Jim Nielsen’s Blog
Theme: This feature requires JavaScript as well as the default site fidelity (see below).

Controls the level of style and functionality of the site, a lower fidelity meaning less bandwidth, battery, and CPU usage. Learn more.

Reading Notes, August 2021

Article: “Agile at 20: The Failed Rebellion”

The important piece that gets forgotten is that Agile was openly, militantly anti-management in the beginning

Boom! A great way to start. Now we’re off:

The project manager’s thinking, as represented by the project plan, constrains the creativity and intelligence of everyone else on the project to that of the plan, rather than engaging everyone’s intelligence to best solve the problems.

And then a summary of where we’ve landed in the history of Agile:

It turns out that prioritizing individuals and interactions is a hard concept to sell. It’s much easier to sell processes and tools.

It turns out that working software is harder to produce than unrealistic plans and reams of documentation.

It turns out that collaborating with customers requires trust and vulnerability, not always present in a business setting.

It turns out that responding to change often gets outweighed by executives wanting to feel in control and still legitimately needing to make long-term plans for their businesses.

Where Agile ended up is the antithesis of its vision. You either die a hero or you life long enough to become the villain.

The iron lays in the attempt to scale a concept anchored in the small scale.

Trying to scale a methodology that focuses on individuals and interactions will inevitably lead to problems – and erode the original value of the methodology.

Video: “The Future of Programming”

An interesting talk given in 2013 but the presenter, Brett Victor, pretends as if it was 1973. It shows how things we would not have wanted to happen in computers have happened.

The thesis of the talk, however, revolves around this idea: if you’re constrained by believing you know what you’re doing and you know what programming is, then you’ll be unable to see any adjacent ideas that might actually be better than the ones we have now.

The most dangerous thought you can have as a creative person is to think that you know what you’re doing. Because once you think you know what you’re doing, you stop looking around for other ways of doing things and you stop being able to see other ways of doing things. You become blind…

You have to say to yourself, “I don't know what I’m doing.”…Once you truly believe that, then you’re free and you can think anything.

Article: “Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation”

Sadly, from past experience, this mindset of complacency and hoping for the best is the result of natural human mental drift that comes when there are long periods of apparent normalcy. Even if there is a slowly emerging problem, as long as everything looks okay in the day to day, the tendency is ignore warning signals as minor perturbations. The safety of the system is assumed rather than verified—and consequently managers are led into missing clues, or making careless choices, that lead to disaster. So these recent indications of this mental attitude about the station's attitude are worrisome.

Mental drifts resulting from normalcy led to diplomacy efforts trumping engineering concerns resulting in more bugs and an erosion of safety?

That sounds familiar. Maybe the problems with building software are just human problems.

Article: “We confuse visibility with competency”

Most people make this mistake, with engineers and developers on Twitter, where they assume the number of followers they have must correlate with how good of an engineer they are. When the only thing a sizeable Twitter following actually shows is how good they are at writing tweets

On giving up on twitter:

Paradoxically, the less I use Twitter, the better I am at my day job, but also the less likely I am to get approached with opportunities to change my day job. So the thing that makes me a more desirable candidate is the thing that makes me less likely to be a candidate in the first place.

So should you?

if someone new to Engineering asked me how to fast-track their career via job-hopping up the ladder, especially in the world of startups, I would suggest they get to tweeting. I would love to say that the most effective thing you could do is work on your skills, and the community will reward your hard work with new opportunities. But that would be dishonest, as unfortunately, it’s not how the world works.

Article: “Today, Today, Today”

Great reminder from Frank about “the marrow of life”:

the marrow of life lives beyond novelty in the unexceptional. I say this a lot: “the simple things are worth doing well, because they happen every day.” It is my mantra because I am the king of forgetting it. Any goodness that comes to me during the time of Covid will be by attending to what happens each day. The dishes pile up and the dishes get washed. They pile up and get washed. Isn’t that remarkable? It’s today and then today, then today, and today and today.

Article: “Progress Delayed Is Progress Denied”

An interesting commentary on whether the web is actually a credible alternative to the App Store (as Apple claims). This point about cross-engine compatibility resonates with me:

Compatibility across [browser] engines is key to developer productivity. To the extent that an engine has more than 10% share (or thereabouts), developers tend to view features it lacks as "not ready". It's therefore possible to deny web developers access to features globally by failing to deliver them at the margin.

Article: “The most unbelievable things about life before smartphones”

Entertaining (and nostalgic) essay about life before the internet.

I had no influence and never disrupted anything.

The only content users generated was letters to the editor.

Video: “Is It Time to Rewrite the Operating System in Rust?”

Honestly, a lot of this talk was over my head. But the presenter, Bryan Cantrill, was engaging and funny and I couldn’t stop listening.

Being ahead of your time is not commercially fruitful.

I also learned second system syndrome is a thing.

Article: “Breaking the web forward”

As a reaction to web dev outcry Google temporarily halted the breaking of the web. That sounds great but really isn’t. It’s just a clever tactical move.

…Somewhere in late 2022 to early 2023 Google will try again, web developers will be silent, and the modals will be gone.