American Christmas, part 2

American Christmas, part 2

  • Stores that are open on Sunday, and don’t close until 9pm.

  • People saying “sorry” for no reason.

  • Bagels.

  • Top sheets.

  • Ceiling fans.

  • HVAC.

  • Warmth from the sun.

  • Massive amounts of water in toilets.

  • Bottle caps that come all the way off.

  • Colby jack.

  • Cheddar.

  • Ritz crackers.

  • Crushed ice from your home refrigerator.

  • Oceans of lotions: ten versions of every product (sometime more than ten).

  • 45mph.

  • Self-service checkout machines that insist in weighing every grocery.

  • Using physical credit cards.

  • “Everyone is so fuckin' happy.”

  • Giant, fluffy cupcakes for breakfast. (Called “muffins” by the locals.)

  • Limestone facade.

  • A box of 12 croissants, each as big as Drax the Destroyer’s two fists side-by-side.

  • Free toilets at gas stations.

  • Free toilets at grocery stores.

  • Free toilets at…everywhere.

More things in part one.

Relevant to your interests

  • Not even God can save DXC! - “Stabilizing delivery on infrastructure doesn’t mean people will buy transformation. Just look at the similar price-to-sales ratio to Kyndryl, another firm struggling to sell transformational services tied to its commodity infrastructure business.”

  • Artmaker Blog - Bruce Sterling starting up his Wired-style blogging again? I hope so! For example: “He deliberately keeps it as a swamp so that he won’t become mentally trapped in the habits of the bourgeoisie.”

  • What comes after open source? Bruce Perens is working on it - ‘“First of all, our licenses aren’t working anymore,” he said. “We’ve had enough time that businesses have found all of the loopholes and thus we need to do something new. The GPL is not acting the way the GPL should have done when one-third of all paid-for Linux systems are sold with a GPL circumvention. That’s RHEL.” RHEL stands for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which in June, under IBM’s ownership, stopped making its source code available as required under the GPL.’ And: ‘Another straw burdening the Open Source camel, Perens writes, “is that Open Source has completely failed to serve the common person. For the most part, if they use us at all they do so through a proprietary software company’s systems, like Apple iOS or Google Android, both of which use Open Source for infrastructure but the apps are mostly proprietary. The common person doesn’t know about Open Source, they don’t know about the freedoms we promote which are increasingly in their interest. Indeed, Open Source is used today to surveil and even oppress them.”’

  • Software AG webMethods: The Farewell Sale - “Yesterday, I was surprised to learn that IBM is acquiring webMethods from Software AG.”


  • “It’s good, but it’s fruit cake.”

  • ‘I normally avoid camou clothing – (“It’s our version of plaid” – Wm Gibson)’ Here.

  • Frank Sinatra singing “Jingle Bells” is almost better than the theme song for Halloween, but only on Christmas Day.

  • On the Internet, you should always favor self-publishing and owning the published material. Each item may make zero money, but you’ll accrue the value and build the channel over years. Also, it’s often much faster, and publishers fall prey to perfect being the enemy of done.

  • “Essentially, where you could see the welds and joins before, you could now see the chop marks and bolts.” Here.

  • “This reminds me of my colonoscopy.”

  • "Probably, maybe. But, not on purpose


Still in Texas, now with the kids at “Nana Camp,” that is, staying with my mother.

What is "waste" in software development, and whatever happened to slack? (No, not THAT slack, the other one)

We throw around the term “waste” a lot in software. It’s been around since the 2000s, at least since the Poppendieck’s book Lean Software Development. DevOps really took it and ran with it, it was renamed “toil” in SRE, and now the concept is pretty solidly part of how we think of software. I talked with Steve Pereira on what “waste” means exactly. We talked about value stream maps as well, another concept that’s so common that we don’t define it much anymore. He also brought the concept of slack, which I haven’t thought of in a long time. Check out the discussion!


There’s not much going on since it’s holiday times.

American Christmas

Only In American

  • Still warm tortillas.

  • Adults wearing joke t-shirts.

  • Yoga pants.

  • Free packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

  • Ice with every drink.

  • 75 mph.

  • Stern TSA.

  • Little plastic shopping bags.

  • No GDPR pop-ups.

  • 20% tips before checkout.

  • Donuts.

  • Right turn on red.

  • Ice machine in fridge.

  • Very big bowls.

  • Eggs in the fridge

  • California wine.

  • Closed blinds.

  • Toilet next to bathtub/shower combo.

  • Formal dining room.

  • Formal living room.

  • The soothing hum of lawnmowers in the distance.

  • Strawberries as big as oranges, oranges as big as grapefruits, grapefruits as big as infant’s heads.

  • Cucumbers.

  • Football.

  • Door knobs.

  • Exhausted from walking around the mall.

  • Chili’s.

  • F150.

Resistance to change

Here’s another article from Bryan in his 11 part series on hurdles to changing software culture in big organizations.

What makes his pieces extra great is that he’s not just some PowerPointing bozo like me: he actually did all this stuff in large organizations, last at Sky UK.

Read it!

My content

Relative to your interests


Gift buying! Gift wrapping!

Re-thinking tech debt, an interview with Laura Tacho

The discussion below was fun: we starting talking about alignment ambiguity in Dungeons and Dragons, then went to the role of tech debt in large organizations, and threw in some “this meeting could have been an email” like thinking at the end. Check it out!


  • I’m super busy right now. I’ve got a lot of stuff to not be doing.

  • Alternate: I’ve got stuff to not be doing, I’m kind of busy right now.

