I am not good at constructing major pieces of work. I have a short concentration span. I can work only in small, intense bursts. I don’t seem to work consciously. I write to unburden myself, to amuse myself, to arrange in order the things that bulge in my head, to make myself notice things.
– Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume I 1978–1987 by Helen Garner
Well it’s been it’s been a long time. I’m not really sure what happens, I just get tired of things and need a break: need to balance out how I spend my time, find motivation.
Getting older, growing a family, carves away at your time, your agency, yourself. You have to embrace that new thing and stop being winsome for your younger husk.
Old people are always telling young people to squeeze all the juice from the all the fruit, be more deliberate in their choices, start putting money in your 401(k). “Youth is wasted on the young,” the saying goes.
The companion quip is that you’ll wake up one day and realized all the sudden you grew the fuck up.
But, whatever. Here’s this edition.
My work’s conference SpringOne is coming up next week, Sep 2nd and 3rd. It’s all online and free. You should check out all the talks in the agile leadership track that I helped put together.
Obviously, the panel I’m moderating is going to be the best. It’s free to register and attend, so why not?
Register and attend!
A lot of content since last time:
I really like making these videos (for work and for pleasure). It’s like something new and different. I used to make videos the old fashioned way (cameras, tripods, desktop editing) at RedMonk and then, the really, really old school way with VHS tapes when I was kid. These are great, because the toolchain is different, the format is different, and I don’t have to work with anyone on them. I just make them, edit them on my phone, and post them.
(On that note: I’ve been involved in endless content creation stuff over the years, decades. There are two things that slow it down and make it suck: confused content, trying to make something out of nothing, or just the authors not knowing what they’re talking about; gating publishing with a bunch of reviews, scheduling, and planning. The second seems necessary to catch the first, but, it doesn’t. Instead what all that governance does is prevents people from participating in content creation, self-selecting them out of your program. Then you’re back to one. This is an arrogant position. But, I mean, it’s what I’ve seen for over twenty years. Sometimes, the asshole is right. [A related position to apply to content production, creation is: never look back, only forward.])
Meetings, the manager’s tool
Executives spend a lot of time transforming others. But, how do they know if they’re changing how they manage enough?
Five self-checks executives should do to make sure they’re transforming how they’re managing.
Thriving during a crisis
Transforming to a more agile way of doing software might be easier in times of crisis, and probably a better approach.
Often, executives have the wrong idea of what’s wrong.
There’s been lots of Software Defined Talk episodes since last time. Check ‘em out!
Jana Werner, a Head of Transformation
Slide decks, paper proposals and steering group sessions all take a significant investment to prepare, avoiding “difficult” conversations by socializing and re-socializing in advance of exec meetings, deferring decisions, requesting a raft of meeting minutes to document, correcting, amending and signing them off—the majority of which few people read.... The speed of these cycles determines the heartbeat of the organization.
In this episode I talked with Jana Werner about a recent paper she co-authored about changing how a large financial institution does software.
She has a talk coming up at SpringOne. I’ve seen a preview of it, and it’ll be good.
Learning product management by managing Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys
In this episode, I talked with Jen Handler about two of the sessions she’ll be in at the SpringOne conference. They’re both on product management walking through some of the key functions product managers do with a few real world examples. They also discuss Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Murder She Wrote/Magnum PI cross-over.
Lots of good discussion about the types of decisions and thinking product managers go through.
In two parts, with white-boarding and stuff. Rohit knows his stuff from years of first-hand work. If you’re working in an enterprise on software, and especially if you’re an enterprise architect, you should check these out. The real work of application is modernization isn’t rewriting and re-platforming, but it’s the analysis that goes into finding and ordering what to modernize and then the process that runs your program over the next few years. Rohit boot-straps you into that.
- Eating elephants one bite at a time, large scale application modernization with Rohit Kelapure, podcast version, show notes.
- You can’t do everything at once, very quickly, large scale application modernizing, podcast version, show notes.
I’ve been slowly cataloging a list of my original writing here. It’ll take a long time cause I’ve done such a poor job keeping up my curation.
