Saturday Links, May 28, 2022

I’m in Istanbul to give a talk tomorrow at Java Days Istanbul, the kubernetes for developers one. Here’s some catching up I did on the plane: heavy on the platform engineering.

  • Kubernetes security survey – “According to Red Hat’s State of Kubernetes security for 2022 report [PDF], the majority of 300 DevOps, engineering, and security professionals survey respondents (55 per cent) said they had to delay the debut of an application in the past 12 months because of security concerns. Fully 93 per cent of respondents reported at least one security incident in their Kubernetes environment in the past 12 months, with 31 per cent saying this led to revenue or customer loss.”

The Toby Ferris Worldview

Perhaps that is what these paintings are: the slow-decaying trace of a performance carried out in the mid-sixteenth century: the ghostly flicker of Bruegel’s hand dancing six inches above the panel we now look at. No code, no message, no useful information. Just a mysterious relic of a life lived in some other place, some other time.

Short Life in a Strange World: Birth to Death in 42 Panels by Toby Ferris

What to make of Toby Ferris? Rather, what he writes. Is he perpetually trying to figure things out, or just always pulling things together, almost reflectively. He says little about his own life, that he calls his family (wife and two kids!) back home, stories from his childhood. They all seem detached, dreamy. It’s his main narration that’s dreamy, some strange world just slightly detached from everyday life. Just like Bruegel.

He cares about projects, doing things: he points out (complains?) that his father did nothing momentous, and then Ferris spends lots of time on his two big projects, Norbiton and the Bruegel book.

How does he think about my eternal question: what is life apart from those projects, from work? How do you balance the “thrill” of work, the routine of everyday life, the missed chances to work on things like Short Life and Norbiton? Does “the failed life” mean failing at doing anything “big,” or failing at a normal life? Failing at the first allows for time, energy, attention for the second. And failing at the second buys space for the first. Can you only choose one?

In contrast, here is Tyler Cowen on his motivation:

I think I’m on a quest to assemble and gather information, and satisfy my own curiosity and see as much of the world as possible and also try to give some of that back to others. So I think it’s somewhat of a selfish missions, has some altruistic byproducts but I enjoy the really selfish part of it of just learning things.

As that write-up of the Cowen world view says: “The world is rich and full of wonder. Always keep exploring and pushing your curiosity into new areas.”

Perhaps this is the opposite of the “failed life”…?

How to do fun and interesting executive dinners, round tables, etc. – online and in-person

Here’s what I’ve learned in doing 30 (maybe more like 40?) executive events in person and online over the past four or so years. Over my career, I’ve done these on and off, but it’s become a core part of my job since moving to EMEA to support Pivotal and now VMware Tanzu with executives.

At these events, I learn a lot about “digital transformation,” you know, how people at large organizations are changing how they build software. But, below are some notes on what I’ve learned about doing the events themselves.

The events

These usually get together a of 8 to 12 people who’re up “upper management” and involved in changing organization structure, practices, and “culture” to get their groups better at software. They’re usually very large companies: banks/insurance, manufacture/pharma, government, etc.

We used to host dinners, in person to meet these people and tell them about Pivotal, now VMware Tanzu. These dinners were eight to about twelve people. You have pre-dinner drinks and hanging out, sit at a table and eat a meal (fish, meat, or chicken – usually very good from a luxury hotel kitchen), discuss “digital transformation” during dinner, and then have drinks on the bar with about four or five of the attendees who stay.

This doesn’t work when you’re in lock-down for two years now. So, we shifted to doing these events online. I’ve been the primary anchor – the entertainment, as it were – for something most of these in Europe that are in English.

When we started, we didn’t know if they were going to work or how and had to figure it out along the way. Now, we’ve got a good formula and here are some things that work:

  1. First, the format, or “run of show”: fun chit-chat as people join the meeting, an introductions round, the novel event, a short presentation to establish the topic and provoke some questions, open discussion, and then a thanks and tiny vendor pitch at the end.
  2. Do an introductory round at the start. Each person gives their name, title/role, what they’re working on, and most important what they’re looking to get out of the event. This is good for both parties (vendor and attendee) to get to know each other, and their interests good. It also comes into play in moderating the discussion at the end. For discussion in the group, this part is really handy because it lets everyone know what people will be interested in talking about.
  3. Have a “novel event,” a fun activity some kind that often involves something you’ve sent the attendees. For most of these, we’ve had a sommelier do wine tasting. We ship three little bottles of wine to each attendee and the sommelier walks through each wine for about 30 or forty minutes. The one we work with is fantastic, telling the history of the wine and the region it’s from more than the mechanics of drinking. We’ve also had beer tasting, and in the States they’ve done bourbon tasting. For Christmas we did gingerbread tasting. I once ran a Nutella tasting. A nice dinner is the “event” of an in-person round-table, and you need a hook for these online ones.
  4. Alcohol is a good ice-breaker and the best event to have. I don’t know what to tell you: it works and people appreciate getting free wine. The wine is good, but the stories and conversation around the wine get people’s in a sort of learning/thinking mode.
  5. For online events, have a PowerPoint. I use that word instead of presentation because it evokes the most cringe. For in-person events, interrupting a sit-down dinner with someone going up and presenting slides is practically taboo, and certainly weird. It just makes things too commercial and introduced a formal tone that messed up the conversation. But, online, things are very different. We ended up coming up with a 10 or 15 minute presentation that basically describes what good software development looks like with a few customer examples: “product, not project” to use one framing. I found that doing this is much less about discussing exact technologies (or “vendor pitching”), and more about level-setting what we’re going to be talking about, introducing topics and problems to discuss. It’s important to have at least one story that illustrates this point. The mechanic of this presentation is to say “this is what we’re talking about, here’s a language for it, and here is one example we can refer to.” Without a shared vocabulary and some anchors, you’ll end up spending all of your discussion time on definitions. This defines “the what,” the end goal that attendees are shooting for. Most people are struggling with “the how” of getting there. So, at the end I put up a list of common hurdles and problems. This is what drives the third part:
  6. Moderated open discussion about people’s challenges and successes in changing their organization (transforming). I end my little presentation with a list of about ~15 common hurdles. Then I ask people to share their stories, things that have worked, that they struggle with. Sometimes getting people to start talking is like pulling teeth. I’ve had to specifically call people out before. But, often there’s at least one person who will start with a story, e.g., “you listed finance as a problem. I agree, we are struggling with getting finance onboard with shorter development cycles and being open to changing plans.” At that point, people start talking, often even giving advice to each other. I love this part!
  7. After the first few comments, this is where I’ve forced myself to do actual conversation moderation. I say forced because, if you know me, you’d be shocked that I would be doing this – I don’t like talking with groups. I’ve learned to figure out the people who are talkers, the ones who are reluctant to talk, and to balance out the two. This requires two things: predicting a topic that someone could comment on and abruptly changing the topic of conversation, often by calling on someone new to talk. Predicting what people can talk about is usually drawn from the introductions, or past comments they’ve made in the chat. You don’t want two or three people to dominate the conversation, which is a common risk. So you have to draw people in. To do this, you can ask them directly to follow up, or you can just change the topic of conversation all the sudden and have them kick it off: “Those were some interesting comments on dealing with finance. Now, I’m interested in how you’re dealing with legacy systems. In the introductions, it sounded like the bank Alexandra works with had a lot of legacy systems: Alexandra, how have you been dealing with that?”
  8. At the end, you wrap up by saying “let me tell you a little bit about what we actually do and how you can engage with us more.” If you keep this to five minutes and thank everyone for showing up, it’ll be fine and not too “don’t do a vendor-pitchy.”
  9. In person events are slightly different. There is no presentation. Instead I have to sort of wing it and rather than being methodical and laying it all out (a presentation!), I just talk about what it means and looks like to do software better: the practices, an example story, what new tools make all this possible, and a few common hurdles. This generally works to get people to the open discussion, which is the goal of these get togethers. I’ve gotten a little rusty at this as all the events have been online for the past two years, but after a couple so far, I’m starting to remember how to do this.
  10. For in person events, I think it’s handy to have about 30 minutes of hanging out before things start, and even an event or some type. Most recently, we did a Formula One simulation game. An event is always fun and relaxes people, but all of this time also allows me to meet people and find out what they’re interested in. It’s totally workable (and not weird) to ask people what they work on and what they want to get out of this event. People will just tell you – and happily! And then you can start up conversations with them that you later draw on.
  11. Again, the goals of all of this is for people to get to know one another and learn from each other. You can do a surprising amount of that in 90 to 120 minutes. I think this is because people are genuinely interested and engaged/learning and because my co-hosts and I have learned how to moderate and drive conversations.
  12. Sometimes, instead of my short presentation, we’re lucky enough that to get one or two customers to speak. These are great, I usually I ask a few questions and sometimes the customer does a short presentation. We’ve had people from Audi, Rabobank, Daimler, Tesco Bank, Cerner, and other places. When you do this, you of course need to spend time with the person up front: not so much on content (you should let them talk about whatever they want however they want), but more just get friendly with them to set the tone of the meeting. And, of course, it’s a chance to meet and learn from someone new! Having a customer talk is always preferable, but rare to be lucky enough to get.

Behind the scenes

I don’t do much or the behind the scenes work for these, and it’s a lot of work. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support, belief, and, really, my ongoing nurturing/training from my co-workers who actually run all of this. My friend Hinada Neiron has done a lot of that work and she’s done a great job putting up with me and making sure I don’t slack.