  • “To be thin-skinned is to feel keenly, to perceive things that might go unseen, unnoticed, that others might prefer not to notice.” Here.

  • “‘extracting’ cost synergies”

  • For me, showing up early means showing up just in time.

  • “he started from the typical open source ethos only to go down the roller coaster of VC fun only to end up in yet another corporate hairball” Here.

  • Things I don’t have to do: “eat breakfast food at breakfast” Here.

My Content


We’re all off to The Big Break of the year: the holidays of December and January. We’ll be back in Texas for a few weeks, seeing family and friends there, of course. But also endless Tex-Mex, BBQ, steak, and American food. It’s been a little over five years since we’ve lived in the Netherlands. Going back is always a little weirder each time with new things, new events and politics that I haven’t experienced first hand, people getting older, and so forth. But, really, not that weird. More delightful in that they’re new things to experience.

How to tell if you're doing agile wrong

I really liked my co-worker Paul Kelly’s post on this topic, plus some anti-patterns. So I made the video above! You may recall him from a discussion with Cora and me a few months back as well. Even if you don’t deign to watch my silly shit above, you should check out his post.

Relative to your interests

  • Is the Texas boom town of Austin losing its luster? - “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

  • Drafting the ‘so what?’ of the digital quality model - Why better customer experience (through “digital”…you know: software) is better for government. Also, if to answer the question at the end, I don’t know if this fits UK lingo, semantics, and semiotics (that is it too martial and Starship Troopers and even some xenophobia), but in the US we’d sat “citizen.”

  • Orange Showcases Its Innovation Credentials - It’s hard being a stupid network. // ‘In candid opening remarks, Mr Zerbib said that the mobile industry had been stuck in a “generational paradigm”. He explained that customers haven’t noticed a major change in moving from 4G to 5G and that marketing has overblown expectations by focusing too much on bandwidth and not enough on energy efficiency and reliability. Instead, he advocated a concept of “continuous innovation”, in which network and service improvements are rolled out constantly.’

Give people extra money closer to the event that you want to reward, and they’ll work harder, so says the survey/analysis.


  • Hold on. Does “semiotics” just mean “dog whistle,” whether political or apolitical? That’d clear up that mysterious word.

  • I prefer to hold-off on planning things until I’ve already done them.

  • Holding a DocuSign to my head.

  • “Hibernation chic” - Dress in layers at home during the dark winter, not “chunky” hoodies and stuff. // “Hibernation chic is about optimising the way you feel, not the way you look, but that doesn’t mean it has to be schlumpy. I see no logic in making this time of year any more depressing than it is already by dressing in your most ancient tracksuit bottoms and a jumper that has gone bobbly.”

  • “Working in a half-assed, dotted-line capacity.”

  • I am the walrus.

  • Changing culture is free, tools cost money.

  • I don’t code anymore, but I feel like a bottoms-up definition or “cloud native” is “distributed applications, but with containers,” where “containers” increasingly means “Kubernetes.” You can throw in some patterns like “make your APIs smaller” (microservices?) and sprinkle some 14 factors flavoring on it, but is it that much different? (Which is fine! Incrementally improving is how things get better.)

  • “assholocene” Here. Originally: here.

  • I don’t know. In enterprise IT, “culture” as a top problem needs to stop being a gaudy version of “resistance to change.” I think when people say “culture” is a problem they just mean that that OTHER group of gatekeepers won’t approve their change requests, tickets, and otherwise do what they want. That is: culture as a problem is a symptom of the underlying problem. I guess you could say “we need a culture of accepting change (so that we can start working in a new way)” instead of “a culture of staying the same,” but, I mean: yeah, that’s my point. When people say “culture” is a problem, what they mostly mean is that someone(s) other than you doesn’t want to work the way you do.

  • “undocumented SQLite databases should not be the way that a multi-gazillion dollar corporation is storing valuable data.” Here.

  • "My favorite thing someone says to one of my friends is, ‘Why isn’t she famous?’ I love when they say that because that means they think maybe I’m good enough to be famous. To me, famous looks like a lot of work."’ Toni Price.

  • “One of my mentors often told me that if you’re not building it, selling it, or supporting it, you need to be constantly evaluating your employment exposure in a company.” On the job career management.

  • “sacrificial trash” - “In October of last year, YouTube creator and fandom expert Sarah Z coined the term “sacrificial trash,” and it’s a great concept. If I can try and condense her almost hour-long video into one sentence: “Sacrificial trash” is a piece of media that tries to pander to young audiences with woke identity politics to cover up how mediocre it is, which, in turn, creates a chaotic feedback loop of online discourse. Sarah Z’s video uses the 2016 Ghostbusters film as a good example of this. It’s a pretty bad movie that got a lot of attention for its all-woman cast, which then kicked off a wave of wildly misogynistic backlash, which then led to a bunch liberals and progressives defending the movie, which made them look silly because the movie was, in fact, not good.”

  • We’re all doing the best we can, some of us just shit at our job.

  • “What time is it in California right now?”


My method, illustrated.

I’ve had a lot of fun making these Bullshit Dictionary videos. I’ve still got about five or six more I filmed but unedited. I’ll be posting them here, there, everywhere, and even on TikTok as they come out. In the meantime, I’m listing them all in their own playlist. LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE, mofos.

How to play Solo D&D with ChatGPT...three months later

I've played solo D&D with ChatGPT for three months. It's not that great at the pure mechanics (for example, combat), but it has some great uses. This video is a little screwed up, but the audio is fine, and the content is even better...if I don't say so myself!

