Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

What were they thinking?

April 28, 2013

Sometimes I feel like a character in a Dilbert cartoon.  Why would a very senior, smart executive, who is Not a functional idiot make an obviously senseless choice?

Here are few examples

  • George W. Bush senior, a new product management director, wanted to move Daniel , who now reports to him, into a new position. For some reason, he chose to discuss it first with Emmy who reports to Daniel. Daniel learned about the new plans from Emmy and was insulted twice.  Emmy was also distressed about the weird behavior of her Director.
  • Senior accountant Jack Silverman sent an email to 100,000 employees – “Some people are not filling their expense report forms correctly. They keep putting the expenses with decimal points, while the system can only expect integers. This is breaking our ERP and causing a lot of work for the finance department. Employees who continue to make this mistake would face disciplinary actions and may be fired, if they do not amend their ways.”
  • Senior VP Jack Welsh decided to shut down the new social media network “Buddy Buddy” as the engineering team in Texas failed to deliver a working product for over a year.  The official reason was that “Buddy Buddy” overlaps the existing product line. Three months later, Jack announced a new product called “Chuku Chuku” which will connect people through social interactions.  The new product leader would be Shlomo Shlomo who ran “Buddy Buddy” .
Food for thought

Food for thought

  • George R.Martin , the new CEO just a hired Donald Duck as his new VP of product management. Three months later he decided to fire Donald. He quickly hired Mickey Mouse , an experienced product marketing manager , but fired him as well after four months.  Even Pluto did not last more than five months at the job. While this unfortunate turn of events can happen to the best, George never ran a background check and reference check on any of the candidates. George has been very strict regarding reference checks when his managers had new candidates, but he felt his intuition is good enough for the most senior positions In the company.
  • Morgan Dexter was a successful QA Executive for a large Pharmaceutical company for many years.  For various reasons, the new management decided to find a new person to replace him. They wanted to do it respectfully, so allowed Dexter time to find a new position in the corporate.  To everyone’s surprise. Dexter kept using his previous title, in public forums, even 12 months after the change has already happened.
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The Unaccountable Number Two

April 13, 2013

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
― Thomas Paine

One of the most dangerous leaders to have in a company is the unaccountable #2.

UNANT, for short , is usually a former founder, or a top executive, who is still involved in the company, but has no direct reports, or clear accountability for a specific business line.

It can be the CTO, chief strategy officer,the vice chairman or any other obscure title.

Because of his seniority,status and experience the UNANT advises are actually considered decisions.

Unlike other managers, his decisions don’t have to be backed by budgets or organizational support , as he is not the one executing them or responsible for the outcome. It also makes life hard for the rest of the team. Who wants to contradict a member of the board?

Name this #2

In many cases, the lack of accountability , while the authority exists, makes it hard to distinguish “decisions” from “opinion”.

The UNANT tends  use annoying stories from 20 years ago to show he is right (=everyone else is wrong ).

“What’s so hard? We wrote version Three in two hours, we only had a broken typewriter , one chair for four people and we sold 50,000 copies in three days.”

The UNANT also comes up with original ideas like “If every developer puts an extra hour a day on cleaning the office we can fire our cleaners and save lots of money”

The only worst organizational type is the unaccountable #2 spin master .He  actually has direct reports and theoretical responsibility , but manages to never pay the price for his decisions. His direct reports are usually being replaced 🙂

The Functional Idiot

February 16, 2013

accountant-funny2

Here is a story. I’m sitting in a room with an extremely intelligent  person. Our new VP of product marketing – Mr Y. He has an MBA from one of the finest universities in the world ,a track record as a C level executive in a Fortune 100 company. He is articulate and presents an amazing vision for the future of our company. Moreover, he defines concrete examples how we will be using social media and go beyond traditional  enterprise marketing. I’m quite impressed. Finally, we have someone in marketing who knows what he is talking about.

One month later, Mr Y Speaks in an executive forum. He repeats exactly the same story with the same social media example and same jokes. I’m getting a bit suspicious , but as the great Jack Welch said – communicating your message is one of the top leadership roles. So, I give Mr Y the credit that he is talking to a new audience.

