Category Archives: It seems to me…

How to engage a fanatic?

I read an opinion piece today that spurred me to write this post.

I struggle with this very question quite often. I am not one to “un-friend” someone simply because I don’t agree with them or their views. I’m quite curious by nature so I am driven to discover the roots of their views. However, most often what happens is that I am shouted down, accused of being “preachy” and/or “being out of touch with the real world” and/or my personal favorite “that’s your college education talking”. When I emphasize that I really want to understand how they reached their viewpoint I am accused of trying to bait them.

My formative years were spent on and around farms in rural Michigan. I’ve lived in a small tent in the woods while searching for work; I’ve had to choose between eating and affording the trip to work; I’ve watched the last of my food go down the kitchen sink because I didn’t own a colander to drain my spaghetti. That is my real world.

I get it that you’re angry and frustrated. You’ve got my attention so stop yelling at me and let’s talk about it.

Yup, I’m over 50 and still love this technology thing I do.

Although I don’t have quite as many notches in my keyboard as this author I can certainly identify with his point of view. I haven’t been a ‘professional coder’ for many years but I still do write code most every day. I’ve evolved into a ‘technologist’; one who knows a good deal about a great many things yet is not expert in any. I’ve consciously given up the role of ‘expert’ on any given topic and traded it for a broad understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

Is it more valuable to be the ‘go to’ person for all things Javascript or, someone with experience ranging from COBOL to Node.js, video streaming to VoIP and embedded systems to data-center systems engineering? Frankly, I believe it takes about the same level of effort to do either. I spend a good portion of my waking hours reading; staying current (and relevant) can be a full time job in itself. I’ve come to learn of myself that I’m most rewarded by having a wide knowledge base rather than a deep one. The problem with being an expert on a given technology is what do you do when that technology is no longer relevant?

I don’t win contract coding gigs anymore, but frankly I don’t want them; the vast majority are too narrow in scope to be interesting and make money for someone else. I’m much happier consulting small businesses on how to improve their efficiency and lower their costs, advising start-ups on what NOT to do when rushing head-long to build the next-big-thing and running my own companies.

I love what I do and I’m quite happy to not be an expert thank-you-very-much.

Beware… Political opinion ahead…

I look forward to this election being over but not for the reason you may think. I look forward to being able to read my social media news feed without banging my forehead into my keyboard in frustration as I read something one of my ‘friends’ regurgitated from the various spew-fests that pass for political discourse these days.

SAY something! Fer freck’s sake do NOT just repeat/repost/share something posted by the PR machine of ‘your guy’. Ask questions! Demand detailed answers from EVERYONE. When they say ‘We have a plan…’ ask to see it. Do not let them gloss over it with something like “the details are still being worked out…” or “I’m not going to get into the details here…”; put-up or shut-up.

I have a news flash for ya — Both sides lie. Both sides spin the ‘facts’ into a frothy, cliché rich slurry that bears meek resemblance to reality much less Truth. If we continue to let them get away with it they have will have no reason to stop.

Question everything! Read everything and then make up your own mind — don’t let a punditainer tell you what to think. To do otherwise is truly un-patriotic.

Success = ((Business !> Product) & (Product !> Business))

I run two companies. I often get stuck in the process of improving my product at the expense of improving the business. This morning, while enjoying my coffee outside on a late-summer day, I came across an à propos blog post.

Alistair Croll writes in his blog Lean Analytics Book about the myriad ways a new shop owner can attract customers.

In addition to a slew of great marketing ideas he reminded me that when you run a company you have to think about ‘the business’ just as much as ‘the product’.

As to the title of this post; I can hear the code monkeys screaming at their screens and see the normal folk staring at the screen, heads slightly tilted with a “Huh?” face. Roughly translated it means that Success happens when the effort you spend on ‘the business’ is equal to what you expend on the ‘the product’.

