Friday, October 16, 2015

I love it when a product continues to provide delight

I have seen workplace dress standards change over time. I once worked for a company in the petroleum business where guys had to wear dress shoes, slacks, a conservative dress shirt, and a necktie. Gals had to wear nice dresses or business suits. Casual Friday clothing amounted to not having to wear the necktie.

The company was in a growth mode that turned out to be the prelude to its collapse. But at the time they were working on transitioning from the old outgrown headquarters building to a larger office some distance away. Our team was among the first that relocated to the new space. As the months went by, bosses and workers at our location started to relax on the necktie thing. Then one day the big boss showed up at our office and pitched a fit. The neckties went back on.

Today I work with people that daily dress in casual attire that would have been considered unthinkable in office environments back at the beginning of my career. Instead of trying to look 'professional,' folks choose to be comfortable. But many still make fashion statements.

As a software developer, I work among techno-geeks. It is common for these people, including my boss and my boss' boss, to wear T-shirts that display various things. Today I am wearing a black T-shirt from ThinkGeek (slogan: stuff for smart masses) that my wife and kids gave me a couple of years ago. The simple white letters on the shirt read:
$DO || ! $DO : try 
try: command not found
This probably makes no sense to most folks. But to people that deal with computer code — and that have at least some Star Wars knowledge — it's pretty funny.

$DO is a variable. The double bars mean "or." The exclamation point means "not." The colon is a statement delimiter. The word try is the name of a command that is to be executed. The second line is the system responding that the try command can't be found in the system.

Thus, the statement is programming code for Yoda's famous admonition in Star Wars episode V, "Try not! Do or do not. There is no try."

ThinkGeek's website is entertaining enough. But I think you need to actually own a ThinkGeek product to understand the finer points of that company's humor.

Today as I was about to don my shirt, I casually glanced at the tag. Something seemed unusual, so I checked it out and noticed something that had previously escaped my attention. The tag read:
Not dishwasher safe.
For external use only.
Contents may be hot.
The first three lines are funny enough. But the final line really gave me a chuckle. Anyone that has dealt with any tag based language like HTML or XML will recognize that anything inside of angle brackets that starts with a slash represents the closing tag of a block. The real humor here is that the physical tag itself opens the block, while the printed slash-tag enclosed in angle brackets represents the end of the block.

Moreover, the tag itself is what is commonly referred to in the industry as an Easter egg. This is when developers put hidden messages — usually jokes — into the systems they build. I find it delightful that ThinkGeek managed to hide an Easter egg in my shirt. I didn't even see it until I had owned the product for a couple of years.

OK, so not that funny if you're not a geek. But pretty funny if you are. At least, it made my day a little brighter.

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