Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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We All Agree on This

July 27th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I have never be part of a group that stated the title and time showed that their words were true.

I have facilitated groups of people who were trying to issue a policy or a statement on some matter. Often, the first meeting of the group in my presence begins without someone proclaiming with great certainty,

We all agree on this.

What that statement usually means is,

I think that everyone here agrees with me,
even though I have no evidence of that
A simple test of the unanimous agreement is:
  1. Everyone remain silent
  2. Give everyone a blank piece of paper and a pencil
  3. Everyone, with no looking at anyone else’s paper, write what they all agree on.
  4. Everyone fold their paper and give it to me
Now the fun begins as I read the widely varying statements from the group that was supposed to be in complete agreement.
The result is the same every time. The people in the group don’t agree on this or anything else. A series of meetings ensue in which I try to help the group find something that they hold in common. That part is much more difficult than disproving the title of this post.

→ No CommentsTags: Consulting · Group


July 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A little-publicized factor in the computing world is that to understand something, you have to find someone, i.e., a warm body.

Back in the dark ages of computing, I wrote software in a language called FORTRAN. We used FORTRAN code that had been written the pre-dark ages by a group of people we never met. Now and then, i.e., daily, I would find source code that I could not understand. In what was known as comment lines, I would find something like:

See some-person’s-name for an explanation of this code.

This was warmware. To understand something, I had to find someone, i.e., a warm body. Some person had written the code that no one else could understand. That person could explain the code, if you could find that person. The reality was that the person worked at some other place at some other time.

Fast forward to today. I am not programming in FORTRAN, but still I find technical systems where warmware is a critical part. Some person did some thing at some other place at some other time. There is no documentation, no explanation, no sense to any of it.

I suppose there is something about human nature involved in all this warmware stuff. I doubt it will cease any time soon.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Engineering · People · Programming

A Home Computer

July 20th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

In which I try to understand why I own a computer.

I bought my first personal computer in 1983. It was a Kaypro portable (luggable) that ran CP/M and had two new-fangled floppy disks that held 360KiloBytes of information each (a huge upgrade to the prior model that had 180KB floppies). I bought this because I was in graduate school and had to write papers for classes, frequently. The alternative was to go to a computer lab on campus and write the papers there. By owning a computer, I could stay home with my wife on weekends. Good reason, right?

Today I have an Apple iMac of some sort or other. I don’t recall if it is two or five years old. I lose track of these things these days. I also have a MacBook Air to carry about with me. I bought it because my prior Apple laptop quit working after five years (or was it seven years, I forget).

If I didn’t own my personal computer, where would I go to compute? I have no idea. The Internet is out there with everything a computing person wants. Still, I need a screen and probably a keyboard to reach the Internet.

Still, if I didn’t own a computer, where would I go?

I guess I would go to the public library and signup for an hour of time on a public machine. I could also go to a university lab and use a computer there. Still, having my own means I can stay home with my wife on weekends.

→ No CommentsTags: Computing

Nothing In, Nothing Out

July 16th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A curious cousin to Garbage In, Garbage Out is the database curse of Nothing In, Nothing Out.

If you are old enough, you have heard of Garbage In, Garbage Out. When we put bad data into a computer, the computer crunches the numbers a produces more bad data.

In recent years, I have encountered another In-Out occurrence:

Nothing In, Nothing Out

Today we have blogs and wikis. We have gazillions of blogs and wikis. We have more information produced by all of us that none of us can read what all of us are writing (inputting (or however you spell that nonsensical word)).

Still, I meet groups of people who are afraid to type anything into a computer. They cannot enter data or information or anything into content management systems (CMSs). There is no content to manage, so nothing happens.

There is one word that creates Nothing In, Nothing Out:


Many of us are afraid to write anything. And I mean A N Y T H I N G. That includes a person’s name. A N Y T H I N G.

Hence, I find expensive CMSs installed and never used.

Fear conquers all.

→ No CommentsTags: Excuses · Fear

The Risk of Efficiency

July 13th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Often, greater efficiency means sharing resources that were previously not shared. When a shared resource breaks, everyone suffers.

