Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work

I have long been fascinated (and disgusted) by the lack of government, union, or HR care for the abuse of workers in the software industry. During the dot com era, I actually heard it touted as an intentional strategy by some Silicon Valley managers to hire young programmers right out of school who would work long hours for little pay and were considered "disposable." Mostly, they were disposed of, by burn out.

This attitude was reflected a little more indirectly in the cuts in benefits and pensions everywhere including major companies like AT&T, layoffs in which senior people were cut on the principle that they were easy to replace; among other people mismanagement decisions that seemed to me to be incalculably stupid. Incalculable, unfortunately, because the decisions and decisionmakers at these companies were protected by layers of indirection (about the reasoning, minimally) and because there is profound difficulty in measuring the damage to the company, products, and customers, both long and short term. Stupid, because the people in the trenches doing the work understood the impact every day, in terms of workload, quality of work, culture, their attachment to the company, belief in the industry and in what they were doing...

More than one person I knew who was young and abused in the dot com era decided they were "getting out," went to open a record store (or flower shop) and never looked at a computer again. In an era of declining enrollment in computer science programs, we as an industry can't really afford that.

Here's a guy in the game industry--one of the most famously abusive software sectors--trying to make the case with a fairly well-researched article on the subject: IGDA - Articles - Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons. Tagline: There's a bottom-line reason most industries [except the software industry] gave up crunch mode over 75 years ago: It's the single most expensive way there is to get the work done. Of course, in the software industry, quality hasn't mattered that much, till recently. Will things change? Will software management change? Will the calculation become easier to make to argue against the stupid?

And here's an article, only tangentially related, but I think still related, on why America is lagging in R&D. The State of Research Isn't All That Grand. R&D is being outsourced, because it's cheaper that way; and R&D is "hard to measure" because it's a long-term investment. Most American companies aren't actually that good at long-term anything, in a profits-now-or-your-bonus-is-impacted business world.

Why hasn't Built to Last had more impact?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Birds at the Ren Faire in Carver, MA

Archimedes looking intense. RenFaire, MA, 06

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cheap Tickets

Over the weekend I caught up on Lifehacker, and found a bunch of posts and comment posts related to finding cheap airline tickets. Some were quite surprising to me -- like shop between 12 and 1am on Wed morning when companies update their records.

TripStalker -- a bot utility that continually looks for your best price and notifies you when it finds it.

Lifehacker thread of comments on this topic.

Another link collection on cheap ticket gimics.

Lots of people mentioned Sidestep (I use occasionally) and kayak.com, and travelocity doesn't fare too badly in the listings.

A fluffy photo post: Rabbits and Flickr Stuff

A friend sent me this link to some hilarious rabbit photos: My Rabbit Disapproves.

Just after laughing a lot at the justice in this woman's photo captions, I found this new flickr tool for browsing pic categories, which I spent a fair amount of time enjoying when I should have been driving to Nantucket. The search on bunnies turns up some really nice rabbit pics, not disapproving in the least. Cats are okay, but not as nice a collection. Gargoyles are a good contrast, and turn up a surprising number of cat pics. Or, perhaps not surprising, to a cat owner.

Flickr Storm.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Youth Hostel, Nantucket.

It's a good thing I'm not too old for youth hostels yet, or I would have missed this pretty building on the south side of the island.

Rusty Bench

Nantucket, MA