Saturday, July 31, 2004

Surviving Outsourcing

Communication is the key to oursourcing. Here are ten strategies to use your communication skills to your advantage:

1. The Big Ball of Mud Architecture is your friend. Worse really is better. A BBMA document must be as clear as the architecture.

2. When writing the theory section, use metaphors based on concepts borrowed from unrelated fields. Biological ecosystem terms have worked in recent years, but like chaos theory, people are catching on, so you may have to move to something new. Quantum theory is always good. No one understands it and anyone who claims they do is likely an MBA. Promote him to be the site manager of the outsourced project.

3. Write very large documents. Fill the front matter with lots of architecture diagrams in .bmp format. Remember step one. Use the Capability Maturity Model. No one knows what it is capable of but every CMM document is four releases behind the running code. Completeness equals obscurity.

4. English is the language of international documentation. Master the art of the run on sentence that separates the subject with great green windy sunlit dry hot muggy purple modifiers from the verb and split infinitives through conjunctions that require GPS coordinates to find the period at the not quite end of the densely populated by obscure and not often used terminology that implements the verb. If you aren't good at this, use your MBA. They excel at creating obscurities.

5. If your company already outsources, be sure your unit has the task to design and document the architecture, not code it. If you share these tasks with your outsourced partners, use your MBAs as the translators.

6. Keep customer addresses and phone numbers close. Be sure they have yours. Every time they phone you directly to get around the call center in Eastaboga that reads your documents back to them using newly acquired Midwestern accents and lingo from the Bond movie, Octopussy, record their calls and send them to your MBAs.

7. Never ever ever ever train a new guy with a current foreign passport. Never. Don't. Promote him to Senior Technical Writer and have him join the STC. That way he will go to meetings and learn really valuable skills such as "Objects: Defeating The New Liberalism".

8. Don't answer technical questions in email from outsourced partners. Send them your documents in Word RTF with the .bmp architecture diagrams on 5.25 floppies.

9. Refuse to use commodity products on the basis that your system is mission critical and need those extra undocumented features for which your company owns the software patents. Think of patents as the new currency backed by the power of the Federal government as represented by an overworked, underfunded and technically incompetent US Patent Office.

10. Avoid standards. Standards are the mother of all service economies, and for you, that means learning new database technologies with natural language queries such as "Do you want fries with that?"

Remember: protectionism starts at home.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Why Should I Blog?

Why should I blog? Easy: to reduce the traffic on XML-Dev.


When God looked across the legions gathered before him after the war in Heaven, he saw those who had sided with Lucifer, standing with their heads up, proud of their effort, still believing that they were the best of His angels. Guarding these were the angels who had defended God's throne against Lucifer's prejudice and power. Bloodied, their robes torn, their halos hanging crookedly like toys tossed aside by children, they smiled triumphantly.

Outside this circle, playing mirthfully and unaware of the drama before them were the angels that took no side in the cosmic conflict. They did not believe God could be bested even by His strongest angel; so they took no thought to join the war. Their robes unsullied, their halos undisturbed, their laughter was not marked by deed or knowledge.

God looked to Earth to see the small group of humans who huddled about the fires begun by the immortal powers that had contended. As each human grew old that one would die and then return to Earth to live again as if dream followed dream in the deep of a long night. From each life, they would awaken without memory of that which came before. Yet Omniscience sees through the eyes of humanity. Though mortal, an immortal vision of strengh and hope grew within them. He breathed over them. As the celestial fires cooled, they began their dream filled existence.

Then God spoke to the Dark Angels. "I banish you to live in Lucifer's imagination. You may walk in Heaven or Earth but you must always return to the world without light created by your sworn Master. All powers are yours except you may not seize the will of an Earth-bound mortal who does not give it freely to you. They are yours to tempt, to torment, to reward, or to disregard. You may destroy all that they possess, but their wills are inviolate. At time's end, I shall judge you finally and for all eternity."

So Lucifer's legions marched to Hell with their heads held high and their robes blazing with the fire of their arrogance consuming light itself, causing all save what they looked upon to vanish into cold black space. The angels of light rested as stars. All that was visible to mortals and angels alike was by the reflected glory of these who had grappled with Lucifer to secure God's creation.

As the dark angels marched away, a playful angel watched the tallest dark angel vanish into the lifeless abyss. She began to weep. Though condemned to darkness, he was a creature of great beauty and strength. As if rain had fallen in Hell, her tears fell across the chasms over chaos, and for an infinitesimal instant, cooled the tongue of the tall angel in his fiery torment.

Seeing this, God's wizened eyes opened wider. He smiled as a puzzle difficult even with omnisicience and omnipotence revealed its solution. God turned to the weeping angel and spoke to all about her.

