Friday, June 30, 2006

How to make IT workers less angry - Part Two: Environment

This is part two of my series on making IT workers less angry by improving their job satisfaction. Part one (go and read it if you haven't already) gave an overview of the three major factors in job satisfaction: environment, quality of work and pay/compensation. As I have not yet been silenced by the paid killers hired by the Cabal Of Disaffected and Exploited Information Technology (CODE-IT) workers, I will provide more detailed secret IT workers' business in this post. Today's topic is the work environment.

For IT workers, environment includes the physical space you work in, the facilities available, the people you work with and the "vibe" of the workplace. Physical space is one of the most important elements contributing to an IT worker's productivity and at the same time one of the aspects most ignored by employers. Simply making sure there is enough desk space to spread out the required machines, screens, peripherals, manuals, folders, notebooks and "quirky" knick-knacks can work wonders. Saving a few square metres of floor space at the cost of pissing off CODE-IT workers is a dumb trade-off.

The worst example of screwing up the working environment that I have personally experienced happened, tragically enough, in one of the better workplaces I have enjoyed. This place had many of the components of nerd paradise: a huge converted warehouse for the office, big desks, open relaxation/reading areas festooned with bean bags, a gym, great kitchen facilities and an in-house cafeteria with good quality food. But one bad decision (really a series of smaller bad decisions compounded by lies) poisoned the whole environment.

Expansion of the workforce meant some new desks had to be built. This meant we would lose one of the open areas but we could see this was unavoidable. The plan was explained thusly: new desks would be built right next to the development team (subjecting us to weeks of noise and disruption), we would move into the newly constructed area temporarily while our area was also remodelled and then we would move back. A pain but we could live with it.

Things started to come apart almost immediately.

The first time we saw actual plans it was obvious the new desks were way smaller than our existing ones. This would be bad but we could probably put up with it temporarily. Then construction started and the news got worse: these weren't open desks, they were high-walled cubicles from Dilbert's worst nightmare. Still, it was only going to be temporary, right? Yeah, right. We were told the new area would be occupied by the marketing group. Our existing area was near the windows, lots of natural light and good views. This was much more desirable than the new section, isolated in the middle of the warehouse. Can you guess where this is going?

I have never been lucky enough to work in a company where the CODE-IT brigade had more power than the marketing division. This place was no exception. Rumours started almost immediately that marketing was refusing to move to the new area and wanted our window seats. We were assured this wasn't true. Right until the day after we moved to our "temporary" home. Then we were told it would be permanent. But hey, marketing would get the same cubicle environment right? Not so much. They ended up with much larger desks with less oppressive cubicle walls. And all through this process and even afterwards, the facilities manager refused to admit he had done anything wrong.

So we were forced into a smaller space that had a direct negative effect on productivity and performance because it simply made it harder for everyone to work efficiently. And we were lied to every step of the way. The facilities manager was never made to answer for his actions and the CODE-IT team were made to feel totally marginalised. This sort of behaviour sends a very clear message to staff. You. Are. Not. Valued. Even though the other environment aspects were good, the damage done by this misadventure was pretty severe. Within 4 months, 20% of the CODE-IT team had left, myself included. And this was a comparatively good workplace.

For contrast, here's how my worst-ever workplace handled the working environment. When an opportunity to move to cheaper offices presented itself, they grabbed it with two hands. The actual desks weren't too bad although they did cram more people into a smaller space. The new desks had some positives and some negatives but overall they weren't terrible. Lower cubicle walls made the environment less oppressive but did make noise levels worse. And you can probably imagine how some cave-dwelling CODE-IT types reacted to having to interact with actual humans more often.

The real giveaway of what this place thought of staff was in the other facilities provided in the new environment. On a floor containing about 100 staff, the kitchen "facilities" consisted of a bench about 2 metres long adorned with a single microwave. That was pretty bad but what was worse was this was located right next to the toilets. And I mean you didn't have to stretch out your arms very far to touch both the kitchen bench and toilet door. This has bad connotations relating to hygiene (I wasn't alone in thinking this) but it got worse than this. The faint of heart and/or easily mortified may not want to read this next part.

Most male toilets have some sort of vestibule or at least a corner between the exterior door and the urinals. Not this one. A straight line view from the kitchen to the urinals. So the distance from you making coffee to someone standing at a urinal is about 5 metres with only a small wall next to the urinals obstructing your view if someone opens the toilet door while you're at the kitchen bench. So all it took was for someone to step back before zipping up and, well, you learned more about your cow-orkers than you wanted to know. Penny pinching that leads to such an appalling environment is a ridiculous business decision. The money saved on rent will be blown in the cost of having to continually recruit new staff when existing staff resign because they can't deal with the environment any more.

The people in the workplace are a significant factor when considering the quality of the environment. If you degrade the physical environment to the point where you can't retain staff, you can never build up a positive "vibe" between the staff and in the workplace overall. It can be very hard for potential recruits to gauge this quality so if someone is already happy with the vibe of their workplace they are that much more likely to stay where they are. If your goal is to maintain a stable workforce (and if this doesn't seem important to you - go the hell away) then investing in a quality work environment makes a lot of sense. It is usually far cheaper than endless recruiting.

It seems I have more to say on this topic than I realised when I started. So far I have only covered physical environment and badly implemented environment decisions at that. In the interests of keeping these posts manageable, I will continue evaluating environmental factors in another post. The next part in this series will highlight good environmental decisions that make CODE-IT workers love coming into work and staying at work for long hours. Even more important, make the right decisions and you can boost morale to the point where the majority of your CODE-IT legions will not even think of looking for another job. Including those all-important decisions regarding what software and hardware tools to provide.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm going to kill myself

I can't fucking believe this! I just lost an hour's work on Blogger! I usually compose posts on Blogger because its biggest advantage over Wordpress is its auto-save feature. But some weird combination of keys hit by me when my fingers slipped a little (I'm a shit typist) closed the window without saving anything. No auto-save. Nada.

This happens occasionally and I get heaps of valuable advice every time but I still do what I do. It fucks up about once a month and I scream and swear but doing anything else seems like too much trouble. So don't feel too sorry for me.

This does mean my planned post for today (a follow up to the popular "Making IT workers less angry") won't be happening until tomorrow at the earliest. I'm too fucking angry to re-write it properly now. I might to a vlog later to get some anger out of my system. That ought to be fun.

With that in mind, if you can think of your favourite really angry thing I've written, drop me a line in comments and I might immortalise it in video.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mr Angry Vlog Number Seven

While I'm in a flurry of posts relating to work I thought I'd relate how I'm discriminated against at work simply for being different.

I'm sick of all this prejudice. Whitey is keeping me down!

Bill Gates is still going to hell

The recent news that the world's 2nd richest man, Warren Buffet, it giving most of his cash to the charitable trust set up by the world's richest man, Bill Gates, is interesting to say the least. The seventy squillion or so bucks they have to throw around could really change things in ways we probably can't forsee right now. From suggestions the Gates Foundation could make the UN's World Health Organisation irrelevant to fears the foundation might just be a backdoor way to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful, the guesses of what will happen are coming in every colour of fanciful.

Maybe they'll make the rich more generous because they don't want to look bad by comparison. Maybe it will make the greedy more greedy because they'll argue they don't need to share now as Gates is covering for them. Or perhaps they'll promise to give it away once they're as rich as Gates. And it's extremely likely this will be used as an argument for lower taxes - the argument being that rich private individuals can look after things better than big governments.

Whatever. Bill Gates is still going to hell because I have to use MS Office. There isn't a day goes by that I don't come up with an addition to my list of "Reasons to punch Bill Gates". This list actually exists. It is slightly shorter than my other list: "People who are going to pay when I take over the world." But only slightly.

