Hell is other developers

A surreal rant about developer interviews.

Hell. 2014 A.D. In a long corridor a former air conditioning technician stands on a ladder as he has done for years and will do for the rest of eternity. His arms are outstretched and with tools in hand he attempts to understand the literally prehistoric control panel of Hell's air conditioner, his face a mixture of tiredness and despair. Hanging upside-down along both walls of the corridor, like the corpses of cows that Rocky Balboa would have used as punch bags, are the souls of prestigious writers from the second millennium since, well, they don't talk about that here.

Suddenly there is a large creaking sound from the end of the corridor, and for a split second a chink of light appears from a door frame before it disappears as the door slams shut. The sound of tiny footsteps follows, as a small demon marches its way down the hall. Its impish voice runs through the alphabet -

It passes the air conditioning technician around the M's, deliberately knocking over the ladder on the way by, and keeps going until it finally reaches the letter S. The demon surveys the souls in front of it and, spotting the one it wants, cuts the rope around its ankles. It falls like a sack of potatoes, a delicacy that had become very fashionable in the lifetime of this particular soul.
"Mr Shakespeare? Take a minute," says the demon,
"to let your ectoplasm settle again, but he wants to see you when you're ready."

A short time passes before Shakespeare stands and, straightening his ruff, slowly makes his way down the hall to the door at the end. Attached at eye-level to the door is an ivory name plate, into which is carved:
"Beelzebub, C.E.O." Tacked below this is a piece of paper - a hand-written note in a brownish red ink:
"Official biographer interviews in progress. Please keep groaning to a minimum." Shakespeare takes a deep breath and knocks on the door. After what seems like an eternity, but is probably about five seconds, a booming voice comes from the other side of the door.
"Enter." At the same time the door opens of its own accord revealing a large room, the centrepiece of which is a desk. Behind the desk is a swivel chair with its back turned the door. Shakespeare takes a few tentative steps into the room when the chair slowly pivots round, revealing a creature that is larger than the average man and looks remarkably like a well known fried chicken salesman. He grins and strokes a ball of fur that sits in his lap.
"Come in, Mr Shakespeare. I've been expecting you."

A moment passes, after which a smile breaks out on to the devil's face.
"No?" he asks, inquisitively.
"Oh well, I suppose that was after your time, but we've got Sean Connery booked in soon and I've been practicing. We like to have fun down here. I mean, just look at that!" He gestures towards a poster on the wall, on which is a picture of two mice, one lying on a couch and the other sitting on a chair taking notes. In large white letters at the bottom the words 'You don't have to be mad to work here... But it helps' are written.

"Anyway, thanks for coming in Bill. Can I call you Bill?" The playwright makes a grunt that is somewhere between confusion and consent.
"Do you know why I've brought you here?" Shakespeare thinks, and in a hopeful tone says
"Dost thou intend to offer me a chance for freedom?" A smile passes across Satan's face and he pulls gently at the hair in his moustache.
"Freedom?" he replies.
"No. The Christians in your time were correct. Theatre was and still is very much my work. As are all forms of music that don't exclusively involve an organ and more or less anything that anyone has ever considered culture throughout the ages. No, I've been feeling for quite a while that I've been misrepresented up there on Earth and I'm thinking that you could be just the man to change that. I just want to test your skills as a writer first."

Lucifer opens a draw in his desk and pulls out a sheet of paper, followed by a pair of spectacles. He places the spectacles on the end of his nose and, peering through them at the paper, begins to read.
"Define for me, if you don't mind, the meaning of the word 'confusion'." Shakespeare cocks his head and frowns.
"Tis a hard word to define," he says pensively.
"May I use it in a sentence instead?" The prince of darkness frowns back, though his is a disappointed frown.
"Sorry Bill. The name of the game today is definitions, I'm afraid. Maybe you could define 'fear' for me instead?" Shakespeare is concerned now, and he begins to sweat.
"I know much of fear, but tis an abstract concept and definitions of such things are difficult. May I instead give you an example of fear?"

The antichrist looks unimpressed.
"Anger?" he says quietly
"Surely you can define anger for me?" Shakespeare pleads
"Sire, in my time I was a playwright. May I use the stage to show you what anger is?" Taking the glasses off his face, the fallen angel begins to tut and shake his head. He puts down the glasses and pushes a button, out of sight on the underside of the desk. Seconds later three large demons burst into the room.
"Take him away and bring me someone else. It had better be someone who can actually write this time." As Shakespeare is taken away he says to himself
"Who's next?" And consults a list.
"Ah, Mary Shelley. Maybe a woman's touch is what I need."


If you're conducting interviews for a developer, please don't ask the developer to define things. It's pointless. Get them instead to show you that they understand these things through code or examples.