Two months later, Mer Y is already working with us for four months. We are in a customer conference. The same exact story, word by word 😦 . Two months later he was not working with us anymore …

He is probably a “Type A” functional idiot.

I recently learned the term “Functional Idiot” which I really like. Unfortunately it is not well-defined, yet. The Urban Dictionary definition for “Functional Idiot” is :

A person who suffers from functional idiocy.

Which does not help much. However, almost everyone seems to “Get It”, so they must have worked with some.

There can be a few of ways to describe a functional idiot:

  • Type A functional idiot – A complete idiot who made it through the system to obtain an important function or position (e.g. George Bush Junior :))
  • Type B functional idiot – A very smart person in specific domains who behaves like an idiot in other domains  (e.g. Steve Jobs’ failure to admit he needs to shower to smell good)
  • Type C functional idiot – A person who used to be very smart and effective, but became outdated and irrelevant (e.g Dan Margalit might be an example for the Israeli audience)

Let’s say you are walking around the office and you spot a “Functional Idiot”  make a stupid decision. Let me provide you with tools to rationalize it.

Here is a second story. In a board meeting, you realize one of your board members (Let’s call him Prisoner X)  suggests the company should release a “simple self-service” version of your costly, sophisticated enterprise product. This could have been   a great suggestion. But we already did it six months ago and discussed it multiple times with him.

The challenge is that Prisoner X is quite smart and has a very good track record in the industry. How can we explain the fact he get’s $40K$ a month ,but is not able to remember the main products of his four companies?

Prisoner X is probably a type B functional idiot. He is very smart in the big picture and in identifying opportunities, but he is very bad in operational work and following details.

Type C functional idiots are easier to spot. You would usually find them in the CTO office, they have the word “Strategy” in their title.  in a recent example I was observing a very long thread on the pros and cons of C vs C++. The heated discussions was taking place in 2012 by people with an amazing track record in the high-tech industry history. And it was a very interesting discussion to have. In 1996.

To conclude,It is essential to identify functional idiots and tell them apart. Otherwise  we are all doomed 🙂

Americana 2013

January 26, 2013
Green Robot - Tomo Hotel

Green Robot – Tomo Hotel,

  • I like Hotel Tomo, cute Japanese design makes a lot of difference.
  • Going green. Why do American hotels provide 9 (as in  3*3, 4+5, 99/11) pillows for a single guest?  And then they ask me not to replace the towels everyday.
  • Continental was bought by United. No major difference. Upgrading to business is now $600 instead of $500. All the rest is the same.
Snowy Boston

Snowy Boston

  • I’m not a virgin for Virgin anymore. First time flight from Boston to San Francisco. The only difference is that the crew is much more beautiful. Old fashioned stewardesses (meaning young and good looking ).
  •  FaceTime is amazing. High quality video calls with family and 10 months old kid. Mac to iPhone, iPhone to iPhone and Mac to iPad.
  • The Windows store in Palo Alto mall is quite empty. It is three times bigger the the Apple store and has 25% people in it. The Sony store is somewhere in between.
Apple Store,Stanford Mall

Apple Store,Stanford Mall

Empty Windows Store,Stanford Mall

Empty Windows Store,Stanford Mall

  • The new Windows 8 Laptops\Tablets from Sony and Microsoft are actually pretty nice, at a glance. The touch screen + Keyboard make a good combination and offers an interesting alternative to iPad. The price point is why they would probably fail.
  • iPad mini is even better than Ipad. Better form factor.
San Francisco, Fillmore and Broadway

San Francisco, Fillmore and Broadway

  • Go Wireless! I physically broke three cables and adapters this trip. The American plugs are always loose and the Mac power adapter is quite heavy 😦
  • In the “Cheese Cake Factory” choose the classic Cheesecake. Don’t be tempted for three layers of chocolate.
  • Could not see a big difference in 4K pixels TV. Probably need newer movies.
Granola in Boston

Granola in Boston

Software Development Team Optimal Size

September 15, 2012

The Ideal size for a software development team is 3.5 people.

In a team of three people , everyone is always working hard , the team leader is still writing lots of code and synchronization is easy.

However, there is always a feeling that we are scarifying long term efficiency for short term results. If only we had one  more person in the team !

