Chickie Baby

There are many constants at Microsoft. Offices moves are one of my least favorite. After nearly seven years at Microsoft, I’ve only moved once, a badge of honor I wear proudly. I know many people who’ve moved more than seven times in seven years. But all good things must come to an end. My team is moving — not far, just from the second floor to the first floor of the same building. Why? Don’t get me started.
The good thing about moves is that it forces me to clean up. I hate moving anything that I don’t need to. As I was going through old folders yesterday, I ran across something from my Peopleware days. Peopleware was my first official job out of college. I was one of two programmers, so I did just about everything, from customer support to testing to managing the company network to writing lots and lots of code. During my last year there, I wrote a document describing all of our best practices. The programming team had grown to six people by then, and I was the senior programmer — despite being only 25 years old. Here’s a snippet from that document:
The Chicken
The rubber chicken (affectionately known as "Chickie Baby") is the development team’s light-hearted way of saying "you screwed up." Normally, somebody on the team will voluntarily claim the chicken when they have made a mistake. However, you can also receive the chicken if another team member discovers that you made a mistake.
The cool thing about the chicken is that you have to explain your mistake to everybody else when the chicken lands in your in-box. Mistakes become a way to share information so that other team members can avoid your specific mistake in the future. This way, you not only learn from the mistake, but everybody else on the team learns from it, too.
The chicken is just one other way the development team helps each other avoid mistakes, which in turn leads to better products.
I’ve seen lots of takes on Chickie Baby over the years, such as a stuffed alligator, as well as an actual toilet that was given to programmers that broke the build. Whatever lighthearted form it takes, your team’s Chickie Baby is a great way of sharing information, particularly between gurus and the newest members of your team. If you don’t have a Chickie Baby, today’s a great day to find one.


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