Interesting Lifehacks: Use a Wooden Spoon to Block Part of your Screen

While the benefit of the wooden spoon may not be immediately obvious to the novice user, the concept is now hailed the ‘next big thing’ in software development. Early adopters have been tinkering with some creative use-cases.

wooden spoon in manual use

wooden spoon in manual use

Most users first realize The Spoons power when selectively blocking unwanted pop-ups. This works much better than any browser plug-in (e.g. ad-block+) and with surprising accuracy. Although not as fast, it does so entirely without false positives! The spoon even works on all browsers and is both backward and “forward-compatible (a term which has been coined by the spoon community)!

Michaele Adduci, a Research Associate and Technical Supervisor at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and expert in the field of Computer Vision points out that:

The system may one day be used to view poorly programmed websites like Google+ on large screens. Already now it completely eliminates the annoying border in the news-feed on large monitors (>22″/1080p res). G+ is just one example, of course.

The user-base, albeit still tiny, is extremely dedicated and faithful (almost religious some say). Open Source community pioneers and bigwigs like Richard Stallman or Eric S. Raymond are also big fans and backers of the movement.

Eric S. Raymond recently wrote in an email to us:

When I first stumbled over the concept, I failed to come up with some valid use-cases and almost dismissed it as another fad. But over time, I better understood it’s *real* power. Now I would no longer want to program without the spoon.

People ask me about its advantages quite often lately. It’s a bit like answering the question “why anyone today should bother learning languages like LISP/Scheme”. Because using it will ultimately open your mind to different solutions, and make you a better programmer! The same can be said for the spoon.

How one applies the idea isn’t set in stone. There is no rule-book to follow. But this is exactly what makes it so powerful! It’s a ‘mindset’! Nobody will tell you HOW you should use it because the experience is unique for everybody. For newbies who expect some more concrete answers this can be frustrating, sure!

New usage scenarios are being invented constantly. Some people have even “forked” the idea and are now experimenting with ladles. Whatever works for you!


GNU spoon presented by Richard Stallman

GNU spoon presented by Richard Stallman

Agile pioneer Martin Fowler loves the spoon and thinks it will help Agile developers focus on what’s relevant during pair-programming or code-review.

While several funding requests have popped up on kickstarter, not everyone is as cheerful: The most critical concerns are aired by the UX community. They feel that the spoon may impact their relevance, because users will no longer care about poor design or flaws in a GUI layout. Also companies behind ad-blockers probably have a lot to lose.

Rogers Innovation Adaption Curve

Source: Roger the Doger

While it’s too early to talk about the long-term effects of the spoon, one thing is certain: We have hit critical mass and the spoon is bound to disrupt our relationship with technology as we know it. Spoon Defined Everything, Spooning as a Service, Carrier-Grade-Spoons, Big-Spoons, Internet of Spoons, Continuous Spooning, Smart-Spoons, Crypto-Spoons and Blockspoons (nobody knows who invented, but no surprise some Australian Imposter has already attempted to plagiarize the IP).

I’d love to hear about your experiences (positive or negative) when it comes to using the spoon. Please share below.

EDIT-1 Update 2016:

the spoon is becoming the tool of choice for people who want to block their built-in webcam from spying on them. Activists have stepped forward and gave the project 5 ☆★☆★☆ for empowering freedom and democracy and stopping government surveillance dead in it’s tracks. The spoon-community is currently working on a technical standard they’ll put forward as an IETF draft that will solve security and privacy problems in the Internet of Things once and for all and hence make all current marketing claims valid (cough-cough).

EDIT-3 Update summer 2016:

Daniel Britt, full-stack developer and Chief Community Spooner from Cleveland area has provided us with a feature chart named after a popular Keanu Reeves film. Daniel says:

Since learning about the usefulness of wooden spoons in the software development field, I’ve decided to run some tests and work out some features. The list is nowhere near complete, nor even exhaustive; the majority of uses are secret, waiting to be uncovered. I hope to be with my spoon for many years to come as I begin my career as a full stack software developer! Thanks to Valbonne Consulting for the inspiration, and to Tech Elevator for the awesome C#/.NET boot camp learning environment!

feature chart wooden spoon by Daniel Britt (you should hire him!)

courtesy of Daniel Britt (you should hire him! or send him cat pictures. up to you.)

¹ Works half way, additional unit required.
² Only current tester is an ex-smoker. Validating on correlation, only.
³ The wooden spoon should be used as a defense implement only at your own risk. The Wooden Spoon Group, its members, manufacturers and other cutlery in your drawer do not recommend this usage.
⁴ But kinda gross.
⁵ Before 1990, only. From 1990-2010, only verbal spanking allowed, spoon used in “Making a Point” mode. Post 2010: All punishments result in internet shaming of parent. Avoiding punishments results in internet shaming of parent.
⁶ Ugh.