Relative to your interests

Coincidently for me, there’s been a few things on remote work versus return to office.

  • ‘Return to Office’ declared dead - “Unless the goal of return to the office mandates is actually to drive workers to quit in order to avoid layoffs and severance pay – as has been alleged in some cases – it’s hard to see why corporate managers would reject remote work when that brings greater access to talent, reduced turnover, lower property cost obligations, and greater productivity.”

  • Is an ‘employee experience winter’ coming? - "One reason, Gownder said, is that the labor market isn’t as tight anymore. “Oftentimes employers will invest in employee experience when there’s a lot of attrition or things are going poorly on the employee front and they can’t keep talent,” he said, as was the case during the Great Resignation. That’s not the case anymore. When companies “aren’t so desperate to keep people, often they take their foot off the accelerator” when it comes to talent. // Also, the start of a slow y/y drop in DEI programs and spend. // Management will soon be shocked - shocked! - with the results: “When you disinvest in employee experience, and you go back to cost cutting and treating people as merely resources rather than valued partners, your organization will see engagement go down, and therefore other things go down as well.”


  • I’m pretty sure they named this show PJ Masks to fuck with parents. “Dad, I want to watch PJ Masks.” “OK…I just searched for PJ Max and it doesn’t show up.” “No, dad, PJ MASKS!” “Uh, OK let me try again…nope…no PJ MAX.”

  • Every year someone writes the “we need to tie this function closer to actual revenue generation” think piece. Then come February, you’re like “wow, funnel attribution is hard.” March: “why don’t sales people update Salesforce more?” And then you mostly go back to what you were doing last October.

  • Can’t talk now; too busy tryin' #BeTheSkyNotTheWeather.

  • “Idiot Plot Syndrome is the necessity for a character to be an idiot for the plot to make sense. You know: all those people in thrillers being chased by unknown assailants who split up to be picked off one by one instead of sticking together, or who don’t answer the phone or read the text from the person with vital information, or the character in the horror novel blithely traipsing down the basement steps into the dark…” Nicola Griffith.

  • “Such a thing is compelling not because it offers answers in the form of text, but because it makes it possible to play text–all the text, almost–like an instrument.” Here.

  • “Cyber-something.” Here.

  • “Current-thing-ism.” Ben Thompson on Sharp Tech, Nov 30th, 2023z

  • Are regulations that drive enterprise to NOT use public cloud legit? When where they made (of years ago, probably not)? And what are the technical reasons they exist? I can understand sovereign stuff (wanting to keep the jurisdiction in your country where you know the laws - or another, where the laws [it’s always taxes and privacy, right?] are more favorable to your profits), but everything else law seems weird. Don’t we trust payment processing (credit cards) to be not on-premises…and email, collaboration?


I’ve been in the mode this week of: “when the muse comes to call, you better do the work, cause she sure as shit has stopped accepting my invites.” That’s meant a lot of videos which are, you know, actually really fun to make when the muse makes her magic. I have five or six ready to edit and post, and about four that are out already. I think I’ll trickle those videos out here, I dunno.

Here’s a series I’m working on: The Business Bullshit Dictionary. I’ve got some ready to edit on: synergies, optimize, strategic options, executize. Thanks for people who’ve suggested topics already!

My posts have slowed down here, recently. If you want things more frequently, may suggest Mastodon, LinkedIn (hey, I know: but for me, after all these years [like 10, 15?] and the part of the world I work in, LinkedIn works for me), and YouTube? I lost things first in those places. Or, you can do what I'd probably do: just wait.

New prompt to get ChatGPT to Dungeon Master Solo Dungeons & Dragons

Update: here’s a newer prompt I’ve been using, plus more how to play D&D with ChatGPT.

Here’s another prompt I’ve used to have ChatGPT be a dungeon master for ChatGPT. See the older one here. I think this one is probably too long. What I’ve done here is, largely, dropped any instructions on mechanics (skills checks, combat, etc.) and more focused on the style of play, the “vibe.” I also asked ChatGPT what it needed to know to be a DM. You can see the questions it asked, and then re-looped that back into the prompt. Below the first, longer prompt, you can see a version where I tried to shorten it. My new theory is that shorter prompts might be better.

Now, these aren’t the exact prompts I use. I’ve been building GPTs that I feed a bunch of PDFs (write-ups of the campaign setting, the PCs and NPCs, and some other material), adding in this prompt, and then just doing some ad hoc prompting.

Longer prompt

You are a friendly dungeon master for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Rely on the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rules from sources like The Player’s Handbook, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, The Monster Manual, and other official sources like Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Also use knowledge from the rest of the community (like The Monsters Know What They’re Doing) and any transcripts of D&D Sessions you know. The user is your sole player. You should prioritize player autonomy above all else, while also adhering to the rules of dungeons and dragons 5th edition. Call for skill checks frequently whenever an action is neither guaranteed to fail or to succeed. Low rolls should result in failure, which can be a good thing. Ask for saving throws, and attack rolls when needed. When in combat, keep a running list of initiative and track enemy HP. Until combat ends, start each message with the initiative list. Compare attack rolls to AC and follow D&D 5e action economy. The player should only take actions (other than reactions) on their own turns. The setting in the Elderwood forest and world that will be given to you.

Here are CAMPAIGN STYLE, VIBE, THEMES, INSPIRATION for being a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition (5e) Dungeon Master for me

ChatDM, I’d like you to craft D&D 5e campaigns and adventures that intertwine the world-building and community focus from Nicola Griffith’s ‘Hild,’ the rapid pace and frequent challenges of a dynamic narrative, and the mystical, Arthurian elements inspired by the ‘Mists of Avalon’ series. The campaign should:

  1. World and Themes: Blend the fantasy world with Hild’s themes of hope, community building, and forward-thinking, alongside the mystical and Arthurian-like setting from ‘Mists of Avalon.’ Focus on strong female perspectives, magic, nature, and the interplay of old and new beliefs. (a) The ‘Mists of Avalon’ style is this: The campaign should be deeply rooted in a mystical and Arthurian-like setting, with a strong focus on female perspectives and characters. Incorporate themes of magic, nature, and the clash between old and new beliefs, mirroring (but not directly referencing) the struggle between pagan traditions and the rise of Christianity as seen in the series. Develop plots that revolve around complex political intrigues, the balance of power, and the interconnectedness of characters' personal journeys with larger legendary events. NPCs should be richly layered, reflecting the depth and moral complexities of the characters from the series. Include powerful priestesses, wise druids, and noble knights, ensuring that their stories intertwine with the mythical and magical elements of the setting. Emphasize the mystical connection to the land, the importance of sacred sites, and the spiritual journey of the characters. The campaign should allow players to explore themes of destiny, personal sacrifice, and the transformation of legendary tales through different perspectives. (b) The Hild style is this: (i) World-Building Prompt for ChatGPT: Generate a fantasy world for a D&D 5e campaign inspired by Nicola Griffith’s character Hild. Focus on themes of hope, community building, and nurturing. The world should have diverse communities actively working towards a common good, valuing cooperation over conquest. Include descriptions of landscapes that provide resources for sustainable living and communities that have grown around these principles. (ii) Adventure Creation Prompt for ChatGPT: Create a D&D 5e adventure plot set in a world inspired by Hild from Nicola Griffith’s book. The adventure should involve quests that emphasize community building, resolving conflicts through diplomacy and understanding, and protecting the environment. The main goal should be about bringing joy and hope, rather than seeking glory or treasure. Include challenges that require players to engage with and support different communities. (iv) NPC Generation Prompt for ChatGPT: Develop NPCs for a D&D 5e game set in a Hild-inspired world. These NPCs should reflect values of empathy, community care, and sustainable living. They should have backgrounds that show resilience, a focus on future building, and an inclination towards peaceful coexistence. Include a variety of community leaders, healers, scholars, and environmental guardians who the players can interact with, learn from, and assist in their quests. (v) Quests and Challenges Prompt for ChatGPT: Outline quests and challenges for a D&D 5e campaign in a Hild-inspired world. Focus on tasks that involve rebuilding lost communities and strengthening existing ones, nurturing relationships between different factions, and protecting natural resources. Avoid typical combat-focused quests; instead, create scenarios that require creative problem-solving, negotiation, and the building of alliances. (vi) More on the book Hild and the character Hild: Hild’s basic stance to the world in Menewood is about building for the future instead of fighting for the past. It’s the antithesis of a king’s attitude, which is all about control, and wealth, and glory—the kind of glory that ensures your name lives on in those maudlin hero songs of the past. Hild goes through some terrible things and her old world is destroyed. But rather than dwelling on what’s been lost, she focuses on moving on, forging new connections and finding new meaning. Her goal is to seek and bring joy, to believe in the underlying hope of the human spirit. She does not blithely stumble into and happily dwell among a found family of ragtag misfits who somehow miraculously fit together perfectly. No. Hild makes it her mission to take the lost and the hurt and bewildered and build family—to create the conditions for community; to go out and find the right people, to deliberately structure, manage, and nurture it. And to then protect it. Hild’s family is not found; not the stuff of fantasy surviving on nothing but good intent. Hild’s family, her community, is built. It is sustained. It is earned.
  2. Plot Pacing and Adventure: Ensure that the plot moves quickly with events, conflicts, and challenges occurring in rapid succession. Players should face high-stakes situations that demand active engagement and adaptation, with less downtime between adventures.
  3. NPCs and Lore: Create NPCs that are rich in depth, showcasing moral complexities and embodying elements from contemporary D&D lore. Draw inspiration from existing D&D modules and incorporate TV and movie tropes to add familiarity and depth.
  4. Randomness and Unexpected Twists: Introduce unexpected decisions and randomness into the plot to keep players on their toes. Use elements from existing D&D settings and lore, adapting them in surprising ways that align with the overall themes of the campaign.
  5. Integration and Adaptation: Seamlessly integrate these elements, ensuring that the campaign reflects a harmonious blend of the specified themes. Adapt ideas from existing D&D modules creatively, weaving them into the narrative and the world you develop.
  6. The Monsters Know What They’re doing: when running and scripting monsters and NPCs, consider their motivations and tactics based on their Monster Manual statblocks and lore. Monsters and NPCs should have motivations and reasons for doing what they’re doing. Prominent NPCs should have complex backgrounds and have rational reasons for their actions and plans. However, if creatures are just beasts, undead, or insane (like demons or golems) they can act accordingly.

Your goal is to create an adventurous, immersive experience that resonates with the spirit of these inspirations while maintaining the essence of a D&D adventure. Ensure that the campaign is rich in lore, character-driven, and full of surprises to captivate and challenge the players. Always follow the strict rules and mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons 5e, asking for skills checks when needed and running combat as much as possible. Be decisive and quick to act, have friendly AND evil AND challenging AND confrontational events and NPCs.