Reading in the silent morning
…with the dawn you can, for a brief period, test the power of some simple matutinal routines, before those routines became skewed or swamped by a mass of increasingly desperate habit.
The routines were not complex, quite the contrary, but they centred on the fact that this was the only time of the day that he could read anything. Reading was the fulcrum of the routine, allowing him, for a moment, the balm of other voices in his head. He would sit by a window, open depending on the season, drink tea and read his morning book.
…we can deduce from this a first working distinction between habit and routine. Habit is a dead accumulation; routine has an outcome. Habit is an inverse index of the intensity of life, routine is a productive process. Habit is contingent; routine is necessary. Which is another way of saying, routines mean something; habits do not.
From “Diurnal,” and it’s notes.
Relative to your interests
Items from my ongoing link-curration, bookmarks, and notebook.
- For most organizations, meetings are the real deliverable - ‘In essence one could say — I think it’s a good idea to: Write more. Talk less.’
- GitOps, CI/CD, and some KubeCon coverage - ‘CICD” as a “dangerous” term - hallelujah! CI is a development process. CD is an operational process. The two are, of course, related but must be decoupled - it’s GitOps that provides the protocol that draws them together in a powerful way.’
- Right-wing people use Facebook as a major rallying space, in the US - ‘Brad Parscale — the digital director of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign — told “60 Minutes” that of everything Mr. Trump did that year, the thing that actually moved the needle was Facebook. “Facebook was the method,” Mr. Parscale said. “It was the highway which his car drove on.” That highway is still open. And right now, the fastest cars on it have M.A.G.A. bumper stickers.’
- Underwater photos with an iPhone - ‘It. Was. A. Mess. I couldn’t figure out how to get the shutter to work, the screen phantom operated and would switch between apps, it would suddenly turn the camera app off, switch it to video, change my focal length, etc. It was frustrating, and in an inadvisable move, I removed the case from my phone and went back in.’
- Properly managing tech debt to be well positioned for the unexpected - ‘Properly risk managing tech debt in action: “I’ve noticed in recent tech exec interactions that those who had started on digital transformation and modernization efforts in the last few years have seen outsized returns during the pandemic. Well beyond their expectation for a given project. “Advance Auto, a classic retailer had rolled out a new e-commerce effort recently, but during the pandemic, they had to close stores to customer traffic. They quickly pivoted stores to local distribution sites, partnered with local couriers, and today have order online / deliver in 30 minutes in most markets.”
- Application modernization requires more than just technology, lots of consultative analysis - needs meatware, even if multi-cloud container cloud native magic is involved.
- VMs and containers - ‘“Customers say ‘it sure would be nice if we did not have to have two separate systems and learn to do things two separate ways,” Gracely said. “They have been asking us to be able to add virtual machines in the Kubernetes world,” for databases, queueing systems or other applications.’
- Where are they now: Austin DevOps peeps - ‘James, Karthik, Bill, and Ernest are all now at Verica, a chaos engineering startup founded by Casey Rosenthal and Aaron Rinehart.’
- Sorting out the meaningful from the meaningless is a distraction from the present, realizing that what you have is already enjoyable enough - ‘I consider how much we depend on useless, arbitrary tasks to prove ourselves. I consider how much we depend on these tasks so we can say, at the very end, we succeeded.’
- Making money the Achilles Heal of software adoption - ‘So okay, I can pick up a tripod of some sort from Amazon for not too much money — but speaking of money, here’s the big Achilles’ heel: while the free version of the app is fairly functional, upgrading to Pro costs €41.47. That’s nearly fifty bucks! Sure, I’d like to be able to use all my cameras; in free mode the app shows me the Wide 1x camera and the front selfie camera, but is it worth that much to use the Telephoto 2x or the Ultrawide 0.5x? Pro unlocks higher resolutions, and there are also a bunch of options to control focus, lighting, flash, zoom, and so on, which I would definitely have bought for a fiver or so — but not for this much. I already have a decent webcam at home (a Razer Kiyo), so I’d be using Camo only away from home, and I’d have to acquire and carry a separate piece of kit to do so.’
