Treating work like a race

Chad Fowler, in his book, My Job Went to India, made the following remarks about working effectively:

If you treat your projects like a race, you’ll get to the end a lot faster than if you treat them like a prison cell.

A sense of urgency, even if manufactured, is enough to easily double or triple your productivity.

I’d add that it needs to be an enjoyable race, and that urgency, sustained for too long, can wear a person out. Races are more enjoyable when run with a group of friends.


Technology and greatness

I like this quote: No technology, no matter how amazing… can by itself ignite a shift from good to great…. No technology can turn the wrong people into the right people. No technology can instill the discipline to confront brutal facts of reality, nor can it instill unwavering faith. No technology can supplant the need for deep understanding…. No technology can create a culture of discipline. — Jim Collins, Good to Great, p 161.

Hazards of Best Practices

“Best practices are a hazard because they ask us to substitute slogans for thinking.” — Pete McBreen, p. 125 Software Craftmanship.

Sometimes best practices are used to shift blame by using the bandwagon fallacy: “Everyone else is doing it — it’s a best practice, so don’t blame me”. Sure, there’s strength in numbers, but not necessarily wisdom in numbers.

Quotes: Problems, solutions, and change

The solution to any problem is found in the proper definition of the problem

— Doug Hale

Everything in software changes. The requirements change. The design changes. The business changes. The technology changes. The team changes. The team members change. The problem isn’t change, because change is going to happen; the problem, rather, is our inability to cope with change

— Kent Beck

Security quotes

“Security systems are never value-neutral; they move power in varying degrees to one set of players from another.” — Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear p. 35

“People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks”. — Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear p. 26

“Technology is generally an enabler, allowing people to do things. Security is the opposite: It tries to prevent something… That’s why technology doesn’t work in security the way it does elsewhere, and why an overreliance on technology often leads to bad security, or even to the opposite of security.” — Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear p. 13

The purpose of security…

A coworker made these assertions about security. I think they’re worth repeating:

  • The purpose of security is to establish accountability of an individual.
  • The purpose of auditing is to verify the trust that has been placed in an individual.

Principles of Reputation

One of my past professors, Phil Windley, posted some principles of reputation:

  • Reputation is one of the factors upon which trust is based
  • Reputation is someone else’s story about me – this means that I can’t control what you say about me although I may be able to affect the factors you based your story on. Also, every person should be able to have their own story about me.
  • Reputation exists in the context of community – this is different than saying “communities have a reputation about someone.”
  • Reputation is based on identity – reputation, as someone else’s story, isn’t part of your identity, but is based on an identity or set of identities.
  • Reputation is a currency – while you can’t change it, reputation can be used as a resource. Paul Resnick has a paper showing the value of a positive eBay reputation.
  • Reputation is narrative – you have to apply metaphor to interpret, reputation is dynamic becase the factors that affect it are always changing, reputation may require weaving together of plot lines.
  • Reputation is based on claims (verified or not), transactions, ratings, and endorsements. – this brings up the issue of evidence, recourse for slander or mistakes, etc.
  • Reputation is muti-level – a reputation isn’t just based on facts, but is also based on other’s beliefs about the target of that reputation. This requires some way of signaling beliefs to others.
  • Mutiple people holding the same opinion increases the weight o that opinion – repeat behavior is also another way of weighting reputation.

Change the world…

“The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world…. No good deed, no kind word can be spoken without its effect being felt for good upon all.” — David O. McKay