Listed on

Management

The noisy duck gets shot

Back when I was doing my MBA we had a presentation on diversity. The instructor identified 2 truisms to illustrate cultural differences. The aim was to show the degree to which 2 cultures could value the same thing differently.

The concerning thing for me is I am starting to feel that the truism from my non-native culture is starting to hold more meaning for me than the one from my own. Read More...

Yahoo - your faults page is not a place for propaganda

Dear @yahoomail and @marissamayer status pages are not a place for congratulations on solving a problem when at least some customers are having continuing problems. Spinning your releases on your faults pages to sound positive when there are problems is unlikely to help the bad press and will generate a lot of I am not working me-too messages. Read More...

Yahoo! - still linking to irrelevant articles

Yahoo (@yahoomail) have brought back some of their e-mail services (Yahoo Mail status) ... but they still don’t get the importance of not linking to instructions which make a bad situation worse. Apple users, in particular, may find the help articles they link to less than helpful. Read More...

Yahoo! - A lesson in poor communication

Yahoo mail hasn’t been working for me for over 12 hours ... apparently other people are affected ... but you would never know that from Yahoo’s web site and barely from their tweets. Read More...

Computer Security Isn't an Afterthought

Computer security must be built in to every application, it is almost impossible to add it on at the end. Read More...

Proactive versus Reactive

There is no doubt that being proactive is more efficient than being reactive, so why does so much reactive activity persist? Read More...

The humble tent peg

Somewhere in the dim past as a scout I remember seeing a diagram about how to use a tent peg … one would have thought such a simple bit of equipment would not need much explanation and people would use them correctly … but no I keep bumping into incorrectly used pegs … the major point here is that correct use is not actually obvious even as simple as a tent peg. Read More...

ITIL

After a 2 day ITIL Foundation boot camp I strangely find myself still enthusiastic about enough process. Read More...

Are Spreadsheets the new filing cabinets?

“You can’t grep dead trees” implies that paper documents are not dynamic and hard to search, but should we go further and suggest that filing cabinets are where documents go to die? Documents in a filing cabinet are:
  • Retrievable only through reference to a single linear index (unless someone creates a cross reference)
  • Often only accessible to one viewer at a time
  • Subject to the whims of their guardians
So much so that paper documents are being recognised as liability in organisation - certainly a cost to store and retrieve.

However, business’s obsession with the spreadsheet may be creating the new filing cabinet filled with spreadsheets on file servers. Read More...

Technology and Organisation

So many organisations install Exchange for its calendaring features. But is this a path to organisational heaven or hell? Read More...

Twitter

The reality of social media is that it exists to further a business aim … someone has to pay for it and there are significant costs in providing the service. One of my problems with the social media phenomenon has been seeing why I want to subscribe to an advertising feed - the usual is answer is to get a discount or to be informed of new products. Traditional media provides plenty of avenues to convince me to buy stuff, my inbox is already filled with companies I already deal with. So what benefit does Twitter bring me? What justifies adding a new mechanism on top of email, RSS and websites?

I have recently seen two examples of using Twitter to provide urgent information about product problems - Twitter seems extremely well suited to this particular type of communication perhaps even enough to open the advertising floodgates further. Read More...

Prowl

As part of improving my reporting of Nagios alerts I decided to try using the Growl framework via Prowl to my iPhone. This was precisely the wrong time to do so as Apple is having an extended down time on their developer centre and a certificate renewal and hence his push notifications are not working. I have to praise the developer of Prowl as in spite of his obvious frustrations he has used Twitter to keep his users informed in a humorous and effective way. This is one of the best examples of handling a fault that is out of your control and crippling to your business that I have seen. Read More...

Why security by obscurity is a double own goal

We all “know” that security by obscurity is a “bad thing” but why is it? And why is it a double own goal for a security company? Read More...

Tranisition to nowhere

As a user of Postini (now known as Google Mail Filtering) I received a number of communications from the Google Postini Transition team saying that they were migrating services off the old Postini infrastructure and onto the new Google Apps infrastructure and that I could select to transition or not and to keep an eye out for the new agreements and that you can get extra information by following some links. Later, they sent another friendly e-mail saying that your existing service won’t really be affected except to make it better by allowing you to have the power of Google Apps.

Then this morning arrived the non-renewal notice.

Apparently my transition is a transition to nowhere.

Please understand, I do not question Google’s right to no longer offer a service, nor to change their mind. The issue is the poor manner in which they communicated with their customer - somewhere along the way I feel I went from being an asset to being an inconvenience. Read More...

Was the BOFH sleep deprived?

Is your systems admin irritable? Could it be sleep deprivation? The BOFH (Bastard Operator from Hell) is a classic figure from computer science fiction (http://bofh.ntk.net/BOFH/) famed for his low tolerance for users disturbing his ‘work’ schedule and doing exactly what they asked but rarely what they wanted. His quick wit probably means that he wasn’t sleep deprived but I am starting to ask how prevalent are the effects of sleep deprivation and what we need to do about them. Read More...

Android on the Desktop - If the plug fits

One thing I didn’t expect when I deployed a bunch of Android based boxes in a call centre was that operators would start plugging their iPhones etc in. Apparently, if the plug fits … Read More...

