This is a follow up of my previous post Nice Guys, do you finish first?

I got to know the term seeders and leachers from the Torrents. The term leeching is very common in the computing world,  but is it relevant in any other context?

Yes it is relevant in other contexts as well, I keep observing these in my workplaces. Some of the workplaces I have seen has very rigid written performance expectations and assessment criteria. The performance evaluation is nothing but a way of identifying the leechers and removing them from the system. The key problem in this setting is that the cause and effect might be very spread apart and it is easy to find ways to comply with every word from the expectations set and still be a leecher. Lots of tools and methods at the workplace evolve at a very rapid pace which makes it hard to keep the expectations at a written form and convey to people.

Who is a seeder? Is someone who comes to work delivers the job as per requirement and goes home a seeder?

A seeder is someone who not only does her job but also makes sure the peers need not rework or struggle in the coming days as result of her job. If a team contains lots of seeders then there is effective communication, on time delivery and a good balance of work and life. The team can pretty much handle themselves without a need for a supervisor. On the other hand if the team contains lots of leechers, then there is a need for a supervisor to keep a check on the delivery and try to remove the leechers out of the team.

Any example of a leecher? What happens if we dont remove them from the system?

Let us take the example from the documentary Nice guys finish first, the social setting of a group birds is such that each bird removes of the ticks from the other birds. Each bird is groomed by someone else to be healthy. In this setting it is very easy for a bird to get groomed and get away without returning the favour. The bird which exploits the social setting is a leecher. If we dont remove the leecers from the system then the overall advancement of the system is very limited and will encourage selfish behaviour.

Unfortunately it is not so easy to find leeching in self organized teams, the reason is that leeching might be involuntary through unconscious incompetence. The individuals might not realize that they are over grazing the resources and soon going to add pressure on their team mates. Timely facilitated retrospectives, reflections and corrective actions without penalties will help improve the well being of the self organized teams.

Image: africa /

Nice Guys Finish First” documentary by Richard Dawkins throws some light on why Altruism is a very necessary element. The theme of the documentary is reciprocal altruism, simple explanation given is “Individuals allow themselves to remain in the same state or move to a lower state to help another person go up in state within the community”. The theory was applied to a large set where there are plenty of interactions within the observed group, the race to the bottom was inevitable where exploitation of the resources were present.

The definition of the nice guy was demonstrated using the prisoner’s dilemma as a computer game tournament.  The rules were simple,

  • If two players co-operate then they take equal share of the output.
  • If one of the players does not play nice, then the cheater gets a steal and the loser gets nothing.
  • If both try to cheat, then they end up with lesser output than they would have co-operatively got out.
  • There are more than one turn for each player to play against the same player.

Many people submitted their programs as players in the tournament with varied strategies. The one which Richard Dawkins called as nice guy was the “Tit for Tat” strategy. Tit for tat strategy won the tournament. The following were the observations of the nice guy in a setting were multiple interactions with the same individual is possible.

  • Is always co-operative unless cheated.
  • Keeps in mind who cheats and does not co-operate with the cheaters.
  • Will be the first person to forgive and give a chance to the cheaters to be co-operative.

This also reminded me of the Allegory of long spoons.  I also have seen some real life examples of nice people living the best life than the people around them.

Nice people, do you finish at the top?

Image courtesy:

It was the eve of a festival and I was returning back home from another city. The gateway to my home town was choking with unusually high traffic with everyone trying to rush to meet their near and dear ones. A stretch of few kilometers took more than an hour. It is at this time I witnessed a miracle. There was a sound of an ambulance siren approaching, on hearing almost every one on the road made their best effort to make way for the ambulance. In such a dense choking traffic there was a pathway made under a minute good enough for the ambulance to pass through. The patient who must have survived her illness might not even realized how tons of strangers on the road help save her life.

We humans are altruistic by nature and some how from inside it makes us feel good when we help others. Reader’s digest also mentioned in one article that may be only humans who were helpful to each other survived droughts, war and other adversities so that trait is deeply ingrained within us. There are also some beliefs about collective intelligence being superior than the sum of all individual intelligence. This is very evident from team games like football where the understanding between the team members a mix of skills gets the team to win. I have observed the striker scores more goals than anyone else in the team and most of the times ends up being the most valuable player. In my opinion the striker who scores a goal is largely enabled by the other 10 in the team.

Workplaces are no different, at many workplaces team work always matters; and many of those workplaces have awards like employee of the month/quarter/year or super star awards. The awards definitely help a lot to life the spirits of those who win it but it also puts a dent in the rest of the team’s spirit as the winner is enabled by the team and hardly there is a credit to the team. It is better to do away with these kind of awards and much energy can be concentrated on removing negative influence in the team like someone who exploits the system and team setup. It takes only one selfish person to bring down the morale of a high performing team, we must make sure our workplace does not offer any dividends to someone who tries to exploit; instead make the workplace such a way that the more cohesive the team becomes the more rewarding and enjoyable it is to work.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /