Saturday, 27-Apr-24 13:12
Deep into DevOps

On a colleague's recommendation, I ended up grabbing The Phoenix Project from my local library. Which has, pretty much since COVID, become my happy place. Not that it wasn't before, but the biggest thing I found myself missing during lockdowns was that I couldn't go to the library. Everything else I could cope with, but not being to access a library at my whim felt really, really bad. So I now make a point to visit it regularly.

Anyhoo, this was a weird book. It is a hero tale of an IT manager, who suddenly gets promoted to a VP of IT operations and is suddenly responsible for saving a multi-billion company from serious trouble and his entire IT team from being outsourced. And naturally, he accomplishes this with the help of a mysterious stranger who brings in his sensei-like wisdom about DevOps, and a few people who are eager to grasp onto these pearls of wisdom escaping his lips.

As a book, it's shit. Characters are uninteresting, plot is thinner than the paper the book was printed on, and I could not help but facepalm occasionally. There are three kinds of people in this book: Smart and Wrong, Stupid and Wrong, and Smart and Right. Of course the people who are Smart and Wrong become people who are Smart and Right, because of DevOps wisdom sprinkled by the protagonist and his sensei. And people who are Stupid and Wrong are the main antagonists here, and they of course lose. Because the hero story, right?

But as an illustrated case study for DevOps principles, it is brilliant. Basically this is a list of all different issues your company might be having, ranging from too much work-in-progress to managing unplanned work to managing conflicting business priorities and whatnot. It's easy to put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist, and just execute smart plans using solid principles to solve each problem as they come along. In that sense, it's not that different from a lot of hero epics, such as The Martian by Andy Weir (which, unlike this, is actually a good book that I recommend).

This book is an interesting approach. It has certain, well, aynrandistic preachiness in it, but still a free-flowing fiction might be in some cases a good way to make your reader to think about the ideas you have. So if you read it as a marketing text on DevOps, it's pretty good. It's easy and fast to read, doesn't really slow down anywhere, and comes with a useful appendix of an excerpt of the business book they really want you to buy after this one.

Just don't expect a great narrative, well-rounded characters, or actually, well, caring about any of them.

Sunday, 14-Apr-24 12:15
Sunday morning wakeup

Just a bit of ye goode olde haircut blogging, just because I feel like it today. I mean, I could write this up also in Facebook, but I'm getting a bit tired of it, really.

But hey, so I wake up this glorious Monday morning, wondering why my alarm clock didn't go off? But hey, I am only a few minutes late, and I have plenty of time in the mornings usually. I like my morning routines, waking up slowly, reading the news, etc.

So the news isn't obviously good (because it seems that there are two nuclear-capable nations just lobbing missiles at each other), so I get distracted a bit. As I am slowly moving towards leaving for work, I check my bank app. It's payday, so I sortakinda want to just see the numbers, as it's also "pay my monthly house loan dues" -day.

Nothing. No money in, no money out.

WTF?

Slowly it dawns on me. Is it... Sunday? Could it be?

Oh darn. It is Sunday. But hey, that's good right! I'm already up early and ready to go!

(A few hours later I've squandered most of the morning by debugging some spam filter issues and ugprading things left and right...)

Although... Why didn't I notice it's Sunday? Probably because in the digital world, Sunday is pretty much the same as all other days. No more Sunday issues of newspapers - they all look the same in the app. No morning TV - Youtube and Netflix have the same stuff every day. No morning radio - it's all just Spotify. So it's a bit weird to realize that one thing that this hyperpersonalized age and information work completely deletes is the gut feeling for passage of time. In a way, it is a return to earlier times, when seasons where the defining factor in people's lives. Industrial age was very much about dividing labour into hours and weeks and months over seasons and years, but information work does not care. We expect to have our services available when we want them, not 9-16 on weekdays. Information workers are not only allowed, but sometimes encouraged to ignore "regular hours". And the further we drift from the industrial age, a day, week or month is pretty much the same as any other. Seasons we notice, years we feel passing.

I take no value judgement on whether this is good or not. But the change is likely not to halt here.

Sunday, 21-Jan-24 13:38
Moving

Well, I'm moving this server physically from Germany to Finland. Or to be precise, I rented new hardware, moved all my stuff, and am now in the process of rebuilding everything on the new server. So if you're reading this, at least the web servers have been moved properly.

Anyway, moving digital assets is much the same as moving in the physical world. It always takes longer than you plan, you invariably break stuff, and you are constantly amazed at the amount of cruft you have accumulated over the years and you SWEAR you're going to clean everything up AS SOON AS everything has settled, and then you basically end up putting stuff in a big box that says "TODO" and go open a beer. And when the next move comes, you open the box and you go "Oops, do I still need these?"

