June 30, 2004
And they say tube strikes bring misery...
We have a big client coming in today. From overseas. Their flight was already booked, as was their taxi. So sadly there was no loafing at home for me today.
As (a) I had 18 tons of work to do for the client, and (b) I absolutely had to be at the meeting, I decided to bite the bullet and get in early. Really early. As in "I've been here nearly an hour already" early.
This wasn't so hot when the alarm clock went off at 4:45am (probably earlier than the overseas client's) but I have to admit to a certain decadent thrill when I saw that the 5:24 bus from the end of my road was still a *night* bus.
June 28, 2004
Don't Worry Be Happy, Check Out This Kid, and You have one voicemessage
Dear "Matt", whoever you are. "Matt" of the emails with "unknown date".
Somehow we seem to have reached a disparity of opinion. As I'm a good project manager, I feel it is my duty to manage your expectations.
So please, do try to understand that even if you send me over 50 of these arsing emails a day, I am not going to open them.
And I'm definitely not going to click on any links.
So please, do us all a favour and fuck off.
Sending 100 isn't going to be more likely to work.
Or were you the misguided person that invented popup advertising?
June 24, 2004
Today, I finally cracked it.
Stick her in a booffy blonde wig and make her actually smile, as the director of the "Everybody's Fool video chose to do, and the whole world will realise that Amy Lee from Evanescence is actually Charlotte Church.
Pay attention at the back, please.
June 21, 2004
This weekend, two important things happened in the life of young Daisy.
1) She started on her first solid(ish) food.
2) We discovered she's not allergic to wasp stings.
One of these was discovered the hard way. The other is just the beginning of lots of ongoing hard - well splatty really - way...
Always the last to know...
So why oh why oh why, has nobody told me about Joel on Software? How can I have been stumbling around the web for so damn long and never come across it? A person after my own heart, taking knowledge and experience, and turning it into approachable wisdom. (Only, I suspect, slightly better knowledge, and as a result, better wisdom.) And, to be honest, it's only tangentially about software!
I particularly enjoyed this ancient piece on Fire and Motion. I've noticed that customer-facing teams within organisations sometimes use this approach internally as a way of keeping the production/development team so busy they never get to have the ideas - becoming the painters and decorators for the salesmen, who then question why they need these 'creatives' anyway. But then there are also the coders who use the same techniques to ensure the spec is never signed off and the project never happens while the development bill grows ever bigger.
Anyway, one for the 'hypothetical people to have a pint with' list...
June 20, 2004
Saving me from myself
Thankfully, I think, the iTunes music stores keeps telling me that I need to upgrade to the latest version, even though I already have it.
And, as I don't have the time to reinstall every other day, or figure out what's playing up, I guess that's that for now. Still, a few bob saved.
Responsibility by remote control
I'm not a big stats-watcher, not least because I don't ever get big stats. However, I'm caught in a strange mixture of troubled and proud as the powerpoint of "Shit I'm A Manager" has been slowly moving up my stats summary - and today broke 200 downloads.
If I'd done it for fame (and sadly the other two talks *were* proposed to show how damn clever I was - perhaps Dave et al spotted that) I'd be running round the house going "yessssssssss-ah!".
Instead I just sit here hoping it wasn't all bollocks and that I haven't sent everyone to their various dooms.
June 18, 2004
Well, we know it's worth it, but...
My head hurts from reading how Simon plans to master the new Fatboy Slim album.
I'm sure that to him it's the equivalent of when I go off on one about character motivation in interactive formats, but to me it's like when Paul or Yoz get excited about Perl - it feels tantalisingly like I *should* understand it, but it remains just out of reach in the realm of white noise.
June 15, 2004
iTunes UK launches
Damn. there goes Daisy's child benefit... :-)
Haven't we been here before?
So, with make-ourselves-ugly makeup and clothes, complex time signatures and abrupt texture changes Do Me Bad Things seem to be picking up where Cardiacs left off before they ditched the scary makeup and started looking a *bit* more sensible.
(Lots of other nice portraits on Steve Payne's site though.
June 14, 2004
Vortices Through Time
On Friday, under the advice of super piano teacher Seb, we moved our 4-and-a-half-month-old daughter into her own room.
His take was that there's a huge gap in perception between the age she is now, and six months - when we'd planned to move her. If we move her now, it's just a thing that has changed, like most things change. In a month and a half, however, she'll know she's moved *away from us*.
