201 days of unsubscribing

spam_can

I meant to give this update three weeks ago at the halfway point but things got busy.

On January 1st this year I decided to unsubscribe from every email that was unsolicited or that I no longer needed to care about.  Here are the results through yesterday:

Spam emails received year-to-date
Plus emails I no longer wish to get that I previously subscribed to
Un-subscribes via links in the email sent to me
Un-subscribes by replying with “Remove” – I have an Outlook Quick-Action set up for this
Un-subscribes that failed
Spam free days
2,280 246 2,021 505 87 11

My first spam-free day was March 17th and I have had two back to back spam-free days since (June 20/21 and this week July 18/19).

My average daily spam-load is down to less than 10 unsolicited emails from a first month average of over 40. Microsoft Clutter is helping in the task too but it does have about a 1% false-positive rate.

A disturbing trend I have noticed is that I am now getting an increase in spam on my new business email. Recently the company I work for was acquired and I now have an email address with their domain to RECEIVE email (I still use the old domain for outgoing email). I have not used it for anything except the receipt of business-email and yet the spammers are on to it.

I have noticed that there are many common unsubscribe services that vendors use that offer “unsubscribe from all emails” but they only offer this for the particular sender one is responding to. They should offer an “unsubscribe from all senders” option too.

Most unsubscribe services automatically unsubscribe you and then ask for a reason why. I have not provided the reason ever.

Some unsubscribe services require one to enter one’s email address as confirmation. This is annoying. Some send a confirmation email that one has been unsubscribed: this too is annoying as it defeats the purpose of unsubscribing.

There is an increasing habit for spammers to make the unsubscribe link in the smallest possible font and the latest trend to offer the link in a font color one degree different from the background color of the email making the link hard to find. A few put the link text in a graphic which requires the images to be downloaded before unsubscribing: clever but also annoying.

However, most annoying of all award goes to Oracle whose unsubscribe link takes one to their subscription page when one has to log on to unsubscribe. Bad form Larry – you can do better than that.

Watch out for the year end summary, or the first 3-day spam-free run, whichever comes first.

 

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Contracts by Dickens!

What the Dickens?

Yesterday my principles and my pragmatism came face to face. Actually toe to toe as they eyed each other in my head deciding who was going to throw the first punch. The mental bout went the full 10 rounds and, in the end, in blue corner, Parker “the Principled” Pugalist won the day.

While all these cerebral fisticuffs seemed to last an eternity to me, they were but a hesitation noticed by the nice man from the auto-body repair shop. He was going through the contract that gave him permission to bill my insurance after my wife’s car had been rear-ended on Independence Day. He noted the damage, the estimate, my responsibility to take home personal effects, that he would be responsible for any further damage his workers might do accidentally but …

… and that is where time began to slow down, that simple word that usually precedes something contentious …

… but he would not be responsible for “acts of God.”

I had been reading ahead of him. My head had already filled the ringside seats, the referee had explained the rules, the boxers were glistening and transfixed on one another. And at the word “God” all I heard was “ding, ding, round 1, box!”

Thirty minutes later (in my head) and a breath and a heartbeat or two (in the auto-body shop) later I said (from the blue corner) “There are no ‘Acts of God.'”

He hesitated. He started to say something but no sound came. Then he stood up, we were both leaning over the counter reading the contract, and he said, inspiration flooding to him now, “A sinkhole. What if a sinkhole swallows the workshop?”

I won’t prolong the agony here. The point is, in this day and age, why do we still have anachronistic terms in our contracts? Why do they say things like “male gender terms are used throughout but apply to both male and female”, and why only two genders. Why do we insist on putting Mr before Mrs? I insist it goes the other way as my wife’s name is alphabetically before mine.

Whereas, heretofore and whereby sound like breeds of cattle. The party of the first part must be a weeklong rave. Don’t define the meaning of words other than the meaning they have “some shall mean all and all shall mean some” use the right word.  Oh, and, prohibere usura contactus in Latin, please.

Come on my attorney friends, let’s get with the 21st century and write language that reflects the modern world and do so in modern idiom and do it without resorting to the deities. Yes you’re going to have to work harder but you have spell checkers, grammar checkers, word processors and cut-and-paste. Put down your quills and type.

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When all you have is a hammer …

… everything look like a nail. So goes the old sore. Surprisingly, seeing this happen in the world of IT ought to be rare, but is, alas, just as common as in any other industry.

A colleague forwarded an email to me today where a vendor was promoting their “modernized” tool. As if “modernized” tools were the salvation we are all seeking to solve our modern technology challenges. Did Uber change transportation by modernizing taxis? Did Amazon transform retailing by modernizing the neighborhood shopping mall?

