Interesting times

(repost for Steemit)

太平” (nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén), or “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.”

The above line is also known as the “Chinese Curse”, and is often translated as “May you live in interesting times.”

Why do I bring this up? Because we are in a chaotic period. According to StyxHexenhammer666, it’s a moral panic, or shows signs of being a moral panic and it will pass. Now, he might be right, but that doesn’t take away my worry. I read and have read quite a bit. Silly tomes like “Fahrenheit 451”, “1984”, “Animal Farm”, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and more of those apocalyptic stories about what might happen when horrible ideas get their foot in the door and are allowed to expand.

I’m a centrist. I don’t like what either the left or the right is doing, and especially the extreme sides of the spectrum. What worries me even more, is that the people that call themselves the “left”, are using the books I mention as manuals for attempting to create utopia. They aren’t. They are warnings.

The crux of the matter is that we need ideas and ideologies of both sides of the spectrum. The will to change of the left, and the stability of the right, in perfect balance. This requires all sides to listen to each other. Right now, surprisingly, the conservatives are seeing that, and the “progressives” aren’t. Right now, the right is fighting for free speech and liberty, and the left want censorship and totalitarianism.

It’s like I’ve fell asleep and woke up in bizarro world. Left is right, up is down, black is white. War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength.

It’s disturbing. And it should disturb you.

The Shitlord Manifesto (first draft)

Sargon of Akkad mentioned that we needed a manifesto. Here’s a first rough stab at that.

The Shitlord Manifesto (first draft)

By Emiel Kollof

  • I don’t care about your race, sexuality or gender. All people should have equal opportunity, but equality must never be forced. Let the people that are the best at it do the work.
  • Free speech must be free, no matter how egregious it is to anyone. Violent speech should only be prosecuted if actual violence came of it. Let the idiots expose themselves. Hate speech does not exist.
  • Violence without a need is always reprehensible. This includes politically motivated violence.
  • The only weapon against speech you don’t agree with, is more speech.
  • Don’t assign epithets to people when you don’t even know what the epithet means.
  • Any action that disadvantages or maligns anyone because of race, sex or creed is racism, sexism or discrimination.
  • You have the right to be offended. Others have the right to ignore you. But you don’t have the right to limit the freedom of anyone because you are offended.
  • Religion is not a race. I will criticize your religion (regardless of what it is) if it has dangerous tenets.
  • I will listen to your ideas and attempt to shoot holes in it. I expect the same in return.
  • Facts over feelings.
  • I’m not better than you. The inverse is also true.
  • Communism and Socialism have never worked, and will never work. Trying again won’t make it work, so give it a rest already.
  • Men and women are physically and emotionally different. This does not imply ability, but it plays a factor in preferences. Also, exceptions exist, but they are indeed exceptions, not the rule, and not in any way more or less appreciated.
  • I will not rewrite history, furthermore I will protest the destruction of history even if it offends people. Because if you don’t see the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.
  • Echo chambers are where reason goes to die.

Some thoughts on Agile/Scrum…

I’ve just ended a project where I was working in an Agile/Scrum based environment, with sprints, stories, and deadlines. I kinda liked it, because you collaborate closely with your colleagues, and you pick your own tasks. Things can move potentially very fast, but there are some very glaring downsides. I’ll list them below:

The burndown.

The holy and sacred burndown. People care way too much about getting a Sprint completely burned down. It sometimes makes Agile feel more like a panic room, than a flexible way of working. Especially when you have to wait for third parties. Other squads can really shit in your cereal by letting you wait days for a request to be fulfilled and things get blocked.

Yes, you should make your best effort to finish your burndown, but it really isn’t the end of the world if you don’t make it.

 

Refinements and retrospectives

Basically meetings without an agenda.

I thought I would have fewer meetings with an Agile workflow, but you get interrupted by refinements and retrospectives. It’s understandable that people want as many eyeballs as possible to refine something, but for crying out loud, let people work uninterrupted!

Many a time I sat a refinement, wondering what the hell I was doing there except for filling up a chair. Where I worked, the entire squad would be expected to sit in, while just a couple of people that are working in the problem domain would have sufficed.

And then there are the Agile coaches. They sit in on some of the standups, refinements and the retrospectives, but I wonder if that’s absolutely useful. Yes, they give some input on agile workflow and sometimes play moderator. But they don’t really contribute to the product. I don’t have anything against Agile coaches personally, but I would consider them overhead, akin to project managers.

Standups

I specifically left out the standup in the former part, because, well, that’s the only ‘meeting’ that I personally need. Basically just outline the stories you are working on, what is blocking you and what you will pick up next. That’s it. Also, frequently standups take too long because some people treat it like a full-blown goddamn meeting. Yeah, I get standing up is healthy, but the whole point of standing up is to add a physical constraint to ensure meetings don’t take too long.

