Manual Work is a Bug

My own personal story:  A long time ago, I was a farm kid on my grandfather’s farm.  The neighboring town decided to outlaw the carbide noise makers (like this one) that we used to keep crows off the corn…at peak harvest.  Understandable, but we would have lost the commercial value of the sweet corn crop for the year.

So 14-year-old me got to be a walking scarecrow for a week, in 100 degree heat and 95+% humidity, with a big straw hat and a gallon jug of water that became disgustingly warm as the day went on.

What I learned from this:

  1. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.
  2. In the long run, there are some tasks that human beings shouldn’t do, that should be automated.  (In this case, I was the stopgap in going *backwards* away from an existing automated solution).  We dropped sweet corn as a crop after that year.
  3. The small family farm is a dead end; the margins are too small to make a decent living, so I was the last of 10 generations of family to work that farm.  It wasn’t practical to aggregate the farm with others, as the state had run two highways through it, but that, as they say, is another story.
  4. Corollary: You have to move on from time to time and refresh your approach if you want to succeed.  This is a good general lesson.

Given this, and my history in software development and IT operations, I wholeheartedly agree with the article below.

Every IT team should have a culture of constant improvement – or movement along the path toward the goal of automating whatever the team feels confident in automating, in ways that are easy to change as conditions change. As the needle moves to the right, the team learns from each other’s experiences, and the system becomes easier to create and safer to operate.

Source: Manual Work is a Bug

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Clueless Companies Can’t Cope

I’m home sick today, so I’m a natural captive audience for free movies, or so I thought.

I was half-watching a movie on Crackle (Sony) on an iPad, and the “preach to the converted” ads for new RIM products were repeated so many times that, frankly, I lost count and I barely managed to finish the movie. The ads, that were amateurish at best, we’re repeated so many times that it made the product offerings look cheesy and irrelevant.

Continue reading “Clueless Companies Can’t Cope”

Productivity hints: Get a better monitor (today)

One of the best things you can do for your personal productivity (and the productivity of those you manage) is to make sure that people have the right tools for the job.

To keep it brief:  monitors are cheap, your time is expensive.  23″ and even 27″ 1920×1080 monitors are regularly on sale.  Check the usual suspects: SIG Electronics, Newegg, NCIX, TigerDirect. Full disclosure: I have no financial interest, and I don’t get an affiliate marketing fee; I just feel strongly about this, and I worked on a laptop with a great external monitor both in my home office and my corporate and consulting offices for years.  It makes a big difference!

Cheers,
Dak

Why your customer service is the most important thing for your business…or for YOU personally.

This article (a summary of Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans, with what appears to be material from a subsequent interview), may be the most important thing you read today.

Ken Blanchard: Save your firm from a customer service crisis.

Are your firm’s customers, or YOUR customers, raving fans?

Happy reading,
Dak

Personal branding: overrated, or common sense?

I’m sure you’ve seen a number of posts that talk about ‘personal branding.’ They mostly have something to sell you, or an approach you really ought to take, which involves hundreds of hours of sustained work, and buying books and seminars.

BUT: to get started, keep it simple. If your blog is your primary website, keep it that way, and give it the focus of how you are talking to the rest of the world. (A great posting on this is here…)

First, be consistent in what you say. You are talking in public, and it’s going to be around (probably for the rest of your life).

Second, put ALL of your social media links on your blog. If you are using wordpress, it’s remarkably easy. (I’ll do a quick tutorial if there’s interest.). Remember the big three (FOR YOU): twitter, linkedin, and delicious are mine.

Third, see if this makes a difference on your blog stats. (Second edit: yes, it did, see the graph.)never trust graphics without vertical scale ;-)

Regards,
Dak

Great article on code rot

OK, this is waaay more technical than most of the things that I reference, and I apologize to those of you who are innocently reading along, expecting my usual software engineering from the management perspective entries and links.

…but this is really good. Read the gist of it; if you are involved in software, you really ought to know: code rot is real, challenging, and is all about unmaintained and unreleased code.

http://wordaligned.org/articles/code-rot

Thanks to Bruce Rennie for pointing this out at work.

Dak

Building teams: Developers, not Programmers

If you aren’t in the software development business, this post is not for you.  These aren’t the droids you are looking for.  Move along!

Once upon a time, it was Good Enough to have wicked good coding skills.  Master programmers would hand out assignments to the rest of the team, who would code up the concepts and go their merry way.  However, those times are long gone; not only are coding skills regularly taught in high school (all over the world), but even the higher level skill of programming to specifications, not designs, has become a commodity.

I personally believe that the best answer to the commodification of skills is refactor jobs and skill sets.  With this in mind, I am thoroughly convinced that people who were once content to be “programmers” need to be “developers”– consumate professionals able to solve the “whole problem” and take a design task from concept to production.

The fundamentals of business and career growth remain the same: find a need and fill it.  However, there’s no longer a need for 100% code jockeys.  That’s OK; solving the real problem is more fun, and pays better.  (Anyone who I have worked with over the years will recognize that I’m consistent on this point…and most of them have moved on to bigger and better things.  If you are reading this, do drop me a line or post a comment.)

As always, best regards,

Dak