For the code monkeys that are screaming at the inefficiency of the code I offer this explanation:

  • I am emphasising the fact that neither is greater than the other.
  • Although I have written code, in many languages, for a rather long time, I do not consider myself a software engineer. I write sometimes sloppy code that makes sense to me and get’s the job done.
  • Pragmatism beats Purity most every time. 😉

Stream of Consciousness will participate in the ‘SOPA/PIPA Blackout’ on Jan. 18

Stream of Consciousness will go dark from January 18, 2012 at 8:00 am Eastern US time through January 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm to protest SOPA/PIPA and Internet Censorship. You can learn more here.

The FrameAlbum website and frame feeds will NOT go dark and will continue normal operations.

Much has been written on how obscenely bad this legislation is to the health of the internet, and our Freedoms in general. I won’t bore you with my weak attempts where others have done so well. I encourage you to read for yourself and to contact your congress critter and let them know that this is hinders innovation, destabilizes the internet, is NOT effective and damages our Freedoms.

Is being a ‘straight talker’ good, or bad?

I recognize that I’ve been posting exclusively about FrameAlbum here recently but the title of the blog is ‘Stream of Consciousness‘ so you can’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

I received a comment today where the person thanked me for being a ‘straight talker’.  I took it as a complement.

I’m an engineer; in my world there is ‘the truth’ and then “that thing that isn’t the truth”.  If something is ‘red’ then tell me it’s ‘red’; don’t tell me “it’s a very dark, complex shade of pink with overtones of blue but if you see it in just the right light it’s orange” because you think I don’t like red.  Frankly, I can’t bring myself to say ‘something is x‘ when clearly the opposite is true, regardless of the audience.

Unfortunately in today’s political arena ‘straight talk‘ has come to mean ‘dumbing it down for consumption by the masses so that it appeals to their emotions rather than thoughtful reasoning‘.

Most every sound bite I’ve heard that was labeled as an example of ‘straight talk’ was such a brain-numbingly obvious platitude that I couldn’t help myself from throwing up in my mouth a little bit.

I’ll make Government more efficient!” – Really?  Do you honestly believe that in ~235 years of having a go at this democracy thing that we haven’t reached some sort of efficiency equilibrium?  No, really, I prefer inefficiency and would vote against anyone who supports increased efficiency

We will take Our Government back!” – Back from whom, exactly?  Last time I read the Constitution it said that ours was a government of ‘We the People’.  One must be a citizen, therefore an American, to vote.  So we’re taking it back from the American People to give to… the American People?  I’m confused…

I’ll make the tax code simple!” – I don’t even know where to begin on this one.

In every case the candidate is simply saying what the audience of the moment wants to hear. Have we, as a Nation, become so afraid of the truth that we’ll vote for no one that dare speak it? When a candidate does dare veer off message and a bit of truth leaks out it’s labelled a gaff and the blathering Punditry goes into high-gear claiming that the candidate just committed political suicide.

No, I fear that something even more distressing is true; that we are not willing to vote for someone who is not 100% in agreement with our views. I don’t think (most) politicians are stupid; in fact I believe most of them are quite intelligent.  So intelligent in fact that they have figured out that to get/stay elected they can’t possibly take a solid position on anything as it would give some group a reason to vote for ‘anyone else’.  Have you ever tried to get a Yes/No answer from a politician?  I have — I believe that if you look in the dictionary under ‘futility’ the entry reads ‘that overwhelming urge you get to smack something when you ask a politician a Yes/No question.’

If you want to earn my vote give direct, clear, unequivocal answers to questions.  When someone asks you “Which part of an Oreo is you favorite?”  You had better say “I love the rich creamy filling!” or “I love the crispy chocolate wafers!“.  If you respond “I like them both equally and here are 4,000 words about why you are an idiot if you don’t agree with me.” you are dead to me.

Give me the straight facts about what you believe — I will not agree with you 100% of the time but at least I’ll respect you and I might even vote for you.