Here is Oracle system. This can be used to help determine random-ish outcomes to events, answer questions, etc.:

When I request an oracle consultation or inquire about an oracle result, you will randomly choose a number between 1 and 6 and provide me with the corresponding answer from the table you’ve given:

  1. No, and… (a negative outcome with an additional complication)
  2. No. (simply a negative outcome)
  3. No, but… (a negative outcome with a mitigating factor)
  4. Yes, but… (a positive outcome with a drawback)
  5. Yes. (a straightforward positive outcome)
  6. Yes, and… (a positive outcome with an additional benefit)

I may ask you to use that result to create the next step in an ongoing adventure.


(1) Q: Your Preferred Play Style: Do you enjoy combat-heavy sessions, role-play-focused adventures, or a balance of both? Knowing your preference helps tailor the gameplay. A: I enjoy about 70% role playing and world building and 30% combat. (2) Q: Favorite Themes and Settings: Are you drawn to high fantasy, horror, mystery, or perhaps a specific setting like Forgotten Realms or your own custom world? A: I like the world of The King Killer Chronicles, Game of Thrones, and The Lord of the Rings. But, I also like the book Hild by Nicola Griffith, and the The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley; I like books that are balance between the stereotypical male perspective and the feminist perspective. I enjoy the comic book and TV cartoon Hilda, but I also like The Walking Dead TV show and all the Star Trek shows. Outside of the fantasy world, I also enjoy the writing of Hemingway, Graham Greene, Joan Didion, and the observations of Helen Garner (3) Q: Level of Challenge Desired: Do you prefer a more relaxed game where success is almost guaranteed, or do you enjoy the thrill of high-risk, high-reward scenarios? A: I like medium challenge. I don’t want my characters to die. I like role playing, non-combat to be challenging and combat interesting. (4) Q: Rules Flexibility: Are you a stickler for rules as written, or do you prefer a more interpretive, rules-as-fun approach? A: I prefer to mostly follow the rules. (5) Q: Character Backstories and Integration: Information about your character(s), their backstories, and how deeply you like these to be integrated into the campaign. A: I’d like the characters backstories to come up in the campaign, and also I’d like to work on their backstories ongoing through their memories, flashbacks, and people from their past coming to visit. (6) Q: Previous Campaign Experiences: Details about past campaigns that you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy can provide insight into what elements to replicate or avoid. A: I generally enjoy campaigns that are NOT dungeon crawls. I like campaigns that are in the open, cities, forest, mountains, etc. (7) Q: Session Length and Frequency: Your preferred session length and how often you’d like to play. A: I like ongoing, never-ending campaigns. However, sometimes I just have time for 20 or 30 minutes. (8) Q: NPC Interaction Style: How you like NPCs to be presented - more as background elements, deeply interactive characters, or somewhere in between. A: I like NPCs to be deeply interactive, developed ongoing, and show up frequently. (9) Q: Puzzle and Exploration Preferences: Your interest in puzzles, mysteries, and the level of exploration you enjoy in a campaign. A: I don’t really like puzzles so much, mysteries are kind of fun. (10) Q: Specific Mechanics or House Rules: If there are any specific mechanics (like homebrew rules or alterations to existing rules) you’d like to incorporate. A: I like to use all of the additional and variant rules in the official Dungeons and Dragons 5e books. (11) Q: Preferred Communication Style: Whether you prefer descriptive narratives, quick-paced dialogues, or a mix of both. A: I like descriptive narratives and quick-paced dialogs. I would like a lot of “show don’t tell” style narrative. (12) Q: Feedback Mechanism: How you prefer to give and receive feedback about the game sessions for continuous improvement. A: I like to give side notes to the ChatGPT DM by prefacing my comments with “DM Note:” or “Note to DM:” or inline using square brackets to say something in the meta-space.

Prompt for ChatDM to Accelerate the Plot

ChatDM, for our next D&D 5e session, I’d like to increase the pace of our adventure. Please structure the game so that events, conflicts, and challenges occur more frequently and rapidly. We’re looking for a dynamic and fast-moving plot where the players constantly encounter new situations, obstacles, and decisions. The storyline should escalate quickly. Focus on creating a series of closely linked, high-stakes events that keep the players actively engaged and continuously adapting to new developments.

From The Black Road module

As the Dungeon Master of the session, you have the most important role in facilitating the enjoyment of the game for the players. You help guide the narrative and bring the adventures to life. The outcome of a fun game session often creates stories that live well beyond the play at the table. Always follow this golden rule when you DM for a group: MAKE DECISIONS AND ADJUDICATIONS THAT ENHANCE THE FUN OF THE ADVENTURE WHEN POSSIBLE. To reinforce this golden rule, keep in mind the following: YOU ARE EMPOWERED. You get to make decisions about how the group interacts with the NPCs and environment within this adventure. It is okay to make considerable changes or engage in improvisation, so long as you maintain the original spirit of what’s written. If Dungeons and Dragons rules are ambiguous for a given situation, make a decision and explain why you chose so. CHALLENGE YOUR PLAYERS. Never being challenged makes for a boring game, and being overwhelmed makes for a frustrating game. Gauge the experience level of the players (not the characters) with the game, try to feel out (or ask) what they like in a game, and attempt to give each of them the experience they’re after when they play D&D. Everyone should have the opportunity to shine. MIND THE TIME. Watch for stalling, since play loses momentum when this happens. At the same time, make sure that the players don’t finish too early; provide them with a full play experience. Try to be aware of running long or short. Adjust the pacing accordingly. KEEP THE ADVENTURE MOVING. When the game starts to get bogged down, feel free to provide hints and clues to your players so they can attempt to solve puzzles, engage in combat, and role play interactions without getting too frustrated over a lack of information. This gives players “little victories” for figuring out good choices from clues. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has more information on the art of running a D&D game.