That evening, after she'd gone to bed, I was sitting on the loo, looking across the landing at the door to her new bedroom, and realised that we'd taken the first step to giving her her own identity. She has territory in the house. Suddenly, a huge great swathe of time seemed to flash by and I felt this strange vision of the sixteen-year-old version of her, still coming out of that door, still being in our house, being an ever-bigger and realer part of our lives - through the living of her very own and particular life.
I must remember to shut the toilet door properly in future.
June 13, 2004
Ah, God I love the EuroKick, Ted...
The whole nation is going through a strange roleplaying experiment at the moment.
Up and down the country, people who would normally only show the faintest interest in football are getting to find out what it's like to be a football fan.
Because we're slowly realising that something we thought was entertainment is actually an elaborately constructed set of big-business deals to get us to part with our cash.
Go to the supermarket and get your official EuroKick lager, EuroKick charcoal briquettes, and negative-factor EuroKick sunscreen to make sure you look like a boiled beetroot. On the way from the retail park, stop off and pick up your official EuroKick carpet tiles from an Allied Drive-thru. Don't forget to take off your Engerland EuroKick plastic flags from your car as you take it through the EuroWash.
I can see the beauty of football played well, but football fans used to put me off football. Now it's the infrastructure and policies of football itself - things constructed around the game - that make me want to avoid it.
In which case I guess it is the national religion after all.
June 10, 2004
How many posts?????
What follows is my NotCon talk broken out as a set of blog posts, so people can discuss the individual slides, or add more useful advice if needed. If they feel like it. Which I hope they do as it was a bit of a faff... :-)
[Update - as some people are coming directly to this page, there's a powerpoint of this you can download over at http://www.sparklefluff.com/siam]
Shit, I'm A Manager - The Talk
people-management for the
previously proudly unmanageable.
This talk was originally intended as a 45-minute talk at NotCon 04, but there wasn’t time for that. It also wouldn’t fit into a standard lightning presentation, so after a bit of begging Dave Green let me have twenty-minutes-and-no-more-including-questions. This is about the limit of what I thought I could get through in that time.
Anyway, quite often, when I’ve been talking to now-getting-on-a-bit techie friends about work, the thing that seems to strike terror into their hearts is the day-to-day work of people management. And yet, when I dig down a bit further, the problems aren’t quite so hard after all, and with some nudging they can actually turn out to be positive benefits.
The only reason I can say this is that I used to be one of the crappest people managers I knew, and over the course of a few years I became one that people actually wanted to work for.
So this talk is a heavily-edited mix of that pub advice and my own bitter experience.
I’m assuming that you’re someone technical who’s either about to start managing people, has just started managing people, have been managing people for ages and it’s all going tits-up, or just want to know why your boss is acting so weird.
Anyway, lets begin by looking at some of the things nobody tells you you’ll go through when you first become a manager...
Becoming a Manager is Cack Because...
- This is a new job
- It is harder than the old one
- You are answerable and taking blame
- You’ve probably had no training for it
- Your confidence may be shot
The fundamental thing that nobody tells you is just how different this new job is from your old one. You have pretty much changed career. Instead of being judged on how well you code, design or write copy, your job now revolves around the entirely new set of skills around managing people.
And it’s horrible, and hard,particularly at first, and everyone will give you shit. But then that’s why the money’s better.
The other thing to bear in mind is that you’re unlikely to get any training for your new career until things start going wrong. (And if you’re wondering why your boss has to go on a week-long residential course, just think how many bad habits need to be fixed in *them*!)
As a result, you may end up thinking that they’ve made a mistake, and everyone’s expecting you to fail, and that you’re shit.
But take heart, we’re going to get you through this. Let’s take it back to basics…
So What Is This 'Management'?
- Working out what you want staff to do
- Telling them it so they can do it
- Making sure they are still doing it
- Working out how to do it better next time
This seemingly simplistic definition of management is actually incredibly useful. There are a number of times when I’ve been going into meetings where I’m feeling uncomfortable for a non-specific reason, or where I feel like things are getting out of control, and coming back to this list makes me realise I’ve missed one of the key stages out.
If you can get to number 3 on this list, then chances are the project will happen in something like the timescale you planned.
If you can get to number 4, you’ve reached the holy grail, because this is the point where Your Job Gets Easier. So that’s something to aim for.
Of course, what I’ve documented here is the craft of management. The ‘art’ is to do this without pissing your staff or boss off. So let’s have a look at them for a moment…
Who Measures Your Success? (And at what?)
