A first look at “Rework” – Json and DHH [37 signals]

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been a fan of DHH, ROR, the 37 signals, the basecamp stories and have read the book “getting real” partially. [unfortunate, since I left it once to do some important work that came up and could never back to it, till date]. But I do aim to complete it sometime soon.

Today I got my hands onto the freely available 19page excerpt of Json and DHHs’ latest – ‘Rework‘. I read it and ordered the full book right away, but that will take 2-3 days to come. However, I thought of putting up my immediate reaction to the book, from whatever I could get to know about it from the free excerpt, into a small post up here. So here goes.

Workoholism:
Rework talks about workoholism, why its an excuse to compensate for lower levels of competence and why its bad and should be discouraged for the good of all. I agree partially. The truth is, this is highly subjective.

However, taking a rational and somewhat objective look at it, workoholism is bad if its comes unnaturally to the person doing it and/or if it is done too often . There are different kinds of people, they have different working styles, some need a break after every hour to be productive, some need hours of solace, its just a matter of how they work and be productive.

Some, JUST DON’T GET SLEEP if the work they were doing is not complete or is not at a logical conclusion or there is a bug that has become an eternal challenge in the face of their brain. Forcing them to leave office/work in such a situation is far more dangerous than letting them work, coz even if they lie on bed for the whole night their brain will not sleep, the body might. As a result you will have a fresh body in the office next morning but with a zombie brain. In such cases, do the lesser evil, let them just do what they want to, however the frequency of this, should be kept under control.

On the other hand, a perspective on people who need a break every hour, to say keep themselves productive:
The objective theory says, ‘interruption’ is the single biggest killer of productivity. Guess what, if you tell this to a person who practices hourly break and munching and is very satisfied with his performance this way and he has got even a few admirers of his work and style and performance, he will just confront you on this and blow the lid off your objective opinionated mind.

The bad effects of too frequent show of workoholism on health are well known, thats where I am in complete agreement with the authors. One should not push his body beyond limits, he ain’t got a spare one. 🙂

Meetings:

I agree, meetings, in their current form, achieve far less than what they are aimed for and most of time they end up in a negative sum, in terms of achievements-(time invested in hours*sum(productivity of attendees per hour)).

I compare meetings with a vinyl record [the old gramaphone stuff], there is a record made of plastic/vax with tracks on it and there is mechanical hand that goes over it in spirals, and there is a traction mechanism which keeps the head in the right track. But since the whole system is mechanical, and if its a bit old many a times the head goes avary and jumps tracks, goes diagonal, etc. But there is an external agent, the person who is listening to it. Wonder why people use to sit very near to old gramaphones, even when they had huge speakers? To reset the head to the track. Coming out of the analogy, meetings need to have two controls, a traction to prevent them from going off topic/carried away and secondly a hard resetter who has a “point black focus” on the agenda, and obviously he should be given rights to interrupt anyone and everyone in the meeting, irrespective of his post/rank.

Meetings, are a necessary evil and could turn out to be lesser and lesser evil if the traction/prevention and the resetting mechanisms are in place.

Pick a fight.
This is a good one, I like it, as is.

Be bold, have high integrity, be confrontal if need be to defend what you speak and believe. Pick a fight even if its not a necessarily required element to move ahead. It will give you a better direction, improved speed, a killer instinct. 🙂

Planning is guessing:

No or very-little planning is as bad a long or very long term planning. No planning means you will never be proactive, only reactive. You will never be creating opportunities out of probabilities, coz probabilities are required to be sighted from a distance and than some preparation is required to convert them, by the time they arrive in your face. If you are the guy who just takes things as they come, you might never achieve what you could have, but just achieve what you did.

Whereas long/very-long term plans are pure guesses, assuming a lot. There are too many variables around us that we can only predict with certain reasonable accuracy only when we reach within a certain reasonable distance (in time) from them. Predicting what you will be doing tomorrow afternoon is very easy as compared to predicting what you are going to do on one specific afternoon in 20 weeks from now.

So, do plan, but,
* do not plan for more than 90 – 120 days at any point. [inspired by Eric Ries from the startuplessonslearned ]
* put a concrete plan for the next 1 – 3 weeks.
* put an amorphous and flexible plan for 4th week – 90th day.
* the planning for the period of 3 weeks – 90 days should be a linear gradient, moving from concreteness(4th week) to amorphous (85th-90th day)

Under-do your competition:

I agree and disagree with this one, in two different contexts.

Its good to under-do your competition, in the sense that, if they are doing a lot of things, spreading themselves too thin and are not able to manage it nicely, than you should find the most critical pivots of your business, find how your competitor is delivering on these critical pivots and concentrate more where he is weak. This is will enable you to take the earth from under his feet.

