Sweet treats for geeky guys?
November 11, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for surprise treats for an office of programmers?

A group of programmers will be working through the weekend, and we'd like to cheer them on/show our appreciation by bringing treats in over the weekend.

Lunch and dinner will already be ordered in by the company, but are there other treats (does not have to be sweet or even edible) that a bunch of geeky programmers would love?

I was thinking ingredients for a sundae bar and root beer floats. Any other ideas?? Bonus points if you're a programmer and know what excites the programmer crowd.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you rent a latte cart and a barista for an afternoon, and serve free lattes? That was always a big hit at work.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:32 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Money. Take whatever money you'd put into treats and give it as a spot bonus.
posted by saeculorum at 9:34 AM on November 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Small bags of Jelly Beans. Yellow (Banana) and Brown (Chocolate) make it so you fill them on a diagonal, the point of one side of the bag being one end [this is the stinger]. Alternate layers so it is striped. Finish with black Pipe cleaner antenna to seal the bag. two googly eyes and you can call them Jelly Bees. Also... energy drinks.
posted by mrgroweler at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2010

Non-food: have someone (or two someones, if you've got a large group) to do chair massages.

Food: were it legal, Mr. C and most geeks I know would marry root beer floats in a huge Moonie-style ceremony.
posted by cyndigo at 9:37 AM on November 11, 2010

Only do food if you're totally sure everyone is able to partake: food allergies, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, etc. all sucks enough as it is.

If you have the ability to give them money or PTO, make that the very first priority. If not, then move down to gifts and treats.
posted by griphus at 9:37 AM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Perhaps some muffins? I did this for my husbands department (DVD/Blu-ray) last year. I went and got some of Trader Joe's Apple Spice bread mix and put them in muffin tins. Granted, it wasn't too much of a surprise since I had my husband take a poll of who would favour having nuts put in theirs vs. not. But they were quite well received and helped the day go quicker.
posted by arishaun at 9:38 AM on November 11, 2010

Free good coffee is imperative, if they don't already have access to some.

The sundae bar is a nice idea. Maybe some donuts/bagels/fruit for people who don't want ice cream?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2010

If not forbidden by company policy, alcohol (see: Ballmer Peak).
posted by 0x88 at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rice Krispie treats.

Make different kinds!

Chocolate chips
Butterscotch chips
Dryed cherries/fruit
Resses Pieces (or the new 'pieces' candies)

I know it's generally considered a kid's treat.. but I can't remember the last time I made them and i doubt I would like them any less now then I did when I was little.
posted by royalsong at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2010

As a developer who goes through this kind of crap often enough, money and days off (staggered, of course, so you don't have everybody out at once) go a lot further than ice cream or anything else.
posted by jangie at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Money. Take whatever money you'd put into treats and give it as a spot bonus.

Seconding this, if the amount of money you're thinking of spending on goodies wouldn't break down to some insulting amount per per programmer. "Here's $2, thanks for working all weekend!" kind of sucks, but "Here's $20, we know it's not a lot but we do really appreciate your working through the weekend" would probably be pretty well-received. Cash might be weird, but how about Amazon gift certificates?
posted by usonian at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2010

Geek here:

- Anything from ThinkGeek's caffeine section, ESPECIALLY Penguin Mints.

- iTunes/App Store gift cards.

- FOOD! Anytime a free pizza hits our office, it's demolished within seconds.

- A Keurig machine, if they don't already have one, and a few boxes of the "Extra Bold" K-cups (Keurig is generally the geek single-cup machine of choice, in my experience).

- Movie tickets for AFTER they finally stagger out of the office and head home.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:01 AM on November 11, 2010

My boss threw a bunch of us a pizza party for working through the weekend.


Yep, he's an asshole.

There's only one way to make this right, and that's to give the employees back their time some day next week. Really fair would be two days, since they didn't ask for this.
posted by xammerboy at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Cash. Small unmarked bills. Or gift cards.
posted by AugustWest at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2010

A massage therapist giving chair massages.
posted by Zed at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something that goes well with coffee, so consider things that your typical coffee shop has, but not too much sugar. If it's crunch-time, something to maintain blood sugar to the brain is good, but not to throw it on a glucose roller-coaster.

That said, keep in mind, programmers generally like to focus and get in the 'zone' in order to hammer-out decent work in a short time-frame. Frivolous distractions (especially cheerleader-style stuff that may work for sales/marketing, but not so much for coders) can be very counter-productive.

In fact, the most appreciated thing could very well be just making sure their department stays nice and quiet, and let them do their work. At the end of the last day, providing some funds for the team to hit a local pub to relax, have a beer or two, and reacquaint with their fellow cube-dwellers, can be a good way to put some closure on the task.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:13 AM on November 11, 2010

Scratch my rice krispie treats idea.

Pie! Both fruit and custard style pies.

I don't know of a guy, geek or not, that doesn't like pie.

(I am assuming that the treat is different to them getting their days off sometime else during the week and/or bonuses)
posted by royalsong at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you cannot do time off, cash, visa gift cards, or massages then you could get them a small desk ornament of some sort, possibly based on the codename for the project they are working on. Bonus points if it is made out of lego.
posted by meepmeow at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2010

I go through this alot and company picking up food, car rides home, trip to the bar after everything is done is expected.

Pony rides, massages and ice cream would get on my nerves if I am trying to actually work. We used to have a a yoga person come and I made sure she never came back.

Girft Cards, Comp Time. Some of the execs think handing out gift cards is degrading to the team but I certainly don't mind
posted by Ad hominem at 10:20 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a different kind of "treat," and may be a little too far afield, but we just did a Wii bowling tournament at our office. Everybody who signed up was given a time slot, and practice sessions were offered during a rolling lunch break the day before. It sounded nuts, but the actual turns didn't take more than about 10-15 minutes, so everyone could get on with their work while it wasn't their turn. It was a really fun atmosphere, but work went on. Championship matches were the end of the second day, and everyone was turned loose for an hour with chips & refreshments to cheer on the last four contenders. turned out our grandmotherly CFO swings a mean joystick. She crushed the competition with 11 frames of strikes.
posted by Ys at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

big fruit platters replenished throuought the weekend
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:31 AM on November 11, 2010

Time off -- comp time -- or if not comp time, a planned "delayed start" for the team next week. I work tech and often drag in for Monday morning meetings after deployment work over the weekend. Would very much appreciate a planned cancellation or push back of the work day.

Also not time or money but a note to all staff acknowledging the team members by name and thanking them for their work is nice.

I wouldn't want the distractions of chair massages or coffee carts. A gift basket of coffee creamer, chips, sweets, fruit, and in between meal snacks would be thoughtful and appreciated in addition to a comp time/delayed start/gift card/cash bonus. People working weekends want to come in and get the work done -- not banter about like it's a normal workday and certainly not take time off from the task to make a production.

Similarly food brought in for them should be portable and timely. If you are planning this in advance think takeout sandwiches not hot plates of pasta and plan to have it there at the meal time so the team doesn't have to take time away from the work to pull together a food plan. And don't make people eat together as a team. Lunchtime = break time.
posted by countrymod at 10:33 AM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

How about letting lunch or dinner be a full on break where the workers can invite their significant other, kids or a friend? Maybe for at least one meal? When I work all weekend, I would appreciate that.
posted by kellyblah at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Root-beer floats are too messy. Maybe you were planning on people taking a big break and having a big ol' root beer float party in the middle of the weekend, but I'm sure they'd just rather work through something like that so they can get back to their lives sooner.
posted by rhizome at 10:58 AM on November 11, 2010

As a programmer, I've also got to vote for money.
I don't drink coffee (or energy drinks or any other caffeinated products) and I'd rather get the work done quicker so I could go home rather than fannying about with massages and a sundae bar. Nothing says 'we appreciate your hard work' like appropriate financial compensation. Failing that - extra vacation days.

Also booze when the task is completed might be nice but if a lot of them have families they'd probably prefer to get home than feel obligated to celebrate with the group. I guess it will depend on the age/makeup of the group.

Whatever you, get be sure its something everyone will enjoy. If I had to work over the weekend and the 'thank you treat' was fancy coffee, I'd be somewhat disgruntled.
posted by missmagenta at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another programmer here. Quiet workplace, money, time off, public recognition in front of higher-ups. Free food during the crunch time is assumed, not extra.
posted by matildaben at 11:14 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whether any sort of gesture like this will be received well really depends on the reason for the crunchtime: are they rushing to meet an arbitrary deadline set by Some Guy In Management, or is there a good reason for the rush that they're on board with? Does this happen often? How's morale in the team?

Basically what it boils down to is, if they're already pissed off about losing their weekend to work, snacks and treats are a bad idea; at best it would only serve as an interruption or distraction (coders need to concentrate!), at worst it'll be insulting. ("I worked all weekend and all I got was a lousy ice cream sundae?") Let them take extra (paid) time off later to make up for it, and stay out of their way.

If they're already in good spirits and agree that the weekend crunchtime is necessary, your best bet is probably a steady supply of quality caffeine during the day, quality booze at the end, both provided in a low-key, non-interruptive fashion. Permission to sleep late on Monday would be a nice touch to follow up.
posted by ook at 11:17 AM on November 11, 2010

Yet another hacker:

Nothing ever pissed me off more than being expected to come in for crunch-time overtime, and finding out that they were giving us pizza or Subway or some such bullshit in exchange for an extra 16+ hours of work. I would have preferred to receive nothing instead of such insulting "tokens of appreciation".

