Life Update : The first rule of Oracle Games Console…

Life has been a little quiet on the publishing front recently. You may have noticed I’ve not posted many new articles or blog posts of late. This situation is likely to continue for some time, and I thought I would drop a post to let you know why…

I’m currently spending most of my time playing with a certain beta product, and all of that is covered by a non disclosure agreement (NDA). Over the last few weeks I’ve written a bunch of articles, but I can’t hit the publish button on them yet. Over the coming months I’ll continue to write new articles and give feedback to Oracle, but of course you will not be seeing any of this.

Once the product goes live I’ll be able to release all this stuff, with the obligatory edits/rewrites to take account of the changes between the beta and live versions of course. The total amount of content will be no different in the long run, but there will be a baron period for a few months followed by a glut of content. I suspect this situation will be similar for a number of folks in the Oracle community.

The rules are a bit different for Oracle employees, so you will be seeing teasers for new functionality from them, but not from the rest of the community…

Over the next few months I’ll mostly be posting memes and “from the vault” links on social media, just so you don’t forget I exist, but it is going to be a relatively quiet time…

Cheers

Tim…

Stupid is as stupid does! Outsourcing, Agile, DevOps and Cloud.

Outsourcing From Hell

Many years ago, when outsourcing first became a thing, you would often see phrases like, “you can’t outsource a problem”. That can be interpreted in several ways, but one which comes to mind is the idea that if you can’t properly define what you need, how can you expect someone to deliver the solution to your prayers?

During the early days of outsourcing there were many horror stories, but in my opinion many of them were self-inflicted. Companies with terrible project management believed that a load of cheap offshore workers would somehow make up for the fact the project manager didn’t know their ass from their elbow. Companies not putting in the effort up front to understand their requirements, then moaning about what was delivered. Companies who had no understanding of the product/development stack had no way to judge the competence of the offshore team they hired. These sort of problems caused internal development teams to fail, so of course they would also cause outsourced teams to fail.

If you are having problems with internal development teams, outsourced teams and external vendor relationships, how can you not turn this around and ask yourself the question, “could I/we be the problem?”

Fragile, not Agile

How many times have you heard people/companies talk about agile, while insisting on doing everything possible to make sure agile becomes fragile? Those same people/companies will then insist that agile is not all it’s cracked up to be. This sort of nonsense lead a group of us to come up with this, mocking what we were seeing…

There is no framework or methodology you can’t screw up if you are an idiot.

DevOops, not DevOps

Much like Agile, DevOps has been one of those things people love to talk about without even doing some basic reading. Either they are quick to point out the limitations of DevOps, or even outwardly promote it, while sabotaging it from within to protect their silos.

If you have totally dysfunctional silos, the chances are you are not going to save yourself with DevOps, because the people that allowed those silos to become dysfunctional will want to wield control over DevOps, thereby guaranteeing it will fail.

Dark Clouds on the Horizon

In a repeat of the “you can’t outsource a problem” issue, the cloud isn’t magic. There is a lot of stuff you need to understand before you can do something successfully on the cloud. Stuff like pricing, security, network topology, platform offerings, “best practices”, hybrid (cloud + on-prem) systems all need to be considered before you start building anything. Just because you can fire up a VM in the cloud in 30 seconds, it doesn’t mean it is sound to build your business around that…

There have been numerous stories over the years where companies have turned cloud hype into cloud hell. It’s not because there is something inherently wrong with the cloud. It’s because the company has a broken approach to everything, so of course they failed when they launched into their cloud initiative…

Conclusion

Before you launch into a tirade about how X is crap and Y is much better, just make sure it’s not you that’s the problem. Stupid is as stupid does!

Cheers

Tim…

Judgement of Worth : I got an award, but…

Our company has some yearly awards. We nominate people who we think have made a significant contribution to some aspect of the company. There is a longlist of nominees for each category. Those people get shortlisted, and a winner is picked for each category. The longlist and shortlist are also published internally, so people get to see if they’ve been nominated, which is nice…

This year I won an award for Continuous Improvement. That’s good for my ego, which is no doubt in part why I am mentioning it, and it shows you *can* teach an old dog new tricks. But it made me want to talk about the judgement of worth again. I’ve mentioned this before in posts like visibility vs results. Judging worth is really difficult, and it potentially highlights a whole load of bias.

