Monthly Archives: November 2012

Failing productively

I was in the Facebook offices in London recently. Very cool offices in a very nice location but what one of the things that struck me most was the signage on the walls.

I have to say that I absolutely love this.

It’s one thing to hear this at conferences (which sometimes seem to exist for the express purpose of making us aware of our own incompetence!) or from coworkers who have your back anyway. It’s another thing to have this as fundamental aspect of the culture corporate and just a million miles away from the lip service that so many companies pay to this idea. You know the sort of company, they maybe have a nice motivational picture of an eagle along with a pithy comment about attitude and altitude and think they are being daring. If you are lucky your direct boss embraces the idea that being able to fail is a good thing and if you are really lucky your boss’s boss does too but the whole company? Really?
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Six papers for Big Data fans

Big Data, the processing of data sets that do not fit on a single computer, has come of age. It’s not just the level of interest shown at conferences like Strata but also the types of people participating. Sure there are loads of companies out there with products in this space but there are also plenty of end users coming forward and many of these are outside of technology companies. At the London version, one of the speakers was Ben Goldacre, doctor and author of the awesome Bad Science, who discussed the impact of missing data which is a huge issue for medical studies. Even the Whitehouse has weighed in on behalf of Big Data and emphasized its importance to business.

If you are going to use a technology I’m a big fan of going to the source and thankfully in this space, a lot of the published work on this is freely available. So I’ve collected some of the papers that are key to this area: five are about Big Data itself and the bonus one is about operational monitoring for massively distributed systems.

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Psychology for Technical Leaders

When I first moved into a position of leading developers I experienced a fair amount of good natured teasing that I’d do my best programming via Outlook and Omnigraffle. While this has been true (thankfully only to a point!) it has been outweighed by the ability to have a far greater say into the resourcing, architecture and implementation of projects and how my company does its work.

One thing that I’ve become painfully aware of is that the operational aspect of this position has a larger ‘people management’ aspect to it than I had previously thought. This is especially true when you extend your view to include recruitment, appraisals, motivating staff and the like and not just setting up your teams to deliver quality code as fast as they can. The soft skills of leadership tend not to come easily to those with a natural technical focus (describing almost every developer ever) so it only makes sense to take advantage of psychology research in the areas of skills assessment and motivation. These is a wealth of knowledge out there and I thought I would discuss a few of the more interesting/useful ones that I have come across.

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