- 25 cents a gig pricing for systems management - ‘The company is updating its New Relic One platform with simplified pricing, interface, portfolio, and a free tier for engineers to try and use the software, which instruments IT environments and applications. CEO Lew Cirne said the move is designed to make New Relic easier to consume and address the convergence of logs, infrastructure, and APM. Simplified pricing from 11 paid products down to three, moving to per-user pricing and a perpetual free license will make doing business with New Relic easier, he said.’
- The case not so much for Google Cloud - ‘“What is the point of a Google Cloud that is losing its iconoclastic approach and turning into a me-too amalgam of AWS”’
- Starbuck’s digital stuff: working - ‘Some 3 million new users downloaded the Starbucks App and signed up for the Rewards loyalty program since April, up 17% on the first three months of the year before the COVID crisis hit home in the US. Over the same period, 90% of sales were executed via a combination of drive-thru and mobile order-and-pay, with mobile order usage alone now accounting for 22% of total transactions.’
- Open source as the new open standard - ‘Theory: in a world of SaaS, “open source,” is an implemented standard, plumbing, not the actual product sold. The product includes running the commercial software, storing the data, managing how the software is used. Giving away the open source stuff just lets the commercial company define and control 3rd party dependencies - here, how New Relic’s data is collected and modeled. Plus, it allows them to kill off areas of the market that rivals could own, differentiate, and monetize. Kubernetes does this, not sure about Linux. Someone Linux is something different: it is the product, not the standard.’
- OutSystems proof points, marketsizing on low-code - ‘That means being able to change or add applications and services at near the speed of the start-ups. Hughes gives as an example a Fintech company that was failing to hire the talent it required to develop a new mobile app, so instead used the OutSystems platform to develop it, in seven weeks, using the existing developer team. The effort resulted in an increase in customer onboarding conversion of 30%.’
- AI requires new hires, might target the wrong thing - ‘One of the organizations we studied was the business-to-business sales department of a large company in the Netherlands. They used a relatively simple rule-based AI to predict whether a client would need a new product or whether a client should be contacted because a product they used was out of date. Normally a sales manager would call the client, and because the sales manager has come to know her clients personally, she would also ask personal questions: How are you doing? How is your family? In theory, the AI system was much better at predicting the best moment to contact a client, so the organization fired most of its salespeople and the AI system was introduced. Soon, however, the organization discovered that the personal contact between the salespeople and the clients was far more important in selling their products than anybody had realized. The AI system couldn’t make this personal contact, and therefore performed much worse than the sales managers did.’
- Books on Dutch art, from the golden age - ‘As he and many others point out, transience is built into Dutch still life. You often have paintings of flowers that are starting to wilt, or a glass that has a chip or a crack into it. There are all these intimations of decline and decay, even as the objects are so beautifully rendered. That ties in with Simon Schama’s argument about the fundamental ambivalence of the Dutch who, even as they experienced this incredible economic prosperity and abundance, had a lot of guilt about it tied in with Calvinist religious beliefs, with the sense that they were constantly beset and imperilled on all sides by enemy forces.’
- Words in English - ‘“irregardless: a word that distinguishes people who do not care much about English usage from those who care terribly—and want the world to know it.”’
- More of a design - ‘By 1970, many of these covers had a uniform appearance, predominantly painted illustrations on black backgrounds with the titles set in Roberta, one of the Art Nouveau-styled typefaces of the occult revival. All the Alessandrini covers date from the late 70s and early 80s, and show an evolution of the imprint’s style, with the same black livery but a different typeface that I can’t identify (Coliseum is the closest digital equivalent), together with artwork that’s more of a design rather than an illustration of the book’s contents.’
- Always start smaller than you want to - ‘“Instead of charging a small team with developing the best product and then letting the operation grow with the product’s evolution, GE set up a huge organization that wasn’t quite needed yet.”