For someone like me it is really easy to stand out. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I’ve also developed good written and verbal communication skills over the years. On top of that, I’m always talking about what I’m doing, so I’m no shrinking violet. That gives me an unfair advantage over someone who may be doing better work than me, but is not so loud about it. This is why I ask to be removed from the running each year…

From a personal development perspective, I give some advice about improving your writing and speaking skills in the visibility vs results post. Please develop these skills so you get what you deserve!

From a management perspective, it’s really important you start judging your staff based on what they actually deliver, not on what they say. It’s the only way to be sure you are not being biased when you are thinking about who is productive and who is not. This โ€˜Self-promotersโ€™ do nothing but still get ahead at work story shows that it’s really easy to make people think you are working hard, even if you are not.

This links back to my gripes about the negative stories related to productivity and working from home. Managers have to be able to track results/deliverables. It’s the only way to know if someone is doing busy work, or actually being productive.

I’d just like to say thank you to my colleagues who nominated me for this award. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but next time perhaps it would be better to use your nomination to lift up someone who needs the exposure a little more than me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cheers

Tim…

The Efficiency Paradox : Same Term, Different Meanings?

I’ve recently come across the term “Efficiency Paradox” being used by different people, in different contexts, and giving it different meanings. I thought I would share them…

The Efficiency Paradox in Economics

In 1865 William Stanley Jevons postulated, the more efficient a process gets in terms of resource usage, the higher demand you will see for that resource. This seems counter intuitive, as you might think the more efficient a process is, the less resources it requires, and therefore total resource usage would go down. Instead as a process becomes more efficient, costs drop and that drives demand, which eventually can result in more of the resource being needed. This is the heart of the Jevons Paradox, which is also referred to as the Efficiency Paradox by some sources.

Cost is always an important factor. We are currently going through a cost of living crisis in the UK. One of the factors affecting this is the cost of power. People are looking at ways to save money by reducing their power usage. When power was cheaper many people didn’t pay any attention to saving power. Now it is expensive, every little bit matters.

The Efficiency Paradox in Gaming

I watched a video by Josh Strife Hays, where he discussed the impact of guides and wikis on the enjoyment of playing video games. The term “grinding” refers to highly repetitive tasks that you must do to achieve a goal. Grinding can be exhausting, but when you achieve your goal there is a sense of satisfaction. Some games require a certain amount of detective work, where you try to figure out how to progress. Once again, the effort of trying to figure out how to progress can be exhausting, but the satisfaction on completing the task is high.

With the advent of the internet, there are loads of videos, wikis and websites dedicated to helping you play games in the most efficient manner possible. They might tell you how to minimise grinding, or flat out give you the answer to puzzles. These guides reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task in a game, making you more efficient, but because you never have to deal with the adversity, you never get the same satisfaction when you complete a task.

So the efficiency paradox in gaming is, the more efficient you make the game play in an attempt to help the player, the less satisfying the game may become. Of course, if it is too difficult, they might leave before completing the task. There is a balance…

The Efficiency Paradox in Lean/DevOps

The previous versions of the efficiency paradox are interesting to me, but it’s this version that is really the subject of this post. In Lean and DevOps people often use the term efficiency paradox in subtly different ways, but invariably they are talking about resource efficiency vs. flow efficiency. Specifically, a focus on maximising resource efficiency resulting in less overall efficiency.

Lost Time : I’ve written about lost time before here. Lost time is about work waiting in queues while passing between siloed teams. Each team believe they are working efficiently because they have maximised their resource usage. All their staff are busy, but the flow of work through the chain of teams is really slow, making the flow efficiency low, and reducing the quality of work.

To counter this, some companies reorganise into self-sufficient teams that can progress a piece of work from conception to delivery, thereby reducing the hand-offs between teams. Some may retain the silos, but use automation to deliver self-service tools and APIs that others can pick up and run with. Regardless of the approach taken, they are attempting to reduce the constraints on the flow of work to improve flow efficiency.

