14 November 2014

Spotify Model, the Darkside

Ah, the Spotify Engineering Culture.

We've all heard the gloss:  Small, independent Squads organized into buzzwordy terms like "Tribes," and "Guilds." These terms hearken to days past in humanity, days of community and craftsmanship.

Here's what I take from the above:  None of that fricking matters.  What really matters is a throwaway blurb at the very end of the video, starting at 12m 30s.  Transcribed here:
We've learned trust is more important than control.  Why would we hire someone we don't trust?  Agile at scale requires trust at scale, which means NO POLITICS.  It also means no fear.  Fear doesn't just kill trust; it kills innovation.  Because, if failure gets punished, people will be afraid to try new things.

 There's the secret sauce:

  • Hire the right people.
  • Trust them.
  • Dump the politics.
  • Expect failure and deal with it appropriately.
* * *

So here's the thing with the above:  I question whether it's sustainable by any organization of human beings.  Organizations have a natural succession, like a forest.  When the forest is just beginning, certain types of plants and animals thrive.  As it moves towards being old-growth, those new plants just don't fit anymore.  Then, a fire comes and kills the forest, and the cycle begins anew.

Spotify seems dedicated to keeping itself in that 'Succession' phase, with maximal growth and competition.   Can it sustain that?  

The dark side of the model is, ironically, that it is so trusting of individual performance and correct behavior.  That is:
  • Talented individuals need to be in all the roles. (To the "Hire the right people" statement)
  • The organization must not apply too much control.
  • The org must staunch natural human social behavior (read: politics).
  • The org must embrace failure and not blamestorm.
Said a different way, the Spotify model trusts human beings to be "good."  Once sociopathic behavior emerges, intractable egos, or other issues emerge, there's no indication how to deal with it.  I'm sure there's a copout in there somewhere: "You're doing it wrong." (e.g. you made a bad hire, etc.)  

Look, one bad hire should not crater your product delivery, okay?

The tagline occurs to me is this:
I don't trust the code I WRITE.  Because of that, I write unit and integration tests.  QED: People are fallible.  The spotify model asks me to trust a conjoined web of dependencies to ship my product?!

02 November 2014

My Longstanding Battle with Skating Continues

Me: "Hey Joey, what would you like to do today?"

He: "Let's go iceskating."

[...silence...]

She: "Dad doesn't do iceskating."



Me: "I can do it if I have to."

* * *

Ah famous last words.

I've been working alot lately.  Let me rephrase:  I've been working roughly 9:30->8pm M-T-R-F.  I haven't been working late Wednesdays because of Church, and not Fridays because something usually comes-up.  I haven't been able to spend much time with my son, and we're both missing it.

But...skating?   I hate ice-skating.  I actually went into our marriage with two agreements:   Whitney doesn't have to go on any ski-lifts or high places and I don't have to skate.

Then somehow it became a matter of pride and I said we were going.  Besides, we had a coupon for 1 free skate with another paid admission.  So, we went.

Joey was having lots of fun, and I made it it around the rink 2 times in an hour without falling.  So far so good.  My feet hurt and my lower-leg muscles were fatigued. (Yes, we're talking two slow circuits of the rink here, pathetic as it sounds).  I sat down and decided I was done, then like a punk with something to prove, I got up for a 3rd time.

The third trip didn't go so well.   In an attempt to help my throbbing feet, I loosened my laces too much.  I somehow missed my wife's texted admonition to "keep the ones a the top tight."   I made it maybe 15 yards onto the rink, then I fell pretty hard, backwards.  I tried to twist on my side like they tell you, but managed only to bang my shoulder, wrist, and right forehead.   I lay on the ice feeling like a class 'A' idiot, and everyone was looking at me.  My head was bleeding.  Not bad, but it didn't look good.  I didn't get a concussion or anything, but I was a real asshole to the entire staff and concerned onlookers.  

"Er, did someone cut in front of you or something?" a well-meaning 60-ish skating coach asked me as I sat down awaiting an ice pack.

"No...I just CAN'T SKATE, okay?"  Then I threw my skates off like a 5 year old disenchanted with the toy whose batteries had run out.  

Then the manager came over, "Sir, I'm Mr. Dewflotchy and I'm the manager...do you need anything?"

"Yes, you can LEAVE ME ALONE."

I wasn't mad at them.  I was mad at me.  I felt humiliated for yet another FAIL at the ice rink.  I knew I was fatigued and that I'd reached my limits.  

Worse, this is another in a string of 16 years of incidents at this very same place.

So we left.  I felt woozy, then got home and Whitney suggested I visit the ER.   Three X-Rays and a Band-Aide later they sent me home with a clean bill of, "That's gonna hurt in the morning."

* * *

At this point, I've no idea if I'll ever get on a rink again.  I'm pretty fed-up and I've got nothing to prove to anyone.  God bless you folks who like to glide across frozen water; it seems I'm not fated to become one of you.   I've spent maybe 3 hours total on a rink in my life, and hated nearly every second of it.

All this makes me really sad, like I'm a quitter.  Mostly, I regret how I've acted after the incident.  I was a real dick to the people at the ice center who were just trying to help.

28 October 2014

Aaaaaand, My Day is Shot (by Meetings)

I've come to understand my limits: 2 meetings.

Looking back on it, it's hard to comprehend a day where I had 7 1-hour meetings in a single day, because as it stands today, I've had 3 meetings and my mind is tapioca.  Actually, you might say I've had 4, but I'll get to that.

Running down the list:

  1. 10:30am Team standup.  Daily coordination face-to-face activities.  Absolutely essential.  Still counts against the quota!
  2. 2pm.  Steering committee meeting for something rather important.
  3. 3pm. Emergency coordination meeting because our team discerned we were blocked on all our upcoming work and needed to pull in some other work.
Now amid all that, was a sit-down I had around 11:15 with another developer on a point-of-interest.

