Monthly Archives: July 2007

Rory Blyth is a dirty fish pirate

It’s true. Rory Blyth is a dirty fish pirate. If that makes sense to you, then you may be in serious trouble. But there’s an icon that adds credibility to the claim:

fish icon

Rory has been blogging since several years before he was born and it seems he’s planning to get serious about it now.  It’s just possible you’ve read posts where I’ve mused about way I might make money from this blogging malarky.  Well, Rory’s been working at it for far longer than me and deserves some sort of reward if that’s what he’s after.

As an aside, going straight to his current posts will be more than a little like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool.  Especially if you’re not a good swimmer.  And the pool for some reason features a raging waterfall with jaggedy rocks at the bottom.

Here’s a link to one of my favourites to ease you in:  a comic that explains why IT people hate marketing people.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Blogging

Mr Angry’s video dating service

And now for something completely different.

The four housemates of the apocalypse decided to make dating videos.  Using my equipment.  Without asking for permission.

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Filed under Video Blogging

Download this information!

If you’re looking for the ultimate example of human stupidity, you need look no further than the ads for downloads to mobile phones.  The idea of letting someone you have no hope of tracing make charges against your phone simply doesn’t appeal to me.

It’s bad enough when the product is arguably useful (some people really like games, customised ringtones, wallpaper etc.) but some of the shit they advertise amazes me.  I had thought that the worst was when they wanted to charge you for really bad impersonations of The Simpsons (which I’m sure breaches copyright law).  Then they had SMS chat where you pay a fortune to send text messages to someone who’s apparently really hot and wants to go out with you (yeah, right).

Then I found a new low point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aA_E1rrhx8

My girlfriend knows I hate this ad.  She also has a wicked sense of humour.  So every time it comes on she makes a big show of texting our names to the number to wind me up. 

It works every time.

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Filed under Video Blogging

Fred Thompson – the next President of the USA?

I’ve formed a theory that the absurdly long Presidential campaign being inflicted on the American populace is a deliberate ploy to turn people off politics altogether.  After all, if the population ends up completely disengaged from the political process, there’ll be none of that unpleasant answering for your actions.  Actually being held responsible ruins a good thing for politicians.

I read with interest that even with their huge field of contenders, many Republicans aren’t happy with the selection.  Surveys are showing that the most common response when asked to choose a candidate is “none of the above”.  This may or may not be good news for Fred Thompson.  Thompson is an actor, lawyer and lobbyist, a real Republican insider who is not yet an official contender for the presidency.

He’s being pitched by many as a tough guy and defender of traditional Republican values.  Whether it’s true or not.  Here’s my take on Fred Thompson:

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Filed under Politics, Video Blogging

Who remembers SkatKat?

This what I do when I’m bored.  For those who have no idea who SkatKat was/is, he was an animated cat used to push a novelty “rap” album in the 80s.  He even did a song and video with Paula Abdul.  But like all one-hit wonders, he fell hard and he fell far.  This is the sad tale of his life today.  Featuring the crappest animation ever.

As I said, I was bored.  The other night I was trying to think of what to do for a video and I wanted to do something different.  I was toying with various ideas about doing a cartoon when I remembered a piece of audio I had on my hard drive.  Way back when I did some videos promoting the 2007 Melbourne Comedy Festival (click the link at the top of the page to see them in all their glory) I recorded some stuff Tommy Dassalo wanted to use in his show, “The Third Guy”.

One of the pieces was a short monologue performed by the show’s director, Adrian Calear.  He plays the rather sad and desperate SkatKat you hear in the above video.  I swear I wasn’t drunk, but I thought it would be a good idea to make it into a video. 

I chopped up some pieces of the SkatKat/Paula Abdul video and did the god-awful animation of a couple of still images.  I think I might use this video to submit a job application to Pixar.  I’m sure they could use the laugh.

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Filed under Comedy, Video Blogging

Shut up or I’ll kill you

There are many instances where I want to say to people “Shut up or I’ll kill you!”  Or, more accurately, I want to scream it in their face from a distance of about 5 centimetres.  Usually this is because they’re  talking shit and I desperately want them to stop.  I have a slightly different problem at work right now.

I have to work with someone whose voice is pitched at a level that gives me headaches.  I don’t mean metaphorically.  Her voice seems to resonate in my skull and set off vibrations.  If I start with the vaguest hint of a headache, listening to her will make it grow until I can’t stand it.  She makes it worse by talking very loudly.

