In many families, the Christmas holidays is the time to play games. Homes ring to the sounds of happy or not so happy people playing Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Charades, Cranium, Monopoly, Pictionary and so on. Details of our family Christmas will no doubt be recorded over on my wife’s blog.
Undergraduate university students, on the other hand, play complex drinking games. Actually they do that all year long.
When I was at University I believe there were several games played by other people that involved bouncing a coin into a beer glass. Apparently, this game takes lots of practice. I’ve been informed by a reliable source that if you managed this feat, you could nominate a fellow player to have a gentle sip of his-her beverage. It seems if you managed it three times in a row, you could make a rule. Hypothetically speaking this game could continue, much like cricket, for a considerable amount of time. I assume that after a while, the rules became so complex that only the law students could continue.
It has been suggested to me that the typical rules included: Only sip with your left hand, only point with your elbow, place your other hand on your head, recite the motto on the beer can without looking (Castle lager, the taste that stood the test of time; Black label, America’s lusty, lively beer ) address everyone by student number, hop on one leg and every sentence had to include one Latin maxim- without repetition or hesitation. I could envisage that once you got the hang of the rules, someone would get it in four times in a row. Apparently they could then change any rule they like.
If you would like more details, please refer to the wikipedia entry for the simpler, cruder, American version, called quarters.
Enter the software release naming convention game.
Start with a three letter acronym for a company name. Bounce coin. Add another acronym. Bounce coin. Add another acronym. Bounce coin. Add a pronoun as a prefix. Bounce coin. Add an arithmetical sequence. Bounce coin. Add decimal points. Bounce Coin. Randomly skip bits of the said sequence. Bounce coin. Add a year to it that has no relevance to the year in which the software ships. Bounce coin. Add an X. Bounce coin. Add powered by. Bounce coin. Create an internal technical name with another three letter acronym and its own numbering system. Bounce coin. Create integration concept with another three letter name. Bounce coin. Start again. Use up all marketing budget printing new extra long business cards.
When I look around, most software companies play this game. You may have seen the Microsoft parody on youtube. (tip Seth Godin)
There is a tremendous amount of work going on at SAP to develop a culture of simplicity in development. This is goodness, but I think we need to take the coins off the product naming folks and lock them in a room with the simplicity gurus– No more coin bouncing until you know and live the laws of simplicity.