Lottery Number

The smallest number of people on a project such that, if one of those people won the lottery and left the project, the project would be in trouble.

Alias for TruckNumber, where the reason for departure is being hit by a truck.

-- JimCoplien


One difference between LotteryNumber and TruckNumber is that with the lottery, the person is still alive and can be conned/cajoled/guilted into helping out if necessary - the dead are never helpful when you need them.....

I've worked on projects that I wouldn't leave even if I won the lottery. Perhaps a software manager should strive to make his team LotteryProof? -- BetsyHanesPerry

I might go further and suggest that if the important people on your project would leave if they won the lottery, you're already in trouble, or at least much worse off than you could be. Although there's something to the goal of making the environment LotteryProof, I also think the best people are LotteryProof, doing what they do because they love it. Admittedly, if your environment isn't LotteryProof, even LotteryProof people aren't necessarily proof against being lured away by a better project or pay. -- JimPerry

Unfortunately, I can't say that I have ever worked on any projects that were LotteryProof. If winning the lottery gave me the chance to do my own thing in the software world without having to worry about my kids' next meal, I'd be gone like a shot. I guess a "dinosaur" company is just not where the fun is at. -- RobertPhillips

What I find very sad is the situation where someone loves where she works, but simply can't afford to stay because the paycheck is not sufficient to justify all those juicy offers coming in, baby needs a new pair of shoes, the hot water heater just bonked, and the odometer on the Ford just rolled over for the third time. I've got colleagues who love where they work, and winning the lottery would permit them to stay because then money wouldn't be an issue. But for young engineers with growing families, after two or three years with a company, no matter how good it is, tiny incremental increases over their entry level salaries don't cut it. Because we won't pay them according to market temptations, we lose them in their prime, and then have to hire unknown quantities at even higher salaries. So, to me, LotteryNumber is the number of people who would be able to remain on the job they dig because corporate parsimony couldn't drive them away. --DonOlson


In recent years, the following original "solution" has emerged : make the project itself a lottery. People will stay on, not because they are committed to the project, or because they like work conditions, but because they see it as a chance to grab unbelievably huge chunks of money. Their employers play essentially the same lottery, except for much higher stakes, so it doesn't matter much what the LotteryNumber is - if the employees win, their employer will have won more than enough to hire new ones.

The lottery is called the NewEconomy?, and tickets go by the name of StockOptions?.

Oct 18, 2000 - please check back in a year and we will see if this particular lottery is still going. N.B. Last edit to this page before the horizontal line above was March 1999. A related page, LotteryProof, was last edited March 1997, so we can assume the JimCoplien quote dates from sometime in between. So does the NewEconomy?. (At times like this I wish this Wiki had WayBackMode. We'd have a FormalHistoryOfTheInformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas? ?)

JimCoplien used "TruckNumber" in a talk at ParcPlace in, uh.. 96? --DaveSmith

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