I know why she does this.  She’s spent years working in a male dominated industry.  She’s learned from experience if she doesn’t speak up strongly she’ll be drowned out by someone else.  It isn’t as if she’s saying stupid things, she’s quite intelligent.  But she’s making my fucking head explode.

And I have to sit through long meetings involving this woman.  As the throbbing in my head increases I find it increasingly difficult to actually absorb anything being said.  Eventually it becomes impossible to even hear what people say.  Instead of paying attention, I’m inwardly focused saying to myself:

“shut up shut up shut up shut the fuck up please shut up for fuck’s sake just stop talking will you please shut up I can’t stand it!”

Then I realise people are looking at me.  Expectantly.  I realise someone must have asked me a question.  And I have noooooo fucking idea what to say.  You’d be surprised how many creative ways I have of saying “I have no idea what you just said – please repeat it.”

Or then there are the days when I suspect I’ve actually been saying my “shut the fuck up” rant out loud.  One of these days I’m going to do it.  Just to see how people react.

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Filed under General Angriness

Project Management is Bollocks!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 10+ years working in IT, it’s this: Project Management is utter bollocks.  It’s rubbish.  I’m not saying that planning is a bad idea.  I thinking planning is absolutely necessary if you want to avoid disaster.  But anyone who thinks they can predict exactly what will happen over the life of a project, exactly how much it will cost and how long it will take is some bizarre hybrid of a lunatic and a liar.

The most polite description I can think of for the bullshit that surrounds project management is that it’s a consensual hallucination.  I first came across that term in the cyberpunk’s bible, William Gibson’s SF novel “Neuromancer”.  He used the term to describe cyberspace.  I don’t know if he invented either term (consensual hallucination or cyberspace) but he was certainly pivotal in popularising them.

Cyberspace doesn’t exist in any physical sense in the world of Neuromancer.  It’s a massive computer network that can be “navigated” in a way that people can conceptualise.  Which allows for some cool descriptions of pseudo-physical interactions with data.  For ease of understanding, everyone treats this abstract concept as a concrete reality.  They have consented to believe in the hallucination because it’s easier to understand that way.

Life is full of consensual hallucinations.  A polite way of saying we’re surrounded by bullshit.  If you live in a democracy, you tend to believe you have a say in what happens in your life.  There’s a tendency to ignore the reality of politicians being soulless whores who are bought and paid for by vested interests.  The consensual hallucination of participatory democracy is more comforting.  Voting is little more than a sideshow but life’s a little easier to bear if we pretend voting can actually change anything.

In fact, pretty much any political or religious belief system is a consensual hallucination.  Which is not to say that they are by definition untrue.  Believe in your magic friend in the sky all you like.  Who needs empirical evidence when banding together with other believers makes the consensual hallucination feel true? 

And don’t get me started on science.  I’m a big believer in science, but that’s the point.  I’m a believer, by and large, not a knower.  At least 98% of people who believe in science can’t prove or even deeply understand much of the science they support.  But we put our faith in the idea that someone smarter than us got it right.

Which gets me back to project management, specifically, how it applies in the world of IT.  The consensual hallucination that permeates nearly all of IT is that the magic pixie dust of project management can reveal The Truth.  People who like to think they are rational individuals tend to believe that it’s possible to predict ahead of time how long a project would take, how much it will cost and everything that will happen along the way.

In the broadest possible sense, this is true.  If you have enough experience you can probably do better than a wild-arsed guess.  We’ve done something similar that took about this long so we can aim to do that again.  That’s logical.  IT people like logical.  But when someone gets the project management religion, they think they can be precise.  Business people like precise.  But some people are completely fucking insane when it comes to this topic.

Some people believe Project Management should tell you these things down to the day and the dollar. A project plan should tell you every task that needs to be completed. A project plan should be flawless and leave nothing to chance. And a project plan should be completed before ANY work is done on the project.

OK, take a fucking pill, man.  That is straight up insanity.  Despite the fact this is clearly fucked-up thinking, it’s a terrifyingly common mindset in management ranks.  Planning, or at least goal setting, at some level is obviously important.  How the hell do you know what you’re doing if you don’t have any targets? 

But we’ve descended into the seventh circle of hell when we move from “let’s have a clearly defined set of project goals and a strategy for how we’ll get there” to “this is 100% accurate, it’s carved in stone and will never change, if you can’t deliver according to this project plan it’s because you’re doing something wrong.”