Work in Process (WIP) : I’ve written about WIP before here. Most people can’t multitask well. Some think they can, but they just end up doing multiple things badly. Problem solving requires concentration, and it’s really hard to concentrate when you are being distracted by multiple projects competing for your attention. In an ideal world your WIP would be 1. You would work on a single task to completion, then move to another task. This can be tricky if you are constantly being blocked by other people and teams/silos, but it’s also complicated when a company wants to see staff being “busy” all the time.

In an effort to maximise resource (staff) usage, they increase the WIP, so there is always something for people to do. On the surface this increased resource usage looks like it is increasing efficiency, but often the work degenerates to the point where people are spinning plates, without actually achieving much. Also, the reduced attention on a specific task results in a lower quality of work. You should always try to keep WIP low, even if that means some people have idle time. If the idle time is excessive, it probably means there is a problem somewhere else in the organisation that needs to be fixed. Deal with the root cause, not the symptom!

Ultimately we have to forget about the resource efficiency and focus on flow efficiency. We can often see this in our normal working lives. We have some processes we know are going to take weeks to complete. Then there is a “Priority 1” incident that means we need to complete something ASAP. The P1 instantly aligns every team giving them the same priorities, and we race through and complete the work in a few hours. Once the P1 is over, every person goes back to their silo, with their differing priorities, and the process returns to taking weeks to complete again. We have proved it can be done in hours, but because of politics and the internal company organization, fast never becomes the norm.

Conclusion

I thought it was interesting that the term efficiency paradox came up in three different contexts in the space of a few days, so I thought I would write about it. The important point is that in all three cases people are often making incorrect assumptions about efficiency. People are doing things that they think will improving efficiency, but it is not having the desired result.

Cheers

Timโ€ฆ

Life Update : Dude, what’s wrong with your face?

I just thought I would give people a quick update on what has been happening to my face recently. If you’re eating, you might want to save this post for later…

My family has skin that is very sensitive to sun damage. My mom used to have a darker complexion, but the rest of us are/were really pale skinned. My mom had skin cancer when I was a teenager, so from that point onward I’ve been pretty careful about my sun exposure. Since then every member of the family has had some sort of skin cancer. There are several types of skin cancer. Some are bad. Some are not so bad. My mom had the bad sort, recovered, then later got the not so bad sort. She’s still fine. My sister died of the bad sort. Both my brother and dad had treatments for skin cancer, but with no major drama.

Since my sister’s death in 2011 I go to get checked pretty regularly. It’s good to find this stuff early. Towards the end of last year I went for a check up and was told I’ve joined the family tradition. Luckily it’s not the life threatening sort of skin cancer. ๐Ÿ™‚

Procedure 1

In December I had the first procedure to remove some skin from the right side of my face and get a biopsy on the left side, which wasn’t so well defined. The biopsy came back positive, so at the start of the new year I had the second procedure to remove some skin from the left side of my face. The second procedure was a bit more complicated, but it actually ended up with less scaring. Happy days…

Procedure 2

After that I had to wait a couple of months for things to heal, then it was on to the final procedure, which was effectively a skin peel. You put chemo therapy cream on your face twice a day for 4 weeks, and anything that is cancerous or pre-cancerous gets burnt off. The pictures below were from a couple of days before I finished the treatment. You can see there wasn’t a lot of good skin left on my face after the 4 weeks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

It’s about two weeks since the treatment finished, so things are starting to calm down a bit. For the first week most of my face had a really fine scab on it, that kept flaking off and being replaced. It felt a bit like really bad sunburn. By the end of the second week the scabs had gone, but I still have some peeling from time to time. The skin looks OK now, but it’s still a bit red and I’m having to moisturize like it’s going out of fashion. I’m so pale so I think it’s going to take a few weeks to look totally normal again.

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

A few people in the community already know what has been going on. I turned down some online conference spots, and I felt obliged to explain why.

