I'm trying!

Geek-Guru-Dependencies (3, Insightful)

karb (66692) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451806)

We have a guy who works at my job who is amazing. I am a software developer and he is one of the systems guys who does system admin type stuff. He won an award a few months ago based on his contributions to his organization and is basically a junior chief engineer.

However, the man is an idiot. He's tempermental, and solves some problems quickly but others not at all (and never answers forms of communication if he isn't going to help). He is also in a position where developers frequently need his help to be able to do their job (we're required to go through him).

Despite his technical brilliance, I don't think that any developer here would rather have him than somebody with 100th of his talent who was easier to work with. If they need help, we have plenty of non-quirky expertise and can always call tech support from various vendors. It's better to have reliable good help than spotty expert help.

We do have some quirky geniuses here that I do like, by the way (they're my heroes). It's just that they are quirky geniuses who also happen to be non-vindictive and responsible.

You say quirky, I say quirky (2, Funny)

cruelshoes (122132) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451818)

We once had this contract UNIX guy,who insisted on be called Obi-wan, actually I didn't even know his real name. His van would be in the parking lot, even when I got there early, but he would roll out of the back of it about 5 mins after 8 everyday in a cloud of smoke. But it didn't matter because he had mad skillz and could acomplish in a day what it would take the rest of us together a week. So I say, call him Obi-wan, make sure not to take lunch in the back of his van and enjoy the show.

Heh (1)

bruns (75399) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451821)

Those quirky gurus/admins/techs are the people who keep things running in most businesses and provide the solutions to problems that noone else can.

Room For Quirks (1)

actappan (144541) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451831)

I Think there is definitely room for the quirky but brilliant - though this article doesn't so much describe eccentricity as much as it makes fun of "that guy we all know" who's forsaken society in general for several thousand lines of well formed C.

I work in a small shop. Our engineering teams are made up of exactly the kind of quirk we need. Creative, dedicated, wickedly smart, and often weird guys who simply know what they're doing. Granted, our team leans more toward the orange hair and piercings; or birks, John Lennon glasses, and tie dye than the "traditional guru" thing. We're too young and have too many Macs.

But places where there is not room for the individuality that actually drives innovations - well . . .

Not all projects are building OS390 (3, Insightful)

joshamania (32599) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451841)

I happen to be working on a project that has only 3 people on it. I would hardly call it a "team" effort. The only team ideas that we have are, "What are you working on so I don't duplicate your effort?"

I would call all three of us quirky, in some way, shape or form. One guy constantly shows up late, another is more interested in paintball at times than work, I probably spend too much time worrying about whether or not there is enough food and coffee (for me, not the office).

We each have our own opinions about how the project is to be built, and our own methods of going about building it, but the one thing we do have in common is that none of us are out right schmucks, like "Tom" in the article.

That guy just sounds like a putz. I wouldn't call him quirky, I'd call him an asshole. Too lazy to understand that with a paycheck, comes obligation.

When I hire folks, I don't give a damn how eccentric they are, just as long as they understand the obligation bit, and produce.

I'm doing a background check on Jack Ganssle (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451854)

Because after reading this article, he sounds suspiciously like JonKatz with his random inane geek rhetoric.

best place for geeky quirks... (1)

macsox (236590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451866) in a company or a group that is small enough (and / or not entirely technically focused) for you to be the uber-expert. when the tech support is asking _you_ about issues, you can pretty much walk around pants-less.

The type of person depends on the type of job (2, Insightful)

su steve (306535) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451888)

The article generalizes software development too much. I have worked on numerous software projects ranging from database apps to n-tier applications to device drivers to custom servers etc... There is little room (and indeed, little need) for a 'guru' when developing database applications which focus on data collation and entry. Most 4GL languages are simple enough for run-of-the-mill developers to 'get into'. However, it takes a special breed of person to tackle lower-level code and the truly ground-breaking applications.

The problem is this; developers who work 9-5 and are 'normal' as society portrays rarely meet coding challenges outside work, and, as such, will not have the broad knowledge gained from reading around the subject. Social outcasts may well not understand business needs, but, if their time is spent wisely, DO understand the intrinsics and tricks of lower level code in order to get the job done better than the competition.

It all depends on the task in hand.

Quirky is as quirky does (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 12 years ago | (#2451901)

"Quirky" is wearing a starfleet uniform [] to work.
"Quirky" is NOT playing hookey [] for a month, not bathing [] , not showing up until the afternoon [] , not working on what is important [] to your employer, and not producing anything useful [] .

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