For most developers I know, headphones/earbuds are the universal signal to leave them alone. Think twice before tapping the shoulder of the guy with earbuds in; chances are you’re going to interrupt a train of thought that may take hours to recreate. I’ve put some thought into this, which is a little bit of an editorial on the excitement level in my life, but I digress. You can learn a lot about a person from their music habits and choices.
People fall into two categories: Backgrounders and Mood Setters. Let me explain… Backgrounders are the guys who listen to speed metal while thinking through some complex design and don’t even notice the subliminal messages telling him to strangle his neighbor’s cat. (I kid. I heart metal.) For him, the music is strictly background, and has no impact on his mood or thoughts. For example, my buddy Kyle could be listening to Megadeth so loudly that I could hear it blasting from his headphones from across the room, and he would look as serene as if he was listening to Pachelbel’s Canon. Me, I’m a Mood Setter. I choose my music based on the work I’m trying to do. Here are some of my go-to albums. Quick disclaimer: Many of these albums/songs have explicit lyrics. If I’m going to offend your innocent sensibilities, well, sorry ’bout that. You might be reading the wrong blog.
— Just about anything by George Strait, except for anything from the movie “Pure Country”. George Strait should never again grow a beard or wear a fake ponytail.
— Big Head Todd & The Monsters – Live Monsters (a live album)
— Amelie (the soundtrack, by Yann Tiersen)
— Zero 7 – Simple Things & When It Falls
Oh, don’t pretend you’ve never done angry development work. It’s that bug fix that keeps getting rejected or that feature that someone stuck in at the last minute. It calls for its own soundtrack.
So there you have it. A partial Mood Setter’s playlist. I’m an album-listener. I don’t really like playlists or shuffle. Now, some etiquette for approaching those with headphones on:
1) If headphones are on, think twice about interrupting. Better yet, send an IM or e-mail.
2) If the headphones come off reluctantly, make it quick.
3) If the headphones come just far enough out of the ears to hear you, but they aren’t put down, make it quick.
4) If only one earbud comes out, assume they want you to go away as quickly as possible.
5) If the person keeps reaching up as though to put their headphones back on while you’re talking, go away.
6) If it’s truly important, let the person know so they can pause their music.
7) If you hear an angry development soundtrack coming from the headphones, maybe it’s best to just walk away. Especially if you created the angry development situation.
Finally, if you have headphones on, remember that we can hear you singing or humming. I once sat over the wall from a girl who insisted on singing along (off-key of course) with every song she listened to. Save the wailing for your commute home. (Unless it’s Journey. In that case, wail away.)
If you have your own go-to album/song/playlist, let’s have it. I’m always looking for new mood setting music. Rock on, my friends.