I had a very pleasant lunch yesterday talking with some other people at Sun about XP. At some point, the conversation turned to “superstar programmers” who do their best not to help other people, giving perfunctory answers to questions, sending various signals that they don’t want to be bothered, and even being actively insulting to others. (Perhaps not coincidentally, many of the hypothetical examples in the managing course that I just finished dealt with people like that, too.)

One of the participants mentioned an interesting stat that shows up in hockey: over/under. This is the number of goals scored by your team when you’re on the ice minus the number of goals scored against your team when you’re on the ice. Maybe somebody who scores lots of goals or assists would have that first number be larger than normal, but if his defense is particularly porous, the second number could also be large; over/under weighs both. More interestingly, somebody who hogs the puck might score a lot of goals himself, but his team might still score fewer goals than average while he’s on the ice, hurting the offensive part of his over/under. And I imagine there are hockey players whose contributions are hard for the casual fan to pinpoint but who somehow manage to have a good over/under.

Hard to see how to generate a statistic like that to measure programmers – it’s hard enough to generate any useful statistics to measure programmers – but maybe we can get some sort of inspiration out of it.

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