Developers who do a “Russell Crowe”

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Hi all

If you were going to slot me into a little stereotype box, then you would slot me into the “IT pro” side of the fence. My coding is okay, but my real vein of expertise lay in infrastructure and over my career, I developed what I think is a reasonable troubleshooting instinct.

I’ve also worked with developers for the whole of my career and have the scars to prove it. The thing about developers is that they have this in-built reflex that until yesterday I did not have a word for. Then it came to me.

All developers have a little Russell Crowe inside of them!

imageWhy do I think this? Am I suggesting that developers are handsome, rugged types who melt your heart with their piercing eyes?  Oh, please. Allow me to explain with a simple mythical conversation with Mr Crowe. Let’s pretend you are a movie director.

You: “Hey Russell, we need to do another take, your dialogue wasn’t quite right.”

Russell: “Yes it was.”

You: “No seriously, I think if you had a look you’ll find that you missed a word or two.”

Russell: “Completely impossible. You are obviously an amateur and have no idea about acting.”

You: “I’ve directed twenty films and…”

BAM!!!  (Flying telephone hits you in the head at high speed, knocking you unconscious.)

Russell: (2 days later). Okay, so there was a minor issue with my dialogue, but the script was bad to begin with”




This exchange is somewhat representative of how programmers can occasionally be when it comes to troubleshooting. I remember one case where I was the “Cisco guy” who had problems with a developer who was so utterly fixated on “the network” being the cause of problems with his media streaming application. This created the classic “dev vs infrastructure guy” showdown, which we all know is usually won by the person whose home turf the battle is fought on. Therefore, the developer blaming “the network” and then going up against the “Cisco guy” is like Microsoft trying to win search market share off Google. The battle is so one sided it’s almost cruel to participate – but you feel it is your duty to put the little upstarts in their place anyway.

I have won the majority of such battles, not because I am any good, but because the developers have thrown the metaphorical phone at me before I’ve finished asking them if they would like a coffee. As a result of their inner Russell Crowe hurling the phone so quickly, their aim is way off, and the phone usually misses me, bounces off the wall and takes out their boss or some other authoritative figure.

So, they cop some heat and sulk in the corner for awhile, but do developers learn from this? Hell, no! The reason why this is so, is because little Russell doesn’t like to lose, and when he re-emerges, he causes temporary amnesia of all previous battles. Of course, his opponent remembers all, and the next battle is even more cruel that the previous one and the outcome is assured.

So, yesterday, my friend and colleague did his first “Russell Crowe” for some time. He hit a problem, and misinterpreted the cause and went down a path that led him to a very tunnel-vision view of what was wrong and what the solution was. He described the problem he was having to me and it didn’t feel “right”, but he was pretty insistent he was on the right path. So, I asked Twitter and got back a couple of suggestions and as soon as I put one to him… BAM!! Russell Crowe appeared and threw a phone at me.

“Well, they are obviously amateurs and haven’t a clue about the SharePoint SDK” was the gist of the response.

One of the respondents was Bjorn Furuknap, who I can assure you is *not* an amateur :-).

Anyway a few minutes later we found a different way to troubleshoot which pretty quickly pinpointed the problem. My colleague was very contrite and good natured about it as I teased him mercilessly. I later mentioned to Bjorn that I had just dodged a metaphorical flying phone and he said this wonderful quote which I think sums it up.

“Of course. He’s a developer. We’re all like that. It is always some else’s fault!”


Thanks for reading


Paul Culmsee

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4 Responses to Developers who do a “Russell Crowe”

  1. Chris Tomich says:

    You see this problem is common due to ‘developer adolescence/puberty’. When a developer is a junior, if they see something wrong and say something they immediately gets shot down by a senior. Even if they are right, the senior will shoot them down. As time goes on, the ‘developer adolescent’ becomes an adult and in the process learns that shooting down people is imperative in proving alpha status within a ‘development pack’. Alpha status is extremely important, it means people will be too frightened to question your ideas and you’ll get your way the majority of the time.

  2. Chris’s point in the comment is definitely a good reason for why this behaviour continues.

    Honestly? All the young/fresh/new developers I have worked with in my career are much much more open to questioning their logic and work than the senior developers. Senior developers will if you approach it logically, and in many ways it depends on personality, but I definitely see a pattern.

    It’s certainly not just Developers who do it, I have seen IT Admins, Consultants, Project Managers (big time) and every other type of person do a “Russell Crowe” (including me from time to time) but I definitely think the longer a person works at anything and their confidence increases so does their chance of throwing telephones.

  3. Developer says:

    So true 😉

    I am a developer!! But I hope that I have thrown the telephone enough times in my own head to know that MY CODE is the MOST probable cause to the problem.

    So I hope the more “knowledge” you get (!= “senior”) the less likely you are to throw it again 😉

  4. Nick says:

    Yes, you seem to throw the odd you have met the wrong way and probably deserve a telephone in the head…now let us see, there were approx 14.9 million developers in the world in 2008, feel free to meet them all and hopefully it’ll fix your head up well and good.

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