OKAY | Why the status quo is so hard to change in engineering teams

Before we talk about how to prevent it, let’s see how learned helplessness can happen in a development team. There are 2 main patterns:

Pattern #1: Process-related Learned Helplessness

In this case, the team needs to follow processes that have either been externally imposed, or internally imposed but no-one remembers exactly why.

Pattern #2: Complexity-related Learned Helplessness

In this other case, the source of powerlessness is sheer scale and/or complexity. There is truly no-one who understands the emergent behavior of the system.

Source: OKAY | Why the status quo is so hard to change in engineering teams

So I’m currently reading the book Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman, which just so happens to be the seminal psychological work which teaches people how to combat learned helplessness. I’ll skip trying to give a primer on the process, but the one key that I need to talk about here is that you have to be objective in finding explanations for negative things in your life. Pessimists generally blame themselves for everything, and we all know that’s not fair. Even pessimists wouldn’t blame other people for their own problems when it’s obvious that they aren’t, but they will happily continue to blame themselves for problems that they know they are not responsible for.

People often think I’m a pessimist, but I’m not. I’m objective. I’m so objective that it’s almost a superpower. In that objectivity, I often realize that I am the source of the problem. That may appear to others that I’m a pessimist. However, I’m not afraid of calling a spade a spade, and pointing out that a problem is someone else’s fault, either. And I’m about to explain how this whole topic of discussion is, in fact, someone else’s fault, it’s systemic, and it’s not going to change.

The quoted article found its way to “Hacker” “News,” but you have to understand that this is a blog post from a company which sells software that purports to solve these problems for teams of programmers. I say, “hogwash.”

Every one of the problems listed in the article is the result of bad management.

Period. There’s no getting around it, and there’s no sugar coating it. In the vein of the article, “there are 2 main patterns” why.

First, in our modern feudalism of corporations, the low-level managers are like barons, the middle managers are like earls, upper managers are like dukes, and the C-levels are like princes. Everything flows from the top down. Everyone is playing political intrigue for more power, in the only terms that the corporate structure can understand and deal with: budget and headcount. No one will deal with fixing a problem if it doesn’t directly contribute to their standing with their peers or superiors, and problems with software build systems, infrastructure, or technical debt are simply invisible to anyone not dealing with it directly.

Second, the days of building a company to last 100+ years is gone. J. Irwin Miller built Cummins into a world-spanning empire, and then retired. Then the company started implementing all the trendy business-school ideas, and was getting run into the ground. Miller came out of retirement and righted the ship, and then retired again. Those days of people caring about a company like this are gone. Everyone is out to “get theirs,” and then hit the brcks. Everyone knows this, but we still like to pretend that anyone in the bridge cares if the company actually survives in its efforts to make the next $100M.

From HR systems to compensation to benefits, companies are deeply, deeply afflicted with myopic vision. It’s driven from the very top, where every decision of significance is made in view of the almighty stock price. Corporate boards encourage this behavior by tying executive pay to stock options. For decades now, we’ve watched big companies sacrifice long-term performance for short-term gains, because it will net the corporate officers tens of millions of dollars in stock grants. If there’s any hope in this situation, it’s that most of the excess capacity in corporate America has already been wrung out (q.v., the recent supply chain issues), and there’s nothing left to pillage, either internally, or by corporate raiding. (The play now is to merge to form effective monopolies and duopolies, and extract all the profit from your market, but that’s another topic.)

When you combine a lack of visibility with a lack of vision, you get an appalling lack of concern for issues that the rank-and-file serfs deal with.

The fact that issues that programming teams deal with are highly-technical doesn’t matter at all. In fact, it works against them, because fixes are more expensive than in other teams. Say, like buying yet another web service, on top of all the others you already subscribe to, in order to apply metrics to problems that management will never fix, because they neither understand nor care.

There are a lot of examples I could write about here, but one stands out. I know of a person who was briefly involved with an effort to quantify the development process for his Fortune 150-sized company, much like the linked article. When he talked with a knowledgable insider about the system, it was one shocking revelation after another. The system was down more often than it was up. There was no way to estimate how long a build would take. There was no way to check on the current load of the system. There was no way to check on jobs, other than to log into a remote machine and tail a log file. The system wouldn’t even send out an email at the end of the build to indicate success or failure, because it would show how badly the whole thing performed.

