This post is heavily inspired by the events of #RIPTwitter and the recent Fine Brothers fiasco, but it could apply to just about any company, product or person. When I say user base, I could easily mean customers or fan base.
There is a tendency for success to breed a certain level of arrogance. I think many of us have fallen victim to that in a small way from time to time. Now magnify the level success you might have encountered by several orders of magnitude and I think you will start to realise how disconnected most successful people and companies can become. As you become more disconnected, the normal feedback mechanisms start to break down. You are surrounded by hangers on who act like everything you say is the word of God. Without those feedback mechanisms holding you in check, it’s easy to spiral out of control. We see it again and again with popstars and actors. Recently we’ve seen examples of this in social media, as mentioned earlier.
In addition, companies are in the difficult position of having to be seen to grow and develop. If a company stands still, everyone, including the shareholders, believe they are dying. Balancing the needs of the shareholders and the user base is not an easy thing. Having said that, annoying your user base never pays off. Even if you think you’ve got away with it, it’s filed away ready to be resurrected the next time you annoy them. Twitter and the Fine Brothers have had the equivalent of an extramarital affair. As a result, some will choose to leave. Some will stay, pretending they can forgive and forget, but in reality it’s all just been stored in the bank for use later.
As I said at the start, this could be a post about any number of products, people or companies. It doesn’t matter who it is targeted at, the message is the same.
You can only kick a dog so many times before it bites back!
It seems I can’t turn around without getting myself involved in some discussion about Agile or DevOps these days.
I agree with many of the concepts and the aims of Agile, DevOps, Continuous Delivery etc. I find it hard to believe anyone wouldn’t see value in what they are trying to promote. As always, it is how people interpret and implement them that makes all the difference.
It’s just like religion. They all seem to be pretty sound at heart, but let a few lunatics and fundamentalists loose on them and next thing you know…
Things like Agile and DevOps have arisen to address perceived problems. If your organisation doesn’t suffer from those problems, you may not need to consider them, or you may already be doing something like them without knowing you are.
Your company can be agile, without following Scrum or Kanban. You will inevitably have arrived at similar patterns I guess. Likewise, your streamlining of process, automation of testing and deployment, good communication between silos (if present) may leave you wondering what all the DevOps fuss is about.
I am both a fan and hater of Agile and DevOps. I’m a fan of what they are able to achieve when used correctly. I’m a hater of all the bullshit that surrounds them!
Galo Balda has now joined the illustrious list of people who have said “.com” on one of my videos.
Don’t worry, I’ve not sold my soul to the cloud. I’m doing some talks at work and I’m doing these videos more as reference for my colleagues. Once this batch of videos is done, I’ll return to some less cloudy stuff.
I used my dad for the cameo in this video. Hopefully this will help him get a little more recognition, as he’s pretty much a nobody on the Oracle scene at the moment. With your help this could change!
Update: Almost as soon as I released this blog post the footage was out of date as Oracle released some minor changes to the interface. I rerecorded the video and re-uploaded it, so it is up to date as of now. All links from my website and this blog post point to the new video. If you have read this post via an RSS reader, you may still be seeing the old version of the post, and as a result see the link to the video as broken. But in that case, you won’t be able to read this either.
When I wrote about rehearsals in my public speaking tips series, I mentioned talking through small sections of the presentations as a means for rehearsals. I do this a lot! I live on my own, so this is not an internal dialogue. I say this stuff out loud.
This morning I was talking through some ideas as I left the house and cleared the ice off the car. I continued during the journey to work, including when I got out of the car to get a coffee from the Costa Express at the garage. Even as I was unlocking the office door.
If you happen see me doing this in the street, I’m not talking to an imaginary friend. It’s an imaginary audience. If you’re gonna do crazy, you might as well do it at scale…
OK. So the original quote from Spawn is exactly the opposite, but let’s go with it…
A few times in the past I’ve been asked questions and started to give a direct answer, then someone smarter has jumped in and asked the killer question. Why? Quite often it’s easy to answer the initial question, so rather than understand the reason for the question, you just respond and pat yourself on the back. That’s great, but without knowing the context of the question, the “right answer” could actually be the “wrong answer”. As Tom always says, “The answer to every question is *it depends*!”
I had another situation like that recently. The questions was, “How can I install VNC on a Linux box?” Pretty simple answer and I know a guy who wrote an article on that, so I pointed them to the article. Job done!
Then I got a pang of guilt and the conversation went like this…
Q: Why do you want to install VNC?
A: Because my boss told me too.
Q: By why does your boss want you to install VNC?
A: Because the network connection breaks sometimes, making a “ssh -X user@host” a dodgy solution.
Now I have nothing against VNC itself, but installing it on a server is one more attack vector to worry about, especially if it’s not necessary. Knowing the context allowed me to talk about silent installs, command line DBCA, running things in the background, even the screen command.
If the person goes away and installs VNC, that’s no skin off my nose, but just answering how, without knowing the context could well have opened them, or me, up to criticism down the line.
So next time you answer a question and are about to enable smug mode, ask yourself if you have actually helped, or just taken the easy route.
This could be a story about any one of a number of failed outsourcing or cloud migration projects I’ve read about over the years. They all follow the same pattern.
The company is having an internal problem, that they don’t know how to solve. It could be related to costs, productivity, a paradigm shift in business practices or just an existing internal project that is failing.
They decide launch down a path of outsourcing or cloud migration with unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve and no real ideas about what benefits they will get, other than what Gartner told them.
When it doesn’t go to plan, they blame the outsourcing company, the cloud provider, the business analysts, Gartner, terrorists etc. Notably, the only thing that doesn’t get linked to the failure is themselves.
You might have heard this saying,
“You can’t outsource a problem!”
Just hoping to push your problems on to someone else is a guaranteed fail. If you can’t clearly articulate what you want and understand the consequences of your choices, how will you ever get a result you are happy with?
Over the years we’ve seen a number of high profile consultancies get kicked off government projects. The replacement consultancy comes in, hires all the same staff that failed last time, then continue on the failure train. I’m not going to mention names, but if you have paid any attention to UK government IT projects over the last decade you will know who and what I mean.
Every time you hear someone complaining about failing projects or problems with a specific model (cloud, on-premise, outsourcing, in-sourcing), it’s worth taking a step back and asking yourself where the problem really is. It’s much easier to blame other people than admit you’re part of the problem! These sayings spring to mind.
“Garbage in, garbage out!”
“A bad workman blames his tools!”
PS. I’ve never done anything wrong. It’s the rest of the world that is to blame…
Update: I wasn’t suggesting this is only an issue in public sector projects. It just so happens this rant was sparked by a story about public sector stuff.
I updated the images in that article last night to bring them in line with this video.
The cameo today is by Joel Pérez, who was a bit of a perfectionist when recording “.com”. I’ve included about half of his out-takes at the end of the video. Don’t ever hire him for a film or you will run over budget!