If I was being fair, I'd acknowledge that Microsoft products have done more good than bad (this is without even considering Bill G's philanthropy as a mitigating factor). Work is undoubtedly better because of these tools. But fuck being fair, I'm being angry. I swear to fucking God, there are days when I almost put my fist through the screen. Most of the time I'm using Word for writing documents and the number of things it does to piss me off never ceases to amaze. Just in case anyone is jumping to the conclusion that I simply don't know what I'm doing, by most standards I'm an advanced user. Done the training and all. But no amount of training can help you when the simple act of hitting the backspace key reformats your entire document.

What the fuck is that about? I actually know what causes it - MS use this bastardised HTML to format documents BUT THE FUCKING HTML IS INVISIBLE so you can't see it so what looks like a blank line to you has some hidden code on it. When you delete that line (blank to all intent and purposes) you delete some code you don't fucking know about and didn't fucking ask for and Word is all "Ohhhh, you want to fuck up your whole document? OK, you're the boss."

And the way MS redefine "bugs" so that nothing qualifies as a bug really pisses me off too. When you perform a simple action that creates a catastrophic effect that could not possibly be what you wanted - that's a fucking bug goddammit! If anyone ever develops a voice command interface for PCs they'd better not give one to me. The computer would have a nervous breakdown. Each time one of these insane things happened, I'd scream at it:

"No! Why did you do that? How the fuck could you possibly think I'd want to reformat the whole document to be in bold? All I did was backspace on a blank space between lines! Fix it right fucking now or I'll put a screwdriver through your hard drive!"

Within days it would be suffering from Kicked Puppy Syndrome. It would be good if the computer has a working AI with voice response because I'm sure it would end up whimpering whenever I came near it. There would be this agonised pause before the computer executed any commands because it would be paranoid about my response. Essentially the relationship between me and the computer would be the same as the relationship between my worst boss and me. So here's a note to AI researchers: don't come up with a true computer AI unless you also come up with computer psychiatrists,

I'm sure Gates thinks he's bought his way into history and the afterlife with his foundation (cynical, moi?) but it won't work. It will probably work with history but he'll be screwed when he reaches the pearly gates. I'm using Catholic imagery here because that's what I know but feel free to substitute your belief system's version of the afterlife. So Bill rocks up to the pearly gates and St Peter checks the big book.

"Hmmmm, Bill Gates III is it? Let's see here... Distributed fifty bazillion dollars through your charity, cured cancer, cured aids, fed and educated the world's teeming masses, ended poverty, oppression and war. That's quite a list achievements. But guess what? Just before you got here I was giving a quarterly report to God and the PowerPoint presentation I spent 12 hours on fucked up and made me look like a complete tool! Now everybody's laughing at me and I'll be lucky to get more than the minimum pay raise this year. AND IT'S ALL YOUR FUCKING FAULT!"

And that is why Bill Gates is going to hell.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How to make IT staff less angry - part one: Overview

This post contains secret IT workers' business. This could be dangerous to me for two reasons. First, it contains honesty which could be abused by dishonest and unscrupulous managers. Second, it is secret knowledge which the Cabal Of Disaffected and Exploited Information Technology workers (CODE-IT workers) don't like outsiders to know. Even now, the CODE-IT equivalent of Opus Dei assassin-monks may be on their way to silence me.

The reason I want to share the following information is it disturbs me greatly that things taken as common sense in so many circles seem to be so far out of the understanding of so many managers. It sometimes seems wise to keep this knowledge from managers because if they truly understood what motivates their IT workers they would exploit them even more. But that's too negative an outlook, even for me. Evil is evil and there's not much that can be done about truly evil managers. Dumb, on the other hand, can more often be remedied with appropriate education.

Here's hoping.

The short version is you make IT workers less angry by making their lives better. Many people don't need more information than that. But IT workers can be a quirky bunch and many employers truly do not understand IT well enough to work out what will improve the lot of the CODE-IT brigade. Here's the first bit of brutal honesty: in my experience, on average, IT workers complain more than other workers. The best possible spin I can put on this trend to whininess is that, at its best, IT is a dynamic environment that presents many challenges and the only constant is change. In a good way. When the folks in the CODE-IT trenches feel like they're being held back, when the corporate environment is resistant to change or flat out unable to change, that's when the surliness starts. Most IT workers will work extremely hard (even excessively hard) in the right environment but won't do well in a repressive environment.

Other times, IT people are just whiners. When I've worked in organisations that conduct staff satisfaction surveys, IT workers are invariably the least satisfied as a group. In many cases this has been well justified but the pattern is hard to miss: the CODE-IT legions are more likely to complain than anyone else. They are (generally) highly trained and a lot is expected of them so they in turn have high expectations of their employers.

All the clever people who study such things tend to tell you there are three aspects to job satisfaction. These can be sliced and diced in various ways and given different titles and descriptions but broadly, the three things people look for in a job are a good environment, interesting and/or fulfilling work, and good compensation. The purists/optimists will tell you each is equally important and you can't compensate for shortcomings in one area by boosting another. Here's the second bit of brutal honesty: this isn't true. The best jobs will rank highly in all three areas but it is quite easy to compensate for a shortfall in one area by boosting another.

Here's the thing to bear in mind: it's pretty much impossible to provide a job with good pay, good environment and interesting/rewarding work without sincerely wanting people to feel good about working for you. If there is some reason you can't or don't want to provide all three you need to be sincere about why boosting the other two makes it worthwhile. People will smell bullshit in this area a mile off - don't fool yourself into thinking you can fool all of the people all of the time. If you're telling staff it's worth working for less than average because you throw a really good Christmas party when that clearly isn't enough compensation, well, you're screwed. Saying it over and over won't make it true. It simply makes it more obviously what a lying, manipulative, scheming, exploitative bastard you are.

Another thing is that if you decide to (or are forced to) boost one or two aspects because of a lack in another area, you need to consider the sort of behaviour you are rewarding when you make this choice. The perception of what behaviour is apparently valued by a company may not always be overt but eventually your CODE-IT warriors are going to look up from their screens and evaluate what is happening around them. And I'd hate to break it to you, but the manager who is convinced their foolish underlings are completely unaware of their machinations is not only a prick, they're also delusional. Trust me, if you're a manipulative sociopath, your staff are probably more aware of it than you are.

The easiest aspect to boost (unless you are under significant budget or corporate restraints) is pay. Everyone likes more money. That's the good news. Here's the bad news: if money is the only thing keeping people working for you it also becomes the easiest way for other companies to steal your most valuable workers. It take a 5 second internet search to work out what other people are being paid; you can't rely ignorance of better opportunities keeping staff where you want them. Especially not CODE-IT staff.

But if money's out of the question, you could always consider improving the work environment. Improving the working environment can seem harder because it's a bit more ephemeral but even small changes can have a marked effect. Give your CODE-IT workers enough room to work. Most will need a significant amount of desk space to spread out their crap - it seems like crap to you but it's usually important to them. Cubicle farms are poison. And give your CODE-IT crew as much control as possible over their environment. Not letting them put up personal photos and fill their workspace with Star Wars memorabilia will offend them deeply. Enforced conformity is the close cousin of a disaffected workforce.

If you make improvements in the work environment you are sending an important message: we want you to be happy here. It's a mistake to think you can artificially make co-workers get on with each other but if the general atmosphere is positive, this has a tendency to rub off and make even surly CODE-IT workers less resentful of those around them. And leaving a positive environment is a big risk for most people. It's usually impossible to tell from a job interview if you'll like the new environment so improving your workers' existing environment is a valuable investment.