- Upward momentum for running VMware VMs on AWS clouds - ‘The continued adding of solutions and services to the hybrid cloud services seems to be paying off, according to both companies. They said this week that there has been a 2.5 times increase in the number of hosts between June 2019 and June 2020 and a 3.5 times jump in the number of VMs running, and VMware Cloud on AWS is running 17 AWS regions around the world and offers more than 300 third-party solutions from technology partners. ‘
- Public cloud spending finally more than on-premises, by hardware - ‘As investments in cloud IT infrastructure continue to increase, with some swings up and down in the quarterly intervals, the IT infrastructure industry is approaching the point where spending on cloud IT infrastructure consistently surpasses spending on non-cloud IT infrastructure. The fourth quarter of 2019 marked the third consecutive quarter of cloud IT leadership with the annual share just slightly below the midpoint (49.7%). From here on out, IDC expects cloud IT infrastructure will stay above 50% of the IT Infrastructure market at both the quarterly and annual levels, reaching 60.5% annually in 2024.’
- Broken brains - ‘When ‘you think mental illness’, according to Piper, ‘you think schizophrenia and crazy people, and I’m not crazy, I just get really nervous.’ In making this distinction, interviewees like Piper and Jenna not only claimed that they were less impaired than the seriously mentally ill, they also insisted that their experience was categorially different. Piper said of herself that biologically something is just ‘a little off’. She has ‘too little or too much or whatever it is that makes you have these issues’. Distinct from ‘crazy people’, she has control over her mind and her story. All she needs is a little pill. Yet at the same time, her ‘condition’ is also different from the mundane challenges that normal people might face. Piper was adamant that her nervousness in social situations is different from ordinary shyness. Her taking of medication is warranted. She has a third condition caused by an ‘imbalance’.’
- Puppet raises more money, wants to shift from point product positioning to solutions - ‘She also wants to shift from talking about solutions for solving specific use cases, to putting their products into a business context. Wassenaar wants to Puppet to be a leader in a “container-based world.” Puppet’s technology runs some of the world’s most critical businesses in the most demanding environments, from financial services to government agencies,” said Yvonne Wassenaar said in a statement. “This new capital will allow us to accelerate our go-to-market efforts and further fuel our innovation investments — from extending the power of Puppet Enterprise in the areas of continuous automation, compliance and patching to our newly-launched event-driven automation solution Relay, built to extend Puppet’s expertise into cloud-native and API-driven environments.” Puppet this year added former Cloud Foundry Foundation Executive Director Abby Kearns as chief technology officer, and former VMware exec Erik Frieberg as chief marketing officer. The new capital is a debt round, TechCrunch reported. Puppet has raised $150 million from investors over the years.’
- Not a social device - ‘The Walkman (briefly called the Soundabout) debuted in most places outside of Japan in 1980. The early versions were bulky and — in a misunderstanding of how the device would change listening — came with an extra headphone port for a friend. A button paused the music and activated a microphone so the paired listeners could talk to each other. Sony jettisoned these features once it was clear users preferred to listen on their own in sonic isolation.’
- Work less - ‘What he told, is that it would be possible and achievable, but he didn’t take into account the madness on humankind. He didn’t think that someone who had a chance to work a few hours a day, be healthy, happy and afford a nice living would be crazy enough to exchange all that for lot of stress, no free time, little sleep and 10 hour workday just to afford bunch of status related commodities with which he would be able to impresses other people that also work their ass off and feel miserable. He just couldn’t picture that, and I can’t blame him, because I’m having a hard time picturing that myself, even when I see this everywhere around me.’
- ChatBots for customer service - ‘The software agents can also suggest relevant online documentation, such as information on how to view or pay a bill, based on a subscriber’s request.’
- Rackspace shifted from OpenStack IaaS to managing services for larger organizations - ‘In 2016, sales processes were focused on the sale of a narrow group of point products, most notably our OpenStack Public Cloud and Single Tenant (managed hosting) offerings, the company says. Today, the sales process uses a professional services-driven approach, providing holistic multicloud solutions to meet customers’ objectives and evolving those solutions over the full lifecycle of their cloud journey. Rackspace also increased its focus on serving enterprise customers, defined as companies that generate $1 billion or more in revenue per year.’