In a team of four people , there is one guy who is not fully utilized because he is waiting for others, or because he is not feeling the pressure.

The team leader writes less code, as he spends more time on administration and coaching.

As a result, It is easy to conclude the ideal team has 3.5 developers. However, splitting programmers and getting some output  is quite hard.

A good compromise is to have three seasoned developers and one fresh out-of-college developer.

The experienced members realize they still carry most of the weight, while the young developer has to prove herself.

This combination also allows the team to work on refactoring and important long term missions,while ongoing bugs are done by the fresh coder.

Expense Report, Audits and Lap Dances

July 28, 2012
 Shrink Your Stomach

Shrink Your Stomach

A men leaves his wife and kids embarking on a long journey. Travelling 16,000 miles in 24 hours, crossing oceans and continents.

His time is shifted, everything seems blurry , the immune system is falling apart and the streets have no name.

Sleepless nights and sleeping pills in an anonymous motel 🙂 But the worst part of business travel is filing an expense report afterwords.

One can use the fake “Expense Report Generator” , but for the honest people life is much harder.

About ten years ago it was relatively simple:

* Company bought the airplane tickets, hotel vouchers and car rental vouchers

* Eating and general costs were $45-50 a day

* For other larger costs one should have brought receipts (Taxis , Hospitality)

* For a long travel an employee could get  a cash advance or a deposit to his bank account

French Toast in The Grove with Strawberries

French Toast in The Grove with Strawberries

Nowadays it has become much worst , although automation should have made life simpler

* The fixed daily amount was deleted, so a receipt is needed for every item purchased,  even $1 bubble gum.

* The previous allowance is  now the daily maximum . Let’s say on Monday I was extremely busy with customer visits and only grabbed a $7 Burger King lunch. On Tuesday I ate the hotel breakfast ($23), some vietnamis noodles for lunch ($7) and nice Italian dinner in San Francisco ($50) . In the past, corporate would understand people might not eat the same way every day. These days the corporate would reimburse me $57 for the two days , instead of $87 actually “eaten”.

* Since sales people abused their expense accounts to get lap dances, every receipt has to be “Itemized” . Corporates want to validate that expenses are not spent on Whiskey, Women and fancy Falafel. I’m quite confident that sales people have ways to solve the problem, but for the poor developers that’s just another annoying rule.

* There is no cash advance. The employee is supposed to pay for all the expenses with his private credit card. “Corporate Credit Card” are a fiction and do not really exist in Israel.Even in the US the mechanism is problematic , because the employee is personally  liable for unpaid accounts, and his credit reputation might be damaged when corporate delays payments.

The problem , like in many other cases, is that finance department focuses on the minority of unethical employees and creates a huge bureaucratic workflow that wastes more money than it aims to saves. While finance administration might be easier, it is amazing that an employee needs to spend 3-4 hours post travel to get back the private money he spent.

Since the costs of checking all these rules become very high, many corporates outsource the auditing to a far away country, with people who can’t read our language and have litle understanding of business, business travel and local facts. Try and explain to an auditor from India your Hebrew Receipt for a Big Data conference (or vice versa).

Of course, once you get high enough in the pyramid , you can delegate such chores to your admin (I’m guilty as charged) , and once you get high enough to change the process you  forget how annoying this type of activity is…..

Why Great Software Developers Should not do Porn and AlgoTrading

June 9, 2012

Product Manager – Backgammon, Company unspecified, Gibraltar

The world’s leading online gaming company, requires an innovative Product Manager to own, develop and manage the company’s suite of Backgammon products. This dynamic role will see you developing and owning the product roadmap for Backgammon, generating new product ideas and driving successful product rollouts.

I believe it is a shame when some of the top intellectual minds of our times devote their 12 hours work days to algorithmic trading, on-line gambling, “casual” gaming, search engine optimization  , on-line porn, search diversion through “Freeware\Malware” and so on.

Of course, these ultra smart developers are not using these services (at least not all of them:) ). They are the brains that run the software and algorithms to operate the questionable services.

I’m not passing judgment on the need for the services , although I’m quite sure Algo Trading has no economical benefit to the world :). I do think that being a “Product manager for backgammon” is less important and satisfactory than “Product manager for diabetes cure” .

