Rocks in Our Backpack

At a certain age, we all put on a pack. It is small and has nothing in it at first. We're told subconsciously that we can never take out anything that we put into it without help from a very specific person. We're also told that only one kind of thing can go into it. Each of these things has a different weight, but all of them are heavy. These things are not rocks, but for our purposes here, we'll call them rocks.

The first few times we put those rocks into the pack, they feel pretty heavy, but with help readily available, and guidance from parents, the rocks are easily removed. As time goes by, sometimes we drift away from our parents and that one who can take the rocks out of our pack.

Sometimes we go a long time without putting any real big rocks in, but when we do, we often realize we've put many small rocks in without thinking much about it, and suddenly the pack feels very heavy, dragging us almost as much as we drag it along the road we travel.

Sometimes we forget altogether about the only one who can remove the rocks from our pack. Sometimes after we try very hard, we become good at pretending the weight of the rocks doesn't bother us. We even make friends with others who have equally heavy packs who will tell us there is no pack of rocks but that it's just an ordinary part of life. Sometimes they will even pick up two big rocks, put one in their own bag, and give you the other one for your bag which you readily add to the pile.

Sooner or later, some of us find ourselves tugging and hauling that pack on a lonely road, all by ourselves. We collapse in exhaustion and with cry of despair, we look behind us and see how enormous that pack has become. The sight can be overwhelming. How did it grow so heavy, we ask ourselves.

Then a stranger comes down the road and offers to help. At first we don't recognize him because we've been on a very rocky path and our attention was focused more on collecting rocks. We didn't notice that the stranger, whom we once knew very well, was so often stopped on the side of the road helping others. Our focus was on collecting more rocks.

Now finally we can go no further, and we recognize that stranger. He is the one. The only one who can remove the rocks from our pack. We beg him to help us. We tell him how sorry we are to have forgotten about him. He smiles and takes us by the hand, pulling us up to our feet. One by one he removes our rocks from our pack and puts them into the pack he carries on his back. As he does so, we notice that the rocks have grown sharp and treacherous. His hands are bruised and bleed as he willingly takes each rock from our pack.

Now we feel lighter than air. We notice that the rocks he has put into his own pack seem to get smaller and lighter until they entirely disappear. We wonder how it is done. We want to stay by his side and promise him that we will not pick up any more rocks. He hugs us, smiles, and walks with us for a while until we drift away, forgetting the burden of the rocks. We think, just one or two rocks won't be that heavy. And so it goes until we're right back in the middle of that rocky road. And there is our friend once again.

This time as he pulls the rocks from our pack, we determine to avoid rocks for good. We repeat this process until we only occasionally stoop to put in a pebble, still walking with our friend, but now that little pebble feels awfully heavy as we're used to having very few rocks in our pack, and luckily he's right there to remove them just as soon as we ask.

There will always be rocks on the road, but if we stay close to Christ, he will willingly remove the rocks from our pack when we ask. And as we grow wiser and older, we will lose interest in most rocks, and bending over to pick them up will seem like more work than it's worth.

Engineering of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The following was first shared as my comments on another's post on social media on the subject of whether ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts being made in the world could benefit from tackling the problem from an engineering mindset.

It's a very interesting question. One that is difficult to write about critically without being misunderstood, but I'm going to try here. 

I've been a bit of a passive skeptic about all the talk on this subject and perhaps more so on the actions I've observed being taken which appear, in most cases, to be more concerned with the optics of what is being done than the outcomes of the efforts. One could argue that this is classic virtue signaling.

I like the article because it suggests that we ought to engineer a solution to the problem. I agree but wonder if we can engineer any solution to any problem without understanding the root causes of the problem.

Our challenge in this arena is that we often start with stereotypical assumptions about those causes, in part because exploring it further risks significant discomfort or even loss of standing in one's community or with one's employer.

Another challenge is that we assume that generalized reasons and rationale apply broadly to a wide spectrum of individuals without really knowing them as individuals, unique in so many ways beyond the meager identifiers of race, sex, age, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender identity, etc.