Then there is how much people actually like their work. Providing interesting/ challenging/ rewarding work is frequently undervalued by managers. Sure, there are bumps on logs whose aspirations reach as far as knowing they have a desk to come back to tomorrow and regular paychecks coming down the line but they are a much smaller minority than average in IT. "Knowledge worker" isn't simply a buzzword - these people use their brains as a matter of course and they want more challenges, not less. Unless you have complete losers working for you. If that's what you have and/or that's what you want stop reading. Employ the lowest common denominator and they'll never leave. And your workplace will never be better than a crap-hole. A third bit of brutal honesty (and I think I can see an albino face staring menacingly at me from the server rack as I type this) is that it's amazing how much less money a CODE-IT worker will accept if they really love their work.

Each of these three elements deserves much more detailed analysis and I will be doing just that over the coming days. But seriously, if you don't want your IT workers to be as angry as me, put some thought into how to improve all three of these elements from a CODE-IT perspective. It doesn't matter if management think they make the rules and everyone else should simply go along with it. If maintaining productive, high-quality CODE-IT workers is important to you, management has to deliver what workers want, not what management think workers deserve. And if this doesn't matter to you, you're going to get exactly what you deserve.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mr Angry Vlog Number Six

For this vlog I decided to revisit the nightmare of my worst ever boss. Dare you rate your boss on the croc meter?

And all I can say is that if my neighbours don't think I'm insane, there's something wrong with them.

Back at work and completely unable to function

Well, I'm back at work after a week off and fucked if I know what I'm meant to be doing. Which is to say, I know in theory what I'm meant to be doing but my brain is doing a piss-poor job of helping me get anywhere today.

This is the problem with holidays: they end. Then you have to go back to work. I not only have to get into gear at work but I have to re-sort my life this week. I have to put away a week's worth of clothes for me and my kids, re-organise my apartment and pay some bills that arrived. Then there's getting back up to speed with blogging.

No vlog for over a week! I feel like I'm neglecting you. I'll try and do one tonight. I also used up my whole lunch hour working on a post that's turning into War and Peace. I don't think I'm even half way through yet. The theme is "how to make people less angry at work" - basically tallying up all the fucked things bosses do, how to avoid them and why bosses should avoid doing them. So you can see why it's a long post.

I'm not even sure it belongs on Mr Angry's blog although the shit involved certainly makes me angry. I'll do a bit more work on it tonight - maybe post it in multiple parts. I also have to get back to promoting this blog and visiting everyone else's blogs - something I've neglected for the last week or so. Actually, on the shameless self-promotion front, I've achieved my short term goal and cracked the Technorati top 100,000. This feels weirdly anti-climactic. Nevertheless, endless thanks to everyone who heeded my desperate plea for attention and linked to me. And if you did and I am yet to return the favour, please let me know and I'll add you to my blogroll.

So now I go back to trying to make sense of my work. Oddly enough, my Project Manager was happy to let me take a week off because she thought we were entering a quiet period for a month or so. I didn't really agree but wanted the week off. Now I'm back she agrees we have a shitload to do right now. Sometimes I really fucking hate being right all the time. All my ex-girlfriends hate that about me too.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Marriage? That's so Gay!

It must be fun being an arch-conservative. When everything you are doing fucks up you can trot out the spectre of the fags coming to take over the world. I mean, what do the left have to scare people with? Global warming (it's a fucking fact dammit!), rapacious corporations, lying politicians, thousands dead in Iraq with no end in sight (and the terrifying possibility of W doing worse to justify his already fucked actions). It doesn't seem to scare the voters as much as the poofs and dykes do.

It's a really simple argument that a lot of people go out of their way to obscure. Point one: do you think marriage is important? If not, the conversation's over (unless you just like arguing - if so, good for you. Fuck off and bother someone who cares.) If yes, point two: do you have a problem with homosexuals? If not, the conversation's over. If yes, admit it and I'm fine with that. You don't want same-sex marriage because you don't like gays or gay sex creeps you out or it's against God or nature or something. That's fine. You admitted it. We know what we're arguing about.

If you think you don't have a problem with gays but you don't want them to get married because marriage is only between men and women, I have some advice for you:

Stop. Fucking. Lying.

I don't know if you're lying to yourself but you're sure as shit lying to me. It's pathetic. You're homophobic - live with it. You don't like the fags. Hey, a lot of them probably don't like you. Spend all their time making fun of "breeders". So cheer up - some gays are heterophobic.

If we take the religion element out (and any religion should be able to ban gay marriage within the religion - religions are all about rules and restrictions) then we are left with the legal status of relationships. In my (not very humble) opinion, telling someone their partner has no legal status with regards to property, benefits, inheritance etc. solely because of their gender, is just fucked up. Can I be really negative and fatalistic for a minute? People talking about the "sanctity of marriage" needing to be protected from homosexuals are either delusional or lying (see homophobic, above). With a 50% divorce rate and fuck knows how many affairs going on, marriage has no sanctity - deal with it.

And then there's the "slippery slope" argument. If we let the goddam fags get married, then there's the polygamists probably closely followed by pedophiles and then the beastiality crowd. We'd be opening the flood gates I tells ya. My answer to that is as follows: my brain works in this funny way where I'm able to assess individual propositions on their own merits. I'm not limited to coming up with one conclusion to cover all eventualities. It's this crazy thing where I don't stop thinking. Weird, I know.

If gay marriage becomes legal and polygamists want to use it as a precedent to further their agenda, good luck to them. To me, they're two different propositions but if they can find someone dumb enough to agree that they should be allowed to have extended marriages solely because gay unions have been recognised then they must be pretty damn good debaters. Or they're debating with some pretty damn stupid opposition.

Oh and by the by, if you want some interesting and intelligent discourse on the topic of polygamy from a Muslim perspective, look here and here and follow some of their links. I like to end on a positive note.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

McDonalds Toilet Humour

Well, there's a lot that made me angry on the drive back home but most off all I was angry at the conspiracy I uncovered at a roadside McDonalds. It isn't enough that they're clogging colons with "food" deep fried in lard, they're clogging minds now with their filthy toilet humor in kids' Happy Meals. The suggestively named "Wet and Wild" word find puzzle contains some not very well hidden depth charges to blow the kiddies' minds.

McDonalds helpfully highlights one word "RAIN" (in blue) to get you started. I have highlighted in red the first two words my kids found:

Now, my kids were in a forgiving mood and said you cant spell "POOL" without "POO" but how they hell can they explain throwing in "WEE" (in the pool perhaps?") Particularly when they given the puzzle the suss name of "Wet and Wild". I am determined that heads will roll for this - I won't be satisfied until the head of McDonalds accepts responsibility and resigns.

And I am not immature. Shut up and leave me alone.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Deep Fried Spam Sandwich

I thought I'd evoke some Elvis style culinary delights today. It seems my Wordpress blog has attracted enough attention to earn around 50 comment spam a day. And the automatic spam protection blocks every one of them. Ha! Fuck you in the neck with Akismet anti-spam you evil, anti-social fucks!

Which of course leads me to wonder if Akismet can be so effective, why cant everyone else?

Anyway, another 12 hour drive with the kids tomorrow, after which I should be able to dedicate my full attention to the blogosphere once more. I will just say to the people finding me via "Russell Crowe Jack Marx" searches: I am indeed Russell Crowe's new stooge. Me and Rusty are best mates because I respect him as the greatest actor of his generation and he appreciates my honesty and insight. The money is secondary.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What's the worst that could happen?

I notice that another person's online life has fucked up their "real world" existence. A Texan schoolteacher by the name of Tamara Hoover lost her job because their were topless photos of her on Flickr. Pretty dumb thing to do (IMHO) but still, she was topless, not on her knees fucking the school football team. I have to admit, if I was her I wouldn't want to go back to teaching knowing that all the students and staff have now had an opportunity to check out her norks.

