LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You know you're screwed when...
Alexander Graham Bell calls up and says you're holding it wrong.
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
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In This Issue...
We're Going to Score!
It's important after an accident to convene a committee to investigate why the accident happened and to make recommendations to prevent future re-occurances. You can cancel the postmortem on the spill. I've figured out what caused it. No need to thank me. You can just give me 10 percent of what the investigation was going to cost.
In the corporate America we live in, it's not hard to figure out. One only needs to look at the companies we work in to understand what happened on the Deepwater Horizon. The explosion, fire, and spill were caused not by an act but by the corporate mindset that permeates everything we do.
How many of you have worked on projects that weren't ready, only to learn one day that all the P1 bugs had been deferred and the product shipped? Have you ever wondered why this happens? It's pretty simple. Someone's bonus was written in a one-dimensional manner. They had to ship the product by a specific date to get the money. Sometimes, it's not a single person's bonus driving the pre-mature release of a product. Sometimes, the entire company needs to deliver by a date to prevent contractual penalties. In both cases, products go out the door which are not ready for prime time.
I believe this is what happened on the Deepwater Horizon. It's clear from what little we've been told that BP was pushing everyone on the rig to move faster, and get the job done. When Haliburton pushed for better casings BP complained that they would lose 10 hours in doing so. BP wanted the oil and they wanted it right then.
I don't damn BP as being "evil" as so many have. For this act to have been evil, BP would have had to have been trying to blow up the well. The truth is BP was cutting corners to get oil to market, not to pollute the sea. I also dismiss BP's chairman's comment about "little people" to be a simple bad choice of words made by a person whose first language is not English. I'm married to an English as second language person, mistakes in word choice are pretty common.
I think the explosion was caused by having a person in a position of power on the rig who was not an expert in drilling, or didn't have a lot of oil field experience. Maybe they had never had a blow out on previous projects. This drill had gone slower than anticipated, and either this person was sent out to the Gulf to kick some asses, or they simply needed to hit a milestone by a certain date, and they started pushing. This person told anyone who raised a safety objection to button their lip. The owner of the rig objected and then they buttoned it to preserve future business. Haliburton objected and then buttoned it for the same reason. If this person's gamble worked, they would all win. No one had the courage to say, "Stop, you're going to kill us!" When you say these kinds of sentences and no one dies, your career is significantly shortened.
An illustration of another project where this type of pushing killed people was the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The Shuttle uses solid rocket boosters to get to orbit. These rockets are built in sections and then stacked. The sections are sealed with rubber O rings. These rings lose their strength if they experience cold temperatures.
The day before the Challenger launched, Florida experienced a cold snap. Ice had formed on the launch gantry. The engineers at Morton Thiokol, the manufacturer of the rockets, were refusing to sign off on the launch. They knew the O rings had traveled outside of their safe temperature range and were saying, "Take it off the pad."
NASA Project Managers started putting pressure on Morton Thiokol to shut up and sign the launch papers. Eventually, anyone who doesn't have "Fuck Everyone Money" cracks. The pressure moved down the chain at Thiokol and eventually an Engineer was intimidated into signing the launch approval. Everyone on the Challenger died. The Engineers knew this spacecraft shouldn't be launched, but a person in power who didn't know better, but was incented to get a launch, ignored the experts and intimidated people until the papers were signed.
Just like the NASA Product Managers who were only incented to get the Shuttle into orbit, no one on the rig had a bonus attached to delivering the oil without blowing up the rig, without killing eleven men, without polluting the ocean. BP asked for oil by a certain date, and they got it, just not in a nice clean pipe like they wanted. They didn't ask for it in a nice clean pipe.
The lesson to be learned is not that Project Managers are greedy evil bastards. We know that. The lesson is that people will do what they are incented to do. If you ask for delivery by a certain date, but don't require a specific measurable quality or condition, you'll get it as-is on that date.
I've been in this computer hobby/profession for a long time now. I wrote my first program in 1980 on paper punch cards. The world really has changed a lot since then. Now before I hear the big collective, "Duh!", let's talk about who the players were and are.
In the 80's IBM wasn't a gorilla in the room, it was a whale. In the beginning of the 80's, mainframes were still the dominant platform. This would change over the decade. But IBM was a giant, lumbering, slow company that thought that the world was fine just as it was. Why not? They were on top. The old saying was, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." And that was true.