I don’t go out a lot anyway, so it hasn’t been that much of a problem. It’s a bit embarrassing going out food shopping with a hat, mask and my collar up to cover my neck. I look like I’m going in to rob the place. ๐Ÿ™‚

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

Anyway, that’s my little bit of drama. By the time any of you see me in public my skin should look normal again, and I’m guessing you probably won’t even notice the scars from the bits that have been chopped off. If you do, I’ll probably say it was from a fight with a crocodile or something cool like that…

Cheers

Tim…

Update: It’s nearly 2 months later and I’ve just had another consultation. I’m all clear now, so I don’t have to go back to see them for a couple of years. There is still some discolouration, but only because my skin is so pale. That will fade over the coming months. Happy days. ๐Ÿ™‚

Chasing an Audience

I’ve touched on this subject in my writing tips and public speaking tips, but I wanted to elaborate a little, so here goes…

If you are creating content, at some level you want people to see that content. I always say I write for myself, and I do, because I have a terrible memory and I like to be able to reconnect with a subject. The best way I know how to do that is to take notes that I can refer back to later. Having said that, 22 years ago I made the choice to make my notes available on the internet, and so some part of me wanted people to read them. If not, I would have password protected them…

So what do you create content about?

This is where we get on to the subject of chasing an audience. I always say you should write about what is important to you. I think that’s the only way you can sustain any level of output for a prolonged period of time. Over the last 22 years I’ve seen many people come and go. Many! If you happen to be producing content that has mass appeal, you may well get a lot of readers and followers. If you are producing content on a niche topic, the likelihood is your base of followers will be smaller. I figure that should be obvious. Either way, you should do what you care about.

Are you pleasing your audience?

Even when you have built up an audience, not everything you produce will resonate with them. My website is predominantly known for Oracle DBA, SQL and PL/SQL articles, but in my day job I’m an allrounder. I have articles on the website about a range of things including general Linux topics, Terraform, Ansible and Containers. Invariably anything I produce that is not about core Oracle technologies performs really badly in terms of hits/views. A good example of that is my recent run of 10 videos about Ansible (YouTube playlist). From a views perspective is was a disaster. ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t lie and say that’s not a bit disappointing, but if I’m honest I knew it wouldn’t go well. It’s not what I’m known for, and it’s not a subject a lot of my core audience care about that much.

The important point is I wanted to make those videos, so from that perspective I achieved what I set out to do. Was it good for my core audience? No. Do I care? No. ๐Ÿ™‚

I think you have to cut yourself some slack and understand not everything you produce will strike a chord. That’s fine. Don’t sweat it…

Does your audience span multiple platforms?

When I started my YouTube channel I figured I would get loads of subscribers and views because my website was so popular. I very quickly found out that was not the case. Most of my core audience don’t really care about watching videos on Oracle topics. Sure there is some crossover, but not that much. If I compare the stats for an article and a video on the same subject, the article out-performs the video by several orders of magnitude. I’ve pretty much had to build my YouTube following from scratch.

If you are producing content on multiple platforms, don’t stress about this. You will always have some platforms that work better for your content than others. If you enjoy pushing content to multiple platforms, do it. If not, stick with the ones you are happiest with, even if they aren’t the best performing…

Controversy sells, but…

I’ve said this numerous times before. If I blow my stack in a blog post, or on Twitter, it’s easy to get a lot of attention. On several occasions I’ve written negative posts about Oracle and had people reach out to me from the press for a quote. They love that “Oracle fanboy attacks Oracle” angle. Controversy sells, but the attention from controversy is fleeting. You’ve either got to keep doubling down on things and getting more extreme, or you will lose that attention.

Personally I think it’s important for the message to remain positive. I made a decision many years ago that I would try to keep my main website free from opinions, but allow myself some more latitude on the blog. I often say the website is for facts. The blog is for bullshit. ๐Ÿ™‚

I do throw in some clickbait, like “The Death of the DBA” type articles, from time to time, but that’s because I think people are sleeping on a subject and I want to give them a kick. I don’t want people to wake up one morning and realise they’ve been left behind. So I could argue this type of “negativity” is done for a positive reason…

It’s not for me to tell you what you should write about, but I think you need to consider if you are looking for a viral moment, or something more sustained. I don’t think controversy is sustainable.

What about professional content creators?

If your job is being a content creator, you are going to have a lot more invested in pleasing an audience. If nobody is reading or watching your stuff, you aren’t going to get paid. You’ve got to look for subjects that pay the bills. I understand that, and this post is not really directed at you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Conclusion

Some people may join in for the ride. Some people won’t be interested. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. You do you! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

Happy Holidays and Cameos Video – Vol 5

I probably won’t put out another post until the new year, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday period, and I hope things will get better for everyone next year!

