Compendium of Wondrous Links vol VIII


More great reads!


About code creation


The job of developing


concept artOther stuff



Compendium of Wondrous Links vol VII


Here we go again… This time I’m loosely grouping them, it has been a while and there are so many things!

  • An extremely though-provoking article about the possible positive things can have a negative effect. How Perks Can Divide Us. Corporate culture is something extremely complex.
  • Mora about culture and biases on Mirrorcracy.
  • I do not like the idea that people have a “level”, ignoring all the dynamics (I talked about this here). There are no B players.
  • A set of articles talking about management skills. Is a great compilation of the different aspect of management. Great read even if you’re not “an official manager”, as is capital to understand what are the things that a (good) manager should do and challenges that the role presents
  • Some ideas about productivity. I like this quote a lot: “There is no one secret to becoming more productive, but there are hundreds of tactics you can use to get more done”
  • We tend to idealise the work involved in some stuff we really like. In particular in creating video games. It’s okay not to follow your dreams, but I think it could apply to a lot of other aspects

Dragon's Lair



Respect Driven Development

I think that one of the most overlooked components on any sane company culture is Respect. That’s probably true also for any relationship, also outside work environment, but I think is usually forgotten when nice places to work are described.

When I look back about the things that bothered me the most, most of them are related to disrespect, even in relatively minor form. It can be personal disrespect or not respecting the work itself or even the customers. Probably because is something engraved, it’s easy to take for granted when it exists, and to identify more problems deviating from the lack of it when is not present. We typically talk about how great cultures are innovative, open, communicative, fun, collaborative, etc. but one of the prerequisites that makes these values worthwhile is Respect, both to your coworkers and to the work itself.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T  Find out what it means to me
Find out what it means to me

Without Respect, ideas are accepted mostly depending on who present them, and need to be imposed. Even when there are explicit request for ideas, they take the shape of “suggestion boxes” where no one really looks into them. So, in practice, being proactive is discouraged unless you’re in a power position.

When there is Respect, ideas can be freely exchanged without fear of not being talking seriously. They are also welcomed from any source, not only through the “chosen channels”. There can be hard scrutiny, but it will be fair, and rejections will be reasonably based in facts.

Without Respect, a “funny, relaxed atmosphere” can be easily transformed into harassment and abuse. Jokes will actually hurt. Closed groups,   extremely aggressive with everyone external with them, will be formed. That can include groups outside the company, like mocking customers or partners. Some groups will be appointed as intrinsically “better” (engineers, executives…) as others (secretaries, workers…) and generate asymmetrical relationships, with one part dominating the other.

When there is Respect, jokes are played just for the laugh, and are taken up to the correct limit for everyone, as there are people with thicker skin than others. If those limits happen to be crossed, the problem will be arisen and people will sincerely apologise and correct their behaviours in the future, without external influence. Occasionally the customers or partners can be make fun of, but the quality of the delivered software will be took extremely seriously (the highest form of Respect for customers) and their requests or suggestions will be taken into account when making new features.

Without Respect within the company and the different groups, no particular measures will be enforced to protect anyone or anything. Therefore, it will be easy for someone to take advantage of that, ranging from lower the quality of the work to be a moron and degrade the working environment. Code will devolve into an unreadable mess, and technical debt will grow uncontrollably. Hiring standards will get lower, and not-that-great people will be part of the team (technically, but also in a more personal sense). Also, the expectations will be to work overtime regularly, without any contingency plans or treating it as a bad sign.

When there is Respect, the organisation truly cares about the people, and not just as an empty statement. This includes understanding when overtime is unavoidable evil and work as a team to avoid it as much as possible. And when it happens, everyone do as much as they can to make it as short and enjoyable as possible. There will be understanding when someone wants to leave because they have a genuine different interest, leaving the door open if things don’t turn out for the good. Learning and personal growth will be encouraged with actions, not only with words.