Note the timing, too:
  • 10:30 --> Right in the middle of the morning.  
  • 2-3pm --> Right in the middle of the afternoon.
I remember fondly a team I was on where all meetings were before 10 or after 4, and the middle of the day was sacrosanct.

07 October 2014

A thought experiment.

Imagine yourself trapped in a cylinder filling with water.  The water comes in at an uneven rate: Sometimes it dribbles, sometimes it gushes.  You can't get out of the cylinder, and once the water reaches your head you'll drown.

"Okay, that's torture."

Yes, it is.

Now, let's imagine the cylinder were bigger, maybe the size of one of those nuclear storage tanks, but still only 7 or so feet tall.  You can have things in there with you to distract you, but the water's still coming in and once it gets to the top, you drown.

"Still torture."

Yep, it is.

Let's imagine the water was coming in at an unbelievably slow rate...maybe it might take years to get all the way to the top, and let's imagine the tank was even bigger, with a transparent top so you could see the sun.  There's always the risk that someone will open the flood valve and fill the tank at any moment.

Still...torture?  Maybe by now you see where this is going.  You're in that tank right now.

Our days are ultimately numbered, and our 'tank' is the size of the earth, perhaps bigger.  We've no real idea when that flood valve is going to open and kill us.

Dealing with those (metaphorical) facts is the central challenge in humanity:  Is your life torture, or is it something with meaning?  When your water gets to the top, be it suddenly or quickly, what is your legacy.

And, most importantly, do you know someone who can get you out of that tank once that brief moment of drowning is done?

I do.  And today, that makes me smile.  Let the water come.

07 September 2014

A Moment in Time: Early September 2014

It's quiet and loud, busy and peaceful as I sit outside Starbucks this afternoon.  Caffeine from the Clover-brewed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe courses through me as the clock turns 6.

I'm reeling having watched The One I Love.  Like, back on my heels reeling.  Watched that at the Kentucky Theatre with a small matinee crowd, attempting to shut-down a few brain cells to prepare for crunch time ahead--crunch time at home, at work, etc.  I wasn't successful, the movie's a mind-f@#%.  Like, your mind rejects it, refusing to suspend disbelief, right as the main characters...have to suspend their disbelief.

Anyway, Chevy Chase area, Lexington Kentucky.  This is exactly where I always wanted to live, some place like this, or the Bardstown road area of Louisville:  Urban, but green, old but renewed.  Cars exist here, but they're optional...it's very walkable, and people seem fit, especially on a glorious no-humidity day with Fall in the air.

Mostly, I just like listening and smelling.   When I was out in Seattle in April, I enjoyed walking down to Pike Place market in the early morning (3 hour Jet lag, yay) and smelling and hearing the bustle, the life.  You can see how writers of the Lost Generation had to have a place like Paris, a nexus of people and ideas, of cafes and places to meet to exchange ideas.

Seems like we've forgotten that, the agora, the forum, the square, the Sunday afternoon bandstand.  Maybe America never had it, obsessed as we are with our manifest destiny to subdue a continent.  We have important STUFF TO DO.  "Shut up and get out of my way, buddy," shouts our houses, cars, clothes, and our noses buried in our phones.  "You" are not important.  *I* am important.

We'll find out some day we got that last part wrong.  We were all important, to God.  The "gift" of Neitzsche seems to be the pervasive belief that we're not.  The nihilism and chaos that's resulted shames us all.

The world seems ready to blow itself apart more than usual:   Russia and Ukraine read from Archduke Ferdinand's script--or something worse.  If every generation invents sex, we surely invent war, too.  "We'll look back and see that Malaysian Air 17 was the start of World War III," a friend opined on Facebook.  She's looking more right by the day.

On my front, lots of goodness:   I continue making my way through Cottrell's The Faith Once for All.  I've never had a systematic treatment of theology from the Ontological argument through a tour of doctrine, and this is my first foray at Tom LaHue's suggestion.  I've long be trying to reconcile freewill and God's omniscience and Cottrell has the first convincing argument I've seen that's not TULIP Calvinism or shackling God somehow.

At church, I'm taking a class on Apologetics with our music minister, Daniel Stephens.  I often look for people who "geek out" on a topic, be it dentistry, optometry, or car repair.   Like when you're interviewing people, you like people with passion.  Daniel gushes over philosophy and reason, to a degree I didn't even see in the Philosophy profs in college.  Class #1 was interesting, and I look forward to class 2.

* * *

Last, a bit of DIY:   This week my wife announced our fridge was broken, registering ~60 degrees F on wednesday.  All our food spoiled, but curiously the freezer was colder than ever, frosting over.  We prepped to swallow purchase of a new fridge, but scheduled a call to an appliance tech anyway.  He patiently explained that what we actually had was a frozen-over ventilation system from our freezer to our fridge.

"Has anyone left your fridge door open?"  Why yes, the darling three-year-old before you, kind sir.

So basically, he reformatted my understanding of how refrigerators work...at least the mechanical kind.  There's one thermostat, and it lives in your fridge.  There's one compressor circuit and it lives in your freezer.  There's airflow between the two, and whenever the fridge gets too hot, the thermostat tells your freezer to kick on.  However, there's a catch:  If the fridge stays open, it's possible for the freezer to run so long as to frost-up the channels between them.

That's exactly what happened to us.  So, 30 minutes of steam-defrosting later, we have our fridge back, at 10% the cost of a new fridge.  Tidbit:  "This fridge will outlast any new one you buy.  It's completely mechanical.  They made this fridge for 20 years.  If you want to get rid of it, call me and I'll take it."  Fellow seemed credible.  Again:  "Geek out" effect.