Honeypot Projects

I was speaking at the Reston, VA No Fluff Just Stuff symposium this weekend, and the panel discussion got a little out of hand. Here we are at a traveling Java technology conference, and every question and every answer was about Ruby or Python. I'm afraid the attendees walked away from the panel thinking we all hate Java, which couldn't be farther from the truth. Its just that Rails is a soccer ball, and we're the Forest View 5-and-under Kids Soccer Team.

After loads of discussion of the relative merits of strong- vs. duck-typed languages, and tool support for Ruby and Python and managed versions of dynamic languages, we ended up where we always end up on these talks: how do we deal with all the losers we have to work with? It never ceases to amaze me how the audience, not the panel, always gets around to this question. "I work with a bunch of cavemen; how do I protect myself and my project from them?"

I finally came up with a good answer: Honeypot projects. Just invent something important-sounding but impossible to achieve, set up a $399 Celeron Dell desktop box but put one of the $150 cases on it that you get from Intrex that makes it look imposing and important, tell everyone that its the new Sun Optipylon 4500 server, give the cavemen logins on the box and let them build something. Just make sure the new Sun Optipylon 4500 is on its own subnet, and voila!

I kind of prefer Dave Thomas' answer, though. If you are really scared of so many folks on your team, you need to either rethink your hiring practices, or rethink your firing practices.