Seeders and Leechers

This is a follow up of my previous post Nice Guys, do you finish first?

I got to know the term seeders and leachers from the Torrents. The term leeching is very common in the computing world,  but is it relevant in any other context?

Yes it is relevant in other contexts as well, I keep observing these in my workplaces. Some of the workplaces I have seen has very rigid written performance expectations and assessment criteria. The performance evaluation is nothing but a way of identifying the leechers and removing them from the system. The key problem in this setting is that the cause and effect might be very spread apart and it is easy to find ways to comply with every word from the expectations set and still be a leecher. Lots of tools and methods at the workplace evolve at a very rapid pace which makes it hard to keep the expectations at a written form and convey to people.

Who is a seeder? Is someone who comes to work delivers the job as per requirement and goes home a seeder?

A seeder is someone who not only does her job but also makes sure the peers need not rework or struggle in the coming days as result of her job. If a team contains lots of seeders then there is effective communication, on time delivery and a good balance of work and life. The team can pretty much handle themselves without a need for a supervisor. On the other hand if the team contains lots of leechers, then there is a need for a supervisor to keep a check on the delivery and try to remove the leechers out of the team.

Any example of a leecher? What happens if we dont remove them from the system?

Let us take the example from the documentary Nice guys finish first, the social setting of a group birds is such that each bird removes of the ticks from the other birds. Each bird is groomed by someone else to be healthy. In this setting it is very easy for a bird to get groomed and get away without returning the favour. The bird which exploits the social setting is a leecher. If we dont remove the leecers from the system then the overall advancement of the system is very limited and will encourage selfish behaviour.

Unfortunately it is not so easy to find leeching in self organized teams, the reason is that leeching might be involuntary through unconscious incompetence. The individuals might not realize that they are over grazing the resources and soon going to add pressure on their team mates. Timely facilitated retrospectives, reflections and corrective actions without penalties will help improve the well being of the self organized teams.

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Disposable software

Recently our team wanted to add some more features into an existing app built on Rails 2.3 about 2.5 years ago (July 2009). We ended up in a situation that in order to proceed adding new features we have to upgrade to Rails 3.1. The primary reason being that we were using outdated technology and there is a difficulty in maintaining our legacy (2.5 yr old) app by getting support and documentation. The migration also was not smooth, we spent time looking at screencasts, tutorials, documentation and forums to move ahead and after a good deal of effort the migration happened. At one point during the migration there was also second thoughts to rewrite the app from scratch as the migration was labour intensive.

This event made me feel that we might be heading towards disposable software. Keeping the life cycle of the rapid development tools in mind should we design cost effective disposable software? By taking the example of How to Create a Blog from Scratch Using Ruby on Rails in simple steps, I believe that we might be heading towards a solution of disposable software. A large application could be built using many pieces of disposable software if we take care of data integrity during upgrades or replacements and effective communication between applications.

The questions that arise are; How long is long enough to dispose the software? Software development costs are ever increasing, will this model fit enterprises? Will this mindset make software accessible to the masses at a cheap cost?

My take on the questions.

Q. How long is long enough to dispose the software?

A. We could take around 2-3 years for a software to be useful for us before we reach out for an upgrade.

Q. Software development costs are ever increasing, will this model fit enterprises?

A. My experience with enterprises is very limited, as far as I know the huge cost in procurement of an earlier version has been a mental block for organizations to go for a timely upgrade. If we make software development faster and cheaper then there is a high chance of regular upgrades.

Q. Will this mindset make software accessible to the masses at a cheap cost?

A. Right now many services are beginning to become available for super cheap cost empowered by the cloud, it could be possible in the near future that people can get made to order software at a cheaper price.

Nice guys, do you finish first?

Nice Guys Finish First” documentary by Richard Dawkins throws some light on why Altruism is a very necessary element. The theme of the documentary is reciprocal altruism, simple explanation given is “Individuals allow themselves to remain in the same state or move to a lower state to help another person go up in state within the community”. The theory was applied to a large set where there are plenty of interactions within the observed group, the race to the bottom was inevitable where exploitation of the resources were present.

The definition of the nice guy was demonstrated using the prisoner’s dilemma as a computer game tournament.  The rules were simple,

  • If two players co-operate then they take equal share of the output.
  • If one of the players does not play nice, then the cheater gets a steal and the loser gets nothing.
  • If both try to cheat, then they end up with lesser output than they would have co-operatively got out.
  • There are more than one turn for each player to play against the same player.

Many people submitted their programs as players in the tournament with varied strategies. The one which Richard Dawkins called as nice guy was the “Tit for Tat” strategy. Tit for tat strategy won the tournament. The following were the observations of the nice guy in a setting were multiple interactions with the same individual is possible.

  • Is always co-operative unless cheated.
  • Keeps in mind who cheats and does not co-operate with the cheaters.
  • Will be the first person to forgive and give a chance to the cheaters to be co-operative.

This also reminded me of the Allegory of long spoons.  I also have seen some real life examples of nice people living the best life than the people around them.

Nice people, do you finish at the top?

Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2490056817/