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Alter Aeon
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Articles Section
Profiling Your Coders
Who Do You Have and How Can You Use Them?

I don’t remember who it was that said, “How can you tell a good painting from a bad one? All you have to do is look at a million paintings and then you can never be mistaken.” The same certainly holds true to taking on new coders. There are good coders and bad coders. Once you work with a million, you’ll never have any doubt which one is which.

As I run into the various good and bad coders, I find myself giving them suitable titles to match their personalities. Time passes and the standards that caused me to create one epithet appear in other coders and new personalities inherit old titles. I write this with the conscious knowledge that these are stereotypes, and not everyone fits precisely into any one label. Even so, if you can identify your coders, you can identify which ones you need more of, which ones you need less of, and which is the best method for maximizing your coders’ potentials.

THE GHOST

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to utilize a ghost. This is player who makes imm, then promptly drops off the face of the earth. Upon mentioning the name of a ghost, the most frequent comments you’ll hear are: “He’s an imm?” Or even worse, “Who’s that?”

THE KNOW IT ALL

This is not the person who understands the ins and outs of code and is fully self-sufficient. (see genius and born leader) This is the person who insists they know everything, while really having no clue. The know it all can come in many different flavors: there is the meek and mild-mannered know-it-all, who will accept correction and move forward to normal productivity; there is the argumentative know-it-all, who is usually destined to get on the wrong person’s nerves and be removed from coding society; and the stubborn but silent know-it-all, who listens to corrections and advice but refuses to make use of any exterior help and eventually either figures out the correct method (in spite of their assumptions) or sinks into inactivity. Each know-it-all may be handled in the same way, but his success or failure is dependent upon his flavor. Provide help. If help is stoically ignored, wait to see if they learn it on their own. If they fail to learn it on their own, and still refuse help, eventual removal will be necessary.

LITTLE MISS HELPLESS

Go ahead; call me a sexist, I don’t mind. I’m certain it’s possible that there are Little Mr. Helplesses floating about, but I have only run into the female of the variety. Little Miss Helpless is the coder who doesn’t want to code at all, in spite of being perfectly capable. This is the imm who calls for help before reading a single help file. This is the imm who bounces from foot to foot impatiently while you read through their code, pleading, “why don’t you just do it for me?” When other imms are trying to work, Little Miss Helpless can be a serious drain on their productivity. The only way to deal with one of these coders is to use a little tough love. Do it yourself, or get out.

SOCIALITE

The socialite may or may not be inactive. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy being an immortal, it’s just that he enjoys interactions with players as well. Provided the socialite does not bestow illegal favors upon the players, he can be an excellent resource for keeping tabs on where the players’ needs, desires, and problems lie. He can be a tremendous asset to brainstorming and design sessions.

THE GENIUS

The genius is the most versatile and capable coder you have. He tends to work in spurts: in his productive mode, he will rewrite the race code, revise the security system and implement most of a guild in one weekend; in his latent mode, you will be hard pressed to get any productive work out of him. A genius requires patience and a delicate touch. He is best assigned to projects where he can work with a Sheep and a Born Leader, provided he isn’t too controlling about his own code. The geniuses can code the game, but they can’t always be relied upon for consistency or for maintenance.

THE FENCE JUMPER

The fence jumper is a skittish creature. She will do absolutely ANYTHING to begin coding, but the moment she has the position, all she wants to do is play. Back and forth she hops, always deciding the grass is greener on the other side. Frequently, Fence Jumpers get frustrated with the fact that nobody will allow them to return to coding, so they hop to another MUD, work their way through the game, declare their intent and start all over again. Again, there’s not too much that can be done to turn a fence jumper into a productive coder, simply because they are unhappy no matter where they are.

THE BORN LEADER

The born leader is not the best coder you have around. He does not know all the ins and outs of the game, but others look up to him in spite of this. He is a problem-solver who also has an acute sense of human interplay. He can best manipulate his team to his own ends – sometimes by allowing them to think they’ve manipulated him. Often, the born leader will view a project as a moral mission – this is excellent for you, since he will do all the motivating for his team, but beware, the born leader will have no compunction about working outside the bounds of authority if it is the easiest way to achieve his goal.

THE BOUNDARY TESTER

The boundary tester is often someone with an excellent sense of humor. She is quick and clever, but not terribly dedicated. The boundary tester will constantly push limits to see how far she can go before caught. This is not a sign that she lacks respect for authority (although she might), rather it’s her way of solving problems. She likes a challenge and if she does not have a sufficiently difficult riddle to wrap her mind around, she will use her cleverness to a detrimental end. Your boundary tester is one of the best people to do preliminary testing with – she’s made a habit of trying to abuse the system, so who better to point out design flaws? If you can keep her busy and gain her respect, the boundary tester can be an excellent person to work with. If that doesn’t happen fairly quickly, she’ll get erased pretty quickly.

THE SHEEP

The sheep does not make brilliant leaps of logic. The sheep does not have terribly many creative ideas (although they frequently think they do, without realizing they’re hashing up the same old drivel). A sheep is not stupid by any means; he just does not have the means, the drive, or the desire to stand out from the crowd. What the sheep brings to the table is an ability to accomplish tasks at a slow and steady pace; an eagerness and unquenchable enthusiasm for assigned projects; and a regard for the rules and regulations. Do not put a boundary tester with a sheep. That will generally cause a great deal of friction. A genius can use the sheep to perform the follow-up work once the logistics are determined. A born leader can shape a sheep to his ends. Do not expect your sheep to behave like a leader or a genius and don’t be disappointed when he doesn’t. Put him on strictly regimented projects and you will be happy with his results and he will be happy with his tasks.

THE DISILLUSIONED CYNIC

What do you do with someone so jaded that all he can do is sit back, idle, and make detrimental comments about what the productive imms are trying to do? It is a tough question, especially when the cynic in question is someone who has proven himself before falling into his current state of existence. Some gods have no patience with this attitude and believe in removing anybody who is not productive. Others will allow these imms to hang around for ages, doing nothing but engaging in useless chatter. Just because a cynic is not productive, does not mean that he has no functionality. A cynic has made a profession of critiquing and criticizing. As a result, he has the tendency to make an excellent regulator. Regulate what? Players, compliance, new area reviews, pretty much anything. Moreover, he will be happy to have the power to shoot down an idea or allow it to move forward. The thing a cynic loves most is his own opinion. Unfortunately, if his views are completely incompatible with the administration, there is no hope left but to take one or the other standard course of action.

~Cowofjoy @ Dragon's Den

http://dden.discordia.org
mud: telnet:dden.discordia.org:2222
Name on mud: Cowofjoy
Position: Wizard