Next Agile project I work at I will just introduce a damn egg timer. You get three minutes. That’s it.

Access, or the lack thereof.

Granted, this is not really related to Agile workflow, but it is a source of impediments. Yes, I get security is important. Yes, there must be due diligence and least access, but ideally, it shouldn’t get in the way of your work and be as transparent as possible.

The last project I worked at, they had a monstrosity of an Excel spreadsheet to outline all the rights and access a user or application has. It was a nightmare. Typical old-world holdover. Such information you should pull from the systems or from an automatically updated single point of truth (SPOT) that reflects reality in real time. It saves a lot of time and hassle. You can just look up what someone/something can do and limit/grant accordingly.

The other way around is also possible (and I’ve been in such an environment). Just give everyone full access, even on production. Let people own their mistakes and security incidents (you break it, you figure out how to fix it and who can help you, no blame shifting), implement strict code review (e.g. Gerrit), and pentest the crap out of everything. Funnily enough, it worked fine. People were careful, but mistakes weren’t punished. The environment was fluid enough to just redeploy a known working state and to sequester broken things for post mortem.

Conclusion

Agile is an interesting way of working, but it becomes awful when there are too many rigid processes attached (think of ITSM/ITIL or Prince2) and if people are too set in their ways. The whole point of Agile is to try lots of new things in rapid succession and to fail/learn a lot so you have a fast turnaround. You don’t want many extra things attached. Sure, include parts of ITIL that make sense (Incident/Problem tickets, continuous improvement, the Deming cycle), but don’t try to bolt on Agile onto something rigid. It won’t work well.

The whole point of Agile is to try lots of new things in rapid succession and to fail/learn a lot so you have a fast turnaround. You don’t want many extra things attached. Sure, include parts of ITIL that make sense (Incident/Problem tickets, continuous improvement, the Deming cycle), but don’t introduce Agile into your company as an afterthought. It won’t work well.

If you want to do Agile well, reorganize everything to facilitate it, don’t try to fit Agile in afterward. It’s like trying forcing a square peg into a round hole. It can be done through force, but it won’t be pretty, or useful.

The difference between belief and religion

(Repost for Steemit)

First, let’s get this out of the way: I’m an atheist at my core. There’s stuff stacked on top of my atheism to facilitate esoteric reasoning, but there is always reasoning, according to some sort of logic. Having never been indoctrinated with any religion when I grew up, I have no learned concepts for fear of gods or an afterlife. The concepts are alien to me.

I understand that people believe things. I’m no exception. There are things that seem true to me for which I have no evidence. There are things I can’t explain. The difference between a religious person and me is that I don’t mind admitting that I don’t know. I have perfect solace in not knowing, if I don’t need to know to live a fulfilling live (for which my needs are modest and mundane) then I don’t care to.

What does supposing to know what the meaning of life do for me? Nothing, other than occupying my mind for a bit. I don’t need to have all the answers. But a person trapped into a religion might disagree.

Religion is an insidious thing. Especially organized religion. I get that people develop beliefs to make sense of the world around them. Some beliefs are grounded in fact, and some are not. But beliefs are always individual. This is where religion poisons the well. It strives to make beliefs held by a smaller group the beliefs of a larger one, so few control the beliefs of the many. To control the beliefs of an individual is to control the individual.

Religion doesn’t have to be mystical or esoteric. Examples of this are veganism, PETA, inter-sectional feminism and all related social justice lunacy.

They seek to control the beliefs of their adherents, poisoning their minds and seeding disdain for anything that doesn’t agree with them. For some, individual beliefs are sometimes stronger than the beliefs espoused by the religion, and in some cases, individuals inside a religion try to convince others of those beliefs. When people with authority inside a religion have differing beliefs, and depending on how much of an authority they are, reform happens with varying degrees of success.

It’s processes like these that changes a religion over time, usually with more secular slants, but the opposite is also possible (fundamentalism). But it’s still the few controlling the beliefs of many. And therein lie my problems with organized religion. I don’t care which religion it is. All of them are equal to me, and I regard the ideology of all of them dangerous.

But here comes the twist. I can fight, protest, and mock religion all I like, I can’t touch personal beliefs. Nor would I want to (although I will think of them what I want). I can effort to change them with evidence and reasoning, the final verdict is still in the eye of the beholder.

I don’t have disdain for people and their beliefs. They can believe whatever they like, but it’s the social poison called religion (and in a way, group think) that murks this marketplace of ideas, offering knockoff plastic copies of actual original thought.

More original thought, please. Think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to doubt.

Censorship through advertising

I have opinions that might rub people the wrong way (big list here). If you examine that list, you might pick up that I’m in favor of complete freedom of speech. This includes things I have disdain for or things I vehemently disagree with. Everyone should have a platform, no matter how disgusting the idea.