Worse still, this vendor touted their “modernized” tool as the starting point for DevOps transformation. Hoping that the association with the hot industry term would get market traction. Just because my San Francisco Giants’ tee shirt says “Posey 28” on the back it doesn’t make me the world’s best catcher.

Successful software vendors innovate, disrupt, and, most of all, believe in their own vision (especially when it flies in the face of orthodoxy) without wavering. Me-too vendors climb on the backs of these innovators but they can never compete because they neither have the passion nor ownership of the vision.

What the world needs, especially the DevOps world, is one where vendors take a clean sheet and build (and throw away) technologies that automate the best ideas of the moment. And build and throw away again tomorrow. This is a highly dynamic space: we’re refining and improving our methodologies constantly. Velocity, complexity and quality and changing at record rates (and the rate of change itself is changing at unheard of rates), and we need vendors who can adapt at the same speed. Repackaging the old just doesn’t cut it anymore.

 

 

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Bizness Travel

My sister-in-law just asked me how I handle all the business travel I do. It’s a good question. Here’s my top-10 tips.

  1. Work with a good travel agent. Booking travel online is easy and convenient but a good travel agent will take care of you from booking the travel until you arrive safely at home. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received a call from my travel agent telling me she’s got me an upgrade, or a better seat, or a more direct routing, or a better hotel because the one I chose is under construction, or got me early check-in after my red-eye, and many other tweaks to my itinerary I couldn’t possibly know about. Thanks Jacquie.
  2. Learn the airline/hotel websites so you get what you want. Even though I use my travel agent I use the airline/hotel websites to get a shortlist of what is going to work for me. This means I can get a flight that gets me where I need to be comfortably and in a timely fashion. I like to stay close to where I am going so I can walk – travel is the enemy of exercise – so I research the locale to work out reasonable walking distances to and from the hotel and office.
  3. Travel days and travel times matter. I never take the last flight of the day because, if it is cancelled, I’m going to be late. I always take the flight before the one that gets me there in time for the same reason. This also means I’m not stressing about being late. If I can, I travel on Mondays and Fridays so as not to eat into family time at the weekend. Travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is less crowded and usually cheaper but with travel at all an all time high it’s getting harder to notice the difference.
  4. Comfort matters so pay a little extra. For a short flight of, say, 90-minutes or less, I can put up with a middle seat at the back of the bus. For everything else I choose the extra leg-room seats. For red-eye flights I choose window seats so I can sleep without someone waking me up so they can go to the bathroom. For daytime flights I choose the aisle so I can go when I want to.
  5. Pick an airline group, hotel chain and stick with it. There’s not much to choose between the airline groups, hotel chains and car rental companies – pick the one that serves your home airport the best. I’m a United/Marriott/Hertz guy. Almost 3 million miles and 1,000 nights later I get to board the plane first and have plenty of room for my luggage, get fee upgrades every 2 out of 5 flights, get access to the concierge lounge in the hotel with free food and drinks, get room upgrades every time, get to skip the counter at the car rental station, and dozens of other little perks that make travel easier.
  6. Pack ruthlessly. Everything should fit in your carry-on. Only take what you need. If there is still space in your luggage DO NOT find something to put in the space: you might be bringing stuff back from your trip. Go through you computer bag/purse Thoroughly and leave behind anything that you do not need on your trip. A heavy shoulder bag gets exponentially heavier the longer you are standing waiting to board. Don’t bring your 5lb key ring – just your house and car keys.
  7. Be a technology minimalist. Do you need your lap top? Do you need your tablet? Do you need your e-reader? Leave behind the ones you don’t need and their chargers and cables. You do need your phone. Find a good charging brick that can charge more than one device. Bring only the cables you will use to charge those devices. If you can find a “squid”, a cable with multiple charging options, get one of those. Shorter cables are better than long ones. Fully charge everything you’re taking on you trip before you leave. Charging options are rare on the road. 
  8. Wifi is a right but finding it is hard and expensive. Invest in a personal wifi hotspot (Karma is a great choice domestically or Skyroam internationally) so you always have access to the ‘net. Your phone may offer this but it might be very expensive abroad.
  9. Jet lag is going to get you. Usually it hits me the worst on the second day. When I board the plane I set my watch to the new time zone so every time I look at it I convince myself it should be that time not body time. Melatonin works – buy some here in the USA as it is not available in some countries locally – and take it at bedtime in the time zone you’re going to. If you can, sleep when your body tells you to. Sleep is like a checking account, the more you get overdrawn the worse you feel. Pay some credits into your account whenever you can.
  10. And most importantly if all – enjoy yourself. Travel is a gift to our generation with its universal availability and relative inexpensiveness. Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure or both, get out there and enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and cultures. Try the local foods, use the local public transport, wander off the beaten path (be cautious and think about safety at all times). Set aside time for yourself and make sure the one thing everyone tells you you must do, you do. Take photographs, leave footprints and cherish the memories.
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Vocation or job

1280px-van_gogh_-_starry_night_-_google_art_project

Starry night – priceless

In part two of our look at the future of employment, #FullUnemployment, we will look at how we get to a future that aspires towards utopia rather than one which descends into dystopia.