It has been suggested to me that this blog could have a negative impact on me and it isn't as if I haven't considered the possibility. For those who haven't guessed (or read what I've posted) the mask is a half-arsed attempt to obscure my identity. Anybody who knows me would recognise me instantly so I'm not sure why I bother. At least random strangers wouldn't recognise me.

I have also been very careful to keep truly personal content to a minimum and obscure the facts a bit when I talk about work. The one that could "out" me is Moroccan Chocolate because I actually used that analogy at work and I think I'm currently the #1 Google result for "Moroccan Chocolate". The IT job market in Melbourne is small, incestuous and conservative. If it became generally known I was a blogger it might make people paranoid to hire me so I'm keeping things pseudo-anonymous. I have to face facts that this will inevitably come up one day so I have made the following decision (see if I stick to it when the crunch comes):

Blogging has opened up so many options to me I am not giving it up. I would give up a job before giving up my blog. At the moment, I am making what is to me a shitload of money. I'm worth it (based on the job market and my experience) bit it's still way more than I ever thought I'd be making. I'm essentially a simple country boy. To get top dollar I have to fight pretty hard and this is where I could face trouble. If I was up against someone of similar experience for a role and they knew I was a blogger who hangs shit on people and the other candidate wasn't, I think many employers would go with the other one.

If all the contract agencies gossiped together and decided I was a risk for high profile jobs, my response would be "fuck you in the neck" if you think I'm knuckling under. I could take a 50% pay cut and still be earning more than people who do way harder work. And if I cut my rate, I'd be competing with graduates and other inexperienced candidates so I think employers would be likely to overlook the blog risk because they'd be getting me at a bargain rate. And I'd get some notoriety for being the latest victim of offline persecution for online activities which would give my blog more of the attention I so desperately crave.

So my pledge to readers is: I intend to keep blogging no matter what. And any fucker thinks they can fuck with me has no fucking idea who they're fucking with!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Joy of a Break

Who'da thunk slow drivers would touch such a universal nerve? After another day's driving I can report that not only are they slow here, they take "give way" as an optional recommendation rather than a rule. Gotta make up for their passiveness by being passive-aggressive in another field I guess.

It still beats being at work. I was thinking today that I am spared conversations like the following for a while:

Me: How you doing?

Psychotic fuckwit I work with: Well I've been having some family troubles lately

Me: Oh... I hope that works out for you.

PFIWW: It turns out my ex is actually having an affair with my dead brother's widow.

Me: Oh...

PFIWW: It's really tearing the family apart.

Me: Ummm OK.

PFIWW: I thought I was over him but this has set me back and opened all the old wounds.

Me: Uhhhh you know...

PFIWW: How could he do something so cruel and thoughtless?

Me: You know, when I said "how ya doing" I didn't want to hear anything personal.

PFIWW: It makes me lose all faith in human nature.

Me: I don't even know you.

PFIWW: Sometimes I feel like I can't get out of bed to go to work.

Me: You're really freaking me out now.

PFIWW: There doesn't seem to be any point in going on...

Me: Oh hey, my mobile is ringing. It's on silent but trust me, somebody is ringing me. Oh what, you need me right away? Gee sorry, this has been great but I've got to get the fuck away from you as quickly as possible. I mean I have some work to do. See ya! Wouldn't wanna be ya! Really.

I suppose I should point out I haven't had that exact conversation at work. But there are some people who need to work on keeping work life an private life separate.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Life in the Slow Lane

I'm trying not to get too angry at people while I'm in my home town because I don't think they could take it but OHMYFUCKINGGODTHEYARESOFUCKINGSLOW! I wondered why I used to be so scared of city traffic when I first moved to Sydney - it's because everyone in country towns drives at walking pace! The adjustment you have to make between the two is goddam huge.

I know I have readers who live in real cities (New York, Prague, London, Los Angeles) who have also experienced Australian traffic and they have reliably informed me that Sydney and Melbourne are country towns by comparison. I accept this, I'm just dealing with my surroundings.

My brother finds it hilarious to drive with me. When the lights change and the car in front of me slowly rolls forward, I start ranting because I'd like to, you know, drive at a reasonable pace... something approximating the speed limit rather than 50% of the speed limit. I start shouting and waving my arms about (to myself in the car - I try not to actually pick fights with other drivers):

"C'MON! Drive already! It isn't hard to do: first gear, second gear, third gear... get it together you fucking idiot!"

Apparently nobody does this in small towns. I'll have to remember to stick to larger cities on my world tour where all the angry people are.

Monday, June 19, 2006

It wouldn't be an angry blog without angry comments

I'm not sure if everyone who visits this blog reads all the comments, if not you miss some gems. It seems my anger give my readers license to unleash their own spleen, which is entirely my intention. The funny thing is how often people feel compelled to apologise for long comments when to me this is the best possible outcome for my blog. In lieu of a guest blogger (something I might do - drop me a line if you're interested) I provide some of my favourite recent comments:

Provided by Tom, a rant from his friend Chopper:

"Here's why we're fucked in this country, why 'our kind' will always be a tiny fringe group and why these idiots re-elected Bush:

'Yet this voluntarism and this separation of church and state have not ledto religious indifference or religious apathy. Indeed, with the exceptionof Ireland, the United States is the most religious society in the Westernworld. Nearly 90 percent of Americans say they consider themselves religious believers of one sort or another, about 80 percent identify withsome Christian faith, 79 percent believe in the Virgin Birth, 78 percent say Jesus physically rose from the dead, 48 percent claim to have had a "born again" Christian experience, and more than 40 percent of Americans say that they are weekly churchgoers, although those who actually attend church may be closer to 25 percent.

At any rate there is an enormous number of different religious groups, over 1,500 by one count, with seventy-five different kinds of Baptists alone. Even in the face of the relentless "secularization" of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, religion in America still flourishes.'

--Gordon S. Wood, from an article in the New York Review of Books

It's that fucking supernatural Jesus! I just reread (or listened to) the New Testament again and i think it's a really odious document. Jesus himself is not too bad, though he is annoying, but Paul is a big fat dick! Really. He says probably half a dozen times: Slaves obey your masters. How could anyone descended from serfs or servants, indentured men or slaves--and that's most of us--ever call himself an adherent of that particular religion? And there's not one nominal christian in a thousand who actually agrees with even a tiny fraction of what Jesus said or stands for. Big fat fucking hypocrites! God's been dead for a long time and these assholes just don't get it."

Boy is Chopper pissed today or what

From Sandra:

"Ok, I hate to take over other peoples posts, but I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!

My workplace is becoming more and more toxic. We have a ‘multi-disciplinary’ team. Case management, corrections, medical and psychiatric. More and more the corrections part of the team is treated like brainless baby sitters. I received an e-mail yesterday via the case managers supervisor. I started to send a nasty response back to him, but I remembered that anything in writing can and WILL be used against the writer.

I printed off the e-mail and ask for audience with the superintendent. I showed her the e-mail and told her I was extremely offended by it and told her why. She asked the case manager supervisor to come into the meeting, where we discussed the e-mail and my problem with it.

While I was at it, I also defended the corrections staff. I told them both how fortunate we were to have the people who work day in and day out with these kids. They are dedicated the their resocialization and spend hours every day not only supervising but providing theraputic interventions to help them change their behavior. When kids are leaving and ask who made a difference in their lives and motivate them to change, it is invariably one of these corrections staff. That these guys have a 10 minute break one time a day. And if the case worker needs for them to communicate personally on the behavior of the youth, then that case worker needs to come out from behind their computer, and seek out the corrections officer.

How did the meeting come out? Who the fuck knows. I said what I had to say. The superintendent said she was in agreement. The cw supervisor said he would have a talk with his sub-ordinate. We’ll see. He needs to send her ass to a therapist. "

A classic bit of dirt from the anonymous "REVEALOR":

"The real Jack Marx.

