I tend to steer clear of controversial/hyperbolic writing mostly because I feel that, for the most part, it’s a cheap way to bring page views to a subject that usually doesn’t need that kind of attention. Of course I’m not immune to this and I’ve posted my share of inflammatory stuff in the past and regrettably it does seem to work. Thankfully I take little joy in it so my forays into that realm are usually either genuine grievances that have driven me to the brink of insanity or the only thing I can think to write about on the day. Don’t worry today isn’t going to be another installment in my rant series but it is going to be about the topic.
The latest PR disaster that I’ve been privy to (apart from that whole Charles Carreon vs The Oatmeal stuff) is the surrounding the upcoming reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Now the series doesn’t have the best reputation for portraying females in the greatest light. I mean sure Lara was one of the few female lead characters back when it was first release but it was painfully obvious that she was a woman designed through a man’s eyes. It didn’t help matters much that her bust size seemed to increase with every game that followed the original release. No the latest outrage comes from the trailer and one PR goon’s unfortunate choice of words.
Watching the trailer in isolation you’d say that the new Tomb Raider takes on the now popular “gritty, realistic” approach to the game experience and focuses on Lara’s origin story rather than just plonking her down on the next tomb that need raiding. There’s one particular scene in there that’s suggestive of what might happen to her when she defies her captures and unfortunately the executive producer Ron Rosenberg referred to it as an attempted rape scene. They back peddled like crazy of course, but that didn’t stop the Internet reacting with a furor that had them calling the game every bad word under the sun, most about how sexist the game is.
Now usually I’ll write this stuff off and leave the Internet to its own business but for some reason this really got to me. In essence all the people reacting to this were going on were a 3 minute trailer (which shows only a tiny fraction of the whole game) and an executive producer’s comments on what the scene meant. Is it really fair then to judge the entire game, the development team and the writers behind the story on these small pieces of information? Personally I don’t think it is as you’re lacking all the context that the game developers will provide to you, context that could very well wash away any concerns you have.
That of course didn’t stop people from throwing all sorts of crazy accusations at them. Whilst some of them were just plain strange like the noises Lara was making were too sexual (really? Did any of them play Uncharted? Because Drake makes pretty similar noises in that and no one thought that was sexual) to legitimate concerns that the writers were using rape as a shock tactic. Honestly if you watch the video without the preconception that “Lara done gonna get raped” it feels like a legitimate part of the story, not a cheap writing tactic used to shock the audience. The whole line that you can only have a strong female character through overcoming adversity like that depicted in the trailer also felt like people making broad generalizations without much thought to all the other strong female leads we’ve had in games leading up to this point.
Thankfully not everyone is taking such umbrage with this whole fiasco and their investigation into the whole thing shows that the netizens who reacted so strongly did so without knowing all the information. All the scenes shown there are Lara’s origin story, showing how she became the fearless Tomb Raider that she was in the previous games. The “rape” scene was anything but poorly written, in fact it’s the turning point where Lara comes into her own. I personally found the trailer be incredibly engaging showing Lara as someone who’s completely out of her element who has to work incredibly hard just to survive. It’s no like this story is unique either so it really feels like a case where the Internet just had to blow something up just for the sake of it.
Really when I look back at all the articles I read, all the ranty comments that I got drawn into I should’ve just taken them for what they are: reactionary sensationalism. For some reason the Internet culture revolves around it, jumping at any opportunity to get riled up or rally behind the cause du jour. I’d love to think we’re past that but when I can find 10 articles jumping on the flame wagon and only 1 presenting a rational case that understands both sides of the argument I have to wonder what this Internet culture has done to the integrity of these supposed media outlets. I probably shouldn’t blame the Internet either as sensationalist reporting isn’t anything new to the medium, but it sure does feel like it happens more often thanks to its always available nature.
I’m a kinda-sorta photography buff, one who’s passion is only restrained by his rigid fiscal sensibility and lack of time to dedicate to taking pictures. Still I find the time to keep up with the technology and I usually find myself getting lost in a sea of lenses, bodies and various lighting rigs at least once a month simply because the tech behind getting good photographs is deeply intriguing. Indeed whenever I see a good photograph on the Internet I’m always fascinated by the process the photographer went through to create it, almost as much as I am when it comes to the tech.
Such a passion is at odds with the recently Facebook acquired app Instagram (or any of those filter picture apps).