Here’s what I think are the main drivers for elevating the myth of project management to the level of holy scripture:

  • There’s a whole industry of consultants scamming a living out of it.  They base their entire existence on the lie that they can provide the definitive solution to project management.  They aren’t about to ruin a good thing by telling the truth about their fallibility.
  • There are several rainforests worth of books published on the topic.  They all apparently have the definitive answer as well.  How could they possibly be wrong?  You know, unless publishing all those books was a money making scam.
  • Nobody likes to look stupid.  If you’re a professional and someone puts you on the spot to answer “how long will this take?” it’s only human to want to provide an answer.  Whether you call it professional pride or ego, it’s a powerful driver.
  • Programming tasks are measurable in retrospect.  It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking this makes them easy to predict in advance.  Being able to say “for a previous project we wrote this many lines of code and it took this many hours” does not mean you can accurately say “for this completely new project we will write this many lines of code and it will take this long.”
  • Very few businesses are keen to hand over an open chequebook.  Because a manager demands a deadline someone provides one.  Just because this stupidity keeps happening over and over doesn’t make it less stupid.

So how do we escape the consensual hallucination that there is a way to do project management that is absolutely foolproof and provides definitive answers?  Well, I propose we kill all the consultants.  Just throw the fuckers up against the wall and shoot them.  OK, maybe I won’t get away with that.  How about we tone it down a bit.  Maybe we’ll just take it out on the consultants who act like they have some mystical powers that enable them to succeed where all others have failed.  We could staple their tongues to their chins.

Maybe even that’s going a little too far.  Surely there’s a solution that doesn’t involve jail time?  There is no silver bullet that will solve this issue (although there’s quite a good essay entitled “No Silver Bullet“) .  But there are things that can be done to improve the situation. 

How about we all sit down to a big three-course serving of reality?  This can save many packed lunches of pain and misery.  If you’re on the IT side, have the courage to say “I don’t know” when that’s an accurate answer.  And if you’re on the business side, FOR GOD’S SAKE, LISTEN!  Good IT workers really don’t like saying “I don’t know.”  If they say it, they probably mean it.  So stop pushing for a definitive answer when one doesn’t exist.

I’ve spent years dealing with obnoxious managers who want an answer, any answer.  They make it clear that they think the lack of an answer comes from laziness or evasiveness.  Worse still, managers often insist on being given an answer even when they know the answer is wrong.  That isn’t being hard-nosed, it’s being fucking stupid.

It’s perfectly reasonable to want some sort of plan up front.  I’m actually one of those funny types who believe up front planning is a necessity.  So long as everyone understands an estimate is just that: an estimate.  You learn as you go along and discover more detail.  So you revise the estimate accordingly.  For this to work, everyone involved has to listen, everyone has to be open, everyone has to be responsive. 

Or we could keep flailing away with the fucked up attitude that “it has to be this way” because the sacred project plan says it’s this way.  Because that really is a lot of fun, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, it’s how people respond to the unexpected that drives whether a project will succeed or fail.  So what are you going to be?  A jerk who worships at the altar of whatever project management methodology is flavour of the month?  Or a realist who can accept that things change and all projects can be unpredictable?  Your decision makes a big difference.

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For fun

For a bit of fun I’m going to re-write one of my old, slightly more serious work-related posts in full angry mode.  I’ve mentioned before that I have a form of multiple blog personality disorder.  When I write the non-sweary more measured pieces I’m usually trying to reach a broader audience.

This approach may well be completely wrong.  After all, I got eleventy-squillion views for my piece about the alli diet pill and that was me at my most potty mouthed.  So as an experiment (and for a bit of fun) I’m reposting The Myth of Project Management in more or less its original form to a site called thisisby.us and I’ll be doing an angry re-write here.

For those who’ve never heard of it, thisisby.us is a different site I’m experimenting with.  The site accepts submissions from anyone and they (theoretically) pay contributors.  I figure I’ve been doing this for long enough with no remuneration so I thought I’d give it a go.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained after all. 

So if you never read the original post when I first ran it, go check it out on thisisby.us and compare it to the version that will be appearing here.  I’d be interested in hearing about which one you prefer.

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Too cheerful

Here’s a little titbit that may surprise readers of this blog: I am generally perceived to have a cheerful demeanour. The astute among you will realise that venting via blogging and videos is one of the primary reasons I am able to be cheerful the rest of the time. My disposition is greatly improved after my daily venting.
One of the things I do that makes people think I’m cheerful is whistling. I don’t go over the top with it but I do frequently whistle (quietly) for no apparent reason. I’ve found it’s self-reinforcing. Whistling is accepted to be a sign of cheerfulness. Start whistling and you tend to feel more cheerful.
I’ve always had a soft spot for this postcard sized sign by Sydney artist Nick Bleasel:

cheerful whistling permitted 

You can tell a lot about a person from the way they react to it. Normal humans will usually smile and maybe start whistling. Some freaks of nature will be seriously affronted by it. In one particularly dysfunctional workplace, a freakishly depressed cow-orker insisted I take it down (the postcard was stuck to my monitor). Apparently, she couldn’t deal with the possibility that people might spontaneously whistle in her general vicinity. Or maybe she was opposed to cheerfulness.
In case anyone thinks I’m being overly cynical with that last point, let me give you an unpleasant truth. There are many people in this world who are actively opposed to the idea of other people being cheerful when they are not. Particularly at work.
This was brought home to me in a previous workplace where a large scale project was going seriously off the rails. People everywhere were concerned that the project would be canned and they would lose their jobs. Rightly concerned as it turned out. It was made painfully clear to me how bad morale was one day when someone asked me how I was doing.
I went beyond assuming this was a banal and meaningless piece of small talk. I responded honestly. Great, I said, I’m having a lot of fun testing some gadgets. The particular sub-project I was on involved assessing the viability of a range of signature capture and imaging hardware and software. As I’m a bit of a gadget head (OK, I’m a nerd) this was actually fun for me.
Big mistake.
Divulging that I was actually enjoying myself engendered some serious hostility. I could have dealt with someone moaning their work wasn’t as interesting but I was actively attacked for having the audacity to enjoy what I was doing. Lesson learned: never tell depressed people that you’re happy.

I started thinking about all of this after being told at my current workplace that I’m cheerful. Just now I passed someone while I was whistling and they commented on how cheerful I sounded. I didn’t think anything of it at first. They didn’t sound too resentful. But then I thought about it: this was at least the third time in the last week someone had commented on me being cheerful. A definite warning sign.
This workplace has undergone a significant amount of change in the last few months. That old corporate favourite, the “re-org” is in full swing. I’m starting to think this may be getting to people. The fact that I have already made plans to move on means I don’t care about the re-org. It looks like my psychic powers have paid off again.
So that’s my warning for today kids: watch out for people commenting on how cheerful you are. It may not be a negative thing at first but it’s like the canary in the coalmine. It’s your early warning signal that things aren’t going well. The time to do something about problems is before they get serious so don’t take the warning signs lightly.

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Stupid interview questions

I’m not far away from entering the job market again.  This means, of course, the joy of job interviews.  As a contractor I go through more job interviews in about two years than most people do in their lifetimes.  As a result I’m quite good at all the bullshit that’s required.

One of the key things that you learn from doing hundreds of job interviews is how useless the whole process is.  I suppose you can weed out the absurdly unqualified (programmers who can’t complete basic programming tasks, business analysts who can’t form a coherent sentence) however, they’re all but useless for finding the best person for the job. 

Really, interviews are little more than a thinly disguised popularity contest.  Who would the interviewers most want to spend time with?  If a workplace can actually admit that’s their hiring process and it’s done right, this is actually a pretty good way to recruit people.  After all, why hire people you can’t stand to be around?

But hardly anyone admits this.  So you end up with this standard way of doing interviews with more or less standard questions because of course this will produce standardised results. Except it doesn’t.  Interviewers ask stupid questions, interviewees lie in response and interviewers make an arbitrary decision.  And so the world keeps turning.

Here’s a few of the questions I’ve had to answer hundreds of times with the kind of honest answer I wish I could get away with giving:

Q: What did you do in your last position?

A: Kept my contempt for my moronic manager concealed for long enough to complete the required work and get out without killing anyone.

Q: How do you deal with difficult co-workers?

A: I’ve mastered the ability to speak calmly while fixing them with a stare that makes it clear I’d step on their throat and crush their fucking windpipe if there were no witnesses.

Q: What pay rate do you want?

A: What do I want? About double what you’re prepared to pay me.  Can we stop pretending you care what I want?

Q: What would you say is your best quality?
A: The ability to work with morons without killing them.

Q: What would you say is your worst quality?

A: The inability to take stupid fucking questions like that seriously.  What do you expect me to say?  That I’m a pathological liar, thief, addicted to crystal meth and prone to violent outbursts?

Q: That’s all the questions we have, do you have any questions?

A: Yeah, why do you ask such stupid fucking questions?  Seriously, did you have to fail an intelligence test to get your job?

For those suffering from sarcasm blindness (an unfortunately widespread condition) I don’t actually say those things in interviews.  9 times out of 10 I can work out exactly what an interviewer wants to hear and I’m an accomplished liar.  I think the interviewers know that too.  It’s just that, if I fuck up, they like to be able to say “but he interviewed so well…”

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