Twenty years ago I worked in a computing lab that suffered great improvements in efficiency. Yes, we improved and suffered at the same time. We began sharing resources. We had computers that were idle much of the time (inefficient). We used improved network technology to connect our computers (share them).

Great stuff!

Not so great when a shared computer went down. And in those days, computers went down now and then—much more often than they do now.

Forget the technology and such for a moment. Sharing resources improves efficiencies. Share resources brings risk. If the shared resource fails, everyone sits around waiting for it to return. Let me emphasize EVERYONE.

Take care when someone suggests a big improvement in efficiency. Find the risk. At least move into the future with your eyes open.

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Management · Risk

The Death of Agile

July 9th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The Federal government is using agile development (or so they claim). Agile will be dead and gone in ten years.

Agile development is hot. Everyone is using it. The Federal (state and local) government is using it now. At least government agencies say they are using it, but anyone who can tell the difference between agile and a hole in the ground knows they aren’t using it.

It doesn’t matter that reality doesn’t agree with propaganda. When they government says they are using something, they are using something. They will run it into the ground until everyone in the world hates it. They will kill it.

The government will turn the practices into something awful, painful, and the clincher—something that does not work.

Perhaps someone out there will find a new name agile development, write a new manifesto, and the practice thrive for 20 years before the government kills it too.

→ No CommentsTags: Agility · Government

Free Service Means No Refunds

July 6th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Google and others give me free services. That means I get no refund if they fail.

What if I woke tomorrow and Google had lost everything I ever did? All my gmails are gone; all my Google Docs are gone, and everything I put on the Google drive is gone.

What kind of refund would I get?


I can use other famous companies as examples. The trouble with all these free services is that those providers owe me just what I have paid them over the years—nothing.

This is the risk of using free anything. I pay nothing, and they owe me nothing. I do get what I pay for.

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Expectations

Childhood, Adulthood, and Privacy

July 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Too often I hear adult-to-child language used in discussions of adult privacy.

If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t care if I’m watching.

This is what parents tell small children. I heard it often as a child and I said it often as a parent of then small children.

It seems to be part of the human condition that we transfer adult-to-child words when we move into an adult-to-adult world.

That is too bad. The above is not what adults tell adults in a free society. So if we find persons over 18 years of age telling other persons over 18 years of age the above either someone has stopped being an adult or the society has stopped being free

→ No CommentsTags: Adults · Change · Communication

More Eyeballs

June 29th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The ever decreasing cost of technology enables more people to look at more of our problems. There is hope.

Linus’ Law is disputed as to what it is and who said it and who published it and all those things that come with a quote that is often quoted and misquoted.

I’ll continue the confusion by paraphrasing it:

Given enough eyeballs, all bugs (problems) are shallow (solvable).

Someone out there knows the answer or knows a different approach that makes the answer available with a little (not a lot of) work.

Some technical “availables” include:

  • the ever less expensive computer
  • the ever less expensive health monitor
  • the ever less expensive microscope
  • the ever less expensive telescope
  • the ever less expensive pencil and paper
  • the ever less expensive blog platform
  • and we can go on for quite a while

All these things put more eyeballs on more problems. Perhaps the cure for cancer is coming from an unexpected (unfunded) source in an unexpected place. Wouldn’t it be great if a 13-year-old in Tibet raised her hand with the answer?

So, give that person a second-hand $100 Chromebook and show them how to get a one-month, free-trial of a cloud computing platform. Stand back in wonder.

→ No CommentsTags: People · Problems · Technology

Service as a Service

June 25th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillip

The whatever-as-a-service has gotten a bit out of hand.

I have lost track of where we are in the world of XaaS. Software as a Service was one of the early ones for me. Then I heard of Infrastructure as a Service (does that mean rebuilding roads and bridges? Perhaps not.) I have recently heard of Desktop as a Service. I am not sure what that is, but it has a ring to it.

What else could we put in XaaS? This does get silly after a while, oh wait,

  • Silly as a Service
  • Comedy as a Service
  • Entertainment  as a Service
  • Sports  as a Service
  • Transportation as a Service

Hey didn’t someone already invent all these things? Is this all about hucksters trying to make a buck?

→ No CommentsTags: Fable · Fun · Play