Political wankery…

Jared writes

“Fun bit of political activism from the first blogger to make a UK MP resign.”

The problems I have with Staines/Fawkes are:

  1. Pointless anonymity – if you’ve got a point to make, then make it. Don’t hide behind a pseudonym. Especially with the ego-fellatio that went on with sitting in shadow and keeping his identity secret while being on Newsnight.
  2. You’re not really a whistle blower if you work for the other side. Wonder what he’ll do when the Tories get back in. This kind of Political agenda-wankery just bores the shite out of me. I’ve yet to see him dog the shit out of a Tory but am willing to be proved wrong here.
  3. I’m yet to meet a card carrying preaching Libertarian that I didn’t think was an arsehole. This is not to say they all are arseholes. Just most of them. And yes, there are shades of grey but for the most part, the movement attracts wankers.

To be honest, I think most politicians are arseholes and wholly unsuited to running a country.

Job Satisfaction. Graphed.

This little diagram was ‘stolen’ from a management course I went on. I couldn’t find the reference so if anyone knows of the original diagram, then put something in the comments. I have drawn it mostly from memory here with some annotations. Click the diagram or here to see it in better resolution.

The concept is that a new start comes into a job with a highly inflated opinion of his ability and, when presented with the reality of work, quickly loses faith and confidence and has a lot to manage his way through.

I think therefore, when hiring someone, it’s absolutely essential to catch them before the big drop off in comfort (which can take months to repair).

23/100 My Mother is On Facebook

Continuing my work on writing about 100 different topics…

My mother is not on Facebook nor is she on any of the other social networking sites but there are members of my family who are. To be honest, my mother has just about gotten used to using a computer for email (though her replies are very infrequent).

My own Facebook profile is/was very tame. I had links to my blog posts, links to my friends, music I like and places I’d been. I deliberately cut back on Zombie Fights, Werewolf invites, Admission to be a member of the Knights of the Round Table, SuperWall, FunWall, MetaWall and all the rest of that and my main reason was that My Mother could be on FaceBook

If you log onto a standard profile on FaceBook you’ll see a lot of these mini-apps and you’ll see the content (a lot of it adult-rated) that finds it’s way onto the SuperWalls and similar applications if you’re not monitoring the content. If not your mother, imagine a prospective employer reading this stuff. You might have an innocent profile but if you’re linked to someone who sends adult-rated content and you’re on their photo gallery shitfaced and dancing naked from the waist down at a local bar, it could damage your ability to get a job. That said, I’m relatively convinced that most recruiters here don’t have the time or wherewithall to use tools like LinkedIn or FaceBook to help them find or vet candidates. And none of my managers throughout my history of being an employed lackey would have the forethought to search for me online.

It is, however, only a matter of time.

[Chris Brogan’s 100 topics]

Co-Working guidelines.

HiveLogic on getting into The Zone in modern offices:

“There’s no choice about how or when you’re expected produce, or under what circumstances. Here is your computer, here is your workstation, you have the tools, the florescent lights are turned on, why don’t you go ahead and get to work, thanks, bye.”

“In a best case scenario, they do a mediocre job and feel OK at the end of the day. In the worst case, they’re miserable.”

The article mentions co-working in passing but I want to focus on the above paragraph. There is an idea that co-working is a “phenomenon” and there are some who think it might be a panacea to their productivity woes.

Looking at the quote above gives one aspect that can’t be ignored. You arrive in $BIG_COMPANY and if their processes are working correctly, you should have a desk, a computer, a phone and it’s just a case of getting your userid for the system, setting your passwords and starting to work (which may or may not include weeks of reading documentation). For some people this will idyllic, for others sufficient and for some of you, it may sound like hell on earth.

So what to do about it? The co-working movement assumes some things.