To clear the air first yes I have an account on there and yes there are photos on it. To get all meta-hipster on your asses for a second I was totally into Instagram (then known as Burbn) before it was even known as that, back when it was still a potential competitor to my fledgling app. Owing then to my “better get on this bandwagon early” mentality back then I created an account on Instagram and used the service as it was intended: to create faux-artistic photos by taking bad cell phone pictures and then applying a filter to them. My usage of it stopped when I made the switch to Android last year and for a time I was wondering when it would come to my new platform of choice.
It did recently but in that time between then and now I came to realise that there really is nothing in the service that I can identify with. For the vast majority of users it serves as yet another social media platform, one where they can show case their “talent” to a bunch of like minded people (or simply followers from another social media platform following them to the platform du’jour). In reality all that Instagram does is auto-tune bad cell phone pictures, meaning that whilst they might be visually appealing (as auto-tuned songs generally are) they lack any substance thanks to their stock method of creation. The one thing they have going for them is convenience since you always have your phone with you but at the same time that’s why most of the photos on there are of mundane shit that no one really cares about (mine included).
To be fair I guess the issue I have isn’t so much with the Instagram service per say, probably more with the people who use it. When I see things like this guide as to which filter to use (which I’m having a hard time figuring out whether its an elaborate troll or not) I can’t help but feel that the users somehow think that they’ve suddenly become wonderful photographers by virtue of their phone and some filters. Should the prevailing attitude not be the kind of snobbish, hipster-esque douchery that currently rules the Insatgram crowd I might have just ignored the service rather than ranting about it.
From a business point of view the Instagram acquisition by Facebook doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. It’s the epitome of the business style that fuelled the dot com bust back in the early 2000’s: a company with a hell of a lot of social proof but no actual revenue model (apart from getting more investors) gets snapped up by a bigger company looking to either show that it’s still trying to expand (Facebook in this case) or a dying company hoping that it can revive itself through acquisitions. Sure for a potential $100 billion company lavishing 1% of your worth on a hot new startup will seem like peanuts but all they’ve done is buy a cost centre, one that Facebook has said they have no intention of mucking with (good for the users, potentially bad for Facebook’s investors).
Instagram produces nothing of merit and using it does not turn one from a regular person into some kind of artist that can produce things with any merit. Seriously if you want to produce those kinds of pictures and not be a total dick about it go and grab the actual cameras and try to recreate the pictures. If that sounds like too much effort then don’t consider yourself a photographer or an artist, you’re just a kid playing with a photography set and I shall treat the pictures you create as such.
I try to keep things civil here, you know clearly stating my side of the argument, giving a few facts to support my view and address any counterpoints I’ve come across so my argument seems convincing enough to sway people over to my side of thinking. Part of this is keeping my emotions at bay as whilst an impassioned arguments are sometimes amongst the most convincing they’re also the most susceptible to going off the rails and losing track of their greater goal. Today however a couple articles have crossed my desk that have pushed me past the tipping point and I just need to launch some vitriol at some people I think are total ass holes.
As the title suggests, I’m talking about those jerks who are blocking the R18+ rating in Australia.
So apparently this all began a couple days ago when South Australia announced it was going to drop the MA15+ rating in favour of the R18+. This really should have come as no surprise to anyone as they socialized the idea less than three months ago and whilst the public didn’t seem to like the idea (and really I think everyone was over reacting, but that’s to be expected as Australians are fucking whiners at the best of times) I didn’t think it was too bad. Sure it was another half-assed solution to what should be a trivial issue, but at least it would get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Not long after that less-than-shocking announcement came the real rear-ender, the NSW attorney general Greg Smith announced that he’d be abstaining from voting (I hope he fired his photographer for the picture in that article) on the issue citing some political bullshittery:
“We’re not going down a definitive route,” a spokesperson for Smith told GameSpot AU. “More work needs to be done on this issue. We want to wait to see the results of the ALRC [Australian Law Reform Commission] classification review.”
If Smith takes this position at the SCAG meeting on Friday, it will mean the R18+ for games decision will once again be delayed. For an adult classification for games to be introduced, all of Australia’s state, territory, and federal governments must unanimously agree on its implementation.
For starters who the fuck is “we”? If you’re talking about the Australian public we’ve already clearly stated many times (holy shit, is that a link to an Australian government website showing massive public support? Fuck for Smith’s sake I’d hope not) that we’re in favour of it. Hell with the average age of gamers now being over twice the fucking age limit for those games you’d think we’d be able to handle mature content. According to at least one of our esteemed representatives however we’re not and they want to wait for some long review process to complete before they can make a decision, telling us that more work needs to be done (Are you fucking serious bro? You’ve had over 2 years on this).