Science vs Journalism

Some years ago I worked with a very astute social scientist (you know who you are!) who had worked in journalism and in academia and she made a number of observations about the difference between writing for the two. The recent article in Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/1285154/top-scientist-slams-electric-vehicles-misses-mark) contrasts markedly with Research Fortnightly’s article (http://www.rsc.org/images/ResearchFortnight_tcm18-152803.pdf) which it is critical of. Read More...

Bullets are made from lead

After several years in the commercial world I returned to the ivory tower to help mentor students in software engineering at RMIT. These students were bright, intelligent and enthusiastic. Also, they were leading the way in a novel approach to teaching the art. One major thing stood out from their work - Agile was the future and waterfall was the past (and an almost dirty concept). They tried so hard to be fair to the waterfall model and tried to understand that it had some use, but I was left with the feeling that they really pitied anyone who used it at all, presumed that it would only be considered under duress and really felt that it had no place anywhere.

Let me be clear here this is not a rant against Agile nor a defence of waterfall, my issue is that as a profession we are selling a story of this replaces that because only new is best rather than a story of use this or that depending on what works best. The former is an easy story to sell, but the later is far more powerful in the long run.

Fredrick Brooks claims that there is still no silver bullet. I hope to shift our mindset from looking for one silver bullet that solves all our software problems to a less exciting but more practical position of we have many tools some better suited to some tasks than others and we need to enable our engineers to choose from a menu. If all our bullets are made from lead (Lead is a base metal - a cheap utilitarian material - that gets the job done) then we can select better for the task at hand. Read More...

Head in the Clouds

If you open any computing trade journal you could be forgiven for believing we had all moved to New Zealand and were looking out on a marvellous vista - the land of the long white cloud. Unfortunately, in spite of the great work being done by the marketing people, the world hasn’t actually changed that much. Cloud is still virtualised servers and remote hosting. The new and exciting bits are rapid on demand deployment and tear down. In this article I take a look at who and why you should use cloud from an economic management point of view.
Read More...

Fear of Command Lines

Anyone know if there is a psychological term for fear of command lines and configuration files? A name for this phobia would be incredibly useful as I keep bumping in to circumstances where supposedly technical users downgrade a tool just because it doesn’t have a GUI and assume it must be “hard to use” if it is not driven by a point and click interface. Read More...

The Management Equivalent of Infinite Postponment

In scheduling there is a concept called infinite postponement (more correctly indefinite postponement) where a job that is ready to be executed is starved of resources because other jobs keep coming along that are a little bit more fit to be run according to the scheduling algorithm.

This behaviour occurs in management as well. Read More...

Don't forget your keys

Data cleansing is the process of taking the data contained in a data base and correcting the errors in it. It is probably one of the most hated jobs in the industry as it tends to be both tedious and exacting. The final two nails in its coffin is that it is almost never finished and almost never completely correct. All in all a miserable and mostly unsatisfying experience.

One of the secrets to success in data cleansing is in selecting keys i.e. the fields that allow the identification of the record to be updated. Read More...

Dunning-Kruger effect

I bumped into the “Dunning-Kruger effect” an affect on a mailing list and discovered an effect that has been haunting my existence and just crying out for a name. Read More...

Android on the Desktop - Keyboard adventures

Having deployed our Android boxes we encountered a couple of interesting issues relating to the origins of the platform. Read More...

Android on the Desktop

Currently I am speccing a call centre and one of our key requirements is to reduce our software administration and maintenance overheads. We are currently trialling Android STBs as terminals for the agents. Our hope is that their browser is sufficient to work with our bespoke web site and we will not have to do any major maintenance on the boxes as they are locked down to just the browsing app. Read More...

Management by Inflight Magazine

The press rang with claims that Marissa Mayer had ban from working at home a month ago (Feb 2013) citing her review of VPN logs as the basis for her decision. My issue here is not whether this is the right or wrong thing for Yahoo! but should others follow her lead and whether using the found data (i.e. data collected for other purposes) to support their decisions will lead to a good outcome. Read More...

Software truth

There is an old maxim in computer science:

Good, quick, cheap; Pick any two.



It remains true. Read More...

Where it hurts

Developers can be a bit thin skinned about their work. Read More...

Dead Trees and Their Electronic Equivalent

“You can’t grep dead trees” - is an old Unix saying. It is supposed to promote the value of keeping documents electronically. Sometimes you want the unalterability of paper or its modern equivalent the PDF. However, if you produce unalterable documents it is important to remember that there will be versions. Read More...

Change management

There is a wide range of change management practices employed by companies ranging from none through to fairly rigid and long documents that need to be completed before any change can be made - no matter how trivial. Not having change management invites both disaster and avoidable errors; excessive change management is usually a reaction to too many of the former problems. Read More...

Documentation

Most “engineers” are not fond of writing documentation … after all they like building things not writing about them … they will generally agree that documentation is important and that they like to receive good documentation for things that they use. So in spite of some reluctance to do it we all agree that we want good documentation. So why is there so much bad documentation out there? Read More...

How many "I"s are in your team?

The more I think about it the more I dislike the old saw “There is no I in team”. This statement is actually written from the management point of view and is rather self serving. What if we consider all the parties and their interests? Read More...

Good companies listen to bad news

There are a number of management practices that really kill company performance … one of those is actively saying “I don’t want to hear about that” … Read More...