Evening Links: Women Changing Work, Aspirational Gap

  • The way women work:

    Five years ago, I left my own corporate fast-track career to work freelance, sacrificing all chances of traditional success and power. I did it because I could. I liked my work well enough, but I’d grown to hate corporate life with its hierarchies of halfwits, its waste-of-time politics and its thought control…. I’m recounting this not because my decision was so interesting or unusual, but because it wasn’t. I was just one of a huge, growing wave of women who join the workforce running, with qualifications and ambition to burn, then opt out of life in the big corporations and institutions at mid-career.

    You may recall there were several articles on this theme back in October. Linked from What’s your brand mantra?.

  • Aspirational Gap:

    A gap exists between a consumer’s aspirations and their actual lifestyle. All consumers aspire to live a certain lifestyle but most times they settle for living a life below their aspirations. Successful lifestyle brands are designed to tap into people’s aspirations and then offer these consumers a way to actualize their aspirations.

Links: Open Source Research, Dell Systems Management, Google Stickyness

  • Research Shows Effectiveness of Open Source Model of Developmentthe homepage for the research group has lots of interesting looking papers. The othe research groups at the ISR look interesting as well.
  • Dell Pushes Management Standards:

    [Customers] have to choose to invest in multiple proprietary vertically integrated management stacks from each of the vendors for their hardware in parallel to the management they’re using to manage their operating system and application deployment. That increases their costs of managing the environment. If they don’t do that, then ultimately they are locked into one or, if they’re lucky, two vendors, and have to live with the decisions that vendor makes, which won’t always be optimized to the business problem that they’re trying to solve inside their industry.

    We [in the high-tech industry] have tried to out-innovate each other, but ultimately that has driven up the cost of ownership for customers.

  • Google Stickiness, Command Line Interface to the Web:

    Google has decided that its customers should gather information through inputs of text search terms by using more or less the same simple interface to search for news, things to buy, or any other topic. That’s a small but important distinction. Google assumes that customers are smart enough to learn to search with words rather than with the graphical and pull-down menus used by most of its competitors. That’s an understandable bet. Google has gone from upstart to Internet star with a business plan based on that assumption.

    This is an interesting point: Google really is a command line interface (CLI) to the web. Well, of course, a sort of modern day CLI that’s done through a web browser instead of a shell. Nonetheless, it’s wide use and popularity gives hope that the optimist have been right about everyone being able to use CLI’s. They’re so much quicker (at least, for simple tasks) once you figure them out.

    Also of interest, and alluded to, is the extremely loose coupled architecture of Google’s services. To “integrate” with feeds and UPS tracking they didn’t have to exchange code with either of those companies, Google just used the most brilliant and simple RPC ever: the URL…and, implicitly, HTTP.

    There’s also this interesting marketing note:

    At the same time, being included among Google’s services could become a key selling point for companies such as FedEx. It’s not that much of a hassle to go directly to the DHL Web site to track packages shipped on that FedEx competitor. But when anyone can check package status directly from the Google toolbar, that constitutes a nice little edge for FedEx or UPS. In the brutally competitive package-shipping business, that small advantage can have a big impact.

Links: The Future, Prototyping, Combat Metrics, and Chinese Standards

  • Marc Benioff, of SalesForce.com talks about The Future – another of those “tell us about the future” interviews…quite long, though.
  • Prototyping Toys:

    Two-and-a-half-years ago, Little Tikes could not show off a toy until six months before it hit the shelves. The company now demonstrates what the product is supposed to look like as much as a year ahead of time using stereo lithography. The difference, according to Little Tikes president Rory Leyden, is that only 60% of new products used to meet the company’s profit projections. Now, two-and-a-half years later, the success rate is 96%.

    Also of interest is that their documentation process is composed of MS Office files (Word, Excel, etc.) and SharePoint.

  • When Using Metrics is Wrong:

    “The issue of quantifying success in counterinsurgency operations is a fool’s errand,” said one officer based in Baghdad. “It is great for business management, but not for the conduct of war. It is something that is questionable in conventional warfare and downright dangerous in unconventional warfare, simply because it will force you into taking actions based on that which is to be measured and not on what needs to be done.”

    (Link from Ascription is an anathema to any enthusiasm.)

  • More In Depth Discusion on China Making it’s own “Standards” – as I’ve linked to other posts, China is starting to make up it’s own standards. Also found at Ascription is an anathema to any enthusiasm.

IRS Lost it's Wallet in El Segundo, Finger Pointing Theatre

There are several articles about the IRS’s IT revamping, done by outside contractors lead (?) by CSC, getting out of hand 2 years into a 5 year schedule. They’re not very in depth, e.g.,:

“Both the IRS and CSC get blamed for failing to establish an environment of trust, confidence and teamwork between themselves. In fact, the report states, the opposite is true, leading to a tense and inefficient working environment and regular finger pointing. The report also criticizes the IRS and CSC for laying down an unrealistic program schedule.”