Individuals and interactions are far more complex than identities and equity. And nowhere in general DEI conversations have I noticed any interest in motives, desires, interests, and attraction to the things we often target for balance in diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

I wonder if we would have more success by focusing on individuals and attracting them to roles they might not have otherwise considered by better understanding their individuality than by their commonly identifiable identity markers.

And I wonder if we discover that the individual desires something else entirely that seems unattainable but does not align with our DEI goals, will we be just as interested in helping that one individual when it won't show up in our desired outcome statistics. Maybe that's the human element missing from our engineering mindset.

So what is to be done? Can we engineer ourselves out of this problem? As engineers, we tend to ignore the social visibility campaigns and try to solve the problem. It's the Dilbert Knack in all of us. 

My hope is that we'll learn how to fix the human side of things that, for what must be a variety of reasons, have left some populations behind in this digital new world we have created. 

And along the way, maybe those we've left behind can teach us a thing or two about what we've given up. That is my hope, that we will preserve humanity in the digital world.



Let Us Embrace the Light

The news of the day is so often a myopic pinhole view on the landfill of the worst aspects of our human existence that one might easily fall into the toxic cynicism promulgated by these modern equivalents of street corner criers.

But the world is full of good and loving people who work together in families, communities, companies, churches, and charities to embrace the Light within us.

Working toward common goals, setting aside our differences, and the ordinary strictures of self-limiting processes, rules, and policies, human beings have an almost infinite capacity to swarm on a problem, a real problem, and solve it in a way that no other form of life is capable of.

Let us embrace the Light within us. Try ignoring the news for three days. Use the saved time to contemplate in meditation. Apply the relief from its negative themes in a positive way to your interactions with the people within the sphere of your influence.

See what a difference it makes.

 #healing #humanity #embracethelight 

(Photo by Zac Durant)

What Have You Learned

We lost our first child coming up on 33 years ago.

From that experience and others, I have learned that often the most important things that happen to us in life cannot be changed or avoided.

We can only learn from these experiences. I learned a greater appreciation for blessings that I may have otherwise taken for granted.

I learned greater compassion for people, knowing that everyone I meet is suffering or has suffered in ways that I cannot comprehend.

What have you learned?

Social Media Doomed to Fail

Consider for a moment the following headlines.

Now read Twitter's official policy position.

If the hypocrisy and cruel irony escapes you, it may be wise to check the news more often.

Facebook and Twitter have recently banned a variety of voices, including that of President Donald I. Trump, from their platforms. They claim falsely that the President actually invited the violence that occurred at the Capitol last Wednesday. He certainly did not help, but it's a major leap to accuse him of giving the criminal trespassers on the Capitol actual marching orders. To arrive at that level of blame, we must also hold a variety of politicians to blame for the riots in a variety of cities throughout the year 2020.

Then as a result, Apple, Google, and Amazon decided to pile onto the virtue signaling censorship movement and shut down Parler, the open social media competition. The violence at the Capitol gave all these players the pretense to silence their political enemies, and the results in Georgia assured them that nobody in Washington would hold them accountable. All impediments to their fascist rage against the right being removed, they acted swiftly.

But apparently the global policy boys at Twitter object to the same thing happening to their users as a consequence of the actions taken by a totalitarian regime in Uganda. How ironic. The Twitter pot seem to be calling the Twitter kettle black. 

I'll copy a comment I made in reply to a comment made on another post:

If we can't tolerate speech with which we disagree, we can't have freedom of speech. In high school, at the height of the cold war, our American Studies teacher asked if we were willing to allow the Communist Party to operate as a political party in the U.S. I was the only one who raised my hand. My classmates booed. My teacher chided them and gave me a guaranteed A.

If we begin to stifle speech because we fear it, rather than countering it with persuasion, we will produce a violent and unpredictable response from radicals who have been shut up rather than simply beaten on a fair and open playing field of ideas.

