Wednesday, 10. May 2006

developer := 'Mort' | 'Elvis' | 'Einstein'

Due to some blogging Microsoft employees and MVPs who disapprove of the practice,I know now that MS uses an internal classification scheme of programmer personalities when developing programming
languages and tools. A software developer, MS usability folks reckon, will be either a Mort, an Elvis, or an Einstein.
"Mort, the opportunistic developer, likes to create quick-working
solutions for immediate problems and focuses on productivity and learns
as needed. Elvis, the pragmatic programmer, likes to create
long-lasting solutions addressing the problem domain, and learn while
working on the solution. Einstein, the paranoid programmer, likes to
create the most efficient solution to a given problem, and typically
learn in advance before working on the solution. In a way, these
personas have helped guide the design of features during the Whidbey
product cycle."
So as far as Microsoft is concerned, I'm Elvis. Which rocks, of course :-)

The scheme is a bit on the coarse-grained side for my liking. I love reducing the number of parameters as much as the next guy, but for bots, any character model using less than a five-way categorization scheme seems to allow for too little behavioral discrimination to be useful enough. However, I can see its worth as a communication tool between MS employees.

Let's try recursive application: there's no reason why any developer who develops programming languages for other developers while thinking of developers as the set (Mort, Elvis, Einstein) should not also be either a Mort, an Elvis, or an Einstein. Programs are media; programmer's personalities influence program usage; it's turtles all the way to the ground. If, like Richard Wallace, you deliberately encode parts of your personality in your bot's character, those parts can end up being reused by thousands of ALICE clones.

Just like actors, directors, and writers, software developers start by being spectators, and are always the first spectators of their own work. And we all should know which audiences we could be part of as spectators, because those are the audiences we might be able to work. AI developers will have to learn what it means to work an audience. So I should probably ignore Mort and Einstein for now, and concentrate on being Elvis.

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