Managing Geeks

There’s a socially frightening act inside of optimization that normal humans don’t get and it’s the calming inanity of intense repetition.

via Rands In Repose: Gaming the System.

This is only one of many nice zingers/insights in this post on how “normal humans” can manage geeks more successfully if they understand what geeks want, which is to master a game:

  • Discovery
  • Optimization, Repetition, and Win
  • Achievement

As someone who once spent four lovely hours Photoshopping the dust specks off a scanned image of some peaches one by one, without benefit of drugs, I can relate to the micro-joy of a task done over and over and over, whether it’s killing aliens, zapping bugs, optimizing code, or scrubbing data.  There are days I yearn to alphabetize.

But in working with my own team of geeks, I realize that I often break one of their cardinal rules: “Ambiguity, contradiction and omission are the death of any good game.”

This is my training as a poet coming out.  In a way, poems are a lot like code, all about internal order, precision, economy, and elegance.  But to spell everything out or put everything in is the death of a poem.  I have to remember that my geeks are not my readers: for them, ambiguity and contradiction is not where meaning gets created, it’s where it gets lost.

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