All change please.

Well well. Here we are in 2011 (those of us that made it – and let’s face it the others wouldn’t be reading this), and lots of things happened. First, I got a new job, back at my old job – which makes me very happy (hopefully made some others happy too, though I guess it maybe also made some others sad). So now I’m pretty much living in the USA and so far enjoying it very much.

What it does mean is that I really don’t have time for much else except doing my job, so I’ve handed over a lot of my old blogging on AVIEN to my good friend David Harley.

I’ve also stepped down from playing with My Silent Wake, which was a pretty difficult decision, but difficulty of arranging rehearsals and little time to practice means that I wouldn’t be able to give it the dedication the band deserves. Happily they seem to have found a good replacement. I’ll still hopefully be able to contribute to recording.

Up and OUT

Well, it’s been quite a while since I did anything with this site or this blog.

Having just completed my Masters degree at UoL, I’ve got a bit more time to do things that aren’t either work or study related. (And, before you ask…though some of you already did…I’m not planning the PhD any time soon – had enough of study for a while).

So, anyway, I’ve now updated, added some links and set up with a nice new header. Observant readers will notice the lovely scarlet A in the header. Yes, this does mean I am ‘out‘ as an Atheist – no surprise for my regular reader. 🙂

The theme is based on the default Kubrick theme, with some custom CSS to remove (well, ok, hide) the header text and make it clickable.

I’m also blogging regularly over at and for people more interested in my security work than my random (and terribly infrequent) musings and mutterings.

Visual Snake Oil diagram!

Here’s a great site that a friend of mine pointed out –

I’ve been pretty interested in the whole homeopathy/alternative medicine debate – Ben Goldacre has written a great book called “Bad Science” on this subject. I’m firmly on the side of the “homeopathy doesn’t work” – in fact, there’s very little real science done in Homeopathy. Alternative remedies are a bit different, there are some natural compounds which when taken in suplement form (not diluted out of existence) do seem to have some beneficial properties in certain cases. The site above shows this off very nicely, so that you can see the difference between the scientifically tested remedies that may have benefit (and therefore are not really counted as ‘alternatives’ – forming as they do part of the collective group of remedies that we can call ‘medicine’) and those that are just snake oil (and therefore aren’t ‘alternatives’ either – they’re just useless).

More than anything, the geek in me just loves the way this visualisation has been put together, and the methodology has applications for all sorts of things – in fact, I’m very tempted to apply it to ranking Anti-virus products – gotta be more interesting than another bar chart.

Stupidity can be fatal

I recently rented a car in the USA, so I’ll use it as an example for the point I want to make, though the phenomenon is by no means exclusive to that car rental company nor the country – in fact, the same thing happened to me in Germany in a car rented from a different company. So, when you’re in a new place, you’re likely to need some way of navigating, and with the wonders of modern technology, a GPS guidance system makes sense. It certainly makes sense from a safety point of view – you avoid having to read paper maps or scribbled instructions from a piece of paper while driving. However, there’s one major FAILure that these systems suffer. Some bureaucrat somewhere has obviously decided that you need to be warned not to operate the system while driving. Great – I can understand that, you should pay attention when you drive, and the fewer distractions the better.
However, when you are actually driving, and you try to operate the GPS system, you then get a pop up screen warning you that you shouldn’t operate it while driving – which you have to click to acknowledge (after trying to read it while driving), and then you have to clear another screen to get to the actual navigation setup. Now, these popups don’t come when you’re stationary. So, when you most need to pay attention; while driving; you actually are distracted more by having to read a complex and annoying set of further instructions which has exactly the opposite effect to the intention. So you spend more time reading the screen and being distracted from your driving – the saftey message is much more likely to kill you than cure you from messing with the GPS, which is sometimes necessary. It seems to me that there’s much more to be gained by popping up the warning when you’re stationary, and if it’s so concerning that you can’t operate it while driving, you simply disable the ability to reprogram it while the car is moving – or just minimize the interference from the system, and allow fast reprogramming.

Leveraging upsell opportunities going forward

I’ve been in some form of management for a long time now – since around 1994. While I don’t think I’m the greatest manager on earth – you’d have to ask previous colleagues of mine about that – I do think that I’ve learned a thing or two.

I get really fed up of seeing ‘Howto’ guides and management manuals that do nothing more than give a bunch of platitudes and little else. So, for want of a better place to do it, I’m going to put down some of my top tips for what I shall call my ‘No Bullshit Guide to Management’.

My first top tip is, don’t bullshit. Ever. People will know. Particularly, the people who work for you and with you will know. This extends to the way you speak to people. No one will be impressed by your astonishing grasp of management speak – though they may be astonished at how impressed you are with it. Note that I’m going to avoid the use of stupid management speak words like ‘facilitate’ or ’empower’. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you can’t say things simply and in clear language, don’t be surprised when things go wrong. If you bullshit, expect to be bullshitted (is that even a word? I guess it’s better than the sort of self aggrandizing nonsense that some managers make up).

Thus endeth the first lesson.

Secondly, don’t patronize or micro-manage. Often, the people working under you will know your job well enough to do it themselves, and they certainly know their own. If you don’t want them to tell you how to do your job (they usually will anyway – or at least, they’ll tell all their colleagues how you should be doing your job – or how they should!), then learn to help them to do their job effectively rather than telling them how to do it. Oh, and actually, it’s not a bad idea to show that you don’t mind if they do tell you how to do your job.There’s nothing particularly special about being a manager. Sadly, big companies in particular suffer for the lack of managers who understand that their role is to help, rather than hinder.

Understanding how people communicate with you is a big part of management. Some people are just unable to express themselves well in stressful situations – i.e. when you are hovering over them or sat in your office. Offer an alternative time or place if things are getting heated or if people start to close down

Don’t turn into a colossal asshole just because you have some power. Having your manager in your title simply means you’ve been given responsibility and can probably handle the extra work involved. It’s not an excuse to become Ming the Merciless and abuse the inferior little creeps working for you. If you do, you are abusing the responsibility you have been given, and you’re not going to be able to do your job well. Bad managers produce bad working environments and people get pissed off and either sabotage your projects or leave.

Learn from your mistakes, and more importantly, the mistakes of your managers. I have learnt a tremendous amount from other managers, good and bad. One trait of good managers is that they know when they are wrong, they take the responsibility and they work to fix it. One trait of bad managers is to pass the buck and blame others for mistakes.

Keep meetings short. No one wants to hear you drone on about how great this project is going to be or how the latest company incentive is going to add so much to productivity. Give praise where it’s due, say what needs to be said, and get out.

Satisfying your staff is often more important than satisfying your managers.

Be open. Listen. Collaborate. Wear sunscreen. Over and out.

Change we can believe in.

Today we awoke to a world significantly different than the world of yesterday. Today we awoke to a world where the USA finaly came of age. Discarding the uncomfortable past of its childhood, and with it the destructive policies and ideals of its tantrum ridden teenage years, the USA showed that it is ready for change by electing a man of mixed race, with an odd name, a muslim father from an african county and an obvious intelligence sadly lacking in certain past incumbents. I realise that there is much to be done, and no miracles will be forthcoming, but one thing has been given back to the people of the USA, and perhaps to the wider world – hope for the future, and that in itself is a miraculous gift.

As I watched Barack Obama make his declaration speech, I could see that hope rise in the eyes of those watching, and felt it within myself. He no messiah, and indeed, a messiah is not what is needed, but what is needed is a man who is prepared to be the change he wishes to see in the world. There are challeges ahead; his will not be an easy road, but with hope in our hearts, we awoke to a different world. For at least today, there is change I can believe in. Yes…we can.