6 Insane Ways To Add Some Sanity To Your Work

I’m an idiot. End of post.

Oh okay, I’ll go a little bit further…

A couple of months ago, work was getting on top of me.  I was struggling to get through each day, my productivity was down and I was losing the love. Yeah! I know, losing it. The love!  It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t what I was doing,  (I’m living the dream, programming website back ends for a living o/) but the way I was doing it.

It was my damn professional attitude to  work that was the problem. You see, I’m an idiot,  (did I mention that?) but I take my work very seriously. I always want to impress, grovel at the feet of deadlines and generally just want to do my best all of the time.  I wasn’t being myself while I was working. Sure, I was getting my work done and doing it well but there was no lunacy in my working life. None of my usual word-plays, no ludicrous dry wit and not nearly enough guinea pig jokes.

So after the last time I burned out, I decided to bring some life to work with me. I have started being me while doing what I love instead of doing what I love as someone else. This has improved my mood, productivity and general mental health so markedly that I thought I would share with you:

6 insane ways to add some sanity to your work

1. Co-workers love a good practical joke.

When I say “practical joke” I don’t mean a joke that is both humorous and useful, I mean a joke played on a colleague in the interest of amusing yourself and others.  I don’t do anything dangerous (although initially quite hilarious, something like replacing your peer’s laser pointer with an actual laser would lead to trouble), and I don’t do it often but a clever prank on a co-worker can really lift the mood leading to resurging chuckles as the joke is reminisced on throughout the day.

Today I executed quite a devious plan and switched my colleague’s keyboard layout from QWERTY to DVORAK and changed his mouse buttons around while he was making himself a coffee. Needless to say, keeping a straight face was difficult when his written sentences appeared as “ygd hushg dhg wijh ?” and context menus kept appearing when he tried to left-click through system configuration windows!

2. Code by comments.

The importance of well commented code can’t be stressed enough for any sort of programming.  Comments should be clear, succinct and frequent. I live my programming life by this rule and often, early in projects, there is more comments than there is code. However, I used to comment my code as though I were writing the cover letter for a job application.

Then I thought… who’s going to be reading these comments anyway? The clients certainly aren’t going to see them and I am yet to meet a programmer lacking a good sense of humour so I started to add a little bit of pizzazz to my comments. (This is not recommended for use in docblocks found in PHPDocumentor or docstrings in Python as they can be used to generate end-user documentation).

def admin_users(user ):
Fetches a list of users and displays them for editing

# User actually has to be allowed to do this. If not then they’ll get a swift kick!
if not user.is_allowed_to(‘admin_users’):
#Oh dear,  looks like some n00b is trying to pwn the site. No h4xxing allowed

#TODO: Fetch a list of users
#TODO: Actually write some logic to process them
#TODO: Pick up some milk and cheese on the way home

So it’s still achieving what comments are there to do, explain the code, but it’s making it a bit more interesting. This method really becomes a treat when working in a team who comment similarly. It makes getting your head around someone else’s code a much more entertaining.

3. Spammers are a world of opportunity.

No I don’t mean opportunity as in “I can really gain another 4 inches?” or “Wow, that poor Nigerian heir to the throne, I should really help her out”, I mean that spammers present an opportunity to have some fun. I have set up a free email account that I use to reply to spammers and see what reactions I get. I also like to have fun with spammers who use methods other than email to plug their wares.

A few days ago, a message came in via the contact form on The Web Squeeze. I seized the opportunity to mess with his words and in response to:


My name is VIKRANT BHATLA and I am Project Manager of SOFTWEBWORKS INC. located in New Delhi,. I am Engineer in Computer Science having more than 5 years of experience. Our companies do Websites Design/Development, Graphics Design, Flash Animations and SEO.

We have more than 200 clients around the globe with 75% located in USA and UK. We did more than 500 projects with excellent results. More than half dozen Web Development companies from USA and UK outsourcing their entire web work to us. As our rates are very much affordable and output is up to the mark. We are growing and spreading ourselves day by day and we would like to offer our services to your esteemed organization too.