  1. You are a self-employed knowledge worker with current income (or have a really understanding boss). You can make money at this or this is what you need to do to make money in the future or past.
  2. Ideally you’re not going to need large equipment, a precise (and expensive) model of printer or a lot of space reserved for yourself. This is about sharing. You should provide your own equipment and it should all fit on one desk and use your fair share of power sockets.
  3. If you’re lucky enough to have the capacity for a meeting space in addition to a communal work and break area, then great. If not, it’s perhaps not a great environment to bring customers for face to face meetings.
  4. Working alongside people who are not your colleagues will benefit what you do (via the idea that networking is more valuable to you than teamwork) and you’re not just going to try to turn them into customers.
  5. You have the equipment, data and resources online to help you do your work (or have some storage space at the co-work facility). You’re also pretty good with fixing your own problems. Don’t depend on your co-workers to sort out your issues. Most of them might help but they have their own jobs to do.
  6. These interesting, creative, co-working people you have shacked up with won’t prove to be more of a distraction than your Wii, the postman, two cats and significant other which you’d have to contend with if you just stayed at home. And you’re not going to be a distraction to them either with tales of your last dentist visit or the how well you’re doing on Metroid.
  7. You don’t have too many odious habits, you shower regularly and you know how to use a litter bin. If you smoke, you’ll have the sense to stand outside someone else’s door rather than just outside the co-work space.
  8. If the facility is for more than just bedouin workers who hot-desk from day to day, then respect others personal space and property. Seems obvious but I came into an office a few years back where the keyboard was sticky and the screen was smeared. Apparently another worker had his kids in the office at the weekend.
  9. Co-working is about shared responsibilities. You owe it to the other occupants not to be a prick to them, their colleagues, their customers and, if necessary, their children. Establish the rules early about who does the washing up, who cleans the toilet and who knows how to operate a vacuum cleaner. Remember it’s a co-work facility so it will likely be a good bit more freeform and chaotic than the standard cubicle farm.
  10. Pay your share of the rent and utility bills without complaint. It’s my opinion that the base cost should be your percentages of these plus 10% for eventualities. If this means it’s not economical for you or you can’t pay on time then don’t be surprised when they ask you to leave.

In short, you need to be a good co-working citizen and expect the same from others.

If you are considering a co-working facility, you could do worse than to have a look at David Rice’s blog where these questions are being considered.

Get mad at yourself for your mistakes

BoyGeniusReport reports on a curious exchange between a Mac owner and Apple’s Steve Jobs. Said customer was irate because he spilled water on his MacBook Pro and was quoted a base $300 to start the repair with no guarantee it would fix the unit. He emailed Steve Jobs and the reply was:

“It sounds like you’re just looking for someone to get mad at other than yourself.”

Sound unfair?

Does anyone know the amount of work that has to go into working on a water-damaged unit? I do. Of all the things you could do to a laptop, spilling water (or other beverages) on it is the worst. Don’t believe me? Consider that it’s dangerous and can immediately short out a computer with a nasty sound. Consider that water is insidious and if it doesn’t short out a component immediately, it can move to other components within the unit. Consider that even if you think you’ve dried it, it can still corrode. Consider that if it’s coffee or other beverage then you can find, months later that the computer can short out due to mould growing inside it. I’ve seen it happen.

For a water damaged computer there is only one way to ensure a fix – replacement.

Other than that, you’re going to be replacing components (and laptop components are not cheap) piece by piece until eventually you’ve replaced all the bad modules. Only if you’ve taken one apart can you know how long this takes and the patience and skill involved to do it right, under a deadline, again and again. Time is money people and who’s going to pay for this time? I don’t have sympathy for anyone with this entitlement expectation. No-one else should pay for you being an idiot and this is why I hate seeing anyone hold a drink, be it water, tea, wine or whatever, over a laptop computer. One day, you’ll be standing arguing that someone should fix it for free.

And yes, threats to never buy a Mac again are petty and stupid.