Here’s the behind the scenes stuff that happens:

  1. Finding and recruiting the attendees. I’m not too sure how this happens as we work with an agency that helps us. They’re great at it. Also, sales people and inside sales people also try to recruit people. I haven’t done much work here: I think I got two people to show up. The problem here is that you’re trying to meet new people, so you need to find them.
  2. The agency also reminds people to show up and will call them if they haven’t shown up yet (like, on the phone!). This actually works well and brings in people who wouldn’t have made it otherwise.
  3. We spend a lot of time on the landing page/description of the event. At first, I thought this was too much, but I’ve come to realize that it needs to be near perfect because people you’re inviting don’t know us too well or what we do, so we need to get their attention and interest.
  4. It’s important to make notes and plan followup right after the last person leaves. It’s then equally important to talk directly with whoever it going to follow-up with customers. The goal of these events, on the vendor side, is meeting new people to start working with, so you have to push your people to do that.
  5. I send a thank you to all the attendees on LinkedIn, asking to connect with them. And, we of course send a thank you email.
  6. Ongoing, I think it’s good to discuss with the team what’s working and not working, to come up with new things to try, and always be trying to make things slightly different. You don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing every time, otherwise you won’t find new things that work even better. Also, it just gets boring if you’re not experimenting a little here and there.

My own transformation

Overall, these events are great. As you can probably tell by some of my comments above, it’s not natural for me to talk with groups of strangers, or even individuals. I go out of my way to avoid it on my life – I love self-checkout!

So, I was very worried about that at first, but with encouragement, just doing it over and over, and also experimenting with what works and doesn’t work, I’ve gotten over it.

Most of all, I’ve made sure I enjoy these events by talking about things I’m interested in and asking people whatever questions I’m curious about. You could call this “listening,” which I suppose it is. Several years ago when I was talking about this nervousness with my wife, she reminded me that I love talking about tech stuff, and learning about it…and that’s exactly what we talk about at these events! Once I realized that these were the kinds of conversations I wished I could have all the time and people I wanted to meet, it was easier to transform myself a little bit.

Anyhow, they’re good events, and I enjoy them. Hopefully I’ll see you at one of them!

(Speaking of, the next one we have is in person is in London on June 22nd, 2022. There’s more coming up as well, I’ll post them to my LinkedIn and Twitter as they open up. I don’t host all of them, but we generally have them during our SpringOne Tour dates too, most soon in Toronto and New York City.)

Trendz! Internal Developer Portals

Here’s a write-up from myself and JT of a new trend in the kubernetes/DevOps/app dev world: developer portals.

With people building out the appdev layer on kubernetes (or “DevX”), many organizations are looking at how they support all the tools and internal community for developers. What’s interesting, and new, about projects like Backstage (now in the CNCF, so pretty closely tied to “we’re running our apps in kubernetes” strategies) is that backstage is looking to add tools right along side the usual “knowledge base” and project management stuff you get for internal dev portals, sites, “Confluence” stuff.

Anyhow, check out this article that JT and I wrote covering whet a developer portal is and why it will make your org. run better. Also, we’ve licensed a Gartner report on the topic which you can read for free: it’ll go into a lot more details.

Warm Smiles – a Fictional Case Study in Digital Transformation

I’m back to working on the ongoing book(let) project, The Legacy Trap. Marc has been adding in the real meat of the project, how the methodologies VMware Tanzu Labs uses for planning and doing application modernization, like Swift. Here’s a corny example story I wrote for the introduction, linking together business needs with worrying about legacy software.

Let’s look at a theoretical example of that business problem in insurance. Let’s say The Mid-Eastern Warm Smiles Insurance Company wants to grow revenue. They’ve done a great job over the past 140 years insuring houses, cars, and grew revenue in the early 2000’s by acquiring a point-of-sale warranty business. 

Business has slumped now, and the share price is boring. A management consulting company compiled a large report that suggested three pillars for improving shareholder value. One of them was to enter new types of insurance. Playing off the synergies of that warranty business, the consultants suggested entering short-term insurance: coverage that would last for 24 hours or less. For example, a customer might go to the beach for the day and want to insure their new, $1,300 iPhone against damage and theft. The likelihood that anything will happen (especially if they have newer models that are water and sound resistant) is low, so collecting the $50 for that one day of insurance is almost like “free money” to the insurance company. Now, imagine if that happens thousands, hundreds of thousands of times a day, globally. 

After some business and actuary work, the CIO is given a new set of applications to create. First, the application for the insurance, next the actuary back-end for approving insurance, then the account management for these policies. Seems simple enough: it’s software! You can just add a feature!