I see too many brilliant friends who want to make easy money by finding a loop-hole in the global financial system. While I can’t commit that I would never work in such company, I prefer not to do it, as long as I can.

Interestingly enough, these services are somewhat related. For example, a lot of the real good money in SEO is from references to gambling and porn sites . Forex trading is not really different from a legal(?) form of gambling and “casual gaming” ,IMO, is quite the same.

It just seems that developing the Google search engine is more productive than algorithms that create fake content that only seems real to Google, but no real person would ever want to read.

Our civilization moves forward from innovation like Bioinformatics and Wikipedia, even Facebook and Twitter. But it seems that we can leave SEO to the average  developers….

Can You Make Money Writing Algorithms? – Part III

April 21, 2012

“Money For Nothing and the (K) Nearest Neighbors Are Free”Doctor Mark Knopfler

In 2007 I wrote Why it is hard to make money form algorithms and How new technologies allow making money from algorithms.

Kaggle is a fascinating example:

Kaggle is an innovative solution for statistical/analytics outsourcing. We are the leading platform for predictive modeling competitions. Companies, governments and researchers present datasets and problems – the world’s best data scientists then compete to produce the best solutions. At the end of a competition, the competition host pays prize money in exchange for the intellectual property behind the winning model.

The biggest challenge right now is for $3M , to improve the broken American health care system 🙂 with 951 teams competing at this stage.

If we want to go for higher numbers: google paid $12B for Motorola patents. Most of these patents have probably never been used and are not-so-important-or-smart.

While I believe most software patents are idiotic, this is how the game is played these days. And in some sense it is encouraging that Intellectual property, in the form of Algorithms starts showing its economical value.

And the people with skills are doing well. From  “Big Data Skills Bring Big dough” in GigaOm

If you can claim to be a data scientist and have the chops to back that up, you can pretty much write your own ticket even in this tough job market. A quick search of the popular job posting sites –Indeed.com,SimplyHired.com, or Dice.com – shows a huge demand for data scientists or anyone who can demonstrate other “big data”skills.

And , most importantly, the funniest show in TV right now (except for Fox News) is Big Bang Theory, focusing on Algorithms to making Friends.

The German version is even funnier

Three Examples on How not to Lead by Example

April 14, 2012

Three stories that never happend and probably never will 🙂

Porsche and Outdoor Camping

Porsche and Outdoor Camping

CEO in a Tent

As a CEO Invite your top executive team,some over 50 years old,  to an outdoor seminar, sleeping in tents.

Explain to them that sleeping two in a tent would bond the team together and allow an early start in the next morning.

Drive home with your Porsche Jeep and personal driver to sleep with your spouse.

Arrive late the next morning because of traffic, while everyone is waiting for you to start the training.

VP Engineering and the Hacked Weekend

Following a major security vulnerability found in your department code you call all developers to look for more bugs on the weekend.

Explain that while you don’t expect a one ay effort to find bugs that were not found in year, it is a critical method to communicate  the importance of secure coding.

On the same weekend stay with your family at home. After all , you don’t even know how to check out the code from RCS, let alone find security bugs in it.

Banana Performance Review

Banana Performance Review

VP HR slow Performance (Review)

Force the entire organization to a methodical yearly performance review.

Force the managers to put the employees on a standard distribution curve.

Calculate the bonuses as a direct result of the performance review, with 1% flexibility.

Perform the performance review for your own direct reports three months behind the deadline, in a casual and quick manner.

Who Moved my Espresso Machine?

March 29, 2012
Hi-Tech Office Espresso Machine

Our Hi-Tech Office Espresso Machine

Background –  our office occupied half of the floor and due to exceptional growth in Beer Sheva we added the second half of the floor. The distance between the two parts is about six meters.

 A short water cooler talk with one of my employees, lets call him Dean.
Dean: “When will we have an espresso machine in our side of the floor?”
Me: “Never”
Dean: “Why, are they better than us?”
Me: “Yes”
Dean: Silence.
.
If you ask stupid questions, you’ll get stupid answers :). To be honest, I’m also located in the side without an expresso machine.
While I agree on the  importance of gourme food in software development , walking 15 second to get a top notch espresso is easy enough, even for our semi spoiled industry.