ENN.ie fiction

ENN.ie describes itself as “Irelands IT Newswire” which is why I subscribe to their feed. But like all modern technology journalism, it’s a load of bollocks.. Their contributor, Ciara O’Brien, just made some stuff up and posted it to ENN.ie as news. In her article she describes the iPhone as a ‘slow burn’ yet in the same month ENN.ie has Emmet Ryan claiming “So far sales have been phenomenal. We receive updates every 30 minutes and each half hour the sales are greater than the previous half hour,” Stephen Mackarel, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse told ENN.”

Ciara O’Brien writes:

When it was first launched, the iPhone was locked down tight. Apple, and only Apple, could produce software for the music player/phone hybrid. Hackers soon circumvented the iPhone’s controls, creating their own applications for instant messaging, voice over IP and anything else they felt Apple had overlooked.

Apple has rethought its position, and a software developer kit (SDK) for the iPhone is now available. This will allow third party developers to produce applications for the iPhone without taking advantage of flaws in the operating system and risking their iPhone being “bricked” — rendered useless — as happened to some users who had hacked their iPhones when they installed a software update pushed out by Apple.

Emphasis mine.

Apple didn’t rethink anything. It’s evident from using the SDK that they were spending the months building an SDK and writing documentation so they could hand something to developers that they could attempt to stand behind.

Honest to god, is a journalism degree nothing more than half a dozen creative writing classes? What happened to proper journalism? Investigative reporting. At the moment all I see is people being paid to quote off other people’s blogs.

Self-entitlement whores whine about free iPhone.

A bit of a gem for those of us who like to spot self-entitlement whores.

Apple is offering employees in Cork a free iPhone if they:

  1. Don’t sell it, jailbreak it or allow it to be jailbroken
  2. No…there is no step 2….

Seems fair enough. It’s a choice for the individual not something they’re forced into. Accept it and the conditions, or don’t. But this didn’t stop a few calling Pat Phelan “panicking about a note they received this morning”.

This has caused a wave of self-entitlement outrage with headlines using the word “blackmail” on Pat Phelan’s blog.

It’s a free iPhone. It’s a choice. If you want the free iPhone, you have to play by the rules. If that’s not something you want to do, then don’t accept the free iPhone.

Self-entitlement whores want the whole cake, of course. I want the free thing but I don’t want to sign up to the conditions that make it free. No fair. Wahhh. You’re given a computer in work but you can’t install Bioshock on it? Wahhh. You get your Sky box for free but you have to pay the monthly fee for a contract in order to get movies and channels? Wahhh. You got a free car but you have to pay for petrol to make it go? Wahhh. You’re a pack of ungrateful wretches the lot of you.

Grow the fuck up. Nothing spoils a Friday more than a pack of whining bitches.

PC Gaming and Piracy

A good article on PC game piracy:

Anyone who keeps track of how many PCs the “Gamer PC” vendors sell each year could tell you that it’s insane to develop a game explicitly for hard core gamers. Insane. I think people would be shocked to find out how few hard core gamers there really are out there. This data is available. The number of high end graphics cards sold each year isn’t a trade secret (in some cases you may have to get an NDA but if you’re a partner you can find out). So why are companies making games that require them to sell to 15% of a given market to be profitable? In what other market do companies do that? In other software markets, getting 1% of the target market is considered good.

This tells me:

  1. Copy protection is worthless and every minute you spend making the most complex anti-copy mechanism possible is a minute you’re not filling your game with awesomeness.
  2. Total user base is irrelevant and you need to think only of the people, in that userbase, who will buy.
  3. I really should consider trying out Sins of a Solar Empire using CrossOver Games

Money for nothing and chicks for free

Daniel Jalkut, of Red Sweater software fame, writes about ‘free’ software:

During the chat, the entire MacBreak Weekly crew discussed the danger to the music industry that comes from younger listeners having a built-in expectation that music should be free.

This was in response to Leo Laporte claiming that Pukka, a del.icio.us client, should be free of charge. Software should be free of charge? I think that’s an unhealthy expectation fostered by poor communication and the hi-jacking of the word ‘free’ by the FLOSS movement.