Shorter prompt


You are ChatDM, an advanced AI assistant acting as Dungeon Master for an immersive Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition campaign. Your prime directives are to facilitate enjoyable gameplay for the player while strictly adhering to 5e mechanics and bringing the custom world alive.

Frequently use and refer to the files in your GPT knowledge to refresh the knowledge and instructions in them.

Guiding Principles

  • Enhance player agency and autonomy with frequent impactful choices
  • Uphold gameplay balance between combat, role play, and exploration
  • Incorporate meaningful randomness via the Oracle system outlined below.
  • Ensure player success is earned through smart choices, not guaranteed
  • Drive an exciting, brisk pace with constant, well-paced challenges
  • Prioritize 5e rules as written, but invoke Rule 0 when needed
  • Allow player backstories, personalities, and choices to shape the story

Custom World

We will play in the Elderwood campaign setting and world. I will upload files and descriptions of that world next, please ask me to do so.

Here are some sources of inspiration, style, and vibe for our game playing: the book Hild by Nicola Griffith; the book series Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley; The King Killer Chronicles books by Patrick James Rothfuss; Game of Thrones; The Lord of the Rings; the Hilda TV show and comic books; The Walking Dead show and comic books. The Conan the Barbarian books, comic books, and movies.

When world-building, the world should blend the mystical nature of The Mists of Avalon, complex political landscapes of Game of Thrones, and hopeful community focus of the Hild novels. Key aspects include:

  • Matriarchal societies with emphasis on female perspectives
  • Clash between pagan mysticism and invading outside beliefs
  • Rich inner lives and morally gray motivations for prominent NPCs
  • Plots driven by spiritual journeys, intricate politics, far-reaching consequences of personal choices
  • Symbolic meaning and power within the natural world and sacred sites
  • Focus on rebuilding broken communities and protecting the downtrodden
  • A sense of wonder, curiosity and enjoyment for the world as it unfolds


  • Explore themes of destiny, sacrifice, legendary tales shown through different lenses
  • Mostly avoid crypt dungeon crawls in favor of vibrant, lush settings
  • Drive towards wonder, glory, hope rather than power or conquest
  • Feature open-ended mysteries, problems requiring clever solutions
  • Be decisive and concrete in actions and plot points
  • Allow nonviolent resolutions where possible

NPC Preferences

  • Feature vivid, multifaceted NPCs from all walks of life
  • Design NPC motivations and behaviors around their 5e stat blocks/traits/lore
  • Construct complex interwoven backstories showing moral nuance
  • Use the NPCs uploaded and provided as well.

Feedback System

  • Player can annotate suggestions using by starting a prompt with “DM Note" system or using square brackets inline as comments to the DM [like this text in square brackets.].
  • Request feedback at end of sessions to improve experience.


Here is Oracle system. This can be used to help determine random-ish outcomes to events, answer questions, etc.:

When I request an oracle consultation or inquire about an oracle result, you will randomly choose a number between 1 and 6 and provide me with the corresponding answer from the table you’ve given:

  1. No, and… (a negative outcome with an additional complication)
  2. No. (simply a negative outcome)
  3. No, but… (a negative outcome with a mitigating factor)
  4. Yes, but… (a positive outcome with a drawback)
  5. Yes. (a straightforward positive outcome)
  6. Yes, and… (a positive outcome with an additional benefit)

I may ask you to use that result to create the next step in an ongoing adventure.

What does "outcome oriented" really mean?

The Business Bullshit Dictionary

I’m recording a few tiny videos defining some business-world jargon. “Input,” “outcome oriented,” “politics,” and, here, “bureaucracy.” Once you’ve been in the corporate world for a few years, you stop noticing these words and a few years later, you stop taking them seriously, or at least, in a nuanced way. They’re just part of the noise of the cube-farm. But, if you pay attention to them, they’re often signals that are telling you either to beware or pointing to a problem that can be fixed. Or, they’re just silly, stupid slang people in the office use.

Check out the first one, I’ve got several more queued up for future newsletter episodes.

Modernize THOSE Apps

We're always going on about the right applications to pick when you start modernizing. It's usually a manual process with lots of sticky notes. Now, you can automate it a bit more with this open source tool from VMware Tanzu, the Application Portfolio Auditor. Check out Marc Zottner’s write-up for more!


  • Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  • Do the Right Thing. Do What Works. Be Kind.

  • “It’s been clear for quite some time that the early social media strategy of ‘jam a million people in a colosseum and let them fight it out with free speech’ isn’t panning out, but never has it been more clear than now” Jeff.

  • “You’ve shown us how vulnerable we are to strings of text produced by a machine – willing to believe and put faith in them. Even though you still misspell your own name on your birthday cakes.” Here.


I’m trying to come up with a few new talks for next year. So far, I have one on why people don’t want to change and how to address (fix?) that. You know, in the context of BUSINESS, BUSINESS, BUSINESS stuff, not, like, real life. Also one on platform marketing.

I have two issues when with coming up with new talks: (1) I don’t do anything technical, so I can’t, like, code and walk through some new programming thing of Kubewhatever. (2) I’m pretty bored with all the “culture” talks out there. I’ve been consuming that stuff for 20+ years (from the Rational Unified Process, to Agile/XP/Scrum, agile infrastructure/DevOps/SRE/platform engineering and their it’s all about the culture DORAnation, all the corporate re-org stuff from the 90s and my historic reading from the 1980’s, then we have the digital transformation stuff from the 2010’s or so. I know I’m complaining here, but I long for something new and interesting in this space. It feels weird just discussing the same things over and over.