So a “baron” in another group got the bright idea that they would oversee the writing of a dashboard to overlay metrics on the process, so that the “earl” who was responsible for it could “see what parts to focus on.” Let that sink in… Do you see the problem here? This manager thought that he would be allowed access to the various running processes of the system, to quantify, graph, and display them — like, on the shared screens in common spaces — when the owner of the system wouldn’t even allow emails about the success or failures of builds to be sent out, which is the most basic of all metrics, and which would have required only a single checkbox to be ticked. The mere idea of this project was so hopeless as to border on insanity.

The people responsible for the system already knew about its problems. They didn’t need metrics. They didn’t care! Whether that was from a lack of budget or a lack of headcount or a lack of technical ability or a lack of communication with other teams… none of that mattered. The people responsible for the system weren’t willing to spend their political capital to fix the problems of the system. And whether that lack of will came from their own political ambitions or a lack of understanding or a lack of vision… none of that mattered either.

The article talks about why developers get frustrated, and proposes that metrics will fix it. Their system won’t help, because, in most companies, it’s not about a lack of metrics. It’s a lack of will, motivated by personal ambition, gamed by incentivizing short-term productivity. As a developer in a group like this, you can blame yourself, or you can look for opportunities internally, or you can take your show to a different stage. All of those responses are in the HN thread about the article. We all have to find our own balance points between our predilections and our companies’.

As a developer, you can alter your internal “explanatory style” to move the blame for the problems you have to deal with to systems or software or people, but all of that misses the real point.

In post-modern, Fortune-sized, American corporations, the problem is management, and all management starts from the top. The corporate officers set the leadership paradigm the rest of the company will adopt, and they are being strongly incentivized against long-term investment in tooling and process. This mindset trickles all the way down to the bottom. If there are problems with “getting stuff out the door,” they will almost always hire more people, because that’s almost always the easier and cheaper solution than retooling an entire department with new software and process. And then, every 5-10 years or so, they will bury their failure to address actual productivity problems with yet another “reorg” or sweeping IT platform change.

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End

I have a simple question for every ‘expert’ who thinks they understand the root causes of the shipping crisis:

Why is there only one crane for every 50–100 trucks at every port in America?

No ‘expert’ will answer this question.

I’m a Class A truck driver with experience in nearly every aspect of freight. My experience in the trucking industry of 20 years tells me that nothing is going to change in the shipping industry.

Source: I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End

This is the other half of the port problem itself.

Both of these stories talk all around the issue, but if you read between the lines, you can see the root problem, which I’ve been trying to explain for awhile now.

It is the business plan of every VC-funded startup today to buy their way into a market, use their funding to underprice everyone else out of it, come to monopolize it, and then extract all the profit from it going forward. (Or dualopolize, and collude with another heavy weight. Looking at you Verizon and AT&T.) Everyone else has learned the new playbook, and the US is experiencing runaway consolidation and monopolization in every market sector.

You can see the after-effects of this approach right now in New York. Uber has “won,” and the cab business is now in the toilet. The incumbent hegemony has been overthrown, and medallions (cab “licenses”) are now worth 1/5th what they were a couple years ago. Naturally, the state is proposing relief for cab companies, but it doesn’t give much relief to individual owners, and many of them are on hunger strike for more help.

We say that the United States has a capitalist economic system, but every business since the Reagan 80’s has concentrated its efforts to accrete as much power as possible, and use it to bully current competitors, and prevent new entrants into the market. This has resulted in our current situation where 2 or 3 companies control virtually everything about any particular market you can point to. The classic examples are food and entertainment/news. And when any large-enough business gets in trouble, the government is Johnny-on-the-spot to come rushing in with a bailout. So much for taking risks being the operative balance to getting to enjoy the profits.

The excess capacity of every link of every supply chain in the country has been liquidated for short-term profit over the past decade, and then COVID happened. And, very naturally, as predicted perfectly by the corporate model, the companies which have their respective leash on the various parts of this problem are yanking on them, to try to extract more profit from “the market.” Except that we, the average citizen, are “the market” here, and that’s why we’re seeing people start talking about inflation. It’s coming, and it’s inevitable, because the US has “free market capitalism” in name only now. Between the bailouts, and with as much involvement as Congress has “regulating” every market and industry now, it’s hard not to call our system a planned economy, which, of course, is the classic euphemism for Communism.