Will the rash actions of social media and other big tech players have unintended consequences? I think that is certain. Have they signed their own roadmap to decline and failure? Time will tell. Freedom will ring. Freedom will prosper. History is clear. Those who suppress the voices of millions are doomed to eventual failure. 



Cloud Native is an Anti-Pattern

Google, Apple, and Amazon AWS are not your friends. You may be applauding their actions against Parler, but let's think it through.

Setting aside the politics of Parler, the actions of these three vendors (and others) over the last few days should give everyone pause.

If you lock in your technology offering and make your business dependent on the goodwill of a cloud vendor or an app store, you are surrendering your business to their control under terms of service that can easily be interpreted in their favor at their whim.

The only way to mitigate this risk is to be sure you are not locked in and that no one single vendor controls your data and technology.

Again, setting aside the politics, what is your organization's strategy if your cloud vendor suddenly gives you a 24 hour shutdown notice on the weekend when your employees are off?

Could you survive such an action from your cloud vendor or an app store? If your users suddenly cannot access their data or interact with you, what will the consequences be?

Comments welcome but I hope you will limit your comments to vendor lock rather than the politics involved in this one case.

Before you comment, consider this quote from CS Lewis:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

How to Find Truth on the Web

Here's a few things I do. They are not fool proof and I don't always follow my own advice, so take them for whatever value you find in them.

1. Find at least two sources from left leaning media and two from right leaning media. I have my favorites on both sides. 

2. Try to find original content rather than a simple duplicate copy of an AP story or two sources with nearly identical copy. There is a lot of intellectual plagiarism out there.

3. Ignore the headlines and pull quotes (the enlarged quotes of the article). These are designed only to get clicks and lead you to a biased conclusion.

4. Ignore opinions and conclusions. Anything that characterizes the facts or statements of people quoted in the story is not journalism; it's activism, designed to mislead.

5. Look for details that are common between the ideologically opposed sources. These are often truths. 

6. Look for details included in one side and excluded in the other. You won't immediately know if these are true. Often they lack complete context and are included in the way that they are in order to support the characterizations being made by the writer or editorial staff.

7. Assume that there is always more to the story than meets the eye.

8. Take photographic and video evidence with a grain of salt. It is altogether too easy to edit these and remove context that contradicts the slanted narrative. I've been caught by this more than once. We want to believe what we see and hear. This is where we are all most easily manipulated.

9. Assume that all media sources have an angle, a narrative, that they are pushing. 

10. Watch for stories that are covered only by one side. Ask yourself why. Dig for multiple sources. Often when a story hurts the narrative, the story is still covered but it's buried under a bland headline designed to avoid clicks.

11. Use more than one search engine. Every search algorithm has bias built in. Mostly that bias leans left, so you may need to dig deep to find opposing coverage from the right, but you will find it.

12. Distrust bloggers, podcasters, straight up opinion talking heads, and so-called independent fact check sites. Listen to them but do not believe everything they say. Research whatever they say using the steps above.

Again, this is not foolproof, but it does help me.

Agile - The Most Meaningless Word

Agile - The Most Meaningless Word in the Tech Lexicon

Has there ever been a more over-hyped word in the history of technology? A word that has been appropriated by everyone and assigned so many different definitions and book-length explanations and an army of consultants, each with their own medicine show, the word Agile has become meaningless pablum, a badge we all wear making it indistinguishable from any other technological accoutrement.

The word Agile has come to mean what any practitioner wants it to mean, used as a wrapper for the way they think things ought to be done. It has become a meaningless defense for management and delivery practices of all sorts. It has become the industry's magic safe word or imprimatur to sell a variety of process control systems and frameworks, giving rise to eager consultancies readily able to sell the miracle cure to eager executives in need of an enterprise cure that will hide their inability to manage the organization.

When we have exhausted these five simple letters, we will pick a new word and make it meaningless.

 #management #technology #business #agile #meaning #meaningless