20 December 2009

No One Likes to be Managed - What's Next?

Management is destined to be skewered by the shish kabob of self-starting, self-organization.

That no one likes to be managed isn't a notion, rather it is a thesis supported by data. To test this assertion, take note of the search phrases Google suggests when you enter the phrase
my manager is a
Bully, idiot, jerk, and control freak are what Google suggests. Google's suggestions are tallied and ranked based on the terms most commonly searched by your co-workers (and your direct reports).

From the flaming grill of my corporate-vagabond experience, my unsubstantiated notions are:
  • Humans are largely a self-organizing species;
  • Some humans are doers;
  • Some humans are controllers;
  • Doers get stuff done;
  • Controllers are counter-productive; and it's
  • Better to be a facilitator or coach than a controller
The groups I work with day-to-day (i.e., independent contractors, employees, and consultants) cringe at the first sniff of scripted ceremony, retrospective platitudes, or condescending praise. Scripted ceremony, retrospective platitudes, and condescending praise are deep-seated in the DNA of the controller's marbled fat.

If my livelihood was based on controlling rather than doing, I would be concerned about my economic viability. If you're a facilitator, road-block clearer, or a coach, you've nothing to worry about. But, pure controllers are the excess fat to be trimmed in coming years.

What's Next?

Year's end, predictably, fertilizes scads of predictions. I take all predictions with a grain of salt. That said, I can't stop from making some forecasting about the workplace.
The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears. ~Bill Vaughn
Following are my predictions for the decade of the 2010s
  • The 2010s are for self-starters, self-organizers, and the self-employed. 
  • The 2010s will see the growth of online professional communities. Professional communities will replace labor unions, providing economies of scale for group services and rates (collective bargaining) heretofore available only to large organizations. These communities will be networks of people brought together online and focused on professional interests (e.g.,  I moderate two professional groups on LinkedIn, Twin Cities Software Consultants and Agile .Net Practitioners. These groups have grown steadily in 2009 to 615 local members for Twin Cities Software Consultants  and 1,626 worldwide members for Agile .Net Practitioners).
  • Economic growth in the 2010s will be fueled by bands of small communities (1-100) in professional partnerships that will compete head-to-head with corporate behemoths. Success, big or small, will be measured by how fast your community can adapt.
  • Myopic corporations will be blind-sided by the open source movement in the 2010s.

14 December 2009

Socket To Me - The Web Socket Primer

Web sockets are an alternative to Ajax, Comet, and Flash for an interactive user experience and RIAs. The web sockets specification is an HTML5 initiative.

The spec introduced a web socket javascript interface that defines a two-way, single socket connection for messages to be sent between browser and server.

The intent of the web socket standard is to make bi-directional web communication simpler and more efficient.

Among others, Google's Ian Hickson is working on an internet-draft of the the Web Socket Protocol. Following is the abstract of the internet-draft of The Web Socket Protocol:

The Web Sockets protocol enables two-way communication between a user agent running untrusted code running in a controlled environment to a remote host that has opted-in to communications from that code. The security model used for this is the Origin-based security model commonly used by Web browsers. The protocol consists of an initial handshake followed by basic message framing, layered over TCP. The goal of this technology is to provide a mechanism for browser-based applications that need two-way communication with servers that does not rely on opening multiple HTTP connections (e.g. using XMLHttpRequest or iframes and long polling).

Anticipated Advantages

The anticipated advantages of web sockets over the use of Ajax or Comet are:

  • Single Connection -- Ajax and Comet are not native to the browser so they must rely on maintaining two connections (e.g., an upstream connection and a downstream connection) to stream data to and from the browser. Web sockets support upstream and downstream communications over a single connection.
  • Less Load- Expect less of a burden on hardware since the equivalent Ajaxy user experience served up from a web server will support twice the number of single connections.
  • Roadblock Clearing -- Web sockets provides the ability to traverse firewalls and proxies so that streaming is possible over any connection. 
  • Efficient Streaming -- Web sockets supports streaming over HTTP, while alternate solutions use long-polling with the associated overhead.
Google Chrome, version or higher, has web sockets enabled. To experiment, you will need the Dev Channel download of the Chrome browser.

More Reading

13 December 2009

Lessons From The Google Rocket

Understanding the meteoric rise of Google can be distilled to the phrase
It's the engineers, stupid.
Cribbed from It's the economy, stupid - an American political phrase coined during Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush.

Imagine how different the world would be if Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had spent the last decade or so on the Galapagos Islands measuring the beaks of Darwin's finches.

In his bestselling book, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, journalist Ken Auletta weaves a compelling profile of Google and it's impact on contemporary society.

Don't be evil is the informal Google slogan originally suggested by Paul Buchheit (former lead developer for Gmail). Pie-in-the-sky bromides like don't be evil are painless to adopt when the underlying organization is buoyed by boatloads of cash. Yet the Google culture has cultivated and proven the impossible is possible...
  • it is possible for a large organization not to kill ideas and productivity;
  • it is possible for employees to be part of a brain-stimulating community rather than trudge daily to a 9-5 job; and
  • it is possible that giving 20% time for smart people to pursue their interests translates into profit.
What is the Google ethos and what can we learn from it? Google's ethos is this
  • Have the audacity to be different
  • Maintain a healthy distrust for suits
  • Data are strong indicators that trump notions and superstition
  • Release early and learn

The key to the Google Rocket is
Things get invented by engineers, not hucksters or charlatans.
Since it's the engineers, stupid, compensate accordingly -- or fall off the cliff like traditional advertising.


Google is successful by most measures monetary or cultural. Google challenges traditional media, traditional advertising, and traditional operating systems (see Instant Boot Bliss), to name a trio of areas over which its tentacles visibly extend.

Yet now that Google has become an informational and infrastructural behemoth, the salient question for Google's future (and ours) becomes
Is don't be evil still do-able?