If you're not changing tools, you're not changing

All Talk, No Tools

I like heuristics you can use to figure out what’s “really” going on at work (well, in any system, I guess). When it comes to Big Change, one of the heuristics I like to use is to ask if the organization is using new tools.

My colleague Bryan Ross has a new post up on using this test.

For example, if you’re in some big digital transformation initiative - like migrating to cloud, converting your app dev style to cloud native, getting more agile/DevOps/platform engineering - are you using new tools? Are you at least upgrading your existing tools to get new functionality? If you’re not, there’s a good chance you’re not going to actually change. Worse, if management is avoiding changing and adding budget for new tools, you’re also likely not going to change.

Sure, this isn’t always the case, but it should make you suspicious. Tools are how you get most things done in IT; just talking doesn’t write code too well, deploy it to production, or troubleshoot it when things go wrong in production. Tools will generally embody how you work and what you do (and vice-versa). So, if the tools aren’t changing, it’s likely that how you work isn’t going to change, and, thus, the outcomes won’t change.

Check out Bryan’s post! It’s part of the series he’s been doing to write-up his version of a series of goofy videos I did last, this one in particular.1

How to walk on ice

Here is me making some kind of life-inspirational video. PROSPER!

Relative to your interests

  • Workers are filming their layoffs, then posting them to TikTok. What could go wrong? - Where there’s information asymmetric, there’s generally bad power-dynamics. And when The Kids hack that asymmetry, The Olds generally lose their shit.

  • The Class Missing from Business School - What is the best way to do this an IC? ‘1. Shifting mindset from “How do I accomplish this?” to “Who should be the right person to accomplish this task & how would it fit into their goals?”’

  • 2 Ways to Reduce Bottlenecks with the Theory of Constraints - Things get a little confusing when he all the sudden says to finish things to the right of the bottleneck, but I think that just means to first finish all the work that has no bottleneck and can be shipped. It’s cleaning your room before getting to work. All that unfinished work is its own bottleneck, I guess. What I think is always (or just often) missing from theory of constrains, value stream thinking is (1) innovation, and, (2) controlling marketing demand (marketing and sales). I guess you could call demand a bottleneck, sure, but at some point you’re just reinventing the universe to bake an apple pie from scratch.

  • The Value of Open Source Software by Manuel Hoffmann, Frank Nagle, Yanuo Zhou :: SSRN - “We estimate the supply-side value of widely-used OSS is $4.15 billion, but that the demand-side value is much larger at $8.8 trillion. We find that firms would need to spend 3.5 times more on software than they currently do if OSS did not exist.”


  • In our little town, if you leave trash outside of the trash bin, you get fined. There’s a guy who comes every two or three weeks to figure out who put that trash out the: he rifled through boxes to find any that have addresses on them and takes picture of it. I presume these people get fines. That guy must have the worst job ever. No one likes what he does and thus they look at him in distain and even shame. He’s on law enforcement and would probably like to do something more impactful than trash patrol. The whole policy is absurd. Amsterdam doesn’t do this (we live in a small enclave village), and things are fine. Setting a policy that creates a job like this should tell policy makers that something is wrong with the policy.

  • “Indefinite hyperbolic numerals.” Here.

  • Improving productivity assumes one, often unstated first step: you want to get things done with less effort and cost, or just done at all. I argue that in most cases, people don’t want to get things done, or, often, they don’t want to get things done efficiently. One angle is to ask who benefits from the productivity. If it’s not the people doing the actual work (the workers), they won’t have much motivation and, likely, won’t care, and won’t want to do it. Would you put a lot of work into a project you got nothing (new) out of?

  • “This is not the cliff hanger any of us need right now.”


The Map is Not The Game.

It’s Solo D&D update time! Last time, I told you that playing solo D&D with ChatGPT was going well. I’ve found the limits of my prompting abilities, though. And, probably, ChatGPT has hit a limit too. It’s just not very creative, and it can’t run mechanics very well. It’s great at co-creating and being a sort of sounding board. But it’s bad at action. And, action is at heart of Dungeons and Dragons: if there’s no action, you’re more just writing a book.

So, I’ve been doing a lot more solo D&D in my head, and not really using ChatGPT much at all. I went a few weeks not really getting much playtime out of the time I spent on it - I’d be reading published adventures, making maps, etc., but I never seemed to get around to actually playing.

Playing a module on your own that’s intended be played by a group is weird. There’s no surprise about anything so you have to be disciplined not to cheat. I mean, this is pretty easy if you remind yourself that the point of the game is to have fun, and challenge is fun. If you cheated at solitaire, what would be the point?

This weekend, I started playing through The Final Voyage of Draengr Thar, which turned out great! That guy makes good, little adventures. This one was pretty much all action focused - there’s some room for role-playing, but most of it is just movement, investigation, and, yes, combat in caves. I did this kind of thing early on in playing solo D&D, but I kind of lost track of it…or I feel into thinking up more story-based adventures.

My theory is that there’s a few reasons why the fun slowed down for me:

  1. I’d create an environment where there was little conflict. Everything was fine in The Elderwood. If you want action, you want conflict. So, I made up some story that there was a multi-year battle between involving devils. Then, in the aftermath, everything was still messed up with all sorts of weird and dark parts of the land left. Thus, you can get more of the “murder hobo” or Hexcrawl style play where anything can happen, where random things fit in because there is no pre-defined structure and campaign, and where there’s more conflict, thus, action.

  2. I don’t really like dungeon crawls, but those are easy to to pack in the action. So, if you throw those in there, you have more action. I’m pretty sure you can convert “dungeons” into cities and forests and stuff as well.

That’s all I’ve got so far!

I’ve tried using several of the solo adventure oracles and systems, but I just can’t seem to get into them. I think a lot of it has to do with #1 above: I want too much control over the environment and campaign, I just need to go with randomness. I do really like this GM Apprentice tool that rolls a lot of those systems into one.


“Last year” is inaccurate. It was October, 2022! How strange the brain works that I feel like it was just this past Fall, when it was really two Falls ago.,, @cote,,