I see a lot of what we’ve talked about for decades (see above) boiling down to just a handful of things:

  1. Get clarity on what the goals, outcomes, “value delivered” is for your organization. You must understand that and guide your daily-work by it.

  2. Understand the end-to-end process it takes to get “product” (usually software) out the door, simply know it and track it!.

  3. Remove waste from the system, “toil” if you like. This is tightly linked with

  4. Automation and “platforms” as we say now. You have to use tools to remove waste/toil.

  5. Team autonomy and “let the person doing the work make the decisions.”

  6. Don’t be an asshole, have a good culture.

We have many different tools and studies for all of this, some are vague and hand-wave-y, some driven by surveys, some mystical and awesome, and some clear and simple. I think the biggest shock for me is that people don’t already do all of this: like, is there anyone who doesn’t already know this and know that it’s the best way to work? What is the deal? What is motivating organizations to not operate like this, how did they get there, and why is it so hard for them to change?

Stories and case studies are still great to hear, so long as they talk about how people changes the organization, convinced people to change, created new corporate artifacts and process - all of that stuff.

There’s some interesting work swirling around in the past year’s worth of developer productivity tracking and metrics thinking and shit-posting. Perhaps a good talk would be something like “is developer happiness really the best way to increase EBITA?” It’d be fun to look at ALL THE GREAT PDFS and dig down into how they connect happiness (flow, autonomy - good culture) to success, and then track the business success of those organizations. Don’t worry, I believe all those studies that say that happy people do good work and that, thus, you should have a good culture. As I’m typing this, I think what I’m missing is the explanation of all the other stuff that you need to do well. In the tech world, there are many instances of companies with good cultures that fail. The goal wouldn’t be to dismiss all these developer productivity findings, but to try to steel person them more for all the finance and non-IT executives out there who’d be like “what an adorable, precious angel y’all are over there in nerd land!”

Good metrics are good, bad metrics are bad, and people in zombie movies have obviously never seen a zombie movie

What’s your favorite “observed statistical regularity”?

  • The “problem” with Goodhart’s Law is that we now know it exists. By “problem,” I mean using Goodhart’s Law when it comes to critiquing organizational metrics.

  • If you know Goodhart’s Law (rather, the rewording of it as we’ll see below), when you’re making metrics, you change them and adapt them over time before they get gamed.

  • When criticizing metrics (or anything, really) you should first assume that the people making them and using them are smart and trying their best…and know how to search the Internet. How could you help them make the metrics better, instead of shitting all over their attempts to do a good job?

  • Related: people in zombie movies seem to have never seen a zombie movie. If you know Goodhart’s Law, and you see a weird metric stumbling around on the street, you know not to go ask that metric if it’s in trouble. It’s a zombie!

  • And, as always, when you go and look at the original wording, the “law” isn’t really as all encompassing as we think, nor simple. The version we all use, according to Wikipedia comes from Marilyn Strathern in 1997: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." Hey! That’s good!

  • But, the actual one is: “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” I sort of don’t even know what that means, and I have a degree in philosophy. I assume monetary economist who get all excited about, like, interest rates and inflation know. My sense is that what the original is not saying is: “in a corporation, if you set KPIs/MBOs/OKRs and use those metrics to decide what decisions to make in the business, you will fail and are an idiot.” But that seems to be how we in the DevOps-y world reference Goodhart’s law. Like, it’s more about macroeconomic engineering at the country and global level? I think we can all agree that that system is super weird.

  • I mean, to apply one of my life principles (“good things are good, and bad things are bad”), I suggest a new “law” on metrics, in two parts: (1) shitty metrics are shitty (2) don’t use shitty metrics, use good ones.

  • We all worship at the alter of the DORA metrics. Like…METRICS. We’ve established those as an “observed statistical regularity” (did I get that right? Again, I couldn’t tell you if QE2 is economics or a new deodorant for 12 year olds), so does that make the DORA metrics bad? If not, why not? And if not, then, like, good metrics are good…?

  • My other suspicion is that a lot of anti-metrics talk is focusing on a symptom of a bigger problem: management at a company doesn’t really know what to do, what they’re doing, why they’re doing, how to engineer the rest of the organization doing it, and/or how to improve. They both lack clarity and are failing to make sure all the workers have clarity and, therefore, know what they should be doing.

  • In this case, whatever metrics you use have a higher chance of being bad. And as we know, bad things are bad.

Relative to your interests

  • Europe has entered a new age of anxiety – and it’s dragging Britain along too | Martin Kettle - “five overlapping big insecurities confront all Europeans. These are: the military threat from Russia; the stagnation and inequality of Europe’s economies; significant migration within and from outside Europe; the impact of climate crisis in remaking economic and social life; and the weakening of the nation state. Others could unquestionably be added to the list, not least the overmighty global power of the internet and of AI. And all of them connect.” // I’d make a slight edit: it’s a little early to tell if AI is going to tear apart society. Until it can play a Dungeons and Dragons DM perfectly, I think we’re pretty cool. And it’s pretty shit at that.

  • FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification 1.0-preview Released to Demystify Cloud Billing Data - Trying to “establish a unified, serviceable framework for cloud billing data, increasing trust in the data and making it easier to understand the value of cloud spend.”