Wait a second, I remember who was saying we should wait for the the ALRC classification review to finish before making a decision on R18+: the Australian Christian Lobby (and fuck no I’m not linking to their shit, nor the article I found that supports what I just said. Google that shit yourself for proof). They fucking got to you didn’t they Smith, after all the shit that went down in your electorate and in Victoria you’re now scrambling for support in any sector you can get. Gamers are an easy target since this isn’t an election winning or losing issue (or could it? We’re in a minority government and shit like this could swing it) so you side with the ACL to get their support. Really if this is the case shame on you bro, you’d win a whole lot more people over by supporting this than being a dick about it.
His resistance now leaves us in the unenviable position of either having to actually wait for that review (which realistically only needs to be done for a national scheme) or having the states and territories each implement their own. South Australia is already poised to go down the latter route which will only replicate the same awkward situation we have now with pornography and the ACT. Whilst I’m sure the states will love the increased patronage for services like that it’s not a solution that’s beneficial to Australia itself nor its image in the world community. However you might spin this not implementing the R18+ rating is simply going against the wishes of the vast majority of the Australian public, meaning these Senators are not acting with the best interests of the constituents at heart.
I’m just so fucking tired of having this issue being so close to being resolved and then being taken from me that it’s flipped my rage switch. I keep hoping one day that I’ll wake up to the news that our Senator’s actually listened for once, realized that Australia wants this and then looked back on this whole issue and laughed at ourselves for being so backward. Well it’s been over 2 years since I first blogged about this and nothing’s really changed in that time, so I guess I’d better saddle up for another 2 years worth of disappointment and frustration before I can really hope for any fucking progress on this.
I remember way back when I first started trying to create a business for myself that I’d eagerly seek out stories of others who had done the same, looking for trends so that I could replicate their success. There are of course hundreds of these and it didn’t take me long to find a couple examples that mirrored my own experiences. The common thread that I found amongst them all was that overnight success never happens overnight and that more often than not you’ve got a few solid years of working on something before it starts to get traction. That was a revelation in itself for me since I had always ascribed much of the success of these kinds of people to luck or something I had no control over.
Of course over the past 2 years I’ve seen nearly every inspirational story there is to see and read thousands of articles on how to build a successful business. Sure many of them have been helpful but recently I’ve found myself deliberately avoiding any success stories or how I did it articles, finding them to be rather tedious and uninformative. Indeed the vast majority of them are usually a bunch of high level waffle of how they do this or that, with those things usually being one of the industry hype terms of the time. There are of course notable exceptions who attempt to give you real actionable advice but even they fall prey to make things so general as to be useless to anyone.
It feels like I’m suffering from some major inspiration fatigue. Back in the early days these stories of success pushed me to keep on coding on those days when I felt I was being less than useless, knowing that if I kept at it that eventually I’d have something of value to release upon the world. After failing to attract attention both from Y-Combinator and the general public with my Lobaco beta these stories of success started to seem more like the exception than the rule. I fast became disillusioned with all these inspiring tales of how success followed their hard work, instead wanting the real meat of what they did in order to achieve success.
Maybe its more that I’m at a point where I know that there’s the possibility of success out there and hearing about it no longer helps to inspire me to achieve it. Perhaps its the realization that there’s thousands upon thousands of much more talented developers out there working on their own ideas that are much better than my own. In any case I can no longer take comfort in the just the mere idea that success awaits those who put in the effort and will only be content upon its realization.
Or maybe its just a slow news day and I had nothing better to write about, you can be the judge on that one.
Forewarning: This will probably be a rather sad/emo/ranty post so if you want to save yourself 5 minutes reading it, I won’t judge you. But for those who want to hear my thoughts, I thank you.
I rolled over a looked at my alarm clock, it stared back at me with it’s dim orange display reading 7:30 indicating I had woken up 30 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I was pretty awake already by the time I had rolled over but I continued to lay there with my eyes closed enjoying the first night where the temperature in my room was just right. I had packaged up everything the night before so I could make a swift get away in the morning, ensuring that nothing would be left to chance on this fateful day. Today I was to see a space shuttle launch its mighty self into the darkness of space and realise a dream that I had only had for a couple years.
