On Golf. Woods Adjusting to His New Role: Helping Rookies

I saw a movie once and all I remember about it is that it had Jeff Bridges and there was a scene where he was shown sitting on a sofa reading a newspaper. He looked up and said, “Ah, thank God for the sports pages.”

Yes, I look for Tom Friedman, the subject of my previous post, over there on the OpEd page every Wednesday and Friday. But I look at the sports page every day, with special delight these days as the Mets get ready for the post-season. (By the way, my son was at the clinching game this past Monday. When I had seem him a week earlier he said he was going to get tickets to that game. I was sure the Mets would clinch sooner, but a little help from the Pirates postponed the happy event until he was on hand to be a part of it.)

Today’s SportsFriday has an article by Damon Hack about Tiger Woods and how he has become a mentor to the younger members of the team. Here are a few short excerpts:

Woods began to nurture the for rookies almost from the moment he learned they were on the team Aug. 20. He left each of them cellphone messages and notes in their lockers, inviting them for a meal.

“I just wanted to take the guys out and explain to themsome of things that I went through my first year, some obligations before the Ryder Cup that they weren’t aware of,” Woods said. “It’s a very, very busy week and there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of distractions and a lot of things tugging at you.”

The rookies said the dinner went beyond golf talk.

“Two things I’ve learned,” Johnson said. “One is that he is about as normal a guy as anybody you’re going to meet, and he loves the game of golf.”

Henry added: “I admire him as a golfer but as a person he’s a lot of fun to be around.”

The sidebar to the story reads: A team hopes some welcomed advice will help it bond.

Mentor … normal … fun .. bonding. Add some coding skills to his game and he would be ready to join our team. (He certainly won’t be put off because we don’t pay our volunteers.)

I have been thinking of writing a few posts soon about the software development process used in the OSS world, but these thoughts of golf made me realize a connection between golf and OSS.

There are many models for developing software. The two of interest here are “Release Early, Release Often (RERO)” and “Design Until it Drops (DUD)”.

I have a connection with Tom Friedman in that we both play golf. No, we don’t play at Tiger’s level. Indeed I’ve often asked myself, “Who’s the golfer? Is Tiger playing golf and are we doing something else? Or are we playing golf and he’s playing another game?”

And from this you will understand that I — and I expect Tom as well –have long experience in the RERO school of golf, especially the “release often” part. Three-digit scores prove that.

Which reminds me of another connection between golf and OSS. There is an old joke about golf and baseball that goes someting like this.

Babe Ruth: Baseball is much harder than golf. I have to hit a round ball with a round stick that has been thrown at me. You get to stand still.

Sam Snead:Yes, but in golf we have to play the foul balls.

We OSS folks also have to play the foul balls. We call them “bugs,” and one of the ways we squash them is to Release Early and Release Often, so that folks can find them and collaboratively fix them. As we say, “Given enough eyes all bugs are shallow.”

Not all golfers are in RERO school. Others believe that if they work hard on the design of their swing; if they spend incessant hours reading books, watching the Golf Channel, or taking lessons, going to the driving range; then eventually the “penny will drop” and they will have have a great swing. This is the approach known as Design Until it Drops (DUD).

OSS much favors the RERO approach to developing software. The best example can be found in Linux, an effort that began early (back in 1991) when a student posted a short e-mail about a few lines of code he had writen and said he was willing to work with any interested parties to improve it. Changes and improvements, called “patches” in the Linux world, resulted in frequent — often — releases of new versions. Indeed the model has proven so successful that now new production-quality releases of Linux come out every few weeks.

The DUD approach is more commonly found in commercial software design. Indeed, there is an operating system built using this model that is widely used. But the time between major releases is now measured in years. But not to worry, the DUDly designers about about to drop it for our use.

It’s the newest dud from those masters of DUD: it’s called Vista.

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 24, 2006 at 07:18 | Permalink | Reply

    Although with Vista, it seems MS has been more willing to release beta versions to the public to troubleshoot possible problems. Do you think there are any benefits to having people report bugs without giving them the opportunity to fix them or improve the OS themselves? Or do you think it’s all an MS PR move to present the illusion of Open Source?

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