You can check our portfolio and rates here:


List of our clients:


You can also test our team’s performance for 1 project. Hoping to build strong relations with you in future. Lastly, I want to wish you the best of luck for the future.

Thanks and Regards,
Vikrant Bhatla

Website: www.example.com.com
Email: spammer@example.com

Chat ID’s:
Yahoo: spammer
Hotmail: spammer@hotmail.com
Skype: spammer

Tel(India): +91-123456789

I responded with:


On behalf of the entire Web Squeeze team, I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us. Your correspondence, as well as giving us a hearty laugh, has made us marvel at the lack of foresight and research that today’s spammers possess.

I believe congratulations are in order for your five years of experience in the web development industry, your company is truly vibrant and young. With more time you may be able to match the experience of the core team here at The Web Squeeze. Accounting for our administrators alone, we have more than thirty years of combined experience and at five years, your company is more than welcome to apply for an acolyte position under us.

Should you wish to become an apprentice of The Web Squeeze, there will be some things you need to address post-haste:

  • There is a general consensus ( perhaps formed by an ignorant majority ) that spammy communication conveys a point, question or proposition. Although your message is well formed, with all punctuation appearing in the right place ( rather than betw.,een wo!rds), the actual context requires attention. What exactly is it that you want from us?

    “Hoping to build strong relations with you in future.”

    This request, hidden under more than three paragraphs of waffle, is ambiguous and were it not for our cat-like mental agility, we may not have realised you were asking to train under us. Future contacts through anonymous web forms should communicate the meaning early and clearly. This will prevent your message recipients wasting time, allowing them to delete your note immediately.

  • At The Web Squeeze, we are optimistic about our spammers and therefore assume that you are coming to us for training and guidance. In the unlikely event that we are incorrect in our character appraisal and you are indeed trying to sell us a product or service, you have made some serious errors in judgement.

    When you are a web development company, selling services involving websites and the internet, your target market is of the utmost importance. What exactly is it that makes you think anyone at The Web Squeeze falls into your target market VIKRANT BHATLA? Obviously you would have read at least something on our site before sending your message. The Web Squeeze is run by web designers and developers for web designers and developers. Of course, there is a chance that your message reaches the mother of a web designer who has opened up their son’s Firefox hoping to check her Facebook but it seems a wasted effort to rely on such happening.

    Essentially, if you are of the more evil persuasion and contacted us hoping we would hire you for some work, you are preaching, not only to the converted, but to better preachers than yourself. In a nutshell, you should probably contact someone who cares.

I give kudos for your efforts in including no less than three links back to your website. Of course neither myself, nor any of the team even considered visiting your site but your efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

So, grasshopper, I bid your farewell for now and look forward to you reporting for training in the near future.

Kind Regards,

Rakuli (Administrator)
The Web Squeeze

PS. Wax on, Wax off, Wax on, Fark off!

Surprisingly enough, we haven’t heard from Vikram since!

4. Commit yourself.

I didn’t come up with this one by myself and instead owe inspiration to the kernel developers for Linux and some iPhone app release notes.

Version control (don’t know much about version control? Take a look at this great Web Squeeze article on Subversion) has become indispensable in my working setup but for too long, my commit messages were straight-laced and to the point. Reading some of the commit messages on the Linux kernel made me realise I can get my change log message across and also have a bit of a laugh. My example has lead to more of the same coming from colleagues with many a commit message looking similar to:

“Fixed the bug causing a 500 error when updating user profiles.  Fired the drunk pixie routing HTTP requests, hired a new pixie – 3 months sober – and random 404 pages no longer appear. Renamed setup.py to shutup.py and then promptly renamed back to setup.py. Added zero day patch to ensure this application ceases to operate come the year 3000”

5. Debug off.

Debugging is never much fun. Sifting through lines of code, trying to find that trigger causing your entire application to go belly-up. I found that I made debugging all the more boring with the messages I output to highlight areas of code.

...attempting database commit
...connection lost here

Efficient? Sure. Gets the job done? You bet! Entertaining? Umm… not really. Realising that the program will not ship with these messages included (they’ll be replaced with proper test beds etc.), I changed the way I printed debug messages to my console. It’s much more pleasing to find a bug when it appears as a haiku poem or limerick.