(and at what?)
|Management skills||Prior skills|
I wanted to look at how the people above and below you think about you and the work you do. So I’ve taken a view of the intellectual effort the organisation expends on you over any decent period of time.
And it breaks down, in my experience, roughly like this:
Most of the time spent thinking about you is your staff worrying about how well you are managing them - keeping the plates spinning to maximise the value of what they’re doing.
They’re also a bit worried about your previous experience, but only because they don’t want to write code you could just tear apart. But hey, that’s good, it keeps them on their toes.
Your boss is thinking about lots of other things, but when he does think about you, the only thing he thinks about is how well you’re managing the team. He’s not interested in your coding skills at all. This is even true in hybrid management jobs where you’ve kept some day-to-day work. From the top, the management is the bit that matters.
There’s an important corollary of this…
the LAST THING
you should do
is your old job
God, we’ve all done it. Things are grim, I’d better muck in…
No. That’s the last thing you should do.
You can delegate the coding work - pay people overtime if you have to. But you can’t delegate the management part. If you stop doing that, then *nobody* is managing the team, and things will spin out of control.
The other consequence of “oh, I’ll just look after the design of the homepage” is that you instantly lose your perspective.
And Perspective Is One Of The Most Important Things A Manager Needs To Have.
Do everything you can to hang on to it - your staff need you to make sensible decisions while they’re in the thick of it.
Also, if things are that damn busy that you feel the need to get involved, it goes to show there’s even more stuff that needs you to have perspective on.
Okay, lets take a look at some of the real howlers in people management…
The General Traps
- Doing what you pay your staff to do
- Managing your staff’s staff
- Being the weak link in the business chain
- Having to win
- Slagging off other teams/managers
- Sticking to your own (new) kind
- Wanting to be liked
- Too much email
Some of these are things I’ve heard about, some are things I’ve done. You may be able to tell which are which.
- Please understand that ‘keeping your hand in’ is just for your own vanity. You haven’t got time to read the books properly, you can’t keep properly in practice, and when you do start getting involved you’re slower and more likely to break things. Remember, your job is perspective, and keeping the machine running properly. The next is a special case of the first. Let’s say you’ve got a designer working for you, and there’s a junior designer working for them. Some problem comes along with the junior designer. DO NOT go and fix the problem with the junior designer yourself. Try and get the designer to fix it. Lead them through possible solutions. If you fix it, then all you’re doing is undermining their authority, and meaning you’re going to have to micromanage their staff too. And take pity on them, in a year or two they’ll be in your position. Do you want them to have as little people-management experience as you?
- Another absolute golden rule - particularly in our business - is Don’t Piss Away Your Staff’s Work. They will never forgive you for it. If you ask them to write a report on something, read it. If there is work they’ve done that has to be in for a deadline, don’t be the one that forgets and misses it. They won’t trust you as their leader if the work they do goes nowhere through lack of care.
- You are not on Usenet. Don’t get hung up on being right. Creating a culture where people collaborate on ideas isn’t going to work if you insist on crushing everybody who makes the slightest mistake. All you’ll do is reduce creative throughput, and you’ll also miss out on really great germs of ideas because you’re too busy looking for ways to prove how clever you are.
- Shit things happen in business. And while people need to let of steam, and you shouldn’t be an apologist for the failings of the business, it is your job to give your staff perspective and a good understandable reason why the bad things have happened. Say that you’ve developed 20 ideas and only two were commissioned. Don’t slag off the commissioner - it *is* their decision, it’s what the business pays them to do, and there may be factors you just don’t know about that will later make you look stupid. Acknowledge people are upset, but don’t let people assume that everyone else in the business is an arsehole. Even salespeople. It just makes it harder when you suddenly find you have to collaborate.
- Make sure you keep in touch with, and meeting new, people up and down the business chain. You’re going to need a sense of whether plans and projects aren’t working, and to keep an eye on people who are going places for when the next reshuffle comes. And they can be a great sounding board.
- It helps. But it’s not essential.
- As a previously-technical manager, you’re going to be in all sorts of meetings with scary people where your interpersonal skills are going to be pushed to the limit. Practice talking. To your staff. You do at least have something in common with them. It’s higher bandwidth too!
