The legend of Trevor
It is amazing how one small thing can set the tone or the culture going forward.
When we were designing the technology that we are currently working on, a distributed ledger, a colleague created a document that set out how we could model different types of assets on the platform. One type of asset we support is what we call a "unique asset" - it is an asset that has a unique value. This could be a painting, a car or, in the case of this document, a horse.
In the world of computing, it is a running joke that one of the most difficult tasks is naming things. Developers can spend a long time choosing what to name something. We also see this in the world of products and business. There are companies that specialise in helping others name things.
Anyway, back to the document. When the document was written the horse used in the examples needed a name. In a moment of inspiration that would have a ripple effect, he was named "Trevor". From this point on, every example of a unique asset involved "Trevor the Horse" and it set a precedent for future, internal, documentation - it was okay to add humour and make it fun.
Since then we have had a document about structured assets written in the style of Star Wars where every example has a Star Wars theme. We have also had a document about rotating cryptographic keys written as a fairy tale. There is serious content that needs to be communicated but the addition of these elements made them more readable and definitely more fun to write.
When we submitted a tender for potentially a large piece of work, one of those on the call was filmed clapping very excitedly. This was then turned into an animated gif that is used in Slack and regularly pops up when someone reacts to good news.
We have a meeting for grooming the backlog (going through upcoming issues that need work) which we have in the calendar as "Lackbog Dooming". There is a definite effort to inject some fun into what we do.
We have a WhatsApp group for current team members and past alumni. It is a way for people just to stay in touch. The name of that group is "Trevor the Horse" in honour of our "friend".
I even went out and bought a cuddly toy horse and called it Trevor. It resided in the office and took part in discussions as a prop, until Covid hit and we no longer have an office. It now sits next to my desk on the window sill.
That single naming decision, which may have seemed trivial at the time, helped set the culture of the company, or at least the engineering team.
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