The ground was drenched everywhere with the near constant drizzle that had been coming down since the day before. I was hopeful though since the sky was mostly clear with only a hint of clouds on the horizon. If the launch was going to be cancelled by weather it would have to be a rather sudden occurrence and in my research the night before the KSC Visitor Complex had still stated that the launch was still on for today, bolstering my hopes that everything would be ok. I set about driving out there with the instructions I had taken down off my computer before I left, the excitement started to build with every mile that I got closer to the KSC.
Something didn’t feel right however. In the documentation I had with me from NASA they stated that the entire island would be closed off to anyone who didn’t have a vehicle placard but there were many people right behind me who weren’t displaying theirs. In fact none of them were but I wrote it off, thinking that the blockades would come somewhere further down the line. Then I saw it, the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex with mock ups of all of the kinds of rockets that NASA used for its manned exploration missions. The site was impressive but those uneasy feelings just weren’t going away, I still hadn’t seen any form of a blockade. Then it hit me.
A sign read “Discovery is scheduled to launch Thursday, November 4 3:52PM”.
At first I simply ignored it, thinking that they had just gotten the date wrong. To prove to myself that I wasn’t seeing things I drove past it again, the same fateful message scrolling across the red LED screen. Suddenly I felt an ache spreading across my entire upper body, a pain that came from no where and took away my ability to focus on anything else. I drove back into the parking lot and idly looked at the launch pack I had received from NASA all those months ago. Throwing it aside I drove out of there not wanting to be near the place that had done me any wrong. I drove just up the road and turned around again, going back for no particular reason. After wallowing in this state for a while I resolved myself to finding out why this happened and promptly headed for Cocoa Beach.
I came across a McDonalds long before I hit my destination so I pulled in and hit up their free wifi. The articles I found on the various sites confirmed that it had been delayed due various minor reasons, but enough to have them push the flight back a day. It was no comfort but by this time I had resolved myself to at least see the visitor centre, salvaging what I could from these dim prospects. I headed back over there and put on my best game face, hiding the torment I was feeling from having so many months of planning and time away from my beloved wife to all be for nothing. I got right up to the ticket booth when I froze, I just couldn’t go in there. I was meant to be visiting this place as something special, a part of a larger experience of immersing myself in the reality that is pinnacle of human spaceflight. With that taken away from me all I saw was a tourist trap, a place that would bilk money away from people giving them little in return. I couldn’t stand being near all those people there either, I had to get away.
I found solitude in another McDonald’s back in Orlando. I sat there for a while eating my lunch, drinking the iced tea and trying to console myself with my social networks. It didn’t work, all I could think about was the experience that had been taken from me, the almost 2 weeks I spent by myself here in Florida with only a tenuous connection to those who I really wanted to share it with. Driving around for a while I eventually found a shady place where I could sit down to read and I did so for the next 4 hours, until I was able to check into my hotel for the night.
It took me a while to come to terms with the emotions I was feeling, having not been like this for the better part of a decade. You see for most of my teenage life I was depressed, although I didn’t really figure it was a problem since, as far as I knew, that’s how I always felt. Today being ripped from the heights of elation to those dark depths shocked me in ways I didn’t think were possible anymore. I had thought myself above these emotions, completely able to control myself in any situation that was thrown at me. This proved however that I am in no way capable of that, especially when ramming my rental car into the raised draw bridge seemed like a good idea, in some messed up way that I told myself was logical.
Whilst writing this post has brought some of those emotions back to the surface I simply had to write it. Sure I could’ve made a footnote in an otherwise regular post that I was somewhat disappointed with what happened and glossed over the whole emotional roller-coaster, but that’s not what happened. Today was all about having a dream ripped from you by no means you could have controlled. I weighed up the possibility of ringing my travel agent, rebooking all the shit and trying for just one more day but unfortunately the damage was done. My hail mary was done a couple days ago when I was certain that it would only be delayed one more day. To attempt to reschedule again without the certainty of the launch happening opens myself up to a world of hurt that I’m not quite ready to deal with just yet. It’s the reverse of the beaten wife’s syndrome, I’ve been hit once and I don’t have any inclination to stick around to see if he comes good or if he will just hit me again.
Tomorrow I’ll leave this forsaken place behind me and hopefully I can soon forget this black mark on what had otherwise been a good holiday thus far. I have no idea what’s in store for me in Canada but it wouldn’t have to be much to beat the shit of a day I’ve lived through. For those of you that read this far just let me say thank you once again. You’re the people I enjoy writing to since you’re more than just a pageview, you actually care about what I have to say.