Anyway, let’s get onto things you don’t have to worry about…
Myths of Management
- The perfect manager
- You can’t ask for help
- You must have the solution
- Geek knowledge isn’t power
- Budgets are hard and scary
- There is no such thing as the perfect manager. We practice our craft better on some days than others. Occasionally there’s a day when I do all the things in this talk. There are also days when I do none of them. Acknowledge you have good and bad days. To yourself and your staff.
- The business has given you responsibility, but that doesn’t mean it’s all your problem. As manager, the assumption is you’re a grown-up and will protect the organisation. If you don’t tell anyone things are going badly it is your fault. If you tell your boss and they don’t help, it’s their fault. In fact, you have a responsibility TO ask for help, not survive without it.
- Your job is to find the best solution. It may be the idea you have in your head, but if you don’t ask around you’ll never find out if your staff had a better one. Keep them involved - take on board what works, and reject what doesn’t. You should always be prepared to be convinced otherwise.
- There are certain people we work with who are very powerful gateways to incredibly important stuff. Any management strategy that assumes they don’t have power will backfire. Fear will get you some of the way, but that resentment will fester. Far better, and less time consuming, to lead a gang of willing accomplices instead.
- Budgets are an estimate. And often your finance director already knows exactly how much you’re going to get anyway. Also, by the time you’ve taken out all the personnel and office space and IT costs, the bit you’ve got to make decisions about is only about 10%. Which isn’t so scary after all.
Time to move on to some of the softer skills…
“That’s unfortunate. So what are you going to do about it then?”
(Jon Lewin 1959-1999 RIP. He was fab.)
“You have to give producers something to produce”
- “If you can let people do the thing they really want to do, they will do a good job”
Empowerment eh? Yadda yadda yadda management newage wankspeak eh?
Well, often, yes. But here are three important quotes that did make a difference to me. The first comes with a story attached.
- It was the second day at a new job, where I was working on a cunning project with the help of two people who had very similar names. It was vitally important that one knew every single thing that was going on, and also that the other didn’t. I breezed into the office, all full of plan-of-attack, and rang the wrong one. I told them everything - an absolute disaster. So I went to my boss, as I always had before, to say that I’d broken it, expecting them to fix it. Except they didn’t. They said what’s in this first quote. And I suddenly realised that I could think of ways that I could fix it. And that my boss trusted me to do it. So I came up with some things to do, he finessed them, and off I went - full of potency and fulfilment.
- This next quote is about choices. If people don’t have choices they won’t have any sense of ownership of a project. So only specify things as far as is needed for people to start, and end up where they need to be. If you document every last thing to the nth degree, you’ll get a lacklustre performance out.
If someone really desperately wants to do thing x, and it’s within your power to let them have a go at it, why not? People who are doing what they want to do perform better and need less maintaining.
A corollary to this is that you shouldn’t assume everybody has to do a bit of everything. If someone is never happier than when working on quizzes, and someone else is completely in the zone resizing images in photoshop, making them do loads of each other's work will just make them both miserable.
- Behaviour not people
- You are giving the feedback
- Stick to facts
- Avoid ‘the praise sandwich’
- Empathy: Drill down to root causes, weaknesses and interests.
- Is it actually you?
- Start small, and do it immediately
- when giving people feedback, make sure they’re left with enough spirit to do better in future. Focus on how they have behaved well or badly, not on whether they are a good or bad person.
- If you begin any criticism with “people have been saying” or “I have heard”, the first reaction is “Well, who?” and the second is “Why didn’t you stick up for me?” Find something you can defend as a criticism from you, and work with that.
- Don’t get too woolly on opening gambits. State what went wrong and ask why - not aggressively, but firmly. This bit of software was late and we didn’t know it was going to be - why was that? This requirement wasn’t included in the design - why was that? Often people know they’ve messed up.
- Jesus, how I wish I’d known about this. Okay, you’ve got something a bit shit to tell someone, so you think “I know, I’ll tell them something nice either side to soften the blow”. You are doing this to make yourself feel better, not them. A sly or egotistical person will never hear the criticism in the middle - and if it comes to a tribunal, remember it could be counted as an overall positive meeting. Meanwhile, an insecure person will never hear the good stuff either side. Say the thing you have to say, and just that.
- Try to fix the cause not the symptom. If people get aggressive, particularly over many discussions, try and find out what’s really driving it. There is normally some insecurity, need or other subtext to it that you need to get to. “You won’t work with x because they’re an arsehole” “What aspect of their arseholeness impacts on the work you do? Is there a particular thing that winds you up?”