When the micro computers started taking hold, somehow IBM decided it needed to get into this market, although no one in business was using micros for anything serious yet. (There wasn't really any business software for the micros.) A fella named William C. Lowe was tapped to do the project with 11 other engineers. Lowe's team went to Boca Raton, Florida, far from IBM headquarters, to keep the corporate pinheads out of the project. Lowe knew the PC needed to be relatively cheap, so he required the computer be built with off-the-shelf parts. And when it came time to finding an OS, he wanted someone other than IBM to write it. He knew IBM would take 10 years to finish an OS. He knew that huge companies don't bring new products to market quickly and inexpensively.
Who is today's IBM? Microsoft.
The Redmond Company is today's whale. If you're in business, you have to be brave to recommend alternate systems, such as Linux, to run your enterprise applications. You will not get fired for buying Microsoft. If you're going to be in this business, you must at least be literate in Microsoft technology. But recognize the similarities between the IBM of 1980 and the Microsoft of 2010. The Redmond Company just spent 10 years developing "Long Horn" (the code word for what became Vista and Windows 7). If only William Lowe worked at Microsoft, he could have predicted this and gone shopping in Finland for an OS. Microsoft is big, slow, late to market, and is beginning to have its lunch eaten.
Who is today's Microsoft? Apple.
Ever since Dear Leader beamed back aboard The Mother Ship, Apple has been about pushing the envelope. People now expect the world of Apple. Often, their products that disappoint (iPhone 4) still are light years in front of the pack. Apple is fashion that delivers. And just like Microsoft of the 80's and 90's, Apple is arrogant, no one more so than Dear Leader himself who has decided that Apple knows best about everything including which development environment you must use if you want to play on its platform.
In the 80's and 90's Microsoft used to claim they were great innovators, not inventors. This maybe beginning to happen at Apple. It's becoming harder and harder to be an inventor. It's much easier to make something new out of the technology available. Apple didn't invent the mobile phone, it just changed the nature of mobile phones.
Who is today's Apple? Google.
Apple started as a company that invented products. The first invention was a build it yourself computer that had a keyboard. The second was the first massively produced pre-built computer. Apple has been a game-changing company by being early to market with new products.
If any company can claim that title now, it's Google. Google's business is advertising. Google has single-handedly changed the way the advertising industry thinks about its product. Google isn't afraid to go long on a new avenue of advertising. Although many of us worry about the information Google is collecting about everything we do, it's very hard to resist their products.
In 1980, if you needed to rent some brain-power you considered hiring Anderson Consulting. Anderson, who was attached to the financial company Arthur Anderson, eventually spun off and was forced to change its name to Accenture. Lucky them! Not long after, Arthur Anderson imploded in a financial scandal that would have taken down the consulting business as well. But eventually, Accenture faded from significance.
Who is Anderson Consulting now? IBM
Although there are still a few IBM mainframes still running on Earth, IBM has largely abandoned the computer hardware business. They sold their hard drive business to Hitachi, and their laptop business to Lenovo. Both deals were made when both businesses were still worth something.
This is still a huge company. IBM works on large computing projects all over the world. It's a business of knowing what technology is available and then making a recipe to bring the pieces together. That means IBM doesn't have the inventory problems of a hardware maker, nor does it have the problem of having out of favor products some software companies suffer from. The project leader picks best of breed from hardware and software vendors, as well as hiring programmers to fill in any empty spots. IBM's main asset is people, and is able to hire from local talent.
Millions Demonize BP for the Oil Spill
Are You Still Driving That SUV?
Heard in the halls of various software companies.
"Which part of Cluster-Fuck don't you understand?"
"It's only 8:40 AM and I'm already bored."
"I'll give it to you straight. You're screwed!"
"It's amazing what I will consider food these days."
"I don't remember, did I take pills or not?"
I have to crack open a 12 pack of Caffeine Free Diet Coke and go watch Star Wars again. Yes, all of them.
They pay me to think. These are my thoughts. Do you think they are getting their money's worth?
Remember: The Crapolla contains my personal opinions. That's right they're mine, so get your own! And you kids get off my lawn!
Although written with the software professional in mind, my mind tends to wander all over the place, and I sometimes write about politics, mass stoopidity, dumb things I saw, and whatever else comes to mind.
From time to time, I use salty language, thus The Crapolla is not intended for children, or certain people from the Christian Right.
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