Breaking the build is highly prejudicial to the productivity of a development team. Since it’s pretty easy to avoid it by ensuring that the code compiles locally against the latest version and doing continuous integration, it is often taken as an act of rudeness.  The person responsible for the act must therefore be punished.

Photo courtesy of seeb’s Photo Stream

The punishment often consists of making the guilty party wear a specific hat (we use a Sombrero) or any other very visible humiliating clothes, until they solve the problem themself.  In addition to this, some teams may want to signal breaking builds with a specific sound played on speaker (we used a darth vader or homer simpson voice).  Some teams get even more creative as you can see in this video.

I found the whole thing very funny and I always promoted it in every team I worked in to reinforce team spirit.  That is until I met a couple of people who were really reluctant to join in and did not want to publicise their actions.  Even when I broke the build on purpose to wear the hat, it did not change how they felt about it.  One of them was from a different country where such humiliation could not be taken to this degree (as we can, I hope).

I think this kind of game is one of the many things we see online and we want to replicate without thinking, but it is not always a good idea. While it can be a very good team building feature, it can also contribute to making some team members very uncomfortable.

If you really want to do it as the manager/team leader, ask every one in the team individually. Asking in front of others will prevent you from getting honest feedback.  In fact, it’s usually better not to implement such a rule in your team unless it’s really something everybody wants.