....The code starts right here
...database gets my data
...dies, like the winter
....There once was a  bug named Sam
...Trying to ruin my program
...He appears around data
...Before or after?
...Gotcha! You little bug Sam!

6. Ambidextrous.

Pens scare me, I don’t know how to debug pens, errors can’t be undone and since I’ve been working on computers, my handwriting has dipped well below legible. Realising that my right-handed handwriting had regressed, I decided to at least achieve something useful when scratching out my hieroglyphs.

Every time I need to use a pen, I use my left hand. The worst part is that it is far neater than my right even if it does take three times as long and make me look like I’ve lost control of the muscles in my arm. The bemused looks I receive when filling out a form in front of an audience (at a bank teller or in the real estate office), provide enough amusement for me to continue.

So with this trick I’m missing two birds with one stone. (I don’t want to kill them).  As I play the piano, more dexterity in my left hand will come very much in handy.

Usefulness is in the eye of the beholder

How much use you take with you out of this post is entirely up to you but I can honestly say that changing the way I approach my work has drastically changed the way I view it. Your sense of humour may be different to mine (actually, it’s probably a lot different to mine and probably a lot better) and you may find different methods to brighten your work environment but all I can say is:

A little insanity goes a long way to stopping you from going crazy.

15 Comments on "6 Insane Ways To Add Some Sanity To Your Work"

  1. Jan says:

    Lovely article Luke! Really enjoyed reading it, had my self a little chuckle or too, and then opened up Visual Studio and started editing Debug messages :D

  2. Simon says:

    Great read Luke. I am going to code all my php with funny comments now not boring ones. You have made me want to code something now lol.

  3. rich97 says:

    Awesome article. Maybe I have been looking at my job the wrong way, I havent thought about making tedious tasks, such as debugging a bit more entertaining.

    Love the reply to the spam email as well. A**

  4. Japh says:

    Great article, Luke :)

    I already practice a couple of these… determined to try and get a few more into my everyday work life!

  5. Craig says:

    Love the article Luke, we all have those moments when we just cannot be bothered, I like your solutions to these moments ;)

  6. Luke Dingle says:

    Cheers Jan, Simon, Rich, Japh and Craig!

    Glad you enjoyed it and hopefully had a laugh or two. I’m still trying to find some more amusing stuff to do at work so if you have any suggestions…

  7. Jack F says:

    I have always used stupid comments, it makes it much more fun :D Really really awesome article, really enjoyed it.

  8. Monie says:

    I wasn’t being myself while I was

    Ahhh… that is really me!
    Nice article mate! It somehow related to me almost 99%!
    I liked your “PS” message there ^_^

  9. nightS says:

    I love crazy comments :D especially when you forget about them, and read them later when you come back to the code..

    I once added :
    //Stupid feature that I can’t explain here..it’s just stupid
    ..code here
    //end of stupid feature

    ..and yes it was really stupid and illogical…but the client wanted it!!

    Great Post :)

  10. Luke Dingle says:

    Ha! It’s good to see other people do this too. Glad you’re all liking the article, thanks for the kind words.

  11. Kjartan Ólason says:

    Great Article… Especially the last one, I usually write some funny stuff to debug, but I am going to be a little bit more artistic about it from now on.

  12. Phaoloo says:

    Great practical tricks :D

  13. BlueWolf says:

    Oh my god, I’m so guilty regarding those comments. I have a serious problem with writing 5 lines of comments without inserting some kind of humour in it. In fact, I once took it to the extreme and wrote a completely unrelated story in the comments. Don’t look at the code. It was waaaaaaaaaay back when I hadn’t really mastered python yet. The comments don’t really help understanding the code either 0:)

    It’s fun when you all forget about it and stumble upon it two years later

  14. Louis says:

    This is truly hilarious, especially the response to the spammer.
    Luke, keep it up…….

  15. Oddly enough its fun for me to read those crazy spammer emails. Who actually believes that stuff 0.0

Got something to say? Go for it!