Say No to Brogrammers

I have observed a disturbing trend in software circles where cocky, mean-spirited brogrammers infect development teams. Urban Dictionary defines brogrammer as:

1. brogrammer 151 up47 down
A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody “bro”. Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.
Oh my god, John is talking about football and chicks again. That guy is such a brogrammer.
programmer frat boy bro douchebag developer
by seldo Dec 2, 2010

I find the brogrammer vibe toxic for several reasons:

  1. Fun dies
    • Teammates dread coming to work.
    • Team outings become an insufferable chore.
    • Teammates can no longer laugh at themselves.
  2. Innovation suffers
    • Teammates fear hazing.
    • Teammates are afraid to speak up.
    • Teammates are afraid to fail.
    • Teammates are afraid to try something new.
  3. Productivity suffers
    • Teammates are not forthcoming. As such, disingenuous Iteration Retrospectives stifle self-correction.
    • Teammates are fearful of committing code without first performing checks and crosschecks.
    • Teammates are fearful of the potential humiliation of breaking the build.
    • Teammates are loath to ask questions for fear of retribution.
  4. Quality suffers
    • Teammates dread pair programming.
    • Teammates dread the humiliation of code reviews.
    • Teammates avoid questioning or debating a technical approach.
    • People-Haters use metrics like code coverage to flog rather than learn.

Two red flag artifacts of the brogrammer vibe are Build Monkeys and Nerf Guns:

  1. Build Monkeys – a stuffed animal, or mascot of humiliation, gleefully bestowed upon programmers who break the build (or otherwise defy bro-thoritarian rule).
  2. Nerf Guns – toy weaponry gleefully deployed to pelt & punish programmers who inadvertently imperil something as inconsequential as test code coverage.

Nerf wars seemed innocuous when perpetrated by the socially inept smart people we’d all grown comfortable working with on our software teams. But now that the brogrammer boys have entered the fray, the once innocuous joviality has morphed into mean-spirited team oppression.

“Let’s put the pro back in programmer…no more ninjas and definitely no more brogrammers.”
Daniel Hamlin, 7:33 PM – 25 May 12 Twitter for Mac

I value the people I work with much more than the technology, or the software product we’re building. I refuse to engage in this behavior and plan to defy Brothoritarian Rule.

Fear, hatred, and suspicion narrow your mind – compassion opens it.
~ Dalai Lama, 4:27 AM – 30 Apr 12 via Twitter

Additional Reading

8 thoughts on “Say No to Brogrammers

  1. Great post, I mostly agree. Although I'd call nerf guns and build monkeys more of a smell than a symptom–they can exist in the absence of a brogrammer, but the intention behind them definitely changes.


  2. Sounds like somebody gets nerfed and build-monkeyed a lot…

    So it's ok to do this if you're unathletic and only care about nerdy things?


  3. No. It's never acceptable to humiliate or ridicule anyone. Saying, “be a good sport” or “no one else gets upset” is utterly unacceptable also.

    The bottom line is that if such behavior is received as a form of harassment by ANYONE on a team, it is up to the entire team to act responsibly, stop the behavior, and support the individual who felt harassed.

    If you disagree or think the behavior is innocuous, I have one question I would like you to consider: for years society has excused this type of hazing in school-children by saying, “kids will be kids”; yet the evidence is clear that there are deep phycological consequences or hazing and that our society has been avoiding its responsibility to provide safety in our public schools by trivializing this behavior. Given that perspective, why would we want to allow hazing in an office environment? Is phycological abuse any less abuse now that we have traded in our school clothes for office clothes?

    I would assert that it is up to us all, as the standard bearers of an industry that never has allowed such harassment to ensure that it does not occur. We must always endeavor to raise the bar for our own behavior, never to settle on the easiest common denominator.


  4. I'm living the “dream” on this one. Just got nerfed this morning because I failed to see a bug during a paired commit. The developer who created it also got nerfed. When I confronted the nerfer that this was a expansion of what qualifies for a nerfable offense he lamely claimed he recently nerfed himself for a similar transgression.

    Some people just like nerf. Whether it helps the team improve seems irrelevent to them.

    For me it just adds to the growing smell about parts of this team and project overall.


  5. Larry,

    Agreed. It seems to have little to do with learning or improving.

    Shitty software projects boil down to people filled with self-doubt who are unaware of their flaws & who struggle to self-correct. Nerf gun pelting and build monkeys are the telltale artifacts.


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