This blog is one of the first things I have to get done in the morning before I can work on anything else. It’s a strange habit I developed over a year ago when I found myself with quite a few things to write about and decided that I’d slog through them at one idea per day until I ran out of material. Today, whilst my blog posts are longer and generally a lot more thought out, the core idea behind them doesn’t seem to come as easily as it once did. This very post had me scrounging around for a couple hours to find something to write on until it finally dawned on me.
You see this blog is a kind of artificial barrier to me achieving any goals that I might have set forth for the day. There’s really no compelling reason for me to do this before anything else other than for the joy of it or the small hope of Internet fame. Realistically if I didn’t write a post today nothing bad would happen apart from me disappointing a few of my lunchtime readers and the hit count going down for a day. Still I’ve managed to convince myself time and time again that until the post is written, proof read and scheduled I can’t get any meaningful work done as it will sit at the back of my head, constantly nagging away at me until I cave into it.
The concept of artificial barriers isn’t new to me either, as it’s something that I’ve dealt with in many different aspects of my life. Pretty much any endeavor I’ve undertaken has usually come to a point I see myself thinking “If only I had that piece of equipment” or “If only I could do X” and use that as an excuse to shelve a project completely. The barriers themselves really didn’t exist and they were merely an excuse to placate my own inadequacies rather than dealing with them the hard way (I.E. working with what I’ve got). Over time I’ve gotten better at identifying the times when I’m engaging in these games of mental gymnastics with myself, but that hasn’t seen me drop the habit entirely.
It all came to a head last night when I was eying off the new MacBook Pro models that Apple has released. I’ve long said that it would probably be my next laptop as I need a mac machine to do the iPhone development work I have planned plus I have plans to do a bit of travel in the coming months, and something relatively portable with a bit of grunt would fit the bill nicely. Still in the last month though the amount of development work I’ve done would total about 4 hours or so, as I’ve spent the better parts of my weekend playing games and generally avoiding spending any of my free time working. In the back of my head though the excuse has always been “I need to start coding the handset application now” which leads me down a spiral of analysis ultimately ending with “I’ve got an iPhone, I should do that first”. Buying the MacBook rubs up against the fiscally responsible side of me who tells me I don’t really need the device, and hence we arrive at yet another artificial barrier to me progressing towards my goals (I could quite easily just code up a Windows Mobile version to get the infrastructure in).
I’ve picked on people in the past for doing this as well because really you have no excuse apart from some internal desire that’s manifested itself as this artificial barrier. Primarily I see this when people tell me they’re not happy where they’re working but once you dig a little deeper you find that they are quite comfortable where they are, and the idea of facing the unknown is far more scary than dealing with their current set of issues. For my current artificial barriers it would seem to come from a deep rooted belief that all the work I do is crap, and I shouldn’t bother with it anyway. This could also be because I just scrapped the last 2 months worth of work after talking to someone who’s in the industry (and gave me great insight without even knowing it) and I’m faced with yet another giant wall to overcome, but again it’s not the barrier I’m making myself think it is.
If you’ve managed to get this far into this post let me just say thank you. Whilst this blog is almost entirely self serving (in the fact that I’m really doing this all for myself, although I like to think I’m producing something of worth) this blog post is my way with dealing with the current climate of change that’s surrounding my life. I’ve had quite a hectic month and it doesn’t look like it’s going to settle down anytime soon. Hopefully though once everything settles down I’ll be able to rekindle my passion for starting my own company and bring something to the world that will really be of some worth. There’s nothing more therapeutic for me than making my own weaknesses public as, for some strange reason, it motivates me to work on them. Maybe I’m just some kind of weird exhibitionist in that way… 😉
Before I turn the tempreature up on this post from typical Australian barbeque to Tokamak burning plasma let me get this out of the way: this isn’t targetted at all fans of Apple or users of their products. There’s a good place to be had for the tech that they pump out and I’ve gladly recommended Apple products for people who desire functionality yet can’t/won’t deal with the nuances of other (possibly better) products available. More this is aimed at those who brandish themselves as tech savvy people who have devoted themselves to the church of Steve Jobs and all his wonderous gadgets. You people have no love for tech at all, and I’m going to tell you why.