Trust, a extremely important value, can only arise if there is Respect. Without Respect, fear and uncertainty will replace real trust. Being honest needs trust and confidence in the other part, as real honesty can be, and sometimes should be, uncomfortable to hear. Formality and defensiveness take control over honest feedback and team work when respect is not present. Any long-term relationship also needs Respect to stay healthy.

What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?
What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?

Being imperfect human beings, we cannot probably achieve perfect respectful relationships  at all times. But we should try to be as respectful  as possible, identifying our mistakes and the ones of the organisation, and move up towards the Respect ladder. That makes a much healthier (and happier) environment for all. We should recognise the Real Respect, as the word is often abused.

It is great to aim for having a great organisation or startup, with a thrilling culture. But, in order to get to establish a funny, exciting, learning, diverse and passionate place to work, we should lay strong foundations with Respect. Identify it, and not tolerate the lack of it.

Minor offences

Here is a very interesting quote by Niccolò Machiavelli

“People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.”

When I look back about the things that had really make me angry on work places, they have been relatively minor things. Setting a firewall so I can’t easily access half of the Internet, usually the interesting parts for the work I was doing (you could still check the cache, but it was pretty inconvenient) or having to work overtime in short notice for stupid reasons…

I mean, they are not BIG deals. There are worse things to deal on a working environment, that are common. Bad salaries (and ridiculously low raises), mean coworkers, being forced to use software you don’t want to use, no support (RTFM as the universal response for everything)… The list can be very long, and I’m sure that every worked had to deal with these or other problems.

But why do you feel that bad about those minor, stupid problems? Why such a minimal inconveniences hurt you in a personal level? Probably because they are perceived somehow as an attack and lack of confidence. And that makes people very nervous and upset.

Here’s the story about management. The rule number one of management is Thou shall not demotivate. Ideally, it should be about motivation, but that’s too long down the road. The sad true is that it is extremely easy to do stupid moves that can have a relatively big impact in the morale of the team.

Yeah, If you can take no more than one coffee each morning, mmm, that'd be great.
Yeah, If you can take no more than one coffee each morning, mmm, that’d be great.

A common pattern: the Team is working reasonably well, no obvious problems on their part. And, of course, Manager SHOULD do something. You know, because Manager must leave an imprint and, well, manage. Be a Leader and so. Then, Manager finds out a small thing, probably just because of boredom. And, as it’s the only incident on sight, Manager takes it as a sign. “If I leave this be, soon all will be chaos”  So, Manager decides to have a word with Team Member (maybe even with the whole Team). And gently, but firmly, gives a cease-and-desist order. “Hey, remember that what your doing is Wrong.  I am with you, but this Company does not tolerate that kind of behaviour. It will be awesome if you stop it”. And then, when Team Member leaves the room, Manager breaths and feels like Chaos is Under Control and Everything is OK Now, probably forgetting about the whole incident.

But Team Member feels really bad. “Is that really a problem? What happens with X, Y and Z, that are Real Problems? What about Other Team Member? I think is doing something very similar, but I can’t see any effect”, and decides that this is Just a Job, and it’s not worth working really hard. And maybe the next recruiter email is looked in a different, more favourable way.

I think that’s why all those posts about sodas not free anymore rings so deeply. Because they are the way of a manager (being upper management or just middle management) to say “I’m going to cause an inconvenience to you, for no particular reason other than feel good to myself” Everyone get the problems. The things that are important. That really cost money, or time, or are a pain. And those are part of the job. But the minor, stupid offences that are just a way to remind the workers who’s on charge. That the Overlords are the ones making the decisions, and all those words of “our most valuable asset is our team” are empty.

As with any other action, I think that those kind of problems deserves a small though about if they are worth the hustle. Is it worth to bother someone with this small thing, or it is an opportunity to just set that someone angry? If it is, it’s probably best to leave it be, or work around it.

But minor damages just hurt, and makes people to be vengeful, probably at the worst moment.