I managed a small band about to sign a major record deal many years ago in Sydney Australia. Just before it was about to happen one JACK MARX a part time reviewer for the free music mag “ON THE STREET” wrote a scathing, nasty and reprehensible live review, stating that the band were stooges for EMI and set up as street credible.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, they were hard working country boys who had played together since early school years. The record company ran a mile and the band never got the chance to release their music. We later found out that MARX had been offended at the gig he reviewed when the singer was paid too much attention from some girl he had fancied on the night, hence a jealous and low act of revenge followed.

Not long after that the ferret left to work for the Melbourne TRUTH, a grubby little X rated paper specialising in sex and dirt, right up his alley.I think MARX has got everything he deserves but be very wary of his confessions to truth, this guy is a certified liar and weasel.Good night and good luck. "

And finally, short and sweet, a fabulous piece of revenge from Range:

"I got woken up on the night of Saturday to Sunday by someone named Jason Green at 04:30 am. He had the balls to leave me a message because I told him to fuck off, after my wife did the same thing. Needless to say, I posted his name on a lot of gay classifieds with interesting comments and his phone number, which is 514-823-9952. Hope he enjoys his week."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mr Angry Vlog Number Five

My old friends the hippies. I leave you with this as I head off on a 12 hour drive. Hope you like it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A thought before bedtime

What is it that makes pedestrians so sure I'm going to stop when they walk out in front of me? I'm not talking about when they're on a crossing or they have the green light telling them to cross - I'm a great respecter of pedestrian rights. I'm talking about suicidal fucks who step right into traffic. I would actually have some respect for them if they admitted they were deliberately trying to commit suicide - it's a pretty good plan. Sadly, I'm pretty sure it's Darwinism in action I'm witnessing, not any well thought-out plan.

The real prize-winners are:

- walking into peak hour traffic. Drivers in peak hour are either pissed off about having to go to work or worn out and desperate to get home. Don't get in their way.

- large crowds who swarm across the road against the light simply because everyone else in the crowd is doing it. Look up lemmings - there is only one way this is going to end up.

- people who walk into traffic at night on a poorly lit street while wearing black clothes. I call these ones "speed bumps".

Will you people please grow a fucking brain? I really don't want to run anyone over. I'd feel bad. But you know what? Eventually the bad feeling will go away. And you'll still be dead.

Mr Angry Vlog Number Four

Well, I spent some more time scaring the neighbour recording this one. I might be going away for a week visiting my family which might limit my ability to do vlogs but I will be doing everything in my power to keep up the daily blog posts. In the meantime, enjoy this.

As always, distribute this any way you like. And if anyone ever visits be sure to put votes in on my videos and massage my pathetically needy ego. And in case the embed doesn't work again, follow the link:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Punishing Ann Coulter

So it appears scary-almost-beyond-belief nutjob Ann Coulter might be the next high profile person to get nailed in a plagiarism debacle. Rude Pundit has been doing a good job (with the help of some friends) to detail the extent of Coulter's transgressions in her book "Godless" but doesn't seem too upbeat about the chances of her being nailed for it. He may be right, people have been calling her on plagiarism for years to no significant effect. Still, it would be humourous (ironic?) if her career was damaged not by being an evil, screeching, hurtful, cruel witch who deserves to be on the receiving end of the torture she supports but by simply not crediting people whose ideas she stole.

I posted in the deep dark past about how, thankfully, the whole "pundit" thing is nowhere near as big in Australia as it is in the US. The only place it has taken off is in talkback radio. And here's another potential difference between the two cultures (someone who knows US-based right-wing shock jocks better than me might answer this). Would Rush Limbaugh (or whoever) get away with inflaming the youth of a mostly white suburb who felt they were being "invaded" by some aggressive young men of middle-eastern background to the point where a "rally" degenerated into a drunken rampage where idiots in the mob attacked anyone with brown skin along with (non-brown) police and ambulance officers trying to do their job in an ugly situation? If not, Alan Jones is lucky he's in Australia, not America.

If that wouldn't raise eyebrows, how about a conservative pundit getting arrested trying to pick up an undercover cop for gay sex in a public toilet while holidaying in London? (Alan Jones did this too.) Would their career survive after an adventure like this? And would W step in to help one of his mates from Fox News if they got caught doing this? (Bob Hawke, PM at the time, used his influence to get the charges against Jones dropped.) Anyway, Alan Jones is an obnoxious loudmouth who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. So what if he enjoys anonymous gay sex in public toilets. Allegedly. Good for him.

There is one writer in Australia who clearly has Anne Coulter as his role model. I've avoided mentioning him before because, essentially, he's a fucking idiot and I didn't want to provide him with the attention he so obviously craves. His name is Andrew Bolt and he writes for one of the main conservative tabloids here. One thing it doesn't take a genius to recognise is that neither Bolt nor Coulter truly believe the ridiculous shit they spout. Sure, they are strong adherents to the underlying right-wing political orthodoxy but they spout idiotic hyperbole for the sole purpose of attracting attention to themselves and furthering their own interests. The truly evil part of this is that they have hordes of admirers who doubtless take their words as absolute truth.

Like I said, I really don't think Bolt is worthy of attention because it's what he wants but he is good fuel for an angry blog and often he is unintentionally hilarious. At least I think it's unintentional. Maybe it's some elaborate post-modernist prank. This is, after all, the man who saw a sinister plot behind Finding Nemo. More recently he took that rather cynical approach of suggesting Australian residents who don't support Australia in sporting events are unpatriotic. This was in response to the strong support shown for Greece in a recent pre-World Cup Australia vs. Greece soccer match by Australians with Greek backgrounds.

Now maybe I'm the cynical one, but I firmly believe this was nothing but a cheap shot aimed at provoking an inflamed response. Which, of course, it did. I'm not in a rush to support the people who issued death threats against Bolt in response but the reaction was exactly what he wanted and it's disingenuous of him to suggest otherwise. Don't even get me started on how he belittled people for swearing. Fucking loser.

Now, the chances of my humble blog ever being brought to his attention (I have 2 Australian readers that I know about) are very slim but on the off chance it does: swearing does not by definition make you ignorant, you pompous fuck. Spouting cynical, self-serving, inflammatory, stereotype-promoting bullshit is a far worse transgression than swearing. Fuck you in the neck with a thesaurus you cretinous fuckwad.

Speaking of which, that brings me to my proposed punishment for these cynical exploitative shits. Bolt and Coulter should have to fuck each other. Now, Mr Bolt's eyes might light up at this but I said they have to fuck each other. He can go first but then she gets to don a strap-on and fuck him up the arse (c'mon, look at her, you know that's what she's into). And be a bit open minded Andrew - you might like it too.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bad Jobs Made Worse by Bad Managers

One of the things that makes me most angry about every bad workplace I've been stuck in is that certain managers make a conscious decision to treat people like shit. One person can't save a shitty workplace but everyone can sure do their part to not make things worse. And one person can definitely be a cancer that fucks up an entire workplace. Some places are institutionally fucked and will never get better, but that doesn't excuse bad managers. Saying "there'd nothing I can do - that's the way things work here" is bullshit.

It's the riddle of the ages: do fucked situations attract fucked people or do fucked people created fucked situations. I know I've been in crappy dead-end companies where a shitty manager managed to make things worse and I've been in basically good jobs where a psychopathic manager has gone out of her way to fuck things up. The rogues in a good workplace feel worse but that doesn't excuse sadistic managers making shitty jobs worse.

I start to think that management training consists of telling managers all they have to do to control their staff is to crush their spirits. I had a Catholic education so I always picture the devil whispering in their ear: "Go ahead, you know you don't like them. You can't trust them, they're not working nearly as hard as they could be. Look at that one, I'm sure he's blogging from his desk. I bet he's writing something bad about you."