Apple as a company prides itself on being an innovator and in some aspects that’s true. Their minimalistic design principals coupled with a dedication to user experience has produced some pretty innovative interfaces. OSX, whilst still being a relatively decent OS for those who, has contributed immensly to the world of open source (at it’s heart its a BSD variant) and is a good choice for the creative amongst us. From a technology point of view however Apple is far from an innovator and they are in fact scared to do anything that might sour their reputation for appearing to be revolutionary. Consequently their portfolio of work, whilst firmly rooted in good fundamentals, smacks of a company scared to be a real technological innovator.
To get my point you have to push past their big ticket items and look at the very few examples where Apple tried to innovate and failed. Take for instance their Apple Xserve line of products, which is squarely aimed at the enterprise. Now before you go off thinking I’ve just Googled some of their lesser known products to bad mouth I’ll have you know I administered a stack of their RAID arrays back when I was working for the National Archives of Australia. Apple got their foot in the door at a trade show that one of my colleagues attended and we bought 3 trays of disc. Unbeknowst to him they were really only good as large external hard drives since they had no intelligence in them whatsoever. To enable technology that was on par with the EMC array we had bought we would have to purchase at least 2 more Apple Xserves plus additional software. For a company that was supposed to be innovative they produced a solution that was kind to call a joke and we sent them on their way promptly.
That’s not the only product they’ve brought to fruition that they’ve decided to keep on the down low. Their Apple TV range, if you ask any of their executives, is still a hobby for Apple. As such you’d think they’d take risks in trying to develop new products for it but the Apple TV remains the same as it was 2 years ago. Even back then it was struggling to keep up with its competitors in terms of features only adding things in after they had been field tested by others. Any innovator would be the first to push a new feature to its users but Apple, even with its massive amount of resources, failed to provide even simple things for the AppleTV before its competitors.
I’d probably let this all slide if it weren’t for the latest round of diatribe that Jobs keeps spouting about the iPad and it being “magical“. Now I don’t feel so bad every time I refer to the Apple fanatics as a cult as really, who calls an overgrown iPod touch magical. It’s nothing of the sort and it’s just more indoctrination rhetoric from a man who is the physical manifestation of the term hipster(bloody hell even the wikipedia link is pretentious). It’s those kind of people who sit in extoll themselves as bastions of technological know how because they’ve chosen the superior device of Apple. I hate to break it to you kid but if you think anything from Apple is the be all and end all of technology you’ll be firmly stuck at least 5 years in the past whilst Apple tries to figure out how to implement something that came out 3 years ago (I mean seriously, how could you not put MMS in the iPhone until the middle of last year).
Now I’m not against you buying and enjoying Apple products, far from it. They have their place and I’ve gone on record saying they’ve made the best mobile phone I’ve had to date. However should you ever come and talk to me about how much you love tech and only ever cite Apple products I will promptly tear you a new one and burn your blue jeans and turtle neck in a bonfire topped with an effigey of the almight Jobs himself. Apple is not a technical innovator because if they were they would be taking massive risks with their brand and in all honesty, that’s the only thing they’ve got going for them. Apple without its marketing department would just be an over priced version of Dell.
Oh and if you’re looking for anyone to blame for this rant, check these idiots out. I think I vomited a little when I saw that site.
So you’re a large company or government organisation with a decently sized IT department. Everything is running smoothly as far as you can tell but there’s something missing. You can’t quite put your finger on it but there’s just no “buzz” or “synergy” or any of those other words you heard other middle managers use at that conference you went to last week. You can’t let this go on too long or something terrible will happen, so what can you do?
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Reading the passage above you may be lead to believe that I’ve gone completely bonkers after an incident at work. You’d be right to since I’m here at work on Australia Day thinking up a plan of action for something vaguely approaching what I described above. Sure I was probably going to be in here anyway but I was going to get a lot of work done that was really quite interesting and fun. Instead I’m now going to be spending the next 3 weeks unravelling yet another mess of what can only be described as fire-fighter¹ architecture. I’m beginning to question how sane I was taking the extension in the first place.
Sure there are benefits to doing something like this as I’ll be learning a bit of tech that I’ve only dipped my toes into previously. Still when I get given something like that I don’t like having to dive in head first into it without the proper information which is, of course, no where to be found. I’ve never left a workplace without documenting all the inane crap I did to make sure someone else doesn’t end up in this situation. It seems more and more I’m amongst a minority in this case.