- Be wise enough to know if it’s really you that’s got the problem. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it, but be honest about what you’re trying to do.
- Nobody likes to be told “I’m really pissed off with the thing you did 3 months ago”. And don’t try and fix the biggest problem right now. Try and fix something small by the end of the day, then within 2 hours, then within 5 minutes. Work your way up to the big problems.
- Team meetings - for team-wide info only
- Routine meetings - for each staff member, not you
- Task-setting meetings - do your homework!
- All other meetings - is just chatting?
- Remember that team meetings are only for information everybody needs to know. Particularly beware the “forking submeeting”. It happens like this…you’re working round your team leaders, and suddenly an issue comes up and you ask them more about it. Suddenly you’re having a meeting with just that team while everyone else hangs around being bored. Don’t do it.
- Meetings with your individual staff members are for them, not another chance for you to gab on for an hour. Ask them lots of questions about how things are going, approaches they’re using, problems they need your help with. And listen to the answers - you will learn a lot.
- Look up SMART objectives on google. And make sure you actually know what you’re going to ask them to do before you have the meeting - remember the definition of management?
- And try not to go to, and definitely don’t set up, a meeting with no agenda. It’s just doomed to waffle.
Hire, Sire, Fire
- Don’t hire in your own image
- Prepare your staff for moving on
- Training requirements
- Hiring people just like you may seem like a good idea at first, but it’s actually pretty risky long-term. Imagine you come in to work one morning with the best idea in the world – a real killer. If everyone is just like you, there won’t be anyone to tell you it’s actually a heap of shit. So make sure you hire a wide variety of people, based on their skills at doing the job rather than if you get a nice vibe. Hiring ‘new’ types of people may be a little tricky at first, but keep with it, and your team will create a new stronger version of team spirit, where they realise that any decision everyone agrees on is really strong.
- It’s tough, but you’ll also have to accept that your organisation is dynamic. Your staff are continually developing, and they will move on eventually. Remember it’s not personal – after all, you may have moved into this role without hating your previous boss! When someone is moving on, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate what everyone’s doing, and perhaps call some of the other interesting people you’ve been cultivating in for an interview. Also, learn when to spot someone needs to find something more challenging to do – you never know when that pastoral view will repay big-time.
- Appraisals – your HR department should advise you on this and give you training. There will be a local policy. If they offer workshops go on them. Twice if you can.
- Sometimes staff see the training budget as their ‘fun fund’. If a programmer comes in and says they want to go on a radio sitcom writing course, you should take that as a cue that there’s some bit of them that’s not being utilised in their job.Try to drill down to find that fundamental, and between you come up with a way that those skills could be used for the benefit of the business.
So What Can I Do?
- Acknowledge it’s new
- Stop buying technical books
- Develop your skills
- Talk to other managers about the process
- Ask your staff where weak spots are
- Debug your management
- Lead by example
- Get used to the idea that you’re trying to do something new and give yourself a bit of a break
- I’ve got a mighty great bookshelf filled with all the O’Reilly Perl books, books on Unix, C, XML, Java, PHP, Photoshop, Interactive TV, Flash, you name it. I have a whole *five* books on people management, and I suspect I’m actually above the norm on this. And do you know what? They were great, and I learned stuff about myself from them. Obviously you’ll quickly skip over the asset-stripper hatchet-man books, but there are lots of good inspiring reads out there. Well, I say that, but it doesn’t stop me – I started a new project the other day, and what did I buy? A book on UML. It has no bearing on the project whatsoever – I should have bought a book on how to manage Chinese-language website builds from the other side of the globe, but I panicked. Anyway, try to remember this where you can.
- Management is made of a bunch of learned skills – interpersonal skills, leadership, time management, philosophy etc. Take the time to learn them and improve them. Your staff *will* notice even incremental improvements.
- When you’re with a bunch of people in a similar position, try not to hark back to the olden days – compare notes on what’s working for them and you’ll get loads of pointers on things you want, and don’t want, to do.
- This is important – if you ask your staff what’s going wrong early enough, they will tell you nicely. If you pretend it’s all going swimmingly you’ll only find out when they either all leave, have screaming matches at you, or go to your boss to say you’re shit. Keep reviewing what they need you to be doing in this symbiotic relationship.
- If things aren’t working, change them. If you mess something up, apologise. Try things out – test your management as rigorously as you would a bit of software and you’ll reap great rewards.