M1 Max Chip May Have More Raw GPU Performance Than a PlayStation 5

Source: M1 Max Chip May Have More Raw GPU Performance Than a PlayStation 5

So what?

Back in 2019, I was starting to think about an upgrade to my 2014 MBP, which is a darn-near perfect machine. (My son has it now.) However, I didn’t want a TouchBar, nor to put up with a lack of a physical ESC key. There was never a “killer app” for the TB to make it interesting, and I use ESC extensively when running vim. So I thought I’d just wait, and see what the next generation would bring.

But then my wife started saying that we probably had the money for me to upgrade, and I don’t need to be told twice. When your wife is open to you making a major purchase, you do it, even if you’re not quite ready. So I bought a 2019 with an i9, 32 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and a Vega 20, hoping beyond hope that it would play some AAA games passably well. The total was $4,000.

The only thing I was really playing on the PC at the time was Civilization V. It played it about as well as my old PC, so I just kept playing it on there, to keep the heat load off the MBP.

Then I started playing Elder Scrolls Online, so I tried it on my Mac. It stutters every few seconds, like it’s texture thrashing, and I thought, well, Bethesda just didn’t optimize it for the Vega, and that’s too bad. But then I saw it running on a friend’s 2020 MBP, with only integrated graphics, and it runs… pretty well, actually! So I spent an extra $750 upgrading to the best GPU I could get, and it actually made gaming on the Mac worse for me. So I continue to play ESO on a twelve-year-old PC with an Athlon64 and a nVidia 9xx-series GPU. The fact that this rig plays the game pretty well only adds salt to the wound that my expensive MBP basically can’t play it at all.

The new MacBook Pro’s look perfect, and base models start out about half the price of this one. Ouch. If I had just waited a couple of years, and given up on the stupid idea that gaming on a Mac is ever going to be a thing, I’d be in computing nirvana now.

Whatever “power” they may put in the thing, I just don’t see gaming companies supporting it. Bethesda has already said that will not be porting ESO to M1. This isn’t surprising. I mean, there were only a handful of AAA titles ported to Mac when they were running Intel CPU’s and AMD GPU’s. Now that both halves of the whole are completely different architectures than their PC brethren, I don’t see any gaming companies making the effort.

Mac for programming. Playstation for gaming. Windows for ESO. God, I wish I could cut Windows completely out of my life. I’ve been tempted to move to PS for ESO, but I can’t give up my investment, and I couldn’t live without a whole slew of mods I rely on. I started playing ESO again because I’ve been shut in with health problems for a long time. Once I get better, if I would stop playing ESO again, I could put the PC back in the closet.

P.S. It’s so great to see Apple responding to clamorous and sustained criticisms of their MBP hardware from power users in places like Hacker News. (Including last night’s update to the Monterey public beta, which restores proper tabs in Safari.) It gives me hope that the platform will continue to be a good one for developers, and not be morphed into a mobile-like experience.

P.P.S. World of Warcraft has been ported to native M1. Maybe I should just switch MMO’s. I wonder what New Worlds’ situation is… Oh. Bootcamp. Nevermind. I didn’t buy a Mac to run Windows. I dual booted my PC’s between Linux for work and Windows for gaming for decades. No more. I think you should just buy a PC laptop if you’re going to do that.

Netflix can’t shake Chappelle controversy | TheHill

Netflix can’t seem to close the door on “The Closer,” with the streaming giant only further inflaming controversy with its defense of Dave Chappelle’s mocking of the transgender community in his latest comedy special.

Source: Netflix can’t shake Chappelle controversy | TheHill

This article is a pristine example of what’s wrong with “internet” “news,” and why we, as a society, are so fractured and antagonistic towards each other.

  1. A Netflix co-CEO has responded to the backlash, and, frankly, was unequivocal about their position. The only reason they could be described as not being able to “shake” the controversy is because someone with an axe to grind at The Hill says so in an article designed to… incite more controversy. All links in the article refer back to… more articles at The Hill, and this article adds no new developments to the story.
  2. I watched the special. I worked through the language, and watched it till the end. There are some pointed opinions about gender expressed, which I can understand some people would take umbrage with, in particular. However, what cannot be misconstrued — unless you are specifically trying to misconstrue it — is that the overall message of the special — the entire point of it, in fact — is one of unequivocal support for human beings, no matter what social tribe they identify with. (Except if they’re white, which I actually appreciate in the context of his oeuvre.)

