2012 10 08

From TheCommandLineWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Contents

Feature Cast for 2012-10-08

(00:00:17.442) Intro

(00:02:36.548) Listener Feedback

  • Eric on the fate of Vivaldi
    • http://aseigo.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-small-update-on-vivaldi.html
    • The project is still pushing forward despite setbacks
    • One unnamed hardware vendor actually approached them, mentioning having source code
    • I wonder if this is still worth doing
      • For the same reason Firefox is worth doing
    • It doesn't have to have dominance in the market to change the status quo
    • Seigo doesn't mention it, but I wonder if it makes sense
      • For Vivaldi to target some of the new tablets, like the Nexus 7
      • And the recently announced Zareason tablet
    • Even though I chose something else, after losing patience
      • I do still want to see Seigo succeed
      • And increasingly think diversity and competition in the tablet space is good for everyone
      • Especially if at least one of the entrants has his commitment to openness
  • Blaise on open RSS readers

(00:09:59.937) Hacker Word of the Week: fossil

(00:11:09.744) Inner Chapter: Ethos

  • One of the criticisms I have received about these segments
    • Is that they aren't really about the practice of programming
    • I suppose that is fair, that more of them tend towards the philosophical
    • Now that I spend more time managing then I do working directly with technology
      • This is an even greater likelihood as I sit down to write
    • More and more I will be thinking about not the immediate concerns of programming
      • But rather the broader questions that ensure such effort is spent in the right directions
    • Even working as a programmer, I tended to think these topics were important
    • As a leader, a first among peers, it was rarely enough to ensure good programming style
      • And strong discipline from design through to execution, delivery and support
    • Perhaps the ultimate question then on this meta-level of concern is the one of ethos
    • This may sound abstract and in some circumstances it is
      • But really it can be as simple as deciding who we want to be
      • And the best means to strive towards realizing that individual vision
    • Ethos is, after all, our fundamental character or our guiding beliefs
    • To me it requires that we think hard about the place from which everything else arises
      • And against which everything we do as technologists is ultimately judged
    • This can operate at the personal level, such as my ethos of favoring openness
    • It is also useful to consider on a group and an organizational level, where appropriate
    • I struggle with cultivating an ethos at this larger scale
      • One of the very things I see as being at the heart of my current role as a manager
    • Deciding on belief and conviction for myself is hard enough
    • Making clear that my own ethos applies to only my individual actions and decisions is even harder
      • That I don't intend to impose my personally derived views and priorities on anyone else
    • With a group to oversee and support, I realize that finding a joint way to instill a clear ethos
      • Helps to ensure a healthy group dynamic and good individual decisions
    • Another challenge in thinking about ethos is navigating a fine line between
      • Steering too far towards distilling it down to mere shared utility value
        • Such as desired technical merits of tools or methods
      • Or veering in the other direction, dwelling on seemingly abstract but no less important concerns
        • Such as impacts on the agency of users of the technology we build
    • Any ethos we try to instill into ourselves and our collaborators
      • Really needs to do both, to be holistic, considering the inherent qualities of the technology
        • And the interactions and consequences it will have with its users
  • Developing a personal ethos overlaps with what I consider to be the key professional question
    • What is it that I want to do or to be in my work life?
    • Ethos doesn't necessarily answer that question but it bears on it rather directly
      • And can be as much of a struggle to answer since it is so central to everything else
    • The first question speaks to the what and maybe the how of career development
      • While the second looks more to the why, a philosophical but no less important consideration
    • I submit that very few people indeed really are motivated exclusively by money
    • Even those that are predominantly interested in being more than comfortable
      • Have even some vestigial ethical dimension to their reasoning
    • Maybe they believe the products and services on which they work
      • Improve the lot of those that use them, in some way
    • I know for myself, it was at least in part ethical considerations that prompted my career change
    • Prioritizing openness in technology increasingly was at odds
      • With the closed licensing of the products that I developed for a living
        • Even when any number of open tools and libraries were used along the way
    • More compelling to me was the question of what my efforts actually achieved
      • Regardless of what proved to be a lesser question about openness
    • The things that motivated me more and more involved improving access to knowledge
    • This was not in some obscure way, or at least it seems that way to me
      • But rather include a broad swath of issues that really have become
        • Much more about how digital and network technologies mediate people's lives
    • Really it is what I say in the introduction of this podcast week in and out
    • I care about the intersection of technology and society
      • How that plays out to the advantage or disadvantage of individuals
    • This is by no means a simple concern, it has led me into a wealth of topics
      • Many of which I've tried to explore on this podcast over the past seven plus years
    • The more I dug into these deeper questions, the more I realized they meant more to me
      • Than my profession at that time, working as a developer in a series of startups
        • Afforded me the time or ability to answer or pursue
    • For a bit more than the first year of my new work in the world of non-profits
      • Much of what I actually did was consistent with software development
    • The difference is why I was writing code, advocating on issues
      • Or increasingly providing internal leadership
    • Something I've said to myself on a regular basis, even from the first day of my current job
      • Is that no matter how good or bad any given day now goes, I can say I am making a difference
    • This arises from the ethos I have embraced, of working directly on open technologies
      • Not for their own sake, but for the good that they foster out in the world