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - treat your staff like shit and they'll end up surly and resentful. And surly, resentful staff don't work, thereby justifying your attitude that they're lazy good-for-nothings that deserve to be treated even worse. The mistreatment of staff doesn't even have to be anything major: the death of a thousand cuts is very effective. There's a reason torture exists and it has nothing to do with getting positive results. It's the exercise of power for the sake of exercising power. It's showing people exactly how powerless they are before you.

I have this stupid "loyalty" thing going and it's worked against me many times in the past. The downsides range from minor to major and I often question why I bother to show anyone any loyalty, considering how many times I end up getting kicked in the teeth. In the end, my behaviour is for me, not anyone else. It isn't so much a belief in karma, more that I believe if I act in negative ways I have no right to complain about negative outcomes. I'm not naive enough to think that positive behaviour always brings positive rewards but I look at the fuckers trying to drag me down and I simply refuse to descend to their level.

The most egregious examples I can think of for this sort of behaviour in a workplace in my past:

A manager at one job decided "she just didn't like me". In her mind there was no need to justify what she did after that, not liking me meant she could do whatever she wanted to get rid of me. She was enough of a sociopath to actually tell someone else she was after me because she didn't like me and I actually heard her say the same thing about someone else. Apparently you can get so fucked up you don't realise that other people may not share your views. Anyway, I outlasted her - stuck to my work, kept producing results and refused to knuckle under to her. A small victory because she left for a higher paying job but a victory nevertheless.

I was actually hassled on the toilet by a manager once. I was answering phones for a courier company at the time. The workday had a very regular cycle, starting off very busy for the first hour or so as people arrived at their work and started booking couriers. This one day I'm sitting in the cubicle feeling blissful relief and this voice from outside asks who's in there. I was a bit taken aback but the manager wanted to make sure it was me because he thought I shouldn't have left the phones. I had actually waited until the morning rush had passed but he apparently didn't agree. I explained I "had to" go right then (he really didn't want the alternative, stomach cramps had been starting to set in) and his response was that I should have gone before I left home. Ummmm, I didn't need to go two and a half hours ago when I was last at home. I actually stopped responding to him because, seriously, what the fuck can you say to someone when they say something as ridiculous as that?

One that almost made me laugh even though it was fairly serious was when I was admonished during a performance review for not attending a particular social lunch with cow-orkers. I'm amazed I didn't start spitting blood because I was biting my tongue so hard to avoid saying "that's because I don't like them." This one was worse than just the manager ripping on me because the dregs around me apparently wanted me to be more like them. In some workplaces I have enjoyed socialising but more often I don't. Why can't people just accept that? I'm here to get paid not to be your fucking friend. I'm almost never rude to people I work with but honestly, quite often I want nothing to do with them once I leave my desk. Why do some people have so much trouble understanding that?

At some point, it seems many people cross the line from "we're all in this together" to "I'm dragging you down with me." I don't think any workplace is perfectly but some managers seem to make a conscious effort to ensure the workplace is perfectly fucked.

Mr Angry Vlog Number 3

Some mid-week madness for you. I'm glad my apartment has thick walls but I'm reasonably sure my neighbours can hear me screaming as I do these. It's only a matter of time before one of them calls the cops. This is from my very early material, some stuff I intended to try out in a standup routine. This was intended to be "fish out of water" type humour, highlighting the small but angryfying differences between spoken English in the US and Australia. My goal was for a high-flying Hollywood agent to see it and give me my own sitcom.

It could happen.">" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="600" height="350">

As always, spread the word however you see fit if you like. Embed it on your webpage, email it, tell people it's you, I don't mind. I just want people to see it.

OK, getting some weird error messages as I try to post, so in case the embed doesn't work, here's the link:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mr Angry by Request

Well, Howard thinks I'm not angry enough lately. The miserable fucker. I suppose he has a bit of a point but I thinking recommending the execution of spammers is pretty goddam angry. Howard gave me a few suggestions for angriness which I'm going to try and follow up on (with some help - what's some good stock market dirt to be angry about Howard?) and while I'm at it, I may as well hold open the door for requests. Anything in particular y'all want me to get angry about?

Also, to update my sad desperate plea for attention, Wordpress is still acting totally wacko so I'm going to hold off updating the site design until they stabilise things. So anyone who links to let me know via comments and I will return the favour later this week.

Also, I'm working on another vlog tonight so you might see that tomorrow. Stay tuned.

How to make Digg, Reddit, Wikipedia and Google work in the classroom. Guaranteed.

There's a bit of buzz in the online world at the moment around a recent essay posted by Jaron Lanier on which he gave the rather inflammatory title of "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism". His essay covers a rather eclectic range of topics including Wikipedia, Boing Boing, American Idol, Digg, Reddit, Flickr, Google and totalitarian governments. Edge has also collected some interesting responses from a range of writers.

Anybody who has any interest in the development of online culture should read all of this material and you certainly shouldn't join the chorus that is apparently trying to shout Lanier down before you read it all. (Here's a tip kids: reading something you disagree with can actually strengthen your thinking. Assuming you are capable of rational thinking, regular doses of contrary viewpoints are good for consolidating arguments in favour of your viewpoint.) This isn't a small undertaking - when I copied it all to a text file to read offline it came to around 40 pages.

This isn't what I'm writing about today although it was the key inspiration for tacking a topic I'd been thinking about for a while. Every now and then some commentator in mainstream media complains about how increased access to information is actually making people dumber. The general idea is that because things are easier to look up, nobody actually bothers to learn anything.

Google was the prime target for years and still is. More recently, it been joined by Wikipedia and with the rise of "memediggers", Digg, Reddit and the rest are coming in for their share of the blame. And of course there's all those damn bloggers as well. Apparently, if people use a tool badly it's the tool's fault. This is like seeing a badly made house and saying it's the hammer's fault. (Even if the problem with the house is that there's lots of hammer shaped holes in the wall - that might actually be the hammer's fault but it's more likely that a perfectly good hammer was used badly)

This "problem" is described as particularly troubling in schools because kids don't learn anything. Writing essays has apparently become limited to looking things up online then copying and pasting chunks of text. Despite the fact that it's blindingly obvious that saying more information makes you dumber is unmitigated bullshit, I'm going to indulge this line of reasoning for a while, assume it has some validity and provide a failsafe, 100% guaranteed way to make these resources work productively in the classroom every single time.

Let's start with Google. I have heard and read pundits saying that looking things up on Google isn't research, nobody looks past the first page of results and it's too self-referencing; namely, you get a good Google ranking by having lots of inbound links and the better your Google ranking the more likely you are to get more inbound links. This is complete bollocks, I get some weird-ass search terms leading to my blog and when I plug those terms into search engines, often I don't show up on the first ten pages of results. So somebody's looking through a hell of a lot of search engine pages. But I said I'd argue as if these concerns were valid so here goes:

Set some simple rules. Every source has to be referenced and if an essay only includes sources found on the first page of Google results it automatically fails. Tell students you will do searches on blocks of text in their essays, and if they have copied content without providing references they will fail. Tell them they have to do more than find information, they have to say why they included it. What is it about that information that they liked and/or believed. And make sure there is more than one source for every assertion they make. If you want to get really tough, tell them for every point of view they agree with they have to cite at least one conflicting point of view they disagree with. Then they have to explain that, given they had two contrary points of view, why do they support the one they do?

Wikipedia should have similar rules to make it a more useful tool. Many of the criticisms of Wikipedia are similar to those leveled at Google but it has some of its own, so here goes with the rules. Wikipedia cannot be the only source for the essay/study. Find other sources that support or contradict the information in Wikipedia. Again, state why you support one point of view over the other. Add a unique rule for Wikipedia: you can't use Wikipedia as a reference without also reading and referencing the talk pages for the articles you use. Identify what are the controversial and/or frequently changed sections of the Wikipedia entry. Which point of view do you agree with? Why?