Oh, also, don't expect people to be sunny and happy and all that. Some of your hackers will be grumbly. Let them grumble, so long as people are getting shit done. I almost punched a manager once who took me aside and commented on my "morale" during a Saturday crunch.

Your hackers deserve two days off in return for the two days' time they've given you. Or, they deserve to be compensated for their time at time-and-a-half.

But really, what I would have appreciated was some effort on the part of my managers to make sure this never happened again. I've always wanted them to recognize that me having to work on a weekend represented the fact that they had failed. They had failed in estimating the project timeline, or had failed in pushing back against upper management about delays resulting in delayed deadlines, or had failed to manage the development process as it went along.

Unless this was an unforeseen emergency, the thing that would most effectively make this right is a postmortem on Wednesday or Thursday in which the managers take responsibility for their mistakes, and discuss the ways that they'll endeavor to avoid repeating them going forward.

Unless you think that the crunch time is a result of the team failing. In which case, seppuku might make things about square.
posted by Netzapper at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2010 [22 favorites]

I agree with those above, but one thing I would have appreciated was something like, "at any point, if you need something, IM $manager and he'll go get it for you." and then bust your ass to make everything possible happen, coffee, odd Jamacian candy, whatever. If you can't be coding, make yourself as useful as possible.
posted by advicepig at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a developer who thankfully doesn't have to put in much crunch time, I appreciate social outings with my peers- pub night, bowling, some geeky movie, etc.

But in the office, a latte cart is a great idea, as is fresh (catered?) food available throughout the day. I find taking time off for a full meal distracting and wastes time.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2010

Something else I thought of is that management, project management, and really everyone involved should be there too. Even if they're not doing anything in particular, it's good to know that they're not at home while you're busting your ass.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:42 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

And just to clarify "latte cart", it's more of a special treat. A real barista will make far better coffee than the office machine, and all you have to do is ask for the drink you want.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2010

Another nice treat would be to explain why this "exciting product launch" was project-managed so poorly as to be scheduled before the product/site was ready.
posted by rhizome at 1:44 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry if this is piling on, but "what excites the programmer crowd" is not working through the damned weekend. Free food and games are neither necessary nor sufficient for a good working environment. The more experienced (and hence more valuable to your organization) your developers are, the less they will tolerate being treated like this.

So: Give them what you usually give them, stay out of their way during the way over the weekend, and after you ship, make sure you reward them with (a) money and/or extra comp time and (b) a non-bullshit post-mortem in which you explain who screwed up the schedule and why it won't happen again.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:04 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

First, a promise that whatever person promised a delivery date that could not be met with normal M-F business hours will never make that mistake again.

Second, that person who put this group into this situation should be there doing whatever work they need done.

Third, money, not food.

Fourth, for these two extra days worked on weekends, they get 3 days of vacation to be used whenever within the next 6 months.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

s/during the way over the/during the/
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:06 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. Money

2. Change the release date so that they don't have to work the weekend. Honestly, I can't think of anything the world is dying to have next Monday. Does this website cure cancer and AIDS? No? I'm sure it can wait.

3. Time off. Overtime is paid at time and half so they will need 3 days off for working this weekend.

4. A review of your release cycle procedures and assurance that this will not be the norm for any feature additions or maintenance to this thing you're launching.
posted by asockpuppet at 3:59 PM on November 11, 2010

As a 'seasoned' programmer, I go along with the money and or time ideas.
In 30 years I have done my share of weekend crunches because of a manager's decision or poor estimate.
The idea of bringing in the manager who made the decision or estimate to answer for it is unheard of and sounds wonderful.
Don't let it collapse into a lashing and everything will be OK.
posted by Drasher at 4:01 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a director of software engineering. I run a pretty large group. Here's what I've learned:

1. Working through the weekend is never necessary unless there's a very bad management issue or a very bad programming issue.

2. If it's a programming issue, the engineers will work nights and weekends until it's fixed. Their pride and professionalism will be the only motivation they need. If this doesn't work, replace them: they're bad programmers.

3. If it's a management issue, their direct supervisor has to take responsibility. Arrive before they do, work harder than they do, leave after they do. Prove this will never happen again. If this doesn't work, replace the supervisor. He or she is a bad manager.

4. It's never ever ever necessary to make engineers work weekends. If you're their manager, you've already done something wrong. Don't do it again.
posted by stubby phillips at 6:46 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, every programmer is different. Treating them as homogeneous is bad for motivation and bad for business. This should not come as a surprise. There isn't a single thing that excites all "geeks". I suggest not calling them geeks. I prefer the term "hapless chumps".

Management has to take responsibility for this. Taking responsibility seems to be the only thing that motivates everybody who has ever worked for me.
posted by stubby phillips at 6:52 PM on November 11, 2010

The only 'treat' I'd be interested in would be the Project Manager's head on a pointy stick.
Otherwise treat me like the professional I am, pay me the overtime and give me time off in lieu.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 4:01 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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