Towards the end, Chappelle makes one of the most compelling and compassionate statements about the modern human condition that I’ve ever heard anyone make, and I have a real problem with people who can’t see past their own prejudices to hear it. Anyone coming away from watching the show with any message other than love towards any minority is purposely trying to leverage selected quotes to gin up hatred towards Chappelle, and cash in on the resulting clicks. In my opinion, this sort of behavior is literally strangling society as we have known it up till now.

UPDATE: Hold up.

“I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting,” Ted Sarandos said in an interview.

Source: Netflix Co-CEO Says He ‘Screwed Up’ When Defending Dave Chappelle Special

$10 says they pull the special within a month. Now that the people decrying the program have seen that they can draw blood in the form of an apology for the reaction to the reaction, they will double down on getting the episode removed from the service.

Ruby on rails : problem of verifiying the SSL certificate while installing bundle

I’m new with ruby on rails and while creating my first project with this command rails new n_project, i got this error

run bundle installFetching source index from https://rubygems.org/ Retrying fetcher due to error (2/4): Bundler::Fetcher::CertificateFailureError Could not verify the SSL certificate for https://rubygems.org/.
There is a chance you are experiencing a man-in-the-middle attack, but most likely your system doesn't have the CA certificates needed for verification. For information about OpenSSL certificates, see .... To connect without using SSL, edit your Gemfile sources and change 'https' to 'http'.
Retrying fetcher due to error (3/4): Bundler::Fetcher::CertificateFailureError Could not verify the SSL certificate for https://rubygems.org/.
There is a chance you are experiencing a man-in-the-middle attack, but most likely your system doesn't have the CA certificates needed for verification. For information about OpenSSL certificates, see .... To connect without using SSL, edit your Gemfile sources and change 'https' to 'http'.
Retrying fetcher due to error (4/4): Bundler::Fetcher::CertificateFailureError Could not verify the SSL certificate for https://rubygems.org/.
There is a chance you are experiencing a man-in-the-middle attack, but most likely your system doesn't have the CA certificates needed for verification. For information about OpenSSL certificates, see .... To connect without using SSL, edit your Gemfile sources and change 'https' to 'http'.Could not verify the SSL certificate for https://rubygems.org/.
There is a chance you are experiencing a man-in-the-middle attack, but most
likely your system doesn't have the CA certificates needed for verification. For
information about OpenSSL certificates, see ...

Source: Ruby on rails : problem of verifiying the SSL certificate while installing bundle

I develop software using a pretty varied mix of technologies, including C#, VB, Postgres, SQL Server, and Azure services of all kinds, but mostly Ruby on Rails. After 15 years of using it, I find that it remains one of the most force-multiplying tech stacks in the world. With it, by myself, I can develop software faster than entire teams of outsourced, waterfall-managed, Java/React projects. (And I proven that multiple times.) Not only that, but the future is looking even brighter with Rails 7.

Anyway, I develop software on my personal MacBook Pro, upload it to a git host, and deploy it to a Linux VM on Azure. But my work-supplied laptop is, of course, a bog-standard, boring Dell running Windows. I feel an obligation to be able to use it to do everything I would normally do on my Mac, just in case the hammer falls, and they outlaw the way I work. So, on Windows, I use RubyInstaller. But, thanks to my company’s bog-standard industry practices of using Cisco products to lock down the laptop within an inch of usability, I’ve been unable to do a bundle update for awhile now, getting the error listed above.

I had previously worked around this situation by using CNTLM to tunnel command-line-based HTTP/S requests through my company’s firewall. This was no longer working.

I tried changing my Gemfile to use HTTP, instead of HTTPS. I tried getting gem to ignore SSL errors (and use HTTP sources). None of this worked either.

Yesterday, I had finally had enough of the problem, and decided to work through it. Helpfully, the error message included the fact that I was missing the Cisco Umbrella CA certificate in the certificate chain. Also helpfully, Cisco has a page where you can download their certificates. Also helpfully, I found the linked StackOverflow Q/A. That got me started, and I finally figured out the RubyInstaller people have anticipated this problem, and there’s a proper way of adding a certificate to your chain. This allowed me to get rid of all the hacky workarounds, and now bundler works like I expect it to work on my work laptop.