You may know I have a YouTube channel, and I include cameos of people saying “dot com” at the start of every video. Every now and then I put out a compilation of those clips, and here is volume 5, made up of the clips I used over this this last year.

Thanks to everyone who got involved. These clips are my favourite bit of the videos. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay safe, and see you next year!

Cheers

Tim…

Stagnation : Population Me!

This is a bit of a life update. As you will have seen from the title, I’m living in a town called stagnation at the moment…

Work

When I read Accelerate there were several mentions of bringing joy to developers. I’m not sure I had thought about it before, but I realised my job does not bring me joy. In fact, it’s the polar opposite of joy. One of the problems with being capable is you get dragged into all sorts of stuff that you don’t really care about. You end up spending loads of time doing things that you are crap at, because your “crap” is better than other people’s “good”…

What’s worse, you have so little time to do things you are good at, you end up doing a crap job of those things, which is really frustrating. It doesn’t matter what people think, when you know you are capable of more it’s depressing. There is no joy here!

So why don’t I just leave? I don’t even need to work, so the sensible option is to just walk away, but that comes with its own set of issues. As with everything in life there is a balance. Clearly at the moment the balance is in favour of not walking out, or I would have done it already, but I’m not sure how much longer things will remain that way.

The biggest issue is I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I can do pretty much anything, but what? If I knew what I wanted to do, I would do it.

As a result of this, I’m permanently set to “Angry Mode”, which isn’t really good for me or anyone else.

I guess the only positive is I’m working from home, so I can scream and swear at the wall, rather than doing it to people’s faces!

Website, Blog and YouTube

The website is business as usual. I write what I want to write, when I want to write. Similar with videos on YouTube. I’ve dropped back to one video every two weeks, because I’m running short on inspiration, so I’m rationing the topics I have in the pipeline to keep somewhat of a regular schedule.

The blog has been relatively quiet of late. There hasn’t been a lot I’ve been willing to say publicly. I don’t want to keep dumping out negativity, so I’ve chosen to stay silent most of the time. I’m sure if my mood changes, there will be an uptick in positive thoughts and the content will flow again. Blogging is more about headspace than anything, and I’m not in the right headspace at the moment.

Presenting

I don’t. I’m not sure if this is a permanent situation or not. Currently I’m turning down all offers. If I change my mind, so be it. If I don’t, that is good too.

Life

As you know, I have no life, so I guess it’s same old, same old…

Cheers

Tim…

Working From Home : Again

I just read this article on Wired.

I’ve written about my thoughts on working from home here, but I’m going to have a little rant…

I keep expressing my opinions in meetings, but I’m often countered by various points, which I think are flawed, but I want respond to here.

It’s not healthy to be remote all the time

I tell you what’s also not healthy. Making people go to the office when they don’t want to! Making people do crappy commutes that drain their souls. Making people waste several hours of their day, when they could be doing other things that more positively affect their wellbeing.

If people feel more healthy working from the office, they should work from the office. If they would prefer not to, they should be allowed to make that choice. You can’t use the “healthy” argument in favour of one stance and ignore the “healthy” argument for the other.

Some staff can’t work remotely

No shit Sherlock! I don’t expect an ER doctor to get approval to work from home when all the patients are waiting to be seen in the ER. If a job role is customer facing, then clearly working from home is not an option, but many people in organisations are not customer facing, myself being one of them.

Some people can’t work from home because they don’t have a suitable work space. Those people either have to work from the office, or move house to a place with a suitable work space. You can’t stop other people working from home because Billy lives in a bedsit with his wife and 3 kids…

We don’t want 100% remote work

Fine. I’ll come in for 1 hour a year. Thanks.

Having arbitrary quotas is wrong. It should be based on the person and the role. Remember, I’m not demanding you work from home. I’m saying I want to!

We need to bond as a team

I don’t touch people at work. My bonding is done equally well on a video call. If you want me to “bond with the team”, you can start off by getting rid of all the idiots I dislike, and the people who are not pulling their weight.