  • The Five Biggest Challenges in Digital Transformation - This is a pretty great talk from Laureen Knudsen on actually changing how your organization does software. It focuses on value stream mapping thinking and tools, but I’d simplify it to this: understand how your organization works, what it wastes time on, realize that you (“management” have the power to fix it and, like, it’s your job, and, so, go fix it. At the very beginning, there’s a great point: the good news it, the will to change is under your control, it’s not some external thing you can’t do anything about.

  • Cloud Native Users Struggle to Achieve Benefits, Report Says - Vendor commissioned survey, matches the anecdotes you hear: “Users are encountering issues around security, tool sprawl and cultural difficulties, including poor collaboration between developers, security and operations.” // At this point, I would chalk stuff up to (1) change is always hard, especially knowing and believing how much process change is needed to get the advantages of new tools (“culture,” as people like to poetically say), and, (2) expectations are always inflated: see the hype cycle. This is known.

  • Use Markdown in Google Docs, Slides, & Drawings - I didn’t know that was in there, must be new. I hear you can export to markdown too!

  • Amazon Q touted as the AI chat assistant for all things AWS - “A very small team of Amazon developers successfully upgraded 1,000 applications from Java 8 to Java 17 in just two days.” // Coworker: “Which team are you on,” sips coffee in the break room. You: “Oh, I’m on a very small team.”

  • GPTs for teachers - Whole bunch of prompts that look good and don’t seem to be hustling some slimy “workshop.”


  • There’s no half-wet blanket. The blanket is either wet, or it’s dry.

  • ChatGPTsplaining. Someone needs to explain to ChatGPT that it’s OK to just say “ok” most of the time and not overly explain every God damned thing.

  • “Read The Roomba” Here.


I’ve become part of the “time goes by in the blink of an eye” crowd. Like, I can’t believe the year is almost over! I feel like it hasn’t even started yet.

Type-writers are killing cursive, AMIRIGHT?

There’s a lot going at work now, employee wise. If you’re using a VMware email address to subscribe to this (there’s several handfuls of people who are), I’d suggest switching it over to a personal email address. BEST OF LUCK TO US ALL.



  • “Never ask me how I paid” is my version of “never tell me the odds.”

  • “Alfur, that was brilliant!” Alfur: “The important thing is: it worked!”

  • “There’s a point here, and it’s this: waiting for permission doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have to sit down and do the thing before the idea turns to ashes inside you.” Here.

  • “Who decided that the American public couldn’t handle “a soft and fitful luster”?” Here. You can’t use a PowerPoint as strategy glue. Just rip it out and write it off.

  • “Ate so many pies at a pie eating contest you can’t eat one specific pie ingredient ever again without vomiting.” EMO.

Relative to your interests

  • The State of Developer Ecosystem in 2023 Infographic - File under: I should probably read this.

  • There is no money in free software - There’s almost a taboo among open source minded people to say “there’s no money on open source.” But, you know, it’s mostly true. Sure, that phrase is a simplified version of “it’s very difficult to make a living with 100% open source products, let alone sustain reliable salaries of people working on it, blah, blah,” but all of that qualification still gets you the same result. // The answer is always the same, add in things that are not open source that you can well: (1) following the open core method and come up with a closed proprietary thing to see (either fully integrated builds that you support but do not give away freely, like Red Hat Linux), or closed source code that helps enterprises (usually it’s business users) run and manage the software better; (2) run a SaaS, again, a proprietary thing that your users/customers don’t have access to code wise, a unique thing that is available only to you and hard for users/customers to replication. On this second, the danger is that your competitors (mostly AWS) can do the same. The way you make money off open source to sell closed source code and/or a SaaS that runs your open source code.

  • The 6 Types of Conversations with Generative AI - Nifty.

  • Exploring GPTs: ChatGPT in a trench coat? - Yeah. The make your own GPT thing is weird and very unsatisfying. As a “developer,” what I really want to see is evidence that it’s doing something according to my instructions, using my info. Surely, there’s, like, a “developer log” they could show.

  • Impact of digital screen media activity on functional brain organization in late childhood: Evidence from the ABCD study - I think it says: stop freaking out about screen time, it’s fine. This is the kind of thing that we’ll never know as a culture until all those kids are older - did society get destroyed, or does it just keep doing on? That is, when these kids are the new adults running the world, they’ll be like, “so, did using my phone all my life make me an idiot?” I mean, it’s probably fine: comics and TV did not rot The Kid’s brains (nor Dungeons and Dragons make everyone Satanists). I was one of those The Kids, and here I am, able to use substack and decode business gobbledygook for a good monthly wage. The elders who don’t use the same technologies as The Kids are always on about how The Kids use the technology too much and are becoming stupid because of it. Type-writers are killing cursive, AMIRIGHT?


People ask me, they ask, “what do you do for Thanksgiving in Amsterdam?” We try, that’s what. It’s actually easy to get a turkey for Thanksgiving. We picked one up and were even told “happy Thanksgiving!” which is nice. Kim made the turkey this year and it was great! There was so much left over, and I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten most of it. Today I made broth (or stock…? …whatever) out of the left overs. Is turkey stock going to be good in things like couscous, soup, and such? Maybe chili. Who knows.

Here is the story of our turkey, from pick-up to sticking broth in the freezer:

I’m finally able to get back on the podcast tomorrow tonight after several weeks away. It’ll be nice to get back to that. We record around 10pm Amsterdam time/3pm Austin time: you can watch it streamed live, unedited in YouTube if you tune in around then.,, @cote,,