A situation like this is where the legacy trap is often sprung. Developing the actual web app for an application is often easy, but integrating with the existing backend services is often near impossible. In the case of Warm Smiles, the backend systems that maintain policies only support annual policy terms. That will need to be updated. Payments must be done through bank ACH or physical checks (here, the CIO thinks, “well, it did always seem weird that customers had to fill out a PDF to pay their policies”). These payments can take up to 10 business days to clear. Warm Smiles will need to modify their payment processing system. And what if someone actually losses their iPhone and wants to file a claim? Usually, claims processing takes 5 business days and requires an adjuster visit…but we’re just talking about an iPhone here. Our CIO friend also keeps hearing the mobile team say something about “batch jobs” and something called an “enterprise service bus.” Those need to be updated as well.

And so on, and so on. Meanwhile, Warm Smiles rival, Southeastern Friendly Pats on the Back Assurance Group, has launched their own short-term insurance business and has seen a 3% rise in share price.

This is a made up example, but this kind of situation repeats itself over and over in large organizations. Warm Smiles is squarely in the legacy trap. Their software portfolio does not support the business fitness and agility needed. At some point, the portfolio was great – the company has saturated its market and survived for 140 years. But, slowly and then all of the sudden, their portfolio became “legacy” and urgently needed to be modernized.

Originally from my newsletter.

Creating new appdev capabilities

I like this point from a recent write-up of the US Army’s software development transformation:

He added that the technology being developed is often secondary. “A lot of times, people get really caught up on what type of software you’re developing, and we look at it as the software that we’re developing is the intermediate step,” he said. Instead, the desired result is having a slew of technology-savvy professionals or “autonomous product teams that we can send out across the Army and hand to a commander without them knowing what they’ll be potentially working on.”

There are, indeed, some interesting apps they’ve been working on. And I obsess over apps because I want to hear the stories of how they were created. But, the bigger task going on is just building up software development skills, a new capability that’s ready to use when needed for whatever. Just like regular military training, I suppose.

The idea of a battlefield programmer has come up a lot recently. That’s a new capability they’re trying to create.

This group at the US Army is a great source for learning how large (like really large!) organizations get better at software. What they do – the practices – are good, but how they’re getting there (and how they’re changing their minds/culture) is always more interesting.

Here’s some more notes from the article:

  • Started in January 2021. “In the past year, 55 soldiers and civilians from those two cohorts went to work on agile software teams that focus on different modernization priorities. The software factory has produced eight applications and averages 99 days from development to production for soldier use.”
  • “Then participants swap uniforms and last names for civilian clothes and calling one another by their first names as they embark on a six-month technology accelerator”
  • “participants are assigned to tracks that include product management, user interface/user experience design, application engineering and platform engineering.”
  • ‘the cohort starts practicing extreme programming and paired programming, an intensive learning model in which individuals sit “shoulder to shoulder all day for 40 hours a week” to learn from industry professionals’

If you really want to dive into this software factory stuff, check out this talk from them from last Fall.

Things that help companies get better at software

When we standardized and enforced controls in the CI/CD pipeline the quality improved dramatically. Everyone knew the standards they were held to.

“Global Bank”

Here is an April 2020 McKinsey report that tries to show a relationship between being good at software and making money. I don’t know math enough to judge these kinds of models (as with the DevOps reports too), but, sure!

Here’s their relative ranking of how various developer tools and practices help:

Axe the intro paragraph analogy if you don’t refer back to it

Often, when you’re writing about tech stuff, you’ll make a reference to some mainstream culture thing. Well, or, like, science fiction, you know, I, Robot and stuff. You might also make an analogy to cars, road systems, whatever. 

Here’s one making an analogy between traffic laws and enterprise governance:

Dotting the landscapeof the world’s highways and freewaysare signs declaring the speed limit. While these limits vary based on geography, population density, and from country to country, they are a shared concept in that speed controls correlate with safety.

In tech writing, using analogies to real life stuff is great. Software and governance concepts are so conceptual that it’s a good start. However, in writing, if you don’t come back to that analogy, you should cut it. For example, if the text after this opening paragraph comes back to “you know, like speed laws that are adapted to the regional context they’re in,” leave the text in. But, if you never return to that analogy, just cut it and start with the tech stuff.

Monday Links

  1. Getting Cloud Foundry on-top of kubernetes: Vision for CF on Kubernetes
  2. “More than 75 percent of businesses are now using multiple cloud providers, according to Gartner.” Multicloud, yes or no? Former PayPal head engineer weighs in.
  3. New CNCF kubernetes survey, haven’t dug into it yet. Here’s my write-up of the last one. Feels like just yesterday! I haven’t checked out the Red Hat kubernetes security one yet, either.
  4. How Committed Is Big Blue To The IBM Cloud? – He’s not bullish on IBM public cloud, and instead shows that IBM cloud stratrgy is likely just switching EULAs to subscriptions and porting IBM Software to AWS.
  5. KubeCon EU 2022: From Kubernetes to PaaS to Err What’s Next – this looks like a great presentation.