I was decidedly more livid about this whole situation yesterday when trying to voice my concerns (and possible solutions) and having them fall on deaf ears. Today however I’ve decided to isolate what I can and can’t do and start hacking away at it. If this bit of work is going to be my downfall I’ll go down swinging, but I would’ve still preferred to have not been put in this situation in the first place.
So ends this little foray into crazy rant world. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging and we can all put this behind us.
That or I’ll find those 10 steps above on a management website and I’ll just have to give up on the IT industry completely 😉
¹I use this term to describe something that arose out of an immediate problem. One example I was unfortunately responsible for was copying files from a Unix share to Windows. The program that needed the files couldn’t read the share directly, no matter what we or the vendor tried. So I made a script that copied them from the Unix system to a Windows share. This of course was a band aid solution on a much bigger issue and of course anytime the system broke down they instantly blamed it. I put out the fire with a quick solution, but it became a critical part of the architecture.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in those team building workshops you’ve probably already heard the saying “The camel was the horse designed by committee“. This is even more true when working in government departments where the tendency for people to rise to their level of incompetence with almost clockwork consistency. I have spent all today in one such session (hence the late post) and I can say that without a doubt it was one of the most confusing and pointless exercises I’ve ever been through.
I can easily understand upper management’s vision of trying to make our section more sociable with each other. Its nice to have a work environment were everyone is friends with each other and sure there can be tangible benefits to the organisation in terms of productivity. What I don’t understand is the need to try and force this upon everyone, especially those who have a tendency to you know, not typically socialise that well (yes I’m stereotyping IT workers, but seriously, it’s true most of the time). It’s not that I hate everyone where I work, far from it. I find the majority of them very easy to get along with and I’ve yet to rub anyone the wrong way. Still they’re completely different people to me, most of them in their 30s with kids and have completely different interests to me. Sure there’s some common things but in the majority I’m sure they’re not particularly interested in hanging out with me after work. There’s nothing wrong with this either and if I bump into them while I’m out I’ll be sure to strike up a good conversation with them. But I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that everyone I work with is one of my friends.
And then came the camel designing. There had been a survey sent around some time ago (I think it was before my time) in which they looked for what they did well and what they didn’t. Of course this was an inherently bad idea since one thing that someone believes the organisation does well someone else will refute. So whilst there were some main themes that could be discerned it appeared for many things that we managed to do them both well and badly all at the same time. We started to drift into camel territory quickly when it came time to design some solutions to the problems people had alluded to in the surveys. The themes we had identified earlier were in no way solved by the solutions proposed. Instead there were several agenda pushers who obviously had some goal in mind and directed the group in such a way so that it appeared that the solutions would help, but in reality they did nothing to solve the underlying issues.
I gave up after my idea of having an open forum (to give everyone a voice, not just the senior management) took 10 minutes to explain and was still misinterpreted. I’m more than happy to watch them writhe in their own web of problems.
The problem with the whole process was that it was done with the illusion of giving everyone the opportunity to shape the future of the section, when in fact that power was robbed from them because of the process. The aggregation of results, which were then separated into 6 categories for analysis by each individual team, meant that the power shifted from the survey results to their interpreters. Couple this with the tyranny of majority and any power granted to the individual originally evaporates. They then took a vote from everyone to prioritize these objectives without considering that some of them were already in motion and others overlapped each other (I.E. one was to develop a section wide projects group and the other was to develop a projects pipeline. Realistically the latter should be part of the former). In essence I saw what people thought was a democratic process die a slow painful death right before my eyes.
I’ve never really been a fan of these junkets and this one was no exception. As a contractor who has little power over the direction of an organisation usually being forced to attend something where I had absolutely no power was a pointless waste of time and tax payer dollars. I’ll happily eat my words if they implement 50% of the things they mentioned and they provide some tangible benefit. My guess is that one or the other will happen, not both.
Sure you could also write this all off as me being bitter about having no power to control the direction of the agency I’m working for, and that’s a valid point. I’m not really a fan of going through a process to give me the illusion that I have some power when I know I don’t. The whole process could have easily omitted contractors such as myself who should really not be involved in such things. We’re meant to be hired to fill a temporary gap in skills or to spread the workload so that project work can be completed. In typical Australian government fashion were far from it, with us being treated like permanent employees with the only difference being that our pay comes from a different bucket of money (oh and less HR overheads).
The lack of control doesn’t really bother me. Being told I have influence when I know I don’t does give me the irrates though.
End of rant.