If I’m right, the future holds the possibility that automation will be able to replace many tasks that make up our everyday life. Last time we saw how autonomous vehicles will become the standard replacing as many as 4 million jobs.

Here’s another example.

The age of ‘bots that schedule meetings for you, diagnose illnesses and fight parking tickets is already here. More AI-based solutions are coming and they will replace clerks in the DMV, tellers in the bank, agents at the hotel and airport check-in and  even the maître d’hôtel at your favorite restaurant.

So if the future is one where jobs are replaced by automation, what are people going to do instead and how are we going to compensate them for the contribution they make?

Early in my career I was given the advice that “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” The next generation will have to embrace this idea and find their vocation first and then find a place where they can practice their vocation. As a way of life, practicing your vocation will need to be rewarded so that individuals can shelter, feed and clothe themselves and their families.

Society is going to have to develop the means to reward individuals for their contribution. Increasing the value of raw materials by turning them into products or services is usually how we measure contribution. Yet we place little monetary value, except in rare and exceptional cases, on the contribution of artists, poets and musicians but they bring considerable value that increases the well-being of society. That needs to be rewarded.

Some of the most poorly paid workers are teachers, nurses, home-help, hospice carers, day-care workers and social workers. Their contribution to our society, providing much needed care and support to the most vulnerable of us, is incomparable in that they make lives that are often broken and sad into ones that are enriched and joyful. The value they create nevers appears on a balance sheet nor is it reflected in the stock price, but is real societal value and needs to be rewarded as well.

Pure research is often derided as an unnecessary expense and countless, seemingly nonsensical, examples of wasted public funds are cited to prove just how pointless this is. The advancement of human knowledge is incremental, glacial even. When Newton said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” he was acknowledging the science and mathematics that had preceded him and steered him towards his great discoveries. So, while I might agree that studying if one gets wetter when running in the rain than one would if one walked seems frivolous, it does increase the wealth of knowledge and may provide the link for the next great achievement, the next profound discovery, the cure for cancer or the creation of endless free energy.

The gross domestic product of the USA is about $18 trillion – by any measure a remarkable achievement. But what about value that cannot be counted in dollars?

The United Nations Human Development Index ranks the USA 8th in the world. This shows we have a real investment in our people. Some would argue that it is just not enough and some would argue it’s already too much. What if we set our goal to be 1st in UN HDI? How would that change how government invests in people and projects.

The World Happiness Report, indeed there is such a thing, ranks the USA 13th happiest population. What if we set our goal to be 1st in the WHR; would it change how we compensate creators of societal wealth and how we treat them?

A day is coming when one will be able to choose to invest our financial capital in the stock market or invest our human capital in our neighbors and neighborhood. We should expect returns on our investment whichever path we choose.

Next time; Why Philosophers will rule the world.

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Full Unemployment

Lamplighters: whither they?

Recently, on TechCrunch, an author posited that no child born from this point on will ever have a driver’s license. By 2032, 16 years from now, self-driving will be shunned (as smoking is today) and parents will insist that their kids go out with their friends in the auto-driving car. Self-driving might still be around but insurance rates will be so high that these vehicles will only be in the hands of extreme hobbyists and collectors.

And that is another change we will see, “self-driving” will be the term we use when we go rogue and try to navigate the highways ourselves and “auto-driving” will be the safe, regular and routine way we move around the planet. Auto-buses, auto-trucks, auto-trains, auto-cargo ships and even auto-planes will become the preferred way of driving.

Vanity Fair just reported on the recent fatality that occurred in a Tesla Model S. It pointed out that, amongst the hysteria about this tragic event, the data got lost. In the USA, Vanity Fair suggests, one road fatality occurs for every 100 million miles driven. Tesla’s, in Autopilot mode, have driven 130 million miles without incident until last week. In other words one is safer in Autopilot mode. [Thanks to Jon Ziegler for the correction].

This is the start of a series of posts on the future of our society that might affect you, probably will affect your children and will definitely impact your grandchildren. I want you to think, to extrapolate our current technology capabilities a little way out into the future.

A day is coming when we switch from full employment to a world where full unemployment becomes possible

Autonomous cars means autonomous trucks and buses will be next. Autonomous trucks roll 24×7 without need of truck-stops (except for gas or electric charge) and without the need truck-drivers. There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA today. No truck-stops, no truck-stop chefs, waiters, or clerks. Autonomous buses, means no bus-drivers (all 665,000). Autonomous taxis, auto-Ubers, means no drivers and no dispatchers. There are about 250,000 taxi drivers in the US and around 170,000 Uber drivers. That’s almost 4.5 million jobs that could disappear in the next decade. Add in train drivers, postal delivery drivers, ferry captains, harbor pilots, tram drivers, fixed-wing and rotary wing pilots.

