Scapegoating The Telecommuters

Recently Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer admitted the potential incompetence of corporate middle-management but – as is usually the case in corporate America – she held the wrong people responsible.

She claimed that telecommuters are “unproductive”. To which I’d ask a question, are they the only ones that are “unproductive”? Did she actually compare telecommuters to cubicle bound bench warmers? What about the social butterflies? I would bet she hasn’t, in fact I would bet this is not even her idea. This will be the consensus of her own middle-management. There’s a certain irony about a technology company that cannot tolerate technologists that prefer less social interaction – technologists that use technology to allow them to focus their efforts on the task at hand. The irony being that the good ones will be the ones that leave.

How many of the people that report directly to her do you think are telecommuters? Not many, so when the rubber meets the road, do you think middle-management will be taking responsibility for having no clue what their direct reports are working on? I can assure you they will not. They will pass the buck.

The recent news comes with some predictable backlash, however there is also a subtext to be analysed. It was mentioned that not only were many “unproductive” but Yahoo didn’t even know some of them were still on the payroll. Talk about supervisor incompetence!

So we get to the point of this post. One thing some in middle-management fear, is exceptionalism. In the type of corporate environment where supervisors “kiss-up” and “blame-down” the only threat to their existence is for their staff to be too productive. How can they “blame” down when the exceptionalism of their staff is well known? The answer is, they cannot. The clock begins ticking on middle-management’s illusion as soon as they cannot blame someone else. Politicians tend to work precisely the same way. In fact exceptionalism at the management level is demonstrated by not behaving this way but rather taking responsibility. Sadly it is the road less traveled.

Those of us who are truly exceptional will experience this consistently. Even in management, there will be a lot of pressure to find someone to blame when things go wrong. Only small organizations, hardly comparable to the average “Corporate America” are capable of tolerating exceptionalism and that only lasts for as long as the organization remains small. For instance, a CEO/Owner (like mine) will perceive little threat from great staff. They will only perceive value. However, once the CEO is not the owner. Instead, they answer to a board of directors, and ownership has been relinquished to stock holders. When there is no clear “owner” the scale tips, and even the CEO will be tempted to “blame down” and “kiss up”.

It takes a very unique individual to fire a “kiss up” but a diva/rock star wizard that is productive and knows it. They are easy to dislike. They don’t tend to be very good at “kissing” they are much better at “kicking” … kicking arse at what they do.

I had a corporate gig once upon a time. I left over my manager’s obsession with me sitting in my absurdly uncomfortable desk chair. The reality, I recovered more revenue for that company in a single day than they paid me the whole time I worked there. Of course my manager didn’t mention that to my CEO. What if she had? Then she would be forced to accept responsibility for her poor communication and often complete ignorance of current projects. When she wasn’t in meetings “kissing up” to corporate leadership, she sat at her desk wasting time in ways that would make a soap opera addict seem productive. To this day the CEO believes that I was just “insubordinate”. That CEO has just as much responsibility. Marissa Mayer has just as much responsibility. She needs to stop looking for yes men, and find the rock star managers who aren’t afraid of rock star staff.

Today, as I type this article and prepare to dive into a wrestling match with some ugly ASP, I have sat on the floor, in two different recliners, and had zero water-cooler conversations about my new tie. Yes, Ms. Mayer, there are unproductive telecommuters. Productivity can be directly related to accountability. There are always people who will take advantage of poor leadership. If it’s your supervisors’ jobs to supervise, then no matter how much “kissing up” they do, it’s your job to hold them accountable for that and not allow them to create scapegoats. You’d have to let them stop kissing up and get back to their jobs. If all of that kissing up is too important to you Ms. Mayer, then you’re part of the problem. Being CEO, if you are ever any “part” of the problem then you are likely the whole problem.

Hybrid Hype

After I post this article I will be switching back to my old legacy hard drive. I was afraid this would happen.

When hybrid drives became available I followed the reviews obsessively, I could not wait to get one. Yet the reviews kept warning about poorly implemented firmware and erratic behavior. Then came the Seagate Momentus XT ST500LX003. Seagate did not manage to communicate the changes in the new model but obsessive research revealed that the new version had a full 8GB of SSD vs. the 4GB of its predecessor. Reviews stated that they had fixed their erratic firmware. The interface supported a full 6gb/s. It was time to move. With 8GB of SSD my whole system folder could fit on the SSD and then some! A “smart” firmware that goes further than that could only be better right? … Wrong.

After I installed the drive I immediately noticed improvement, super fast, and that lasted for about a week, maybe even two. I was reveling in the same joy that I had read in the reviews. Yet around week 3 I started to notice that my hard drive light would stay on, not blink, just solid on for 5-10 minutes at a time. Within a week of that this solid light was accompanied by system paralysis. I’ve now spent several months trying everything I can think of to stop the madness and renew the bliss of the honeymoon days.

From defrag to reboots, from searches for utility programs, to task manager. If I could only find a program that would let me move C:\WINDOWS permanently to the SSD portion of the drive and bypass whatever algorithm was so dreadfully flawed as to render my machine slower than with a 5400rpm dinosaur. Yet there appears to be no resolution. Random freezes, usually when I’m doing something important, have become a part of life.

With practice I’ve narrowed down a few things that cause this to happen more often. Sleeping the computer is a sure way to have to wait 5-10 minutes for the spasm to subside. Since my machine reboots in 2 minutes it makes sleeping the computer pointless. However, reboots also trigger the spasms… as does Chrome, the program that I use more than any other. Which should have earned it a permanent spot on the SSD if the mystery “algorithm” was worth diddly, but as usual there is so little accountability and Q/A beyond a 24 hour burn in test that it’s a sure bet that time will reveal lots of flaws.

So if you want to take your chances with bad tech, then we have one for cheap!

Fancy Frameworks and Trendy Tech

I wonder if in a few years coding to spec will come back in style and I’ll have to start wearing skinny jeans and using a Mac. I kinda hope not. Coding to spec instead of trying to fit the spec into a subset of pre-existing modules is a nice niche. MVC and such are nice conventions, but public conventions can be a security risk in and of themselves. Sure you can call them “standards” but having predated social media driven “standards” doesn’t mean we didn’t have “standards” we just had to understand them much better than the fanfare of today’s pretentious “guru” atmosphere. We had to actually code to spec.

I really gave “test-driven” development a shot… but what a laugh! It’s like having to do everything twice. I imagine that’s important for beginners, but after 20 years of coding I’ll just do it right the first time thanks. The first time you spend an hour debugging someone else’s “test” you’ll have to question if there really is a baby in that nasty bath water.

It’s amazing how lean and mean code written for the spec can be compared to the bloat of piles of libraries just to get started with some packages. JavaScript is super easy and super powerful, yet how many people import JQuery just because they can’t code a 5 line function? Or for some reason believe they can’t maintain browser compatibility? Don’t they know that compatibility bugs in JQuery can last months? Any that show up in your function should take less time to fix than installing a new version of JQuery.

Alas, I’m afraid we’re bound to come full circle. After the last just-another-web-framework comes along and the déjà vu is undeniable, someone with skinny jeans, dark rimmed glasses, and a shirt that ensures that he cannot tie his shoes without mooning someone; that guy will profoundly declare to his bazillion Twitter zombies that coding to spec is the new bleeding edge. We just need to wait long enough for everyone to forget that option ever existed.