On the other hand, if you keep under-doing all the time, you risk innovativeness. Not all your marketing research is bullet proof. There might be things, other than the ones’ that your research has established, as the most critical pivots, that might turn the game around. Sometimes its one silly feature from a foolish competitor, who is spreading too thin, over too many things, that ‘just works’ for him. He just turns lucky ‘coz he allowed one lousy coder/manager to put his ego driven feature into the product, even when all the odds were right out against it. Its a risk with a low probability, but its there.

So, the propensity to keep a check on doing only the things that are necessarily needed sometimes hurts innovation and a probable crazy hit.


Woh, I wrote quite a lot for an excerpt. I am eagerly awaiting the book, hoping it has atleast 30% more then the Signal vs Noise blog. Will update this post with new insights from the book soon.

Dropbox: from ‘good-to-have’ – to – ‘need-to-have’ the “lean” way.

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Dropbox founder, Drew Houston, takes us over the long 14months+ "learning the lean way" ride of segmenting two existing markets,
the portable and the cloud storage drives, and creating a product that "just works".

Categories: Uncategorized

Follow the hunch

November 28, 2009 2 comments
I have learned to kind of follow hunches, even though you can't necessarily 
justify them or know where they are going to go. 
- Evan Williams

Evan Williams the co-founder of Pyra Labs, Blogger, Odeo, Twitter talks about how twitter listens to its users and how he follows hunches.

Its interesting to know that Blogger and Twitter were hunches and that very fact itself reveals how far hunches can go.

An echo’ed note-to-self and an iterated note to others who are interested:
“Follow the hunch but don’t assume where it will go”.

Playing For Change – Songs around the World

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment
Playing_For_Change

Playing_For_Change

Came to know about PlayingForChange foundation a few days back from my friend Ajay .

Since then and I accept this, I have been addicted to the concept, to the cause and to the music.

Playing For Change” is a concept “larger than life”, reaching out with a single message “Peace through music”.


As a true appreciator of a good cause, good music and having a brain highly stimulated by music, I think this is brilliant idea. You will see, hear – artists and music – playing that you never knew existed. But not for a moment will you feel any lack of talent, rather you will be mesmerised by the amazing fusion of music from world over and see the phrase “music knows no boundaries” come true, right in front of your eyes.

I could have illustrated the awesome concept here but I would encourage people who feel interested to visit the site http://www.playingforchange.com, join the movement and contribute the way you can.

Kudos team PlayingForChange.

Playing_For_Change

Playing_For_Change

What makes a silicon valley?

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

I have been pondering over the fact that India has a huge talent pool, in terms of number, brainz and quality, to match any country. It does not have the right ecosystem to engage this talent pool within the country, most of them decide to go abroad and sell their talent as service to big companies or start technology companies abroad, not here. They do come to India for getting a cheap but quality work done (building products in development offices in India and maintaining corporate offices abroad).
Hence they do use their talent, but not to create a hub of talent, innovation(real not the marketing gimmick) and intellectual property in India, why?
How can we create a self sustainable ecosystem here in India, so that this huge pool of talent creates value here?

Well, I have my own thoughts and after thoughts on this, which I shall compile and share on this blog some other time.

Today I am sharing a similar perspective (to mine) by Dr. Vinton Cerf,Vice president and chief Internet evangelist, Google.

The following is an excerpt from one of his speeches.

Tony Blair, prime minister UK, came to the silicon valley on invitation from Cisco, in the summer 2007. His ostensible reason for showing up was to try to figure out whether there was any way to re-create a silicon valley in England. He was talking this and about education, etc. Speech finished and the attendees were all silent for a while, then Steve Jobs spoke up – “one thing that we all have experienced is that we all have failed one time or another”.

Now that was an insightful comment. For it brings out the fact that “failure” does not bring a red cane mark on one’s forehead marking him as “a failure for live” and that “failure is acceptable” in the US. It is treated more like and experience rather than a sin or a sign of in capability. Unlike in the Europe or India/Asia (I am adding India/Asia from my side coz the argument is valid) where failure is treated like a sin and one is marked as a incapable man if he fails. He is asked to take safe options and avert taking risk. Of course if you fail regularly then its a different story altogether.

We are also fortunate here in the Silicon valley to have such a strong source of educated workers. There is a continuous influx of educated and skilled people, from the colleges around, to fit in jobs in the Valley’s enterprises. We also have liquid market (we had, but its picking up again).

For being successful a market has to allow public investments, not requiring VC’s for the funding all the way. Though VC’s are the one’s who put in a lot at the onset, taking calculated risks for rewarding returns. Venture capitalists were not common in Europe, rather risk averting banks feared to lend money for new ventures. This hinders creation of new businesses.