You should check out DevOps Loop, a conference I’ve helped put together for the 2nd year. I’ve spent a lot of time with many of the speakers on their talks to answer my eternal question: “whatever happened to the dev in DevOps?” I’m looking forward to it, for sure! It’s free to attend, an online, so super-easy. June 22nd! Register for free.

Inspiration for developing a style and aesthetics

“We hired you for what you know, not what you don’t know.”

This was the best career advice I got early on, that I can remember at least. It worked. I did excellent work at RedMonk and thrived.

In addition to a lot of consulting, the job was a lot of self-driven writing, doing all the work myself end-to-end, which I loved. I’d finally become a professional writer, if not exactly in the Great American Novel style I imaged of in my teens.

When you write two, three times a week, you end up thinking a lot about writing style, tone, and the workflow of writing.

I’ve fallen out of practice over the years of writing a lot. My job now is different. But I think about writing a lot, and here’s two people that shape how I think about style: Susan Sontag and Joan Didion.

Susan Sontag

If I can’t bring judgment against the world, I must bring it against myself. I’m learning to bring judgment against the world.

Susan Sontag wanted to be a critic. She had strong, tediously reasoned out and deep context. She inspires me because she gave herself the freedom to chase her energy and passion, never questioning what she wanted to do and her taste in culture. 

You can see her in diaries that, planned or not, she worked over decades on her project of explaining what was happening in the arts, books, and culture. 

Her certainty, “conviction,” inspires me too. She had opinions!

Having read her diaries and books and biographies, you can see that she worked on coming up with those opinions, they weren’t fickle. 

Sontag was from an era when people would say, simply, that something was good or bad, aesthetically. But she did the work to figure out what she thought and she was great at showing her work.

As I’m thinking this I realize that it’s slightly frowned on to have opinions now about culture. To many people with shit-opinions have an outlet now, so we see a lot of shit. In the pre-Internet works, though, the shit could only get so high. I say this not to be an old man talking about the good ol’ days, but to make the point that despite all that shit-talk out there, you need to trust yourself to have opinions, a culture aesthetic, and state them, when needed.

Joan Didion

And then there’s Joan Didion. 

Her style is so clear and so crafted and it inspires me all the time. 

She will use a phrase like this all of the sudden “I am telling you this because…” 

Her craft is part of her craft, she is part of the story. 

Although she’s from the same generation as Sontag, what I like about Didion’s style is its indifference. She covered murders, movie stars, her Californian heritage, and, most of all, herself. Even when she’s telling you the report on her mental breakdown, the take on most everything is always sort of “well, that happened…”

Didion’s style is very…warm? You could say it was cool, but it’s realness and her inserted opinion (often through writing style and structure, not direct comments) make it warm to me. And part of it is her role in the story – she’s very gonzo without all the machismo of Hunter Thompson. 

What inspires me as a writer is to see the fingerprints of how she works, often deliberately left in the text, as with the packing list. When I look at this list, I identify with the utility of it, planning out how the writer will engage with the subject, try to pass in different circles, and then do the actual work of writing it down.

I like the see the artists fingerprints on their work. Like the way the fur in The Fantastic Mr. Fox moves around imperfectly, all of how Wes Anderson makes films. Knowing that there’s a lot of work, opinion, and persistence that goes into something that seems effortless is a good reminder. 

All of these people had to find, experiment, develop, and work on their selves, their style. You can see that play out in their journals, their work, their biographies. 

Knowing how all these people thought and worked reminds me of the more important thing: if you have a style, and opinion of how things should be done, how they look, the work can be fun because the work becomes you. This isn’t that American phrase of “live to work,” nor is it the other side, “work to live.” Instead it’s about eliminating the idea of “work” entirely and just having it be life that you happen to be writing down.

Of course these two struggled financially and in their personal lives – they were writers! And, you know, people. But they worked long and hard to find, develop, and defend their style, their tone, their life. They did great work all throughout.

Living Through Writing

I want to spend less time chasing what people want me to do, complying to their priorities and needs, compromising what I’m good at, what I enjoy, and my mental-space to satisfy others. I too often doubt my convictions, my style, because I’m not certain what other people want. Or worse, because I don’t get any feedback once I click publish, good or bad. When I think about Sontag and Didion, they both lived by their own style and fit their work to what they knew was needed. And, at some point, you can see that they were writing to please themselves, or at least, to figure things out.

So, that makes me evolve that initial piece of advice I got. Now I think of it like this: “We hired you for who you are, not who you aren’t.” I’m hoping that’s a good tool to make sure I’m in a state where I can do work that makes happy.

How to Give a DevOpsDays Vendor Pitch

When you sponsor DevOpsDays, you get a 1 to 2 minute pitch. I used to give a lot of these, they’re fun if you make them fun! Here’s the advice I gave a co-worker who’s doing one soon:

To say that you “should not do a pitch” is not helpful. Of course you should give a vendor pitch, you paid for this! You just need to pitch it like a person, not “stay on script.”