Digg is often criticised for having too narrow a focus. If you as a teacher agree with this point of view then use this as a learning tool. Ask students to find reference to a major event on Digg then look at other sources (e.g. major news sites) and compare the results. What were the differences in the results? Which was "better"? Why? What did you learn from a news site (or government site, or university site, or whatever) that you couldn't find on Digg? What did you discover on Digg that you didn't find through other sources? What did you learn from the different results?

Reddit tends to cover a broader range of topics than Digg but the above observations still hold true. For an added layer of detail, try comparing the differences in Digg and Reddit. Reddit has + and - voting while Digg has only + voting. How do student think this will affect voting? In what situations would this be good and when could it be bad? Why can selections made by many people be better than selections made by one person (e.g. a newspaper editor)? When would a newspaper editor be better at selecting content than a memedigger? How could memediggers influence news coverage?

In short, any of these (or similar) tools have almost endless possibilities for students. The catch is that is requires fairly significant engagement from teachers. The good news is that the vast majority of teachers I have known welcome opportunities like this. The bad news is that the mainstream media like reporting bad news so we're far more likely to hear more stories about the internet dumbing people down and sexual predators on MySpace.

Oh, and as for bloggers: best to ignore them. They talk nothing but crap.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Let's make a deal!

Wordpress is acting absolutely screwy today but at least I got a post up. It's made me pause a little in my plan to dump Blogger altogether, I think I'll keep it, for a while at least, as a backup. But I'm definitely only promoting the Wordpress blog. With this in mind, I have decided to try and bribe my readers.

Part of my blog promotion efforts involves an obsession with my Technorati ranking. My Blogger blogroll has been shamefully ignored, I kept meaning to add to it but it's a little bit of a hassle and I've never gotten around to it. So, if any of my loyal Blogger readers have me on their blogroll and drop me a line (comments or email) I'll add you to my Wordpress blogroll. Likewise, anyone who adds me, I'll add them. This goes for anyone who reads my Wordpress blog as well. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Share the link love!

My current target is rather modest; to get into Technorati's top 100,000. This is the last time I'll be updating my blogroll for a while, so if you're as shallow as me, jump on board! It might not be important to you but you'd be making a shallow man (me) very happy.

About to go Postal in the Workplace

I'm having a mildly stressful time at work right now trying to finish some Business Requirements documentation (note how euphemistic I can be when talking about work). We have been at this "almost finished" stage now for weeks. I think the whole project team has been thinking for 4 or 5 weeks that "we'll be finished in a day or two". I seem to recall some mathematical equation that showed a number approaching zero but never actually reaching it. I must have slept through that lesson because I don't remember what it's called. That's what this project is starting to feel like (the approaching zero part, not the sleeping part - although that would be nice.)

The main reason this is dragging on is that more managers are getting their fingers in the pie as "stakeholders" and wanting to get their 2 cents in before the document is signed off. Obviously, these people should have been brought into the process earlier (or not at all) and I am wondering why they are important enough to hold up sign-off but not important enough to have been brought in earlier in the requirements gathering process. In a less positive workplace this would be absolutely intolerable.

Endless iterations coupled with a culture of blame make for a deeply toxic workplace - I've been in enough of them to recognise I'm fairly lucky with the positive approach being taken in my current workplace. No amount of positivity can hide the fact that working in a high pressure "must finish" environment is stressful and aggravating. The project hasn't reached death march status yet but I'll be having pointed words with the project manager if everything isn't signed off this week. We have been treating every delay as a "learning process" to be applied to future projects which alleviates anger and frustration for a while.

It won't be much longer until "learning" is limited to learning which people should never been consulted because they lock you into an endless review process/death spiral. I feel like I'm within a day or two of losing my shit if this doesn't end but, weirdly enough, I've been feeling like that for weeks and yet I haven't lost it. One thing this is making me consider is the fine line between taking a principled stand and throwing a hissy fit.

In my worst-ever workplace, my former team member (FTM) coped with stress by throwing the occasional hissy fit. He would simply explode, go on quite loudly about how he wasn't going to take it any more and storm off. Then he'd wander back some time later and the people who had pissed him off would apologise. I can never bring myself to do this in a workplace as it strikes me as incredibly unprofessional. I know this may be a surprise to some readers of this blog (where I never seem to stop "going off") but for those who haven't worked it out yet - I maintain a significant degree of separation between my blog self and real self.

I have noticed, bizarrely enough, that dysfunctional workplaces tend to reward, or at least recognise, extreme behaviour. Staying quiet and doing your job doesn't work. Being loud and abrasive gets you noticed and in crap workplaces it gets you promoted. I think there must be some sort of mathematical equation to express this, something that says the level of reward increases the more closely aligned your behaviour is with the health of the workplace.

In other words, a positive workplace rewards positive behaviour and a negative workplace rewards negative behaviour. Surely there's a mathematician out there who could earn their PhD by studying this field?

A Bit of Perspective

Christ on a fucking bike. The image above is from Robert Scoble's blog. It shows even the number one blogger on Wordpress can be impressed with his statistics. It shows that a "normal" day for him is between 4,000 and 10,000 hits but when word got out he'd left Microsoft, his traffic spiked to 90,000.

Wow. I can't think of anything else to say. Wow.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A 100% Guaranteed Solution to Spam

I was wondering what I was going to post about today as I wasn't feeling particularly angry. Like that was gonna last. I checked the stats for my Wordpress site and I'd gotten near enough to 100 comment spam in 24 hours. Fucking spammers! And Akismet anti-spam got nearly every one of them. Ha! Fuck you in the neck with a search engine ranking you scum-sucking spam bastards. This is another nail in Blogger's coffin because they have no damn spam protection that I know of.

The rare occasions that I get comment spam on Blogger I delete it manually (here's a tip kids: make sure you set the blog to email you every time you get a comment, because the scamming bastards will drop spam comments in old posts hoping you won't notice.) It would be a little hard to delete 100 spam manually every day so I'm fucking glad I chose to promote the Wordpress blog over Blogger. There's no way the spamming bastards are getting me to make it harder for people to post comments unless things get really out of control.

Now I think of it, why hasn't somebody killed these fuckers. I don't mean shut them down, I mean literally kill them. They are coming damn close to breaking the internet, they are stealing millions with their scams and costing billions with the bandwidth they consume and quite simply making nearly everyone's online experience miserable. People are killed for way less than this every day. Sergey, Larry, if you're listening; killing these fuckers would NOT be evil.

And the first time someone gets serious about taking these pricks on, the arms race escalates quickly to the point of doing some real damage. If you've never heard of Blue Security or their program Blue Frog, here's a summary: Blue Frog worked by sending automated "opt-out" messages to spammers as spam victims have the right to do. Essentially if thousands of users get spammed, the spammers in return get bombarded with automated responses saying "don't spam me any more." Not quite a denial of service attack but it can certainly make life tough for spammers. Tough enough that some spammer waged all-out war in response.

Massive distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks credited to a loser spammer known as "Pharma Master" took down Blue Security 's server along with Tucows, TypePad blogs and a hell of a lot of other sites. Blue Security shut up shop after this (although there's some grey area surrounding what really went on and the motivations behind everything) saying they didn't want to be responsible for such massive disruption to the internet at large. Some weenies didn't like Blue's approach because they saw it as too aggressive or even claimed it was illegal. Every rational analysis of it I've seen said it was completely legal and quite effective.

So here we have a legal (if aggressive) service providing much needed relief to users. In response we get a destructive and completely illegal attack that damages the internet as a whole. Obviously, half-measures aren't going to work with these fuckers. If the boys at the big end of town (I'm thinking Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon) aren't meeting in a smoky back room somewhere working on a plan to take these piece of shit spammer down, they're (a) wussies and (b) stupid.