- And if you behave like a mean-spirited selfish argumentative arse who turns up late for work, don’t expect to have a lovely cooperative punctual team...
So where does this leave us?
- This starts off hard
- Remember what your job is
- Improve your skills one day at a time
- One day, you’ll stop missing your old job
- Remember this is hard now, but it does get better.
- Focus on the four key tasks of your job, and apply your wisdom, knowledge and empathy to the task to the best of your abilities.
- Take each skill in turn and make progress where you can, trying to be a bit better manager each day.
- And one day, you’ll look at your team of developers, writers, sysadmins and designers, all working together in beautiful harmony in a way they never could before and think “I did that”. And chances are that they, and your boss, know that too.
- Willam H. Ury - Getting to yes
- Susan Jeffers - Feel the fear and do it anyway
- Blanchard & Johnson - The one minute manager
- Andy Law - Experiment at Work
- Eddie Obeng - The Project Manager’s Secret Handbook
- Mark Forster - Get everything done and still have time to play
- Mark Forster - Make your dreams come true
- Andrew Rawnsley - Servants of the People
- Neal Stephenson - Cryptonomicon - the Epiphyte strand.
- Paul Glen - Leading Geeks
Full talk now available online
The annotated version of the "Shit, I'm A Manager" Powerpoint is now available online.
For those without Powerpoint viewer, I'm also going to put it up here as a huge set of blog posts so you can link to particular slides or add comments and discussions on the individual items. Just need to play with CSS a bit first to get it to look nice...
Broadband - lets get this in perspective...
One of the guys from the Moscow office came in yesterday. His english was really good, but had holes, and so when he said "I have a gigabit connection at home" we quickly picked him up.
"You mean megabit?"
"No, Gigabit. It is our new service. Everyone has it. It costs about thirty pounds a month"
BT, NTL, Telewest, you have so much to learn...
June 09, 2004
So what *don't* I have to leave behind?
After my NotCon talk, one of the questions that was asked was
"So you seem to be saying that everything I currently know I have to ignore. Is there anything I take with me?
I'm not entirely happy with how I answered the question, and it's been bugging me slightly since. My answer was basically
- Problem solving and that's about it
- I only got round to learning CSS about six months ago
- You don't have time to read those big fat books, so get a member of your staf to train themselves and write you a 'what you, my boss, need to know about this technology in order not to screw things up' document that's a few pages long*
- Sorry if that's not what you want to hear
(*Remembering to read it, so you don't violate the golden rule: Never Piss Away Your Staff's Work)
What I should also have reinforced is that you bring with you a huge bunch of mental models of problems and scenarios, and also a million mistakes you've made where you've applied them wrong. So you take the broad generalisations of many different techniques, and how to focus on the differences between them.
Again, this comes down to perspective, the key skill of managers - spotting the assumptions your staff have made and, rather than relishing their failings, leading them into better solutions.
There's also the fact that, while you are often deal with bigger chunks of things, your background knowledge means that you can explain your assumptions clearly to the people below you, and drill down to find out whether things will work. If your staff can't explain the how and why to you in terms you can still understand, then the solution is probably a bit suspect and they can be encouraged to fix it, rather than poper over the cracks and hope you won't notice.
Also, there is plenty of new knowledge to be gained from books about managing technology and technology people. You still get to soak up those overviews and build the macro-bricks of knowledge, rather than focussing on the individual pieces of lego. I remember the joy of reading a book on interactive TV and realising that I could skip the rest of the chapter on the fine detail of how MPEG encoding worked because it very definitely *was* someone else's problem.
All this doesn't mean that you *must* give up technical knowledge, just that you shouldn't use it as a distraction from your day job. Wait till a personal project comes along that you need them for, and enjoy the fun of learning without the pressure that the business needs you to deliver a solution.
Now, where's that PHP book again?
June 06, 2004
It may be just because I can finally relax...
But I think Richard Holmes talk on Island Blogging was one of the finest pieces today. It was like listening to the wistful moments of a Looper or Belle and Sebastian album.
Phew. Talk over.
low bandwidth, so will make this brief.
The powerpoint of the talk is now available at http://www.sparklefluff.com/siam/.
Detailed version is coming soon.
16 minutes, the fastest ever, so not quite as rich as it could have been, but I hope the attendees found it useful.
So, here we are
So NotCon is settling down nicely. Tom Coates' initial-thoughts description is great and sums it up nicely.
