AuthorBen

Going Backwards

Delivering on this:


Brexit terrifies me. It reminds me that our basic human operating model is tribalism, and our default economic model is feudalism. What we thought was a new civilised way of sharing growth turned out to just be a brief respite brought on by those who experienced the horrors of tribalism first-hand. Now those memories have just barely passed out of living memory, we’re back to jeering at each other, egged on by lords in high towers.

The Economist sums it up thusly (read that article, because there’s a nugget of hope that we’ll come back to later*):

Inequality […] fluctuated for 130 years to 1950, before falling sharply in 1950-1980, in what the report calls an egalitarian revolution. Since 1980 it has risen again (as Thomas Piketty, a French economist, has shown), back to the level of 1820.

Seems like someone decided that the egalitarian revolution wasn’t good enough. We needed more, and we needed it faster, so we took the brakes off and removed the safety features.

Some of you are screaming at your wonderful smartphone screens right now, arguing that we wouldn’t have 400dpi smartphones if we still had the regulations of the 70s. Rubbish. By some measures innovation has fallen off a cliff since the 80s, and while that paper asserts an “economic limit of innovation”, Occam’s Razor might have a different opinion:

Sitting on trillions of dollars of cash resulting from high profits these days, corporations buy back hundreds of billions of dollars of their own shares to boost stock prices, a systematic practice documented closely by the economist William Lazonick. They often do so rather than invest in new ideas or research.

So to my central point: multiple generations have now pushed us to privatise more, grow faster, to climb the ladder even if that means standing on the hands below you. Socialism is bad. They assert that government spending is irreparably inefficient, and only The Market can give us the innovation we need. We’ve ended up with massive and growing income inequality, and now xenophobia strong enough to tear apart the bonds we made in response to our exposure to the worst of  human nature.

Neoliberalism is to blame. Not in some abstract left-vs-right low level policy debate, but in concrete terms:

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector.

By now you’ve all seen Torsten Bell’s graphs: the ones showing that low income households voted to leave the EU. Our economic model du jour says that those families don’t deserve more; that they are the sadly necessary cost of growth and wealth. We’ve hinted to them that immigration is to blame because there’s someone willing to do a job cheaper than they would. It’s bullshit.

We’ve chosen laws and models that specifically move money from those in need to those that don’t need it.

We have enough wealth in the world to support everyone, to house everyone, to help everyone. More than enough. But we’ve chosen not to, because Neoliberalism says it’s incorrect to do so. Now it’s literally tearing the world apart.

*The nugget of hope? Potentially Britain could fix their internal inequality problem more easily by being a separate economic entity. The chances of that happening with Boris Johnson in power are below zero.

Things Software Leaders Should Know

Reflecting on a tumultuous but ultimately successful year. Here’s what I’ve learned, re-learned, or cemented in my “2015 things (software engineering) leaders should know”:

On Measurement

  • Measure everything, as early as possible.
  • Collecting data is cheap. You will not know you need it until after you need it.
  • Do not build anything (teams, features, processes) without having a measure for success.

On Team Empowerment

  • You can never empower teams enough. Ownership is a force multiplier.
  • Convey problems to be solved and jobs to be done, not solutions to be built.
  • But: a great, empowered team still needs direction, and can take direction well when required.
  • An empowered team without appropriate context and direction will (rapidly, skilfully and with great dedication) create chaos.
  • Often mum knows best. Eat your broccoli before you have dessert.

On Coaching

  • Coaching skills are the most impactful thing you can learn as a leader.
  • You may think you’re a good coach, but you’ll be better if you actively train in coaching.
  • Allowing yourself to be coached is a powerful way to improve yourself as a coach.
  • Personal feedback is your lightsaber: be mindful where it’s pointing before you turn it on.

On Discipline

  • Maintain a to-do list. No excuses.
  • If you have people things and tech things on your to-do list, put the people things first on the list.
  • If you don’t have a great technical partner (CTO) to help tick off those tech things on your to-do list, make it your mission to get one.
  • Put Bronnie Ware’s regrets of the dying at the top of your to-do list.
 (also published on Medium)

Cleverloop Security System Review – Update

Update: Cleverloop have responded to the criticisms in my review in a brilliant way.

They have:

  1. Rolled out a firmware update to the base station which disables the dynamic DNS feature of the IP cameras. This was my main concern, and with the fix it means that the cameras are not so easily exposed to the outside world.
  2. Fixed the issue with wireless configuration of the indoor camera – yay.

They’re also looking at the default password setting: “In terms of the default camera credentials, from within the app there has always been the option for users to change the username & password through the camera settings page. You’ve made a really good point though that this should be included as a step for people during the set up process. We are making this change and will include it in our next firmware update, which will go to the app stores next week (a few days later for iOS users).”

I’m extremely impressed by Cleverloop’s response to these issues: it gives me huge confidence in their ongoing support for the platform.

Read the original review here.

Cleverloop Security System

Update: Cleverloop have resolved problems I highlighted. They replied rapidly to the security issues and have closed the holes. I’m super impressed by their responsiveness.

Home security cameras come in three broad categories these days: cheap and cheerful Chinese IP cameras (often wireless); cloud-connected cameras like the Nest Cam (formerly DropCam); and full-on surveillance cameras tied to a DVR. All of these options come with some limitations:

  • The cheaper IP cameras usually have appalling web interfaces, and are often a security nightmare thanks to their default passwords and dynamic DNS settings.
  • Nest Cam is a bit easier to set up and has a much nicer interface, but comes with a fairly hefty monthly charge to unlock alerts and cloud storage.
  • “Proper” surveillance camera systems that tie multiple cameras with local storage are bloody expensive.

Cleverloop (launched as an Indiegogo campaign in 2014) tries to bridge across these three categories. Combining cheaper IP cameras with a smart hub to provide local monitoring, cloud storage, and alerting for a one-off price. How does it measure up? Continue reading

Orbitsound SB60 Airsound vs M9 Soundbar

A little while back, I was contacted by reps from Orbitsound to ask whether I wanted to check out their SB60 Airsound Base. I’ve been looking for something with a bit more oomph than the plain old TV speakers, so I took them up on the offer.

SB60 Airsound™ Base

If I’m honest, I was pretty unimpressed with the SB60. It added a bit more volume to the TV output, but I found the overall output very muddy, especially when it comes to voices. Not being able to clearly distinguish voices from background noise and music is a fairly fundamental flaw for a device designed to sit under your television.

I’m not sure if it was the particular acoustics of our TV cabinet, or a fundamental flaw with the SB60, but it was bad enough that we found ourselves using the TV sound more often than not.

So, when I returned the SB60 and Orbitsound came back with an offer to also try their M9 Soundbar, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed.

Continue reading

© 2016 Ben

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