There's another surprising thing that is similar, and it's that configurations don't move well. It's very difficult to end up with the same order of books on the shelf in the new place, or the same configuration in the kitchen, and most likely you don't even want to. Some of the stuff you just chuck in place, and for some you spend hours contemplating what would be the best configuration be - should the sofa be in that corner? What's the best way to get lighting on my desk? Should this lamp be there?

Same with digital stuff: Web server needs to be reconfigured; your <program> config needs to change (since the original is probably from 2012 and the server config file format has changed)... When you own your furniture/server, you need to think about configuration as well. If you have a web hotel and just copy stuff from one place to another, it's almost like moving from one furnished apartment to another - no need to think, just fill the cupboards and you're done. But when you insist on renting just the walls/server, you need to configure things on your own.

And I know I don't need to. Most of the things I use my server for is, well, you could just rent the equivalent - probably better even - from a SaaS provider. And modern software development revolves around docker containers and serverless these days, so there's little to no need even professionally to know the ins and outs of servers anymore. And this tinkering can be a bit frustrating too. However, I do appreciate the fact that by tinkering on this server I gain far deeper knowledge of how the internet really works on a very concrete, even visceral, level. After all, I've always been a bead curtain kind of guy.

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Oh, and Happy New Year 2024! I think this blog can now legally buy beer even in the US...

Thursday, 21-Dec-23 10:39
Random musing of the day

So I tricked my brain by reserving an appointment for today at 9:10, because I know that stupid little pile of noodles will round it down to 9:00, and I won't be late. Even if the road conditions were bad, like they turned out to be.

So does this make me very smart or very stupid? 😜

Friday, 01-Dec-23 10:05
"But teh AI is said I am a hockey player!!11!"

What slightly bothers me about a lot of the AI coverage is the discrepancy between the hype and reality. Some folks are screaming AI apocalypse, and some folks go and "I tried ChatGPT and it gave me shit answers."

Just a few years ago, we had an equivalent situation with EVs. Some folks were saying that Tesla will build all cars in the future, and others just saw a big bunch of panel gaps and range issues. That they would never replace diesel. And you couldn't charge them everywhere.

Yet almost overnight, EVs and chargers are suddenly everywhere (in richer countries). Tesla is big, yes, but not everything [in Europe & China; US is weird]. It just took the understanding on how to make them cheaper and faster to build, and then building the factories and supply chains. Fundamentally they are better vehicles, but the first implementations were buggy as hell. They are not perfect, but they have become _good enough_.

There's a ton of panel gaps and quality issues in current generative AI tools as well. But consider the speed at which they are improving - ChatGPT is nary a year old - and we don't yet know if they are hitting any sorts of limits. It again becomes a question on how to make them cheaper and better so that they can become ubiquitous. We're still pretty much at the "throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks" -phase of AI; figuring out where and how it could and should be used.

Neither do we know what the real dangers of AI are. EVs didn't become a public menace because they are so quiet either, even though that was a big argument against them a few years back. We solved it by making all EVs make a mandatory noise.

So don't take the current AIs as representative of the future. Neither take the hyperbole. Reality, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

(Unless someone gives them weapons and makes them eat organic material and self-replicate. Then we might have some Horizon Zero Dawn -level problems.)

Saturday, 21-Oct-23 11:41
Trolls and social media

Myself, like an increasing number of other people, have deserted Twitter and moved on to alternative services. (Not blaming Musk though; it was a cesspool before and Musk just made it worse through his lack of understanding of human behaviour. Twitter would need a game designer as a CEO, not a manufacturing geek. Anyway, I left Twitter already on the early COVID days...) So you can find me on Bluesky as @ecyrd.com or Mastodon as @ecyrd@universeodon.com. Of these, Bluesky seems to be enjoying faster growth, though I do like Mastodon's filtering features more.

Anyway, what I find interesting is not the tool themselves, but the meta-discussion around the tools. Many people announce their escape from Twitter and almost invariably the first question on a new platform is a question of identity - what should I write about here? How will others see me? What kind of a response do I get? How do I engage? Who should I follow? How do hashtags work? It's kind of endearing to watch: like a number of puppies in a new pen, poking around all the toys. Everyone's account is the same with a single post and a few followers. Fun! Much potential! Wow!

The next post, regrettably, often is about "nice place, how do I keep this place from turning into a toxic pool of twitterisms" or "how do I deal with trolls when they eventually arrive". It feels like people escaping a war zone. People, who are sure the war will follow them wherever they go. Social PTSD, almost.