I can’t find The Report either at the IRS Oversight Board Website, though, there are some other interesting looking things there.

CNET has more (from the NYTimes):

The IRS says it can still process returns and send out refunds on time, but its dependence on the 1960s-era Assembler and Cobol computer languages makes it difficult to investigate and resolve taxpayers’ problems. Finding a record using the existing system can take a week; the new system is supposed to do the job in seconds.

. . .

Paul M. Cofoni, president of the Computer Sciences unit running the project…, said “in the early part of the program, we did a poor job of defining” what needed to be done. But that was in large measure because the IRS had no records of many changes to its old system, he said, and was reluctant to approve specifications for the new system until it could be sure that it would be able to find and display all the old information.

. . .

Five years into the project, some aspects are as much as 27 months behind schedule.

It looks like they’ve encountered Glass’s top two reasons for software project failure: missing requirements (and the inability to adapt to “finding” them re: schedule and over-all project re-jiggering), and, bad estimates (and the lack of revising the almost usefullness initial estimates throughout the projects).

What To Do With All Those Useless Pennies

Use them in US Post Office vending machines! Tonight Kim and I discovered that the stamp vending machines accept all coins, not just dimes, nickels, and quarters like most vending machines. While we had to take few minutes to stuff the machine with about 300 pennies and some more “silver coins,” we got rid of all our penny-stash.

This is truly the most awesome find of the week…well…so far, there’s still two more days for something better to happen. I doubt anything better than profitable penny disposable (we got stamps! that we could use!) will come up.

Who Runs Yer Favorite Booze

From the interesting Oligopoly Watch weblog comes this post about Pernod Ricard, the #3 distiller of spirits in the world.

They own quite a few of the boozes I called “mine” in the past: Wild Turkey, Bushmill’s, Jameson’s, and Chivas. They have Paddy’s too (I think): I had a duty-free bottle of that once, but it busted when I set my backpack down too hard in Amsterdam…I cried a mighty tear that day.

They got old HST’s liquor closet all locked up. For you well-dwellers, they have Seagram’s Vodka and Rum.

Re: Software Facts and Fallacies

As always, Arley has fun (no sarcasm there), lengthy comments on our favorite topics. This time, on today’s post about
Robert Glass’s Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering

The book is okay, but it’s the same as all the other software engineering books: here’s what you shouldn’t do with all the examples of what went wrong, and here’s my theory of what you should do with absolutely no empirical basis whatsoever.

In his defense, many of the comments (well, that I’ve read so far) draw on successful aspects of projects, not just “do the opposite of this bad thing.” But, you’re right, it would be nice to read more accounts of success rather than accounts of what didn’t work out. And, yes, a book like that would be rad. I think Cockburn’s writing (fadish as some of it is…well, fad-setting) is of this bent as well. Also, in the book
there are some references to a NASA book of software management that looked interesting in this success-only vein.

The argument about the top performers and office space / working environment is completely fallacious, and you as a philosopher should easily recognize it as such. The author makes an implicit and unjustified assumption that better office space will result in better programmers. You’ve got to look at the cause, not just the effect. Perhaps the better programmers have better working conditions because they’re better programmers?

And, sure, sure, the “more space makes more productive workers” is not a rock solid (hell, even of wet noodle strength) argument: I immediately had the same thoughts as you. What you’d want to see is a group of people who were performing badly, move them to better workspaces, and then see them improve…and then repeat it until even Bacon would say, “enough already! Let’s have super!”

Personally, I don’t think office space has so much to do with benefits to productivity (directly), but to moral. Sure, we can say that’s an egotistical idea–it is!– but stroking egos (when they deserve it) is a huge part of keeping up moral.

To pick up on the success-only basis for broad, unprovable statements, the most successful projects I’ve worked were staffed by people with extremely high moral who were always very happy. If that moral and happiness ever dipped, the quality of work dipped too; once moral and happiness went back up, so did quality and productivity.

The problem, of course, is often that the situation is more complex: if ther’e someone who’ll take your place (either on- or off-shore) when you get fired for complaing about moral and happiness, and you can’t afford to loose your job, then you’re shit out of luck, you better shut-up and code. Whether that works in the long term is often of little worry to orginizations who work under similar fears on a quarterly basis.

(And, as one of my co-workers, Brandon, can probably appreciate, I just thought it was a good excuse to use a picture I’ve had laying around for some time ;>)

Mo' Links

  • Charles & Co. have a new weblog with long-ish writings on it. He’s also off on his trip, in Tijuana currently.
  • China Wi-Fi codes to be controlled by 11 firms – this’ll be a good test of government controls in the tech world…a non-democratic government at that. My prediction is that it won’t fly, either meaning that China will loose out in in the WiFi world, “only criminals will use WiFi,” or the Chinese government will stop it’s sillyness.