"Because you did not defend the heavenly realms, you shall not play here. Because you did not join the battle on behalf of Lucifer's cause, you shall not be subject to his will. You used the gifts I gave you neither to create nor destroy, so I shall not take your angelic powers from you. Instead, I send you to Earth as spirits to live among the mortals. Though you may live many times the life of a mortal, you shall also know death after a time, and then you will be gathered here. You may have all power over the mortals. They are yours to tempt, to torment, to reward, or to disregard. You may destroy all that they possess, but this you may not do: you cannot make them love you by your angelic power. On Earth, I see through their eyes. At time's end, I shall judge you finally and for all eternity."

With this, God withdrew from the place of His judgement, and all the powers of Creation began their acts within it. After a time, the Dark Angels could only recall their infinite disgust with Creation, and the Playful Angels could only recall their timeless games. The humans lived and died among the works of beings that they neither remembered nor could recognize as they walked among them.

Save one.

So great was the thirst of the dark angel who had tasted the tears of the sad angel, he could not work his will on Earth or in Hell. Not perfect evil, he displeased the Master of Darkness. As an Immortal, Lucifer could not destroy him, but with power over Earth, he could make of him a man seeking to quench his thirst, yet not knowing why he searched or what the consequence of finding such waters could be.

There on Earth she found him.

Her magic was not all powerful. She could not save him from God's edict. For a thousand times a thousand mortal lifetimes, she would wait for him to awaken from each dream. Lost among the mortals, she would search for him, but as his spirit grew, her task became harder. As God had willed, she could not call to his heart with immortal power, only the power of her own mortality, her own love.

Seeing this through mortal eyes, God rejoiced for His joy is the will to love.
Love leads to Heaven's gate. Love is the Creation manifesting on Earth when spirits join across time to build a bridge over Hell. Thus God joined through human will to angelic love, dissolved the darkness of Lucifer's pride.

When at last, a mortal man and a beautiful witch joined in immortal love, angels were born on Earth. At the Judgement, these angels made the case for mortal and immortal alike to regain the pleasure of the Divine.

Life Among The Mammals

The first blog should explain the title, Life Among The Mammals.  It sounds condescending but it isn't.  If one accepts the scientific and scholarly works, then mammals are the most evolved form of life on this planet. If one accepts the position of some religious scholars, then mammals are the most evolved form of life in the universe.  But those are not the reason.  

Whatever their position in the spiritual and diachronic pecking order of life, mammals are relentlessly innovative.   While ants are content with mounds, beavers dam rivers.   While salmon will give their last erg of energy leaping the cascades to spawn, Californians will build mansions on the side of mud slopes in the hopes of spawning with a Vivid starlet.   In fact, the central fact of existence for the mammals is sex.  They live for it, die for it, create eternal works of art for it, and will even risk the White House for it.    All of their evolution suits them to it, and every accomplishment of male and female, large, small, wet or greasy can be attributed to their need for it.

But that is not the origin of the title.

The title originates in a conversation with Dr. Charles Goldfarb at IBM Alamaden in the late 1980s.  You can google his name with the term 'markup' or 'SGML' or 'Big Bad Stereo' to find out who he is.   At the time, we were meeting with a long forgotten group developing a standard called 'HyTime'.   You can google that too, but it will mostly return scree about overbuilt designs that lose to underbuilt hacks.    None of these facts are important to the title.   At that meeting, we were discussing what the effect of very large integrated bibliographic hypertext systems (something the mammals now refer to as 'the web' or 'the net' or just 'the http thing') on the world that at that time, had no idea that such a thing was possible, or useful, and those that did said it would "f**k up the game".   Who knew?    Dr. Goldfarb, or "Doc" for short, speculated about the vast amounts of information that would become available which if freely accessible would improve everyone's knowledge of the world.   Sitting at lunch with he and a fellow musician, Bryan Markey, I looked up from the table and said, "It will make the porn industry richer."   Doc stopped and looked at me while Bryan nodded in agreement.

"Why do you think that?" Doc asked.

"It's just another medium", I said, "and the history of every medium from cave paintings to the movies starts with porn.  We're mammals.  It's what we do.  That's life among the mammals."

He looked on incredulously and said, "I doubt it.", but Bryan kept nodding in agreement.  Bryan and I had both grown up working in the nightclubs where the mammals come to spawn, and we had seen that it wasn't how well we played but what we played that filled the cash register.   At the end of the night, the band that plays the funkiest grooves shreds the most 'natch because they don't come for a concert.  They come, as an older musician told me once (another story), to 'get high, get drunk, and get laid'.

That's life among the mammals.

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