You have two minutes, do something like this:

  1. First, thank the organizers for putting together this event. It’s all volunteer done so it’s a huge investment of time for those people.
  2. If there’s someone (including you!) talking at the event, mention their talk – the speaker’s name, topic, and time of the talk.
  3. If you know the topics people have been talking about, narrow down to your pitch starting from there. “Well, there’s been a lot of talk about getting kubernetes up and running, focusing on building a ‘platform’ for developers, and, as always some observablity.”
  4. Then, “let me tell you what we’re doing at VMware. We have a full-on application development stack now, and tools for managing and running kubernetes, as well as an open source kubernetes distro ready for you to use. We’ve got a stack with everything – well, most everything – you need to help out your developers and operators when it comes to improving how they do software. You know, getting software out the door weekly, if not daily to do all that ‘digital transformation’ stuff.”
  5. “We have developer tools and frameworks like Spring and API management; the developer support and services you layer on-top of kubernetes to make it all self-service and developer toil free; and the operations tools you use with kubernetes to keep it up and running and secure. And, if you want, we’ve can hook you you up with a kubernetes distro, or you can use whatever distro and public cloud services you want. Our stack will work with all the great ones!”
  6. “If you’re curious, you should start with the Tanzu Community Edition (go to, it’s free and built on open source components. We’ve got all sorts of stuff you can pay for if you’re into that. Just come by the booth and check it out.”
  7. If there’s free stuff (schwag) at the table/booth, mention that in a flippant way: “we’ve got some free stuff at the booth, like some pens and stickers, and some weird charger – come get them, we don’t bite and won’t make you talk with us. We have to ship this stuff back, so we’d prefer to get rid of it.”
  8. Thanks!

Try to be as normal as possible and be as off-brand as you feel comfortable being. Don’t, of course, say bad things about VMware (or anyone else) – more roll your eyes at hype-y phrases and ideas. Act however you’d act when you’re relaxed with friends. The people at DevOpsDays are an extremely friendly crowd, they want you to succeed and even be your friend if you seem normal.

Finally, if you can hit the time limit a few seconds under, it will be impressive and cool, and that good feeling will be your reward.

Engaging with People at the Table/Booth

At the table/booth, people will be hesitant to come up, so if you see someone looking at the booth, say something like “want a free sticker/book/pen/etc.?” Tell them they can take two, or three even. If they stick around, they want to talk. 

Ask them “so what do you work on?” Some people are confused by this question, so you can clarify by saying “I mean, like, at work.” This usually gets them to start talking. You just ask them questions like “what do you think of that? Is it fun?” Always give them an out to leave – that is, let them keep asking questions instead of you. Then remind them to take more stuff and say “well, enjoy the rest of the show!”

Originally from my newsletter.

What is DevSecOps?

In this longer blog post, I go over how I’ve finally come to think about what DevSecOps is.A summary of what the post covers:

1. A secure software supply chain – This is a fancy way of saying “we know all the components that went into building and deploying this software and trust those components.” It also includes the actual CI/CD pipeline that you trust and that’s resistant to third parties including malicious code, as we’ve seen happen in recent years.

2. Improved culture and collaboration – Increasing collaboration and understanding between developers and security staff. As with many governance practices, with security, the governed (developers) and the governors (security staff) usually have an antagonistic relationship. Developers see security as unstoppable masters of “no,” and security people see developers as clueless coders. Well, that relationship isn’t helpful! As with DevOps, transforming “culture” to be more helpful is part of DevSecOps.

3. Automation and guardrails – Automating security policy enforcement, and providing defaults and templates to make it as easy as possible for developers to write secure code and applications configuration from the start. Historically, verifying that developers are writing secure code has been a manual, error-prone process. Much of this can be automated now with good platforms.

Read the rest!

Napkins, Ice, Toilets, and Passports

Allow me to indulge in some trans-Atlantic compare/contrast’ing. I was back in Texas and Chicago for a few weeks recently, so of course noticed some difference between Europe and America. It’s the tiny differences that stack up. Talking about them can be an annoying tic of expat people. But, whatever. It’s been over two years since I’ve been back, and here’s things that stand out:

All the small talk – now that I understand most of the talking I overhear (unlike in the Netherlands), I’m hearing all the small talk people have. “How’s the weather?” “ooohhh, yeah? you’re from the UP too!”, rolling over their 401(k) to an IRA, and that kind of thing. That said, even though I barely know it, hearing Spanish is so nice. It used to surround me, growing up, and it’s so rare to hear it in Europe. (I mean, except in one of the countries, obviously).

