Category Archives: geekery

On why I’m not a Dilbert fan

I put enough thought into my response to this excellent post that I’m stealing it to publish on my own blog.

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It’s just a hunch, but historically, I think the rise of the PHB stereotype coincided with the rise of the post WWII military industrial complex. Friends and relatives who have worked in engineering for defense contractors have had a far more Dilbertian experience than I have programming in the purely private sector. If you think about the Manhattan Project or the space race, the engineers in question were more pure scientists– even farther down the spectrum from the PHB stereotype than a typical engineer. And yet the bureaucrats and generals who commissioned their work didn’t understand the science itself. As much of this became privatized, this division of labor continued.

This is mostly conjecture, but it sounds plausible to me.

And I suppose my mileage has varied from the typical programmer here, but I came fairly early in my career to not only believe that good management exists, but to value it. Perhaps it’s because the manager in question was truly a foreman, by your definition, but he understood enough about the work itself to fight for the time and resources to do it properly, but to also keep the team grounded enough to actually *ship*. Maybe it makes me an odd duck, but I find the most satisfaction in finding the simplest solution to a problem– and actually getting my work in front of users. I’ve always felt my fellow programmers if left to their own devices would rather write beautiful or clever code that impressed each other rather than shipping something real.

That’s another reason I too feel little for Dilbert– on one hand the strip seems to suggest that if only the world could be rid of PHBs, workers would magically organize themselves to… to do what exactly? Dilbert gives lip service to wanting to do useful work, but he rarely demostrates much love of craft, certainly not enough to pick up and move to a company where he could exercise it– they do exist. I think it’s in this fatalism where Adams shows his true colors: if Dilbert were a real engineer, he’d figure out that this is a problem to be solved and get himself out of the situation rather than suffer the PHBs idiocy merely to collect a paycheck.

Nerd Boyfriend

I find Nerd Boyfriend endless fun. Each post is a picture of a guy fitting the Warholian definition of a good picture (“My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous.”). But there’s always the added twist that the pictures make the subjects look nerdy in addition to merely un-famous. And then there are links to shop for one or more items of the apparel pictured. Genius.

I love it when a plan comes together

I love it when a plan comes together

New toy is here!

So it turns out that my iPhone did come last week, it’s just been sitting in the
FedEx facility in South Boston. I’m typing this on the WordPress app from a train somewhere under Cambridge. Trying to get used to this keyboard… It’s very odd. I feel a little “Jane! Get me off this crazy thing” with all the typos I’m making.

Still, it beats the pants off the Treos were using at work, which we used mainly because they did ActiveSync with the Exchange server. Which the new new iPhones do. And they’re cheaper. And they aren’t going to make people miserable like the Treos did.

Sorry for the pointless commercial but this really is going to make my work life much better.

Edie LOLcat contest

We have two winners: John had the idea first, but Helmecki the Elder actually used appropriate LOLcat syntax.

I haz blockd ur pop-ups

Runner up: Marco’s simple “My space”.

Helmecki: email me your address at ezraball at gmail to claim your peanuts.

Happy birthday, spam!

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the first unsolicited email message, I humbly submit the following, generated from the predictive text algorithms of my phone:

Hand since issues like something similar johnny jakarta make your need matches with hers using all natural sharepoint of fibers anew. Pleases forgot guys will join amounts unavailable. Since issues like something hand have a chance guys will join amounts unavailable to confirm that this point father quickly get pumped.

I realize I need to blog more

…because otherwise my friends’ children will not know me. We had some people over last weekend for a holiday potluck, and beforehand, a friend briefed his 3-year-old daughter, whom I probably haven’t seen in at least a year and a half, to remind her of who we were by showing her our blogs. He introduced us to her as RealFake and Shy Turnip. Apparently before they came, when he was showing her our blogs, she said “I like Terri better”. Truth be told, kiddo, I do too!

Questioning Metcalfe’s Law

Moderately interesting reading here, and here.

More academic reading here.

It was always bogus, though, right? I mean, how do you quantify the value of a network? It was only ever something that made intuitive, poetic sense.

Aside: I like Facebook better than a lot of other of the big social networking sites, but LinkedIn got me a new job, I like simple old Flickr better, and I like my blog the best.