You might think: “where do you draw the line?”. It’s really simple. Physical violence or extreme psychological terror (which does not include offense). I also think people should be allowed to have violent speech. The crux is that if actual violence does happen, the person responsible for convincing others should be held responsible.

There is this website/blog in the Netherlands called Geenstijl. They are known for being right-wing-satiric and completely politically incorrect. They are course, crude, obnoxious and willfully abrasive, but they do have valid points every once in a while. The liberal “left” hates them. You could compare them to Breitbart, but that would be an incorrect comparison, because they don’t purport to be a news site.

Recently, some bleeding heart feminists decided to contact Geenstijl’s advertisers to get them to pull their ads, because of ‘reasons’. Most importantly because those feminists didn’t like what Geenstijl was doing, and Geenstijl does take on third wave inter-sectional feminists often. But instead of doing the reasonable thing, like asking people to not read Geenstijl anymore, they went after the income of the site. Of course Geenstijl didn’t like that and went on the defense. So did the people that like reading the site. Of course the readership of Geenstijl is even more course and obnoxious, and as happens when you disturb a hornet nest, they went on the attack.

Calling out to companies to stop their advertisement sets a dangerous precedent, in my opinion, and it yields a slippery slope. A good example is YouTube nowadays. Because some social marxists got their feefees twisted by a few people, companies withdrew their advertisements, hurting lots of small creators that had nothing to do with anything in the process. All for getting back at a few.

The bottom line is that advertisers shouldn’t care what they advertise on. Everyone knows that advertising is automatic and has no relation to the opinion expressed on the page which has the ad. Usually the product or service advertised is completely unrelated to the message posted anyway (and people know this). What’s really poignant is that people from the government are in support of this advertiser meddling. This is unacceptable.

By all means, boycott the site that you don’t like. Nobody forces you to go where you don’t want to go. Tell your friends not to go there. But don’t try to break a platform you don’t like. That’s ugly and totalitarian. The thing the SJWs supposedly are trying to fight.

 

Is the current left compatible with democracy?

It’s been a while since I penned something, but I was pondering something that I would like to run by you.

Disclaimer, I am basically left winged. You might not think it judging from my posts, but I actually am. I’m a classic liberalist and egalitarian when it comes to democracy, free speech and how the state should take care of the people. I’m of the school of thought of de Toqueville and his contemporaries. This also means that I personally think that the current “left” has little to do with being left. It seems that what has replaced the left nowadays are whiney antidemocratic socialists and communists. 

Okay, I’m drifting somewhat away from the point I’m trying to make, so let’s get back on track. Remember the brexit referendum? The election of Donald Trump? And lately, the election of Macron? Especially the last one has made me realise something when the streets in France were swarming with Antifa protesters to protest the election of Emmanuel Macron. I’ve been asking myself (and now you) the following question:

Is the current left (which translates to communism and socialism nowadays) even compatible with actual democracy? 

I’m personally leaning to “No”. 

  • When the people voted for Brexit, they wanted to overturn the decision. 
  • When the Dutch voted against the treaty with Ukraine, the left wanted to revert it. 
  • When Trump was elected, the left still grouses over that.
  • And even when the French voted for Macron, there are still riots in the streets… By the leftist Antifa. Not the right wing, which championed Let Pen. They accepted the choice of the people. Even Marine Le Pen herself graciously conceded defeat. 

So, it seems that the current “liberal” left will only accept a democratic decision when it goes their way. That’s not democracy, comrades. That’s totalitarianism, the thing you supposedly are fighting against. 

Let that sink in.

Point of no return

That’s what I’ve seen it called. And it’s quite apt. And true too. May signed the Brexit letter and now the negotiations start with two possible outcomes: Either the UK finishes negotiations with the EU, or they crash out of it. Either way, the UK will be out of the EU. It can’t be blocked, or reverted (no matter how much the remoaners cry about it).

Now, I’ve seen the news reports, and the mainstream media is quite busy scaremongering about it, especially towards expatriates that live and work in the UK. Oh dear, they would have to get visas and work permits. What a bother. Ask any American, Indian, or any non-european that works in the UK (there are quite a few of them) how much of a chore that is (hint: it isn’t). If you have work, you won’t get kicked out. If you’re married/widowed to a UK citizen, you’ll be okay too. 

People fear for export and trade to completely stop as well. It won’t. Even if the UK crashes out of negotiations, they will still be better off. Basically, the UK will become a second Iceland. Yes, the economy will take a beating the first few years, but it will come out on top. The UK is still an island, and island mentality will persevere. It will be fine.

So, old blighty is going to get it’s stranglehold removed. I hope many follow. The European economic community was a nice idea, but it summersaulted over the shark when they started to fuse economies and government and turned into a undemocratic behemoth.