Free napkins – I joke a lot about how spare Europe is when it comes to food. No free drink refills, no free ketchup or mayo, no free anything. But in the States, all those small things are free (or refillable). Napkins are the most notable. When you order food in Europe, they assume (or act like) all you’ll need is what Americans would call a cocktail napkin, or even the equivalent of two sheets of toilet paper. Those thin, toilet paper like napkins are often paired very poorly: with those cones of fries topped with a cup full of mayonnaise. In the states, you get more napkins than you can deal with: thick, large, almost sensuous napkins. Having lived with napkin poverty for four years now, like my depression era grandparents, I hoard these extra napkins in my bag.

The border – going through passport control in the States is a shocking experience. The agents there are very official, brusk, and, well, not very nice and welcoming. “What are you bringing back?” they stonely ask me when I say I’m coming from Amsterdam. My answer is always the same: “uh…stroopwafels…?” which is always true. That straight-faced gruffness is sort of, unfortunately, the culture of government officials with guns in the States, and it’s really not something you realize until you experience similar people abroad. When you enter the Netherlands (and the UK), for example, the people look the same, sometimes even more militaristic, but they’re so much more friendly. The passport control people in Schiphol wear big bullet proof vests, uniforms, and have guns. The men often have military haircuts and often steel arms (based on the commentary I read – rather have read to me by my wife – in Facebook expat groups, they could make very profitable cheesecake calendars)… but they’re _so friendly_. They’ll joke with me about not knowing enough Dutch, and even say “welcome home!”  

Bikes – well, I mean, there’s no bike lanes out here in the suburbs, obviously. In Chicago, there were bike riders, but they mix with the cars. When I make a right turn in the rental car, I find myself dramatically looking for a bike coming up on my right, an instinct you built up in the Netherlands. I laugh a little bit each time because, you know, there’s no bike lane, no bikes to look for there. Crosswalks are similar: in the US, crosswalks without a stop-light are mostly meaningless. In Europe, if someone is standing/waiting at a crosswalk, traffic stops: they’re actual things there. Austin has some pretty beefy bike lanes on some streets – I’m curious to see how much they’re used. Seems cool.

Trucks – I one of the highest status levels with Avis, so our rental got upgraded from a mini-van to a full on Chevy Suburban. This is a huge – MASSIVE – “car.” Up here in DFW, it doesn’t stand out too much though. The Suburban would be impossible to use in the Netherlands – it just wouldn’t fit in the cities, you wouldn’t be able to park it anywhere. To be fair, I wouldn’t have been able to park it in the garage in Chicago either. I had a Ford Explorer there and driving around in the parking garage was a little scary not he tight turns. In contrast, the most numerous cars in Europe are what we used to call “hatch-backs” and station wagons.

Ice – we have endless ice in America. Europe likes to put one or two cubes of ice in your drink (that you get no refills on), but ice in the US is everywhere. We bought a bag of ice at Sonic twice, maybe we’ll do it again. I’m reminded of long passages in early Hunter Thompson where he lays out his method for rum drinking: fill a tall glass with ice and pour rum over it. I mean, simple recipe, but when you’re used to little to no ice, it seems like a treat. (I won’t be drinking a tall glass of rum, don’t worry.)

Empty Space – especially when it comes to Texas, there’s so much empty space. This could be huge yards and parking lots, parks, or just land left alone. I don’t know if this is true, but around Europe I often thing “well, this place has been full of people for thousands of years, so they’ve sort of taken over everything.” Which is to say “nature” in Europe is mostly man-made and engineering. Most all of the trees in the Netherlands line up perfectly and are the same height. This is especially true in regions of Europe that were leveled in the second war. The States has so much empty space that it has “true” nature.

Friendliness – it’s a myth that Europeans are not friendly, especially when it comes to Germans. People in Europe, day-to-day, are totally normal and friendly. What I mean by this is, like, if you’re in a big city and people are on the go, they might be stone-faced, but this is the case anywhere. You find bored teens checking you out at the grocery store, have light conversation with people walking the dog, and so on. I can see that, especially in Amsterdam, the locals can be mildly intolerant of tourists. Perhaps this accounts for some attitudes Americans have about Euro friendliness. This notion of European briskness and friendliness is a turn it on its head issue: Americans are comically overly friendly. We have a much different baseline for everyday interactions. One of my favorite jokes, which I read first in The Culture Map is this: in Russia, there is a saying “when you see someone walking down the street who’s smiling, they’re either one of two things: an insane person…or an American.” Now, Europeans might be – OK, are – more forward in telling you their opinions or calling out putting lipstick on a pig. This might be another source of the American perception that Europeans are less friendly comes with: they speak their mind and call you out more frequently. I don’t know – and once you understand that it’s just, like, conversation, it’s kind of nice.