David Sacks Says Facebook Isn’t the Bad Guy Here

Craft Ventures general partner and former PayPal COO David Sacks tells Emily Chang that, for all the bad rep Facebook has been getting, Facebook should not be uniquely to blame – and that the media, Hollywood, and the fashion industry all create more body image issues for teens and adults than the social network. (Source: Bloomberg)

Source: David Sacks Says Facebook Isn’t the Bad Guy Here

To sum up: The government is trying to do an end-run around the First Amendment, which prevents them from infringing the right to free speech, by getting private companies to do what they can’t do. Of course, we’ve known that for at least a decade now, but it’s interesting to see how they’re actually implementing the idea.

This guy points out that the “Facebook whistleblower” has been working with a Congressional committee for weeks, and the people on that committee are already on record as wanting censorship on social media. If you watch this, don’t be lulled into thinking that he’s excusing Facebook in the first half. He’s just setting up the ultimate point in the second half.

I posted this to Facebook. While I understand that not a lot of people in my circle would be into it, I got ZERO engagement with it. I’m wondering if Facebook didn’t shadowban the post.

We’re Already Past the Point of No Return

From the Left
From the Right

These were literally back-to-back posts on Imgur’s “front page.” The underwritten war of the political class being waged by PAC’s and foreign governments on social media is literally saying the exact same things about each other, and make it seem like they are trying to tip the party balance in this country. It makes no difference.

I also see that ZeroHedge has posted a graph about sharply-increasing inflation, which I’ve been predicting for awhile now. To wit, it’s nearly doubled in just the last 6 months. The supply chain issues in every sector are the problem. They’ve all been strangled for short-term profits for at least a decade, and there’s nothing stopping the continued accretion of power through mergers in every industry.

The oligarchs have taken over this country, and are extracting all the profits from every financial sector. The top 1% own more than half the wealth in the country, and this situation can only get worse, exponentially. The tipping point has been passed. The most galling part of this is that they’ve gotten the rest of us to bicker about which party has doomed us to economic collapse, when they own both of them, top to bottom.

The oligarchs, through their media channels, will tell us that COVID has brought about this inflation, and the looming disaster to follow, but it was their profit taking which has stretched our supply infrastructure so thin that it couldn’t handle a predictable world-wide stress to begin with.

I don’t think the average person can see the utter futility about arguing Right-vs-Left politics when we’re living in a reincarnated feudalistic society, with modern-day versions of kings and lords, and vassals and serfs. Make no mistake: The idea of a democratic republic put forth in the US Constitution is dead and buried. Whatever we have right now, it is no longer a democracy nor a republic. It makes no material difference which “party” controls the government. Everyone in Washington is there to do the bidding of the largest corporations (and their officers) and the richest people (and their business interests), and they will, without fail, defer to them over the common man on every issue.

The reason we haven’t gotten socialized medicine yet is because the people running the largest health insurance companies haven’t figured out how to make even more money in such a system. As soon as they do, we’ll get an American version of the UK’s NHS the very next day.

Give Amazon and Facebook a Seat at the United Nations

Given the scope of their ambitions and our dependence on them, behemoth brands should be treated, and held to account, for what they really are: commercial superpowers.

Source: Give Amazon and Facebook a Seat at the United Nations

Here we go. Calls to take another step towards a grim, cyberpunk dystopian future.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the FBI to mobilize against parents who oppose critical race theory in public schools, citing “threats.”

This belies a larger, underlying problem. School boards were instituted to provide accountability and feedback for what happens in local school systems. If board meetings are descending into threats of violence, then people are feeling frustrated that their concerns are being ignored, and the fundamental problem is that board members are not doing the collective will of the communities they’ve been elected to represent. Whatever else happens, I expect school board elections to get super serious in the next cycle.

House Democrats delay planned vote on $1 trillion infrastructure bill amid dispute between party moderates and liberals – The Washington Post

The decision came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders strained late into the night to try to repair the schisms among their own moderate and liberal ranks, whose distrust of each other turned the public-works bill into a political bargaining chip in a fight over the full array of new spending that Biden seeks.

Source: House Democrats delay planned vote on $1 trillion infrastructure bill amid dispute between party moderates and liberals – The Washington Post

I love how the Post tries to paint Pelosi as some sort of hero, fighting to bring peace and unity to her troubled party. The problem here is that “strained late into the night” is code for calling all the lobbyists who have donated to all the caucus members who are sitting on the fence, and working out deals to balance their votes against public backlash and continued campaign contributions.

Say… Why is it that what lobbyists want and what the public wants are so often at odds?