Your Clever Code is a Jewel-Encrusted Lobster

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I want to share a quick story with you. It's about one of the most memorable things I saw at RailsConf this year.

I saw it as I was walking back to the Westin from the convention center with my CTO after the first day of the conference. We were discussing the day's events, and what we would be doing that evening. Then I froze in my tracks, and asked him to hang on a second, so I could walk back and see if I saw what I thought I saw.

You know how sometimes you see something amazing and it takes a few moments to appreciate its gravity? So it was with Lobby:

Lobby

Is that a jewel-encrusted lobster?

Why, yes. Yes, it is. Well, I suspect that Lobby is more bedazzled than bejeweled.

In any case, I was stricken by his beautiful absurdity. So much so that as a few friends and I were walking back to the convention center after breakfast the next morning, I was telling them about Lobby. As we approached the hallway in which we saw him, I took on the role of tour guide, suggesting they look to their left to "appreciate the jewel-encrusted lobster."

Only, as I turned around, a small crowd of a dozen or so people had gathered behind us. I watched as they, too, slowed down to look at Lobby. We humans are a suggestible lot.

On the day I was leaving, I asked my friend Barrett to make one last trek to visit Lobby with me, where he snapped this great photo of us expressing our mutual appreciation (Lobby's pointing at me, too!):

Best buds

I also took note of the phone number of the artist, because I know some people who might appreciate receiving a nice jewel-encrusted lobster.

Next week, I called the artist to inquire about purchasing Lobby. First, of course, I asked if more than one was available.

"No, it's a one-of-a-kind piece," the artist replied.

Uh oh. Well, I guess only one friend could receive a lobster, then. Maybe we could set up some kind of Brother/Sisterhood of the Traveling Lobster. No problem.

"How much does it cost?"

"(something)-fifty."

"Did you say two-fifty or three-fifty?", I asked, as though one of those prices was completely reasonable for a bedazzled crustacean.

"Three-fifty."

"Uh, okay then. Thanks for the information!"

It would appear jewel-encrusted lobster ownership was going to remain a dream. At least my friends didn't suffer with the knowledge of just how close they came to having a Lobby of their own.

Wait, don't go! There's a point!

But then, I got to thinking about it, and I think we've all created our own jewel-encrusted lobsters.

I know I've written "one-of-a-kind" code before. Clever code, beautiful in its own absurd way. Code that gives me some serious pride of ownership. It's so sparkly and shiny -- how could anyone not see this code and immediately appreciate its worth?

Only they don't. It's too clever for its own good. It's priced itself out of the marketplace of ideas. It might be interesting as a curiosity, but my "clever" code doesn't really exist to be useful to others, but to make me feel good about myself.

In the end, I realized that our clever code is a jewel-encrusted lobster: we might think it's fancy, but it's really just shellfish.


Update: NOW EVERYONE CAN HAVE A LOBBY OF THEIR VERY OWN! Lobby is now available as a clear vinyl sticker!

Lobby, the sticker

If you want one, find me at a conference, and I'd be happy to give you one. Or, if you just can't wait, you can order one here!

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