Tap to pay – while there’s a more tap-to-pay terminals in the US then when we lived here, there’s not that many compared to Europe. You can tap-to-pay everywhere, even at the hot dog stand in Europe. If you had Apple Pay setup on your phone (or whatever), you wouldn’t really need your wallet at all. I’ve had to swipe and insert my credit card many times. I forgot you sometimes have to put in your zip code at the gas pump. Weird! That said, I don’t think I’ve had to sign anything yet.

Pay-at-the-pump – one of the more bizarre things in Europe is that you have to go into the store to pay for gas. There’s really no pay at the pump. You could go into conspiracy theories about this: people buy more if you force them to go in, it employees more people. I don’t know – I think it might just be a culture thing. Pay at the pump is great, it’s awesome – it’s the only way to live!

Toilets – one of the most baffling, frustrating things about Europe is the lack of public, as us Americans would say, “bathrooms.” About the only place you can pee in public is at a restaurant, or Ikea. Stores don’t have toilets, even the biggest grocery stores. And if there is a toilet, you usually have to pay 50 cents or a euro for it. This might be fine except that Europe is increasingly a cashless city, so who carries coins? (Shopping carts aren other problem here – apparently there’s a huge shopping cart burglary problem in Europe because they chain them together and require a 50 cent deposit to get one.) Peeing in Europe is a problem. I mean, do they expect people to just pee in the bushes? And what about those people who are not equipped with the necessity equipment for easily peeing in the bushes? In the States, most any public establishment has free to use toilets – sorry, bathrooms. And people don’t care if you use them! Sure, in downtown areas there might be signs about “for customers only” and occasionally keypad locks on the bathroom doors but…those are weird exceptions and mostly ignored. I don’t know, man: Europe, figure your shit out so we can…shit.

It’s hot – Chicago, of course, is not hot. But, yes, even this time of year, Texas is warm. In Austin, of course, it’s also muggy, the air is thick. I’m interested in seeing how my 8 year daughter responds to this – I think she was young enough when we left that she won’t be used to the heat.

Dress – in Austin, people dress very, er, casual. I too am just wearing an old t-shirt and shorts. It’s hard to compare to Europe because the weather is (see above) different. When it’s cooler, you can dress in pants and a jacket, which sort of makes you look more dressed up without even trying than a that t-shirt and shorts. There’s an old clothing store ad in Austin that went something like “Austin, where women dress to go out and men dress like they’re mowing the lawn.” So far, it looks like that maxim has crossed gender lines now. I make no judgement here. Wear what you dig.

Beef – listen, beef is Europe is not good. Here, you can buy a cheap, regular cut of meat and it’s always great. I think in Europe, the beef is healthier, the cuts are different…and it ends up being more like turkey than beef.

Uses for Competitive Intelligence

Jordi asked about the usefulness of competitive intelligence (at software/cloud vendors) in the Software Defined Slack. Here’s what I added to the thread:

I think competitive intelligence is least useful for product management. Innovation, talking to customers, and finding out sells and doesn’t sell from your salesforce is more interesting. Competitive intelligence is good for sales people, marketers, and prepping for conversations with “influencers” (press, analyst, and loud people on THE SOCIALIZ). 

  1. Sales people need “battle cards” to handle common objections; marketing people need to know how competitors position themselves to (also) talk about how their stuff is better 
  2. Marketers (yeah, yeah – “not every marketing person [like, most of them]”) don’t get enough information about customers, the products (they’re usually not technical enough to find out on their own, nor have enough time to “study”), and the overall market, so competitive intel help there
  3. When you’re talking with influencers, they’re always going to ask you about competitors. When I was an analyst, I always found this annoying and sort of useless. You usually only get three answers: (1) “I have a lot friends who work there”/“I talk with them frequently” (I don’t know what means, but people say it), (2) “You know, I don’t pay a lot of attention to competitors, we’re too busy paying attention to customers” (well, see my write-up here), or, (3) “Yeah, we’re pretty good” (people are trained [or should be!] to never say something bad about competitors, mostly. So, they’re way of saying “our competitors suck and we are awesome,” is to just talk about the second). You’ll never hear a detailed SWOT-style assessment about competitors from a vendor – it gets them nothing.

(There’s also competitive intelligence as simply “market intelligence,” is, of course, good for investors and corporate strategy people. But, that’s not really in the spirit of the above.)

The issue that I find is that competitive intelligence is that it’s overwhelming, especially for a large portfolio. For example, despite having excellent competitive intelligence reports – weekly! – for VMware Tanzu stuff, there’s just so much of it that it would take me all week to read it :) I wish I could read them all, like my old analyst days, but my job – and life! – is different now.

Originally from my newsletter.

My analysis of the State of Kubernetes 2022 survey

I like that I’ve been slotted into the “get that guy to do a write-up of a survey” position at work. It’s fun to look at these surveys, especially when I can add in things that aren’t in the published results, like multi-year data. Anyhow, here’s my write-up of our forth kubernetes survey. Things are going well for it.

I also made three little videos about this survey: one, two, and three.