The obvious answer is to bubble up - create your own Discord and discuss there. Community will throw the misbehaving people away, and new account moderation will keep bots at bay. But there are significant advantages to having a public forum too. You find new people, new information, joy, sadness that you cannot find from inside your own bubble. Social bubbles are after all quite slow-changing and static, much like cosmic bubbles (and entirely unlike soap bubbles. But I digress.)

To me dealing with trolls is about energy consumption. Assume a trollish message written by a human costs one unit of energy for that person. Doesn't matter what the unit is, let's just call it "1 troll". Since time and human capacity are limited, I believe the best way to respond is to make sure your response costs less than "1 troll". This is why things like engaging in a debate does not ultimately work: if you spend 10 trolls worth of energy to respond to a single troll, they will respond with another 1 troll message, and you will use again 10 trolls of energy to respond. The end result is that you will spend most of your time just dealing with a single troll. God forbid if there are more!

However, if your response takes, say 0.5 trolls, the more the troll responds, the bigger the gap between yours and their time usage will be.

This is why blocking almost works - it takes only 0.1 trolls to block someone. I say almost, because the whole thing is broken due to bots - the cost of creation of a bot and making it spew out nonsense goes asymptotically towards zero. So you cannot win a manual block war against bots.

This is where the platform must take a firm stance and make sure that there is a big enough - but not too big - a cost of creating and operating a bot. Yes, I know of the big debacle around paid API access on Reddit, but in my mind, this is necessary. The key is to remember is that the cost does not have to be monetary - it can also be less tangible stuff like red tape. Make the free API option such that you have to request an API key via a fax machine or a physical letter, and it might deter the bot authors somewhat. (Don't actually do this, it was just an illustration of an idea. :-D)

But as long as there's not a bot problem, blocking hard and fast is simply the best long-term way to engage with trolls in any social media. And I say this as someone who has been on pretty much all of the social media before they were even called that, and who has probably tried all of the methods from backtrolling to completely ignoring trolls. The only thing that really works is blocking; starving them of space and time.

Wednesday, 09-Aug-23 10:23
Content explosion continueth

Jane Friedman talks about how AI is messing up with her work, since anyone can write and publish books under her name for a quick buck.

With the flood of AI content now published at Amazon, sometimes attributed to authors in a misleading or fraudulent manner, how can anyone reasonably expect working authors to spend every week for the rest of their lives policing this? And if authors don’t police it, they will certainly hear about it, from readers concerned about these garbage books, and from readers who credulously bought this crap and have complaints. Or authors might not hear any thing at all, and lose a potential reader forever.

We desperately need guardrails on this landslide of misattribution and misinformation. Amazon and Goodreads, I beg you to create a way to verify authorship, or for authors to easily block fraudulent books credited to them. Do it now, do it quickly.

In the old cyberpunk dystopias, the scary stuff was always in corporate vaults, and a big fear was that a smart AI would escape the corporate computers and roam wildly on the internet. I don't recall an author who thought the dystopia would be a small company trying to turn in a quick buck by making their AI available for everyone. But here we are, and we're not at all prepared for this.

Tuesday, 08-Aug-23 16:59
Inter-species protocols

Found this from my daily AI newsletter:

For hiring: recruiters now have the tools to draft job postings that only attract the right candidates. All it takes is a quick prompt to ChatGPT (how-to) or LinkedIn’s AI-powered job description generator. It’s also never been easier to sift through endless candidates. HireEZ has you covered.

For applying: In seconds, platforms like Wonsulting AI can tweak your resume and cover letter to make them a perfect match for that dream job.

So yeah, basically future job market will have AIs writing letters for other AIs to digest. I wrote about this content explosion a bit earlier, but I still find it fascinating to watch it take shape. It's like the AI output will become the lingua franca of all professional interaction.

The fun/great part of it is that it could have been a complicated, designed machine language; a general interchange format designed by people to be easily machine-consumable (there is a myriad of them already). Turns out that the best way for computers to communicate is basically just polite, verbose human language. Ha, take that, XML!

Wednesday, 21-Jun-23 23:02
20-year anniversary

Something that passed unnoticed was the 20-year-anniversary of this blog. I started out with a very witty Finnish Hello World -like text:

It is so cold, that when you inhale, the snot in your nose freezes immediately.

The quality has been downhill ever since.

However, I'm wondering... Should I arrange some sort of a celebration? Write a memoir entry? Reminisce about "ye goode old days" of blogging when we all knew each other and had those unforgettable monthly orgies? Right now I don't really quite know how to handle this, so if I a) have any readers still left, and 2) they might have some ideas, feel free to pitch them.


Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.



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