In the future transportation will be autonomous. It will be safer, faster and cheaper. Which means better for the transported but not for the transporter.

Autonomy will move into vehicles that operate in hostile environments. Forest fires fought with autonomous all-terrain fire-trucks, minerals mined with autonomous drilling and boring machines and hazardous waste cleared by monster machines with impregnable defences against the most noxious and toxic substances.

Not forgetting your Amazon package delivered by drone.

All of these jobs, vital and essential, are keeping hard-working men and women employed so they can feed, clothe and house their families. But they will all disappear. Gone the way of the hostler, the footman and the lamplighter.

As technology advances it frees us to go from humans doing things to become humans being things

So what will these millions of people do instead. If we plan now we can prepare for the era of full unemployment (#FullUnemployment). We can devote our energies to contributing to society in other ways. And we have to find a way that our contribution is rewarded even if our contribution is not about increasing material value but about increasing societal value.

And that’s the topic of the next post.

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IT Peers Overspend

In March Gartner released research that showed just over a third of development was Agile and almost half remained waterfall. The same survey noted that more than half of all organizations are doing some Agile development for some of their applications. In large enterprises this means development communities with disparate methodologies and, frequently, a diverse set of tools to support them. While some would consider standardized tooling the hobbledy-horse of creativity others would look to the advantages and flexibility common infrastructure brings. So, is it time to take the choice of tools away from the development and delivery teams and put this in the hands of the corporate infrastructure team?

Depending on your place in the lifecycle, you need different capabilities from the tools that make up your development and delivery toolchain. Teams are always looking for better, cooler, technologies that enhance the way they develop and deliver and always want to be on the leading edge with resume-enhancing product names. What if your role in IT is more concerned with security and stability or cost-control and access rights? Your job responsibilities will guide what and how you procure your infrastructure solutions for development and delivery.

Letting each team procure its own infrastructure for software development and delivery is not the right choice for highly regulated, large enterprises. Here’s why:

  • It is more expensive in the long run
  • If it is vended software, multiple contracts to manage, few economies from bulk buying
  • Each instance of the software will need separate administration and support – who is going to keep track of all the instances, versions, patch levels
  • The underlying process, policies and procedures will vary from instance to instance creating an expensive maintenance problem
  • Who will make sure the solution integrates with other tools in the toolchain and other tools used by different teams doing the same functions? Who will keep these integrations current?
  • If it is open source software (OSS), who will vouch for it being free from malicious code, backdoors and security vulnerabilities? Who will support it?
  • Developers will get stuck on projects because they only know one infrastructure toolset making resource-leveling difficult to do
  • Project tracking and reporting will also be complex, prone to inaccuracy and difficult to make universally visible as tools will not follow common standards for measuring progress and defining milestones
  • Cross-project collaboration and code-sharing will be virtually impossible without constant meetings and vigilant team members tracking parallel development activity
  • Development velocity will be impaired because little automation will be possible and what is possible will vary widely from project to project

I see, time and again, development teams that have “gone rogue” and developed homegrown scripts to hold together a collection of tools obtained from various sources to solve a point issue. No thought is given to automation of the end-to-end SDLC, the telemetry needed by Project Leaders and the PMO (and other stakeholders) to do their jobs, no thought about the provenance of the solution and the vulnerabilities it may have and certainly no thought about the long term impact and cost .

As the Gartner report infers, organizations must look for the tooling they need to manage the disruption caused by the rapid rise in development and delivery volumes and velocity. We now realize that successful DevOps initiatives, in highly regulated large enterprises, succeed when automation is the heart of the transformation. While the adoption of Agile is trending towards a plateau, DevOps adoption rates continue to accelerate. Much of that growth comes from traditional development and delivery teams looking to match their cadence with ever growing and demanding needs of the business.

This means that, as you build your toolchain, you must acquire solutions that meet all your corporate stakeholder’s needs, that support your diverse methodologies, technologies, topologies and geographies. Compliance, risk, access controls, data integrity, scalability  and security matters and must be factored in. Cross-tool, cross-platform and cross-function integration should be easy and obvious.

This does not mean finding one vendor to supply all your needs. No one vendor has the best-in-class solution to any part of the lifecycle. Nor is their any one vendor who has deep domain experience across the entire lifecycle. Instead you should look to acquire the best solutions you can afford that support all your needs and partner with the vendors to create a common, automated, end-to-end experience for everyone concerned with fast innovation with minimal risk.

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