This argument is even more flawed when companies agree to working 2-3 days from home. Are you even going to see members of your team on the days you choose to be in? Does the whole team have to be in on the same days? How does that work with hot-desking and space saving? I think this is a weak argument.

We need to do workshops and brain storming meetings in person

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes it’s not. The vast majority of meetings are unproductive, with people wasting time walking between buildings to achieve nothing. It’s actually a lot more efficient to use tools like Zoom or Teams…

I don’t think many people would argue with coming into the office for a specific event if it actually added value, but that is not the same as discussing the same old rubbish for hours on end, that nobody is going to own or progress.

I’m also irritated by people complaining of back-to-back meetings with no breaks. Either don’t accept them, or switch to a 45 minute meeting format. You know you just spend the first 10 minutes waiting for people to turn up anyway. This is another example of a dysfunctional business practice being used to argue the point.

People are scared from a health perspective of returning to the office, we need to show them it is ok

Is anyone else thinking of the scene in Jaws where the Mayor is forcing people into the water to “prove” it is safe? In my company we’ve had several “back to the office” pushes, that have ultimately been cancelled due to new lockdown restrictions. I am not surprised people are worried. I believe they should be.

Me not being in the office makes the office a safer place, because there is one less person who could transmit a virus. I’m happy to work from home, so there is no need to thank me for the service I’m am doing to office health!

People will be lazy

Well, the evidence seems to counter that argument. My own boss has seen an uptick in productivity since we’ve worked from home. So you want us to come back to the office so our team can get less work done?

I covered the flaws in this argument in this post. Suffice to say, if a manager thinks this, it just shows they are a rubbish manager, who manages by presence checking, not actual work done. Grow up!

Conclusion

I know I’m going to get some responses from people saying their preferences, and I would just like you to remember, they are “your preferences”! I would just like to reiterate the following.

  • These are my opinions.
  • I am not forcing everyone to work from home. I am pro-choice in this matter.
  • If you think differently, that is fine, but it doesn’t negate my feelings on this matter!

Cheers

Tim…

You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run!

This is going to be a rant. If you are not into reading rants, please don’t continue.

I put out a tweet yesterday that said this.

“I’m so done. People can’t follow basic instructions, but expect to jump straight into building something complex on day one, then expect me to help when it inevitably goes wrong. You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run!”

I’ve had a few incidents recently that have nearly brought me to breaking point.

  • Someone wanted to install an Oracle database on Linux, but didn’t even know what an environment variable was. They claimed to have Linux experience, but literally couldn’t grasp what it meant to set or reference an environment variable, even when it was on the page in front of them.
  • Someone was “following” one of my installation guides, and said it was well written and easy to read, but wanted a step-by-step breakdown of what they had to do. What? I know I’m not perfect, but that is literally what the article was.
  • Someone else seemed incapable of pasting code into a shell. Having said they were doing exactly what was in my article, it became clear they were doing nothing of the sort.

These are just three incidents, but they are the tip of the iceberg.

Back in the day there used to be a forum on my website, but I closed it down because I was wasting loads of my time trying to help people, who had no intention of helping themselves. I wrote some posts about it over the years.

Over the years I’ve had several discussions about this with other members of the community. I know this happens a lot to everyone.

Part of me feels really bad, because I’m supposed to be this community guy, but I really can’t cope with people who have not even tried to get some basic skills under their belt before launching into something more complicated. I’m sorry, but if you’ve never seen Linux before, you probably shouldn’t be trying to install Oracle RAC on it. If you’ve never installed a database before, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about installing Cloud Control.

How many people turned up to the Olympics this year with no previous experience and took home a medal? How many people sit university final exams without ever studying the subject before? It sounds bloody stupid right? Yet people expect to do complex tech stuff without any grounding in basic skills.

I don’t know if these people are delusional. I don’t know if their boss is an idiot, and asking them to do something that is clearly beyond their capabilities. I feel sorry for them if they are under pressure to do this, but I can’t work miracles, and I’m not being paid to do their job for them. Simple as that.

I look at my website stats and I’m clearly helping a large number of people, so I think I’m doing my share already. Sorry, but not sorry!

Cheers

Tim…