Daniel says, Testing is also taking place on finishes for the fine fir wood that composes our product. Traditional stains and waxes are providing both beauty and function, while paints leave much to be desired. The patina from being left in a pot of spaghetti sauce too long seems to be a favorite. Please send feature requests to 🙂

Daniel is available for hire right now. If you’re looking to hire an aspiring, passionate, full-stack engineer with awesome people skills, please connect with Daniel Britt (despite his misleading last name he is actually based in the US) on LinkedIn [].

Joachim Bauernberger

Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.

mercury retrogrde

The Software Engineers Guide to Mercury Retrograde

According to Western astrology, there’s this thing called “Mercury Retrograde”. Before you dismiss it as mumbo-jumbo remember that this “science” is several thousand years old. And probably too complex for even software engineers like you and me to understand 🙂

During a this “planetary” alignment some activities (like hosting long meetings or code-refacturing) are safe, others are not.

Below a list of the most common challenges we face during retrogrades along with some proposed solutions. I’d like to present these ideas as “Astrology Driven Software Development” (ADSD).

ADSD will become the next big thing in Software Engineering and complement other popular movements such as Agile or DevOps. (a full blown “ADSD Manifesto” will follow as soon as the planets are in favorable alignment).

During mercury retrograde messages are jumbled

✓ This could bring out bugs concurrency previously which went undetected and head are now raising their ugly.

Meanings are confused during a retrograde

✓ Errors that we have never seen before are now causing grief. Alexa the Web Data Analytics platform confirms that during a retrograde, sites like stack-exchange, stackoverflow, quora et al, users post far more dumbass questions. Things like, “Should I migrate from Java to PHP to fix my performance and scalability problems?”, get downvoted more often during retrogrades than any other times of year.

✓ Because not all information is available to us during a mercury retrograde it’s vital that we don’t jump to conclusions when troubleshooting. Instead assume you don’t have all the facts and wait until after retrograde before announcing your solution to the team.
There is also a high chance that a sneaky colleague (you know the one who never shuts up about “mutability” and functional programming, never showers before pair-programming and smells like canned soup) will invalidate your hard work by providing the last piece of the puzzle. Yeah it doesn’t matter even you did all the foundational legwork – it’s common that this little shits (often Virgo or Scorpio) get all the praise during a retrograde.

Wasn’t it time that the Software Engineering community wakes up and finally tackles mercury retrograde problems head on?

There is so much we could do to make our computers and networks more reliable. In only a few steps we can drive down IT infrastructure costs and reduce OPEX/CAPEX and improve Quality of Experience (QoE). (just in case you need business arguments justifying your implementation effort to a technically ignorant management)

Let’s rethink our R&D processes in the following way. Here is what we can do, …

On the infrastructure level:

→ System scheduling software such as CRON or AT:
CRON jobs should be extended to take the calculation of upcoming mercury retrograde schedules into account. Currently all versions of cron (anacron, vixi, fcron …) require us to manually enter jobs which are only executed during retrograde (data back-up, forced maintenance modes and file-system checks, system audits, etc). Cron should take the planetary constellation into account and add support to express it with additional syntax in the crontab. Something like this:

# For example, run a job every minute during the 12th hour of the day, 
# but only if the day is the 10th, the 12th, the 14th or the 16th of the month, and
# only when it's also mercury retrograde:
* 12 (10-16/2)[☿℞] * *

→ Monitoring tools and protocols (nagios, rrdtool, SNMP, etc) must be extended to help us better understand the data and make us aware of mercury retrogrades. We could even create support for other short lived “planetary” cycles like full-moons or eclipses (it is well known that software from tends to only work reliably during lunar or solar eclipses and cause out-of-memory exceptions all other times!!)

On the HR level:

→ identify those developers in your team who were unlucky enough to be born during a retrograde cycle. You can probably guess who it is because it’s usually those who fail to write proper testcases and tend to ignore all code quality guidelines. These guys also tend to look very shifty when asked to pair-program. They should not be touching code or be in charge of critical infrastructure EVER. If you haven’t done so already, disable their git/subversion account stat (!!) and discuss how to promote them into a different position. (promoting them into Project Management, has proven a good career path for most). Don’t worry about whether this is too harsh … it’s probably their own fault (due to past sins or bad reddit karma) and the universe wants to teach them a lesson. Ultimately it will help them grow towards greater love and greater good.

Benefits on the business level:

→ Once these changes are implemented we can then structure more flexible Service Level Agreements (SLA) taking these planetary constellations into account and provide a better pricing structure to our clients/users. Especially cloud service providers would be able to offer discounts during non-retrograde times and market additional services for retrograde monitoring into their product.

Stay tuned for our next week’s post on “Why Sagittarians think they’re better Programmers and never STFU”

I’d look forward to hear your thoughts and WTF’s about ADSD in the comments below.

DISCLAIMER: this post is entirely satirical. Valbonne Consulting does not provide astrological readings of any kind and remains agnostic about retrogrades. We do stress continuous improvement, continuous deployment and solid/antifragile (devops) processes built on worst case scenarios and a strong test-coverage. If we can support you in this domain please contact us.

Joachim Bauernberger

Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.