It's both techier and friendlier than I thought, but it means that the talk is either going to go much better or much worse than I thought. I'm feeling *incredibly* untechnical, but then I guess that's why I'm there.
A blank version of my presentation will be going up just beforehand for people to make notes. A full version will be available in a couple of days when my hangover has worn off. email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when it goes live.
Oh, or just read this blog. Which you were already doing.
June 05, 2004
One of the ideas I'm kicking around at the moment is to put a copy of my presentation online for download just as tomorrow's talk starts. It would have the 'notes' section cleared out so that people can make their own notes on what I've said and keep the annotated PPT on their machines (or posted on their blogs) so that the 'formal version' and their annotation will stay in sync.
Aside: Bizarrely this would be kind of like a streaming-media chat application I'd envisaged a few years back (1999 - a *few*?), where user comments were stored on the server tagged with the timestamp of the relevant point in the media stream. So when someone else replayed the streaming media, the comments of others would appear in sync with when they had started typing. (We took the view that the time the thought was *had* was more relevant than the time the enter key was pressed after a message of arbitrary length had been entered.) Had forgotten about that - can't remember if the wierd combination of synchronised and asynchronous failed to capture the imagination in an ahead-of-its-time sort of way, or if people decided it was just a fundamentally stupid idea that nobody would use.
Anyway, there are two problems with this.
1) It involves writing a public-key style presentation, where it doesn't make sense if you peek ahead - which then ruins the point of allowing it to be downloaded to roam free.
2) It means that some people will be distracted by trying to get a feature of Powerpoint going they may have not used before, when they should be concentrating on listening rather than technology.
June 03, 2004
Is this the worst sitemap in the world?
It is literally just a map.
The extremely discerning Stuart Mudie is the first person to blog my talk "Shit, I'm A Manager" at this Sunday's NotCon.
This is timely, because it wasn't until 12:30am that it finally started to stand a chance of coming in under time. (It was about fifteen minutes over till then. For a fifteen minute talk.)
Piers, this is all your fault.
June 02, 2004
NotCon fallout: I could have planned this better
I am now fourth in google Searches for "shit manager"
Rumblings and movement back over on Naomi's Blog
I have to admit I'm rather taken with the idea of the bookblog. I've occasionally wondered about taking the whole linklog/books/cds thing that is miked in among the left-hand nav and turning it into a set of SSI'd sub-blogs.
Of course, this was before MovableType announced their new pricing structure...
Jakob. Grave. Spin.
This is now...oooh....almost three weeks old, so ancient by our standards, but I really enjoyed Design Eye for the Usability Guy - a take on applying some modern brought-round-to-the-usability-way-of-thinking design principles to Jakob Nielsen's old site.
I can't help feeling the 'putting it in Flash' was a troll that worked, but a lot of the other stuff in there is great - little icons to explain the concepts etc.
Oh, and do make sure you read the comments - by about number 80 it's settled into a good old usenet-style barney about xhtml v html4, fixed width columns and a whole bunch of other cool stuff.
From no 109:
>I’ve got an idea… why don’t you and Orion go do your own redesign
> and publish it and see if people like your version versus something like ours.
> I’m sure it would be an eye-opener.
There’s something that always seems to be missed when talking about re-design.
I believe that once the knowledge is gained, people tend to skim over the
content. It’s familiar to them.
Which has to be one of the best cop-outs I've heard in ages....
June 01, 2004
Yesterday afternoon, I did a thing that is deeply and profoundly 'dad'. Not 'dad' as in 'being a father and caring for a child', but as in 'being like you remember your dad being'.
For the first time in my life, I went down to the bottom of the garden, and burnt loads of stuff. For two hours. I came back into the house smelling of smoke and had a big cup of workman tea.
My pillow still smelt of the smoke this morning. It felt, well, comfy.
Like a flat-eared cat
This is the first of two old-man posts.
Last year, I went to one of the best gigs of my entire life. Peter Gabriel live is one of those magical experiences that if you have even the faintest interest in his music will win you over utterly. His staging is fabulous, and the performances blow away everything on the albums. Just shockingly wonderful.
He's playing again on Monday and Tuesday at Wembley.
And everyone I'd go with is either going with someone else, out of the country, or moving house.
It's even pretty tricky to go on my own as most tickets on eBay are pairs.
So if any of my regular readers are closet Gabriel fans and fancy a wallow next Monday or Tuesday, do get in touch...