Be Chicken!

The article on API change culture uses a well-known “the chicken and the pig” fable as an inspiration:

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

I bet I won’t say anything new or profound, but it always weirds me out that the pig is considered somewhat more important than the chicken. Oh, right, because it must die to be useful.

Well, I grew up in the 90s in Kazakhstan. Like many people we were relying on our village relatives for food, so ham and egg production is not an elegant metaphor but a real-life experience for me.

Growing pigs is a slow process with a big one-time payoff. It’s not free: you need to feed them and clean the place. And you’d better have a pair of pigs so that the production could be at least somewhat renewable. One committed pig is a splendid feast in the short term and hunger in the long term. Don’t forget an emotional cost: pigs don’t die by themselves. You will hear it. You will smell it.

Chicken produces eggs continuously. You don’t even need a rooster. Feeding is less involved, and you may practice a free-range approach to optimize costs. With a rooster, eggs can be fertilized, and production might grow even more.

Thus, in my opinion, chicken-style contributors are better for a project. They bring sustainability. They create small eggs incremental improvements. They are the force of kaizen.

Whereas pigs are one-time Big Bang doers. An external contractor who came in, said you need to redo the entire workflow, got their paycheck, and left. That new employee who said: “let’s rewrite the system from scratch!”. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes big changes are healthy and bring value, but they are also riskier. You need to have a bunch of chickens to support the process.

Another possible consequence for pigs is burnout. You did something big and you can’t do anything else anymore. Oops.

I often gravitate towards pig’s tendencies since it’s easier. It’s also better for CV and performance evaluations, isn’t it? ;) But in the end, as some say: we prefer being generalists; the same way I’d say: let’s be chickens who oink occasionally.