We also have a talent pool that is very fluid in the sense that they can shift from one business to another and it does so. In Europe it is less so. Everybody knows everybody else here, either you worked together, worked for the other or he worked for you. So people are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

One last point is what is refered to as “cargo cults”.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

The most widely known period of cargo cult activity, however, was in the years during and after World War II. First, the Japanese arrived with a great deal of unknown equipment, and later, Allied forces also used the islands in the same way. The vast amounts of war materiel that were air dropped onto these islands during the Pacific campaign between the Allies and the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders, many of whom had never seen Westerners or Easterners before. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons, and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers. Some of it was shared with the islanders who were their guides and hosts. With the end of the war, the airbases were abandoned, and cargo was no longer dropped.

In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses. The cult members thought that the foreigners had some special connection to the deities and ancestors of the natives, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.

In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and created new military-style landing strips, hoping to attract more airplanes. Ultimately, although these practices did not bring about the return of the airplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the war, they did have the effect of eradicating most of the religious practices that had existed prior to the war.[citation needed]


The Countries that don’t understand the dynamics and the environment that has to be in place to create a silicon valley and to sustain it. They put industrial parks, they put buildings together, they provide power and all the other stuff and then they ask the companies to come in and populate these shells. The problem is that these are just like those cargo shells, it is an empty shell and until you have all the other desiderata to keep this economic engine going, it just doesn’t work without them. So you can’t just build a shell, an industrial base, you have to have all the other pieces working together like an engine and its parts. But it turns out to be much harder a fact for some policy makers to understand.

——————————————

I think Dr. Vinton (or “Vint” as he likes to be called) has made a solid point. I saw his speech (video) at Stanford Ecorner and found it resonating. There might be (and are) many other aspects that determine the growth of such an ecosystem but this post is not meant to touch on those, this was just to bring out a thought that it did.

More on this and my own thoughts and after thoughts on this topic shall appear within the next few postings.

Till then, think different.

JV

If

July 7, 2009 2 comments

–by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!


Screw it, Let’s do it

February 15, 2009 Leave a comment
Screw it, Lets do it

Screw it, Let's do it

screw it, let’s do it” by Richard Branson

I came to know about this book from a fav list on a friend’s blog. The title, “let’s do it” part, caught my attention right away and there I go searching it on the web. Found a scribd copy of the book. Downloaded it in the afternoon and could not put it down, it was done by evening. Admittingly the first book ever which I finished from start to end and in such a short time. Apart from the only few other books I ever read full (strt – end). That was more of a disclaimer that I have not been an avid reader, but am observing changes in my reading habits lately. Becoming more n more of a hungry reader, though mostly for technology and entrepreneurism related content.

Now about the book –  the ‘Dr. Yes’ / ‘Mavericks in paradise’ – Richard Branson.

A dyslexic in childhood, ran a popular student magazine, a go getter, a hard worker, a calculated risk taker at most times, a lot lucky at times, ran one of the biggest music company – Virgin music, runs one of the largest airlines – Virgin, crossed the Pacific, Atlantic and world in host air balloons, saving fellow countrymen from being gulf war victims on his own life risk, HAVE FUN ALL THE TIME.

How many live like him? Only a handful I guess.

Rather then talking more and more about it, I will just cite a few paras from the book and let you decide if you want to give it a full read.

On fun, change and moving on.

As soon as something stops being fun, I think
it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be
unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is
not a good way to live.

On people looking to secret keys to success:

I always tell them the same thing. I have no
secret. There are no rules to follow in business.
I just work hard and, as I always have done,
believe I can do it. Most of all, though, I try to
have fun.

On patience and action:

Each time a chance came, we grabbed it.

On people who hate their jobs

If you do still have to work for a boss at a job
you don’t like, as almost everyone does at some
point, don’t moan about it. Have a positive out –
look on life and just get on with it. Work hard
and earn your pay. Enjoy the people you come
into contact with through your job. And if you
are still unhappy, make it instead your goal to
divide your private life from your work life.
Have fun in your own time, you will feel happier
and you’ll enjoy your life and your job more.

On being bold:

One of the things I try to do at Virgin is
make people think about themselves and see
themselves more positively. I firmly believe that
anything is possible. I tell them, ‘Believe in
yourself. You can do it.’
I also say, ‘Be bold but don’t gamble.’

On taking risks and about chasing dreams:

You can take care
and try to avoid the risks, but you can’t protect
yourself all the time. I am sure that luck playas
very large part. It’s easy to give up when things
are hard but I believe we have to keep chasing
our dreams and our goals, as these exciting
people did. And once we decided to do
something, we should never look back, never
regret it.

