startups and power structures

In this context, a power structure is a constraint through which work must flow, that is visible to management, that provides an objective measure of work completeness and/or quality.  It frequently, but not always, occurs at the boundaries of group responsibility.

It’s only when the work becomes both tedious and stressful, the power structures come in to play.

You won’t notice if your power structures are proper until it’s too late.

If you do not actively manage power structures, they will be managed by primal social forces, which are generally inimical, in the west in particular, to business interests.  Those primary social forces become more intense the more people are placed within a social domain.

Some observations:

  1. IT still exists as a discipline, and it cannot be treated with any less scrutiny than engineering in terms of recruiting.  Given the power held by IT, it should be an early, and core, company hire, and it should be someone with unshakable morals, and commitment to service.IT is still an engineering discipline, and creativity is critical for IT, despite what some might believe.  But if you have to choose, choose morals and humility over intellect for your core IT hires.
  2. I don’t like the word devOps.  But whatever you call your systems layer, it needs to be dealt with early, and have a power structure equal in stature to software development and IT.
  3. Software developers need to think for long periods of time without interruption, most of the time.  They are a particular kind of engineer, like IT, and like devOps.
  4. It probably makes the most sense to group people by speciality, unless you need to control a particular power structure by gating work at a group boundary.
  5. If you don’t control your organization, it will control you.  It’s all fun and games until the pressure is on, and the work isn’t fun any more.

the delusions of reason

Thinkers tend to spend their lives tripped up and confused, unable to understand that what others really like about them probably has nothing to do with what they seek in others.

They trust only reason, and that’s fine, except that something very unreasonable is guiding the operation all along… in themselves, and in others.

Love is not so far away as you think it might be, particularly if you are one prone to consider the question of your lovability.

And, in fact, even if you trust only reason, the world is awash in the fantasy worlds of the people you seek; you’ve only to look deeply into those worlds to understand.

Yet it still takes a leap of faith, that the mind of another, equal in reasoning ability, can seem to operate so differently from our own.

Or that all those years of introspective thinking still leaves so much uncorrected and confused, even of ourselves.

That you can go away from home in the morning feeling completely robotic, with a heart of concrete and steel, and return with a heart full of painful little butterflies, because you looked into someone’s eyes a few too many times, and the carefully restrained human in you breaks loose and shoves your intellect aside.

But maybe in a way it’s reassuring, when you’re so full of self-doubt, and you’ve run around in your mind so many times that your original track is hopelessly obscured, to know something certain about yourself.

Reason is always uncertain, otherwise it would be faith, and faith is uncomfortable.

But you can know what you feel with absolute certainty.  You can watch all the humanity in yourself come alive, in a way that’s so natural, and so obvious, when it’s around something it feels very strongly about.

No matter how unreasonable it may be, or hopeless it may seem.

Maybe it’s not so hopeless.

And you are definitely not yours to control, because you are reason, and your heart is insane.

logically fair

Particularly in a privately held startup with the original founders, all things stem from the founders.

A million decisions made with a million conflicting insights resulted in the present state of things.  Few can get very far.

Respect those that can.  Respect those that can even make a good effort.

Without them, I would have no money.  They do not take spending money lightly, or they would not exist.  They implicitly trust me.  I therefore implicitly must trust their higher-order preferences.  Those preferences take precedence over all.

I exist within a local system, however.  I push the boundaries of that system in the direction I believe the origin(the founders) would like to go.  But I cannot push it so far that the overall system degrades, because that would be detrimental to the overall mission.

No one really has very much power.  Even a CEO of a private company must live within the confines of the human systems they generate(not to mention the board of directors).  These systems have strengths and weaknesses, visible and invisible, that change over time, and can be evolved, subject to certain rate limits, and are subject to opportunity.

My limits are all too apparent to me lately, but still, I push.  I am a knight(or mercenary, perhaps), and I have a king, and generals, and they give me the means to a comfortable life, and so I fight on their behalf… to strive to give back what i receive, is logically fair.  Is honorable.

Victory can always be taken from you, but honor is yours forever, if you choose; a glowing little ember, of your ideals… of your creator… of all that is sacred, and most of all, all that is pure, keeping your ragged soul warm through the coldest of nights.

Kanji Cards

I’ve been using Genki’s apps for vocab and kanji since I started, but since going to intermediate(“Tobira” highly recommend) I started using physical kanji cards(White Rabbit) for initial learning.

Unlike apps, I seem to get emotionally attached to the physical cards.  Not sure how much it helps, but I think emotions are always helpful in memorizing things.

complexity limits

One lesson of rapid software development seems to be, that once you head down that road, you’re committed to it.  You must develop and redevelop at a certain pace, because the stack underneath you, composed of myriad open source projects maintained by a constantly changing group of individuals with constantly changing interests, is inherently unstable.

Your initial time to market is extremely fast, but your ongoing maintenance is higher.  If you simply stop working on it, it will rapidly cease to function, and cannot be resurrected, because so many things will simultaneously become outdated that it will be impossible to figure out how to fix it.

Continuous integration not only permits, but demands continuous work.

Even adding no new features, a rapidly developed system demands a large amount of continuous developer effort to maintain.  More features added to such a system make this effort requirement increase faster.

All the while, people are losing interest in your application stack, and maybe there’s another key observation to be found here:

If the fashion of your software stack was instrumental in attracting developers to it, it will similarly eventually drive them away, because a live system on a startup budget generally cannot evolve much beyond its roots.

In America, with people in America, it generally takes at least four years to establish an Internet tech business from the ground up, and if it takes longer than eight years to get acquired or IPO, it will start to fail.

There are no exceptions, because its not simply about code, or developers; its about people, living within a certain culture.  Even if you are far beyond the ability of the average person… even if your entire management team is stellar, you are still limited by the culture that surrounds you; the culture of the people you depend on.

Taking a big step back, we’re simply stuck in a way of thinking that dates to the industrial revolution.  Those problems are solved, and we only find ourselves in these races because so little of that ground has yet to be exploited.

We have things.  We have information.  We have entertainment.  We are still pretty unhappy; probably more unhappy than ever, because we are not rational economic entities; we are humans.

Efficiency has nothing to do with happiness.

human evolution

Arranged marriages are probably far more ideal for civilization-era human evolution than otherwise.

Consider that, at our best age for reproduction, we have a very poor understanding of the world in general, and default to instinct.

In admittedly broad brushstrokes, women prefer bolder and more assertive mates, where men just want something pretty and cute.   One can easily imagine what lies down that evolutionary path by thinking about what it leaves out.

By forcing mate selection to a broader context of success(a family successful in an economic, military, technical, or some other civilization-related context), we broaden the traits selected for.

It is probably also the case that humans are more content when given fewer options, and are more willing to make a situation work when they have a very strong impetus to avoid giving up on it.

More tentatively, I kind of suspect humans more optimized for advanced civilization are actually less adept at inter-gender relationships.  Civilized life requires analytical thought, but it’s so far beyond the norm for someone to understand the gender perspective divide, that someone who simply accepts things at face value is better suited for such a relationship.

For example, “This seems to make this person mad.  I don’t know why, but, whatever, I won’t do it.”  Vs. “This makes this person mad.  I don’t understand why, and therefore, I find their behavior irritating, and refuse to change my behavior, because they are the ones being irrational.”