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What does "write me a new minivan" mean here?

PS: I am from a non English Speaking country.

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because explaining jokes is considered very off-topic. – Mitch Oct 8 '19 at 12:59
  • Sorry Mitch, I believe this post is very much in the spirit of the site-"English Language & Usage". It was not about explaining a joke. I did not know even it was about a joke. I came across this usage in a training presentation and was interested to know the meaning of it.Such questions would help people (mainly from non-English-speaking geographies) understand this and upgrade their knowledge. Most importantly such explanation are not found in dictionaries or grammar books. Thus this site would feel the gap. So rather closing, IMHO, such things should be encouraged. – Dexter Oct 9 '19 at 6:50

The goal is to "write bug-free software", so the man is saying he is going to "write" himself a new minivan by fixing the bugs in the code. Essentially, he is going to make enough money by writing bug-free code that he will have written enough to purchase himself a new minivan.

  • Thanks Leon. I should have thought in that direction :). I am going to write a new Ferrari to myself :) – Dexter Mar 4 '19 at 9:14
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    Just for more information: there are two ways to read the joke. One way to read it is that writing software can be so complex that innumerable bugs can be found and fixed before it is "bug-free" (and some would say that no software is really bug free). Another way to read it (and the way I prefer to read it) is that the software developers themselves can introduce the bugs themselves. and then fix them. Indeed, that's what Test-Driven-Development is all about. – John Go-Soco Mar 4 '19 at 9:23
  • "for every bug you find and fix". I assume they're fixing existing code, not code which does not yet exist, since non-existent code cannot be fixed, and the verb "write" is referring to the new code that replaces the buggy code. The existing code has enough bugs in it that a rate of $10 per bug fixed there will be enough money to pay for a minivan. So, "write me [myself] a minivan's worth of bug fixes". – TRomano Mar 4 '19 at 9:31
  • The word "write" is being used because the manager wants the buggy code to be overwritten, which obviously requires new code to be written. – Leon Mar 4 '19 at 11:58
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    The point of the joke is finding bugs and fixing them—writing bug-free software in the end. The punchline says that what the person will do is write his own extremely buggy software, identify those bugs (at $10 each), and then fix them. It wouldn't be a punchline if it were interpreted in the normal sense. The behaviour being produced is wrong behaviour. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 4 '19 at 16:53

Wally, the engineer who is going "write a mini-van", is going to intentionally abuse the incentive system by intentionally creating bugs, then claiming the ten-dollar bonus for fixing each bug. That can be done much faster than finding and fixing existing bugs, so it's a quick way to "earn" enough money to buy a minivan.

The larger point of the comic is that misaligned incentives create bad behavior, and that the people who create misaligned incentives don't realize when they do so:

  • The boss wonders about whether it will "drive the right behavior", but doesn't have enough wisdom to realize that it won't.
  • The engineers (portrayed as being smarter than their boss) immediately see how to exploit the terrible incentive program, and celebrate.

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