On challenging yourself.

If you challenge yourself, you will grow.
Your life will change. Your outlook will be
positive. It’s not always easy to reach your goal
but that’s no reason to stop. Never say die. Say
yourself ‘I can do it. I’ll keep on trying until I
win.’

On go-getters:

‘IF YOU WANT MILK, don’t sit on a stool in the
middle of the field in the hope that the cow will
back up you.’ This old saying could have been
one of y mother’s quotes. She would have added,
‘Go on, Ricky. Don’t just sit around. Catch the
cow.’

On keeping your trust alive in people:

We doubled our profits but Virgin shares
started to slip and, for the firs time in my life, I
was depressed. Then there was huge stock-
market crash. Shares dropped fast. It wasn’t my
fault, but I felt that I was letting down all the
people who had bought Virgin shares. Many
were friends and family as well as our staff. But
many were like the couple who had given me
their lifesavings. I made up my mind. I would
buy all the shares back – at the price everyone
had paid for them. I didn’t have to pay that
much, but I didn’t want to let people down. I
personally raised the £182 million needed, but it
was worth it to keep my good name and my
freedom.
The day that Virgin became a private
company again was like landing safely after a
record attempt in a powerboat or a balloon. I felt
nothing but relief. Once again, I was the captain
of my ship and master of my fate.
I believe in myself. I believe in the hands
that work, in the brains that think, and in the
hearts that love.

On balance between work, family and the importance of time

Here we
spend time together as a family. In fact, I am so
aware of how precious time with them is, I ration
myself to only fifteen minutes of business a day
when we’re together. I don’t use modern
gadgets like email or mobile phones, but in
Africa I did learn to use a satellite phone to keep
in touch with the office. Many bosses, who
spend all day in their office, are baffled. They
ask, ‘How can you do it all in just fifteen
minutes?’
I say, ‘It’s easy. Make every second
count.’ That is true in both my business and
personal life.

On unabated thinking

Even today, even when I am relaxing, I
never stop thinking. y brain is working all the
time when I am awake, churning out ideas.
Because virgin is a worldwide company, I find I
need to be awake much of the time. One of the
things I am very good at is catnapping, catching
an hour or two of sleep at a time. Of all the skills
I have learned, that one is vital for me.

On regrets and guilts:

It’s hard to lose out in a business deal, but
harder still to suffer from guilt. We all do things
we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes, they seem like
big mistakes, but later, when they seem like big
mistakes, But later when you look back, they
turn out to be small. Regret, which leads to a
sense of guilt, can give you sleepless nights. But
I believe the past is the past. You can’t change it.
So, even if sometimes you get things wrong,
regrets are wasted and you should move on.

Respect people

I have learned always to respect talent. Even
if someone is hired to do one thing, if they have
good ideas, or can handle something else, just
let them do it. This why I walk around, asking
people’s advice in street, on a plane or on a
train. It’s true what they say – hat the man in
the street often has ore common sense than
many big bosses.

Being polite:

IN THE EARLY DAYS OF VIRGIN MUSIC, I talked to
some Japanese Businessmen. They were very
polite to a young man in sweater and jeans who
had no money. They taught me how important it
was to always keep eyes and ears open and to be
polite. They say that you never know who might
hear or see you. People talk. Gossip has a habit
of getting back to those you gossip about.

Do good, do no harm, make a difference and change the world, even if a little bit:

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, I
watched the thousands of refugees flooding over
the border on the television………[snapped for brevity]

…….if I could get them some blankets. The
desert was very hot during the day and very cold
at night. She said blankets could be rigged up to
give shade during the day and at night people
could roll up in them to keep warm.
‘A few very young children have already
died,’
‘How many blankets do you need?’ I asked.
She said they needed 100,000. ‘We’ve got
only two or three days before hundreds start to
die. It’s urgent, Richard.’
Virgin airline staff got to work, phoning
around. In two day one of our jumbo jets was on
its way to Jordan with 40,000 blankets, tons
of rice and medical supplies. We returned with
British people who had been stranded in
Jordan.

Lastly the most inspiring thought:

A journey of a thousand miles starts with that
first step. If you look ahead to the end, and all
the weary miles between, with all the dangers
you might face, you might never take that first
step. And whatever it is you want to achieve in
life, if you don’t make the effort. You won’t
reach your goal. So take the first step. There
will be many challenges. You might get
knocked back – but in the end, you will make it.
Good Luck!
Richard Branson

Hope you liked the review and by now you are all set to read the stuff.

Enjoy!.

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