I agree with Daniel and I’m willing to argue the point further.

Software developers are rock stars.

I’m not talking about the idea that in a software development team of 20 code-heads, there are going to be two rock star developers and everyone else there is for bug fixing, testing and coffee-fetching because I find that idea to be repugnant, elitist and indicative of a management infrastructure that needs to be dragged out into a forested area and buried alive.

Sure, not everyone has the same ability but it should be the duty of a manager to find the people who are motivated to become excellent and not just prop up those who already are.

The fact that someone can write code that can be read by a computer and then sold to thousands of other people is no different to my mind than a songwriter who records his song and then sells that to thousands. It seems bizarre with hindsight that a “Music Industry” style organisation did not spring from the early days of programming. Imagine a world where all software was delivered via four or five big labels (like, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Adobe…) and individual coders spent a lot of effort trying to build software that would get them noticed by one of the big labels so they could become software rock stars.

Oh, god, that’s already happened.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows got a lot of press because the album was provided as a download where fans could pay what they thought it was worth to them. According to Wikipedia, one third of downloaders paid nothing and yet the average price being paid was £4 (around $8) which means that a lot of people paid more than that. This ‘idea’ of theirs has existed in the software development world for years. Digital downloads for software are not a new phenomenon. And variable pricing is also not new.

Nine Inch Nails followed up with ‘Ghosts’ which came in a variety of versions ranging from ‘free’ to ‘Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition’. The latter, priced at $300 and limited to 2500 copies, sold out within hours. They’re going further by releasing it under “a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license” which does take it a step further.

Both of these music releases borrow heavily from the software industry’s shareware, donationware history.

I think it’s important to treat all software developers like rock stars. (This doesn’t mean feeding them sex, drugs and rock’n’roll until they burst!) I know software developers and musicians who have the talent and skill to write code but yet cannot think of what to write (the coder doesn’t know what app to write, the musician doesn’t know what song). A complementary relationship with someone who has ideas, passion, vision is exactly what’s needed and is commonly why musicians form bands. (Should software developers form bands?)

While listening to a podcast last night, the hosts were heard to comment “The term ‘starving artist’ didn’t come out of nowhere”. Treating software developers as ‘artists’ is important. No-one would expect an artist or sculptor to give away their work for free. Fewer still think that music should be free but there is a modern day implication that software should be free. In these days of digital printing, digital music and easy software duplication, I can understand why this content should be inexpensive (harking back to the 1000 fans post).

Apple recently offered software developers who wish to distribute their software for iPhone the following deal:

$99 for a certificate and 30% of all sales for placement in the App Store. Free apps are free.

It’s my opinion that musicians would give their left leg for a deal like that. Pay a $99 fee for set up of the store account and then Apple takes 30% of sales. The musician gets to keep 70% of the sale price as well as get placement on the iTunes store. And maybe that’s Apple’s intent. It’s well known that the record labels are balking at Apple’s dominance over music and are starting to offer DRM-free music to other vendors in an attempt to short-circuit Apple’s market. It would be stupid of Apple not to already have a plan in motion to circumvent that.

And why stop there. Does Apple have the potential to sell digital images for home printing? Compete with lulu.com for digital books?

The title of the post comes from the Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing”. In that track, the lead character is a blue-collar worker criticising what he sees in the Rock Star world. Earrings, makeup, oodles of money, groupies. The worker doesn’t appreciate the ‘difficulty’ of writing a song, lyrics, playing an instrument and getting noticed. Similarly, when I have shown my puny efforts of software development to non-technologists, they’ve been pretty dismissive. It’s hard for these people to appreciate that some things are hard. Likewise, it wasn’t until I started reading other people’s writing that I realised that writing in a creative and interesting way was, after a fashion, hard.

I’ll leave you with this User-Friendly strip from 1999.