  • With my latest professional change, moving back into the world of management
    • I find that I am thinking more and more directly about questions of ethos
    • Instead of grappling with it on a personal level though
      • Now I have to think about what makes sense for me team and how that contributes
        • To the ethical and cultural focus of the entire organization
    • Sometimes this is an inclusive exercise, involving broad, consensus driven discussions
    • Much of what we do involves complexities of the best way to achieve social justice
      • Through technology interventions without risking people's safety
      • Or straying into difficult and politically ambiguous grounds
    • For these questions, it makes sense to use as much share knowledge and deliberation as possible
    • The decisions we arrive out evolve slowly, more on a project by project basis
    • More demanding are the situations requiring a more assertive approach on my part
    • There is a reason that in the last handful of episodes, I have mentioned several stories
      • That bear on gender dynamics and the very difficult questions and concerns involved
    • Every single day, whether I want to or no, I owe it to my staff to espouse a certain ethos
      • One grounded first in professionalism but going further, to realize inclusion and equality
        • Not just in the communities with which and for whom we work
        • But for the very members of our entire organization
    • I hope that this situation will improve but it definitely has me thinking
      • That attention to the ethos of a group is a continual demand
    • Even in less fraught environments, ones where questions of inclusion don't arise for whatever reason
      • I believe there are still valid opportunities to instill guiding beliefs
    • One common example from the world of technology is the idea of an engineering culture
    • I have seen instances of both good and poor adherence to this ethos
    • Much of the more practical discussion in the Inner Chapters
      • Can be seen as manifestations of trying to do better in living up to an engineering ethos
    • I have certainly identified many risks to this over the years
      • Things that may override that ethos, usually for the sake of short term benefit
      • Or arising from an ignorance, an unawareness of the need to engage at this level
    • Like much of the rest of life, instilling an ethos, either in yourself or within a group
      • Requires constant attention and input
    • I believe conversation is the simplest way to ensure that this happens
    • Simply talking about questions of culture and value helps keep people mindful
    • It encourages questions, especially if you allow for multiple forms of conversation
    • There are some topics appropriate to the whole group and others more comfortably handled one-on-one
    • No matter what else I am able to accomplish as a manager, I try to always make room for talking
    • When I see office doors closed around me from time to time, I take great pains to keep mine open
      • Or at least to put a note on my door explaining why it is closed
        • And either inviting a quiet interruption or making clear when the door will be open again
    • It may be a simple thing, in the final analysis maybe too simple
      • But so far, I think I have some good evidence of its effectiveness
    • I believe it is enabling my staff to make better decisions
      • And to use their time talking to me for quick gut checks
        • Based on our shared understanding of our group's and our organization's ethos
  • For me ethos is always heavily grounded in real decisions
    • In my former career and still in my current one
      • That had a lot to do with what it means to have an ethos of quality software
    • This guiding belief that software should be as well made as we know how
      • Informed many years of discussion about appropriate choices of tools, of process
        • And even what quality means in practical, measurable terms
    • I suppose that this is why I have little patience with ungrounded arguments
      • In why this tool is better than that tool
    • To be fair, ethos tends to allow for constantly evolving thought
      • And even admits for re-considering those core values from time to time
        • Hopefully just to refine them based on experience accumulated so far
    • I don't think there is an absolute measure for the validity of any given decision
      • Though I also acknowledge that allowing for some fluidity means
        • That we have to avoid the pitfall of making everything too relative
    • For me, that practical orientation is a useful hedge
    • Ethos arises in action when a decision is needed to capitalize on some opportunity
      • Or met some specific goal or challenge
    • There is a useful feedback loop and forcing function in coupling ethos and action
    • In the simpler cases, a choice of tool based on an ethos of engineering quality
      • Should be tested and evaluated in real world cases
    • Room has to be made for experimentation and failure as improvement towards a desired value
      • May be more incremental, at least earlier on or in the wake of a re-evaluation
    • Even working on broader issues of access, agency and ultimately online freedom
      • The decisions that have to be made, informed by the guiding values are often practical
    • They may bear on factors of cost, availability, safety, in what geographic location to work
      • And with whom to partner in the pursuit of a given project
    • I wish I could be more specific in these latter examples but the work is sensitive
    • Trust me when I say that often our shared ethos is tested by what we find we can actually accomplish
      • Affected by many of the very factors I just mentioned
    • We at times may have discussions separate from the immediacies of a given project
      • But very soon after, those have to be put into practice and are tested by experience
        • In just the same why the more technical aligned ethos are tested
  • Ethos is a start but is also a steadfast aspect of work
    • It is far from unique to the experience of being a hacker
    • In my experience, the hackers who show the most advanced grasp are by far the exception
      • The ones who gravitate towards roles as leaders or advocates
    • The good news for those just starting to think along these lines
      • Is that share value and guiding belief is one of those areas of overlap
        • On a project or within a group or organization between contributors of all stripes
    • Engaging in questions of shared ethos can be a productive way
      • To frame group decision making and prioritization
      • And to tap into everyone's knowledge and experience as a more widely applicable pool of assets

(00:27:30.794) Outro

Personal tools