Because this shit is going to start to really hurt them soon, as in destroy their whole business model when nobody trusts the internet for anything any more. So by all means, use those big brains to come up with some technological solutions. But give some thought to just having the fuckers whacked. In the end, it would be way easier and much more satisfying.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A short angry blog post

Busy busy day... family stuff. But I'm still going to make my one post a day, dammit. I was gearing up to have a bit of a spray about Australian politics but I'll be honest with you, it's pretty boring.

Our Prime Minister seems to be this immovable object that won't retire despite being past retirement age. And he keeps winning elections. This is possibly the most boring politician in the world - he lived at home with his mother until his 30s and seems to want Australia to move back to his idealised view of the 1950s. What I'm most angry about regarding John Howard (the PM) is that I'll never be able to say anything funnier about him than the summary recently pronounced by Billy Connolly - that the only useful thing about Howard is that he shows us what Harry Potter will look like at 70.

I really wish he'd retire because then the leader and deputy leader of the Liberal party (I know it's confusing - in Australia the conservative party is called the Liberals) would be named Abbott and Costello (not necessarily in that order). You can't invent stuff that funny. It would only be better if their first names were Terrence and Philip.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Another Week with an Angry Blog

Well, quite a week. A few appearances on reddit led to some leaps and bound on my Wordpress stats (by my standards anyway). Apparently if they really like you, it results in thousands of hits rather than the hundreds I got, but I'm pretty impressed with the results. Now, I'm not suggesting any of my loyal readers should go and submit any of my posts to the various "memediggers"... but if you thought any posts deserved it (wink, wink).

Of course, the biggest step forward was posting my first video blogs. I had a lot of fun doing them and they've received a pretty positive response so I'll definitely be doing more. Until I get into a rhythm with them I won't predict how often they'll appear but hopefully I'll manage a couple a week. Those with long memories would notice that the material in the vlogs is from old posts, so if you have any favourites you think I should perform, let me know. (also, feel free to visit youtube to rate my videos there too:

Some trivia point from the video that nobody mentioned in comments:

- the toilet one was actually video-ed in my toilet. I'll leave it up to your imagination how much "realism" I went for during the making.

- the t-shirt in the second one was specifically purchased to be worn during Mr Angry performances. I saw the slogan and couldn't say no.

- I actually gave this material a test run at a party where various people were doing various performances. It was supposed to be adults-only so I was comfortable with their ability to handle my potty mouth. I rehearsed for a while and was all ready to go when at the last minute someone included an 8 year old girl in the audience. Now that made me angry - I had to re-do all the material on the fly to make it clean. Although I did still let slip with sodomising wallabies. Sod it - she was 8, she shouldn't have understood what I was saying anyway.

I'll close off with some of my favourite search terms from the logs.

I continue to be major destination for all things foreskin and circumcision, which is as it should be. The other foreskin sites are all "serious" to some degree, either being circumcision support groups or selling some sort of foreskin replacement. It must really piss them off that they're being outranked by some idiot with an angry blog. Sucks to be them. The number one circumcision question I feel I can answer is "do circumcised men get more blowjobs". The answer is a definitive yes - slice it off now boys.

My favourite term "clothed sex" continues to appear and I really wish I could find some decent fully-clothed porn to keep these punters happy. Likewise, I don't have any beastiality pix or underage porn but that doesn't stop the searchers. Non-sex related searches that I'm equally useless for are the many people looking for ways to fix washing machines. I don't fix the damn things - I break them. Speaking of which, the dryer I kicked the crap out of got replaced with a much better one. Should I feel guilty for killing it or proud that I got everyone a better dryer?

I'm going for proud. Angry and proud.

The one that's cracking me up is searches for Alan Jones and toilet sex. This is unlikely to mean much to non-Australians but he's a fairly prominent right-wing shock here, and he got busted about 20 years ago in London for toilet trading. I mentioned him once in passing and he's started to show up in search terms lately. I don't know if there's a new scandal brewing but you need to get your spin doctors onto this Alan, people want to know about you having sex in public toilets.

And finally, my quest to be more recognised as the premier angry blog is going well. Last week I didn't figure at all in the Google results but now I've reached the second page. I have you bastards at the top in my sights. Watch your backs.

Mr Angry Vlog Number Two

Insert gratuitous "number two" joke here. This one is way angrier. Lots of swears too. Don't play it around the kids. I really like how these have gone so far and I'm looking forward to making them better so any feedback is appreciated. Even negative feedback - because if you're a prick about it I'll just make fun of you in comments.

By the way, if you like these, go nuts with spreading the word. Put them on your own site, send them to friends, go viral, pretend you wrote the script, whatever. Have fun!

UPDATE: After this initial flurry of activity, you probably won't see any new vlogs for a while. My kids arrive in about an hour and I don't really want them to se me acting crazy like this. I don't know if I'll get around to doing any more during the week so you might have to wait until next weekend for a new vlog post.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Vlog Number One

Okay, I actually did it. This is done all by myself, no rehearsal, no help. And I didn't read the instructions on the video editing tool. They will get better.

This will probably push me to do some live performances too. I'll video anything I do and post that as well.

And in case the embed doesn't work, go to youtube directly.

Last Minute Feedback Request

I'm going to start work on Mr Angry's video blog today and I'm looking for some advice from regular readers (or random passing strangers for that matter) who may have formed an opinion of what Mr Angry is like. Which do you think sounds funnier: Mr Angry's natural state is screaming all the time or Mr Angry spends most of his time struggling (semi-successfully) to keep his rage under control and occasionally loses his shit and ends up screaming?

Or do you think I should try both and see which works best?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Requirements are like Ogres

If ever I think I know everything I spend a little time talking to my eight year old daughter. She's very good at asking questions I can't answer, or at least have to think hard about. The thinking hard bit is important because she cuts through bullshit quickly. When she was five and her mother had been sending her to Sunday School, out of the blue one day she asked me:

"If God made us, and God loves us, why would God let us get sick?"

What would you have said? I squeaked by this one but "ask your mother" has limited effectiveness. When she asks me about my work I have to give her real answers and frame them in a way that makes sense to her. Recently she wanted to know if everyone who worked with computers was a programmer.

"No," I responded. "I'm not, I'm a Business Analyst."

"Do you know how to program computers?"

"Not really, no."

"And it's the programmers who make the computer work?"

"Basically, yes."

"So why do programmers need you?"

"That's what they keep saying to me."

"I'm serious Daddy, what do you do?"

"I write the business requirements. I work with the programmers to make sure the computer ends up doing the right thing."

"Does that mean you're in charge?"

"I wish. First, I talk to the people in charge about what they want. I work out what their requirements are, that's why we call it business requirements."

"Don't they know what they want?"

"Not always."

"That's silly, everyone knows what they want."

"Not always. And people aren't always good at explaining to someone else what they want. How about if I told you I wanted you to buy me a car, what car would you get me?"

"Ummm, a Smart car, they're cute."

"That's too small for me."

"Then I'll get you a 4WD."

That's too big and slow. I want something faster."

"I'll get you a Porsche."

"I don't have enough money for that."

"Well, what sort of car will I get you?"

"See, now you're asking me about my requirements. I want a Volkswagen Passat."

"OK, I'll get you that."

"What colour did you get me?"


"I don't want red, I want black."

"Why didn't you say so?"

"You didn't ask."

"Is this what you have to do all day?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"No wonder you're angry all the time."

"I AM NOT ANGRY ALL THE TIME! See, this is what I have to do - ask the right questions. The programmer is like the car dealer, they can get you whatever car you want. All you have to do is be clear about what car you want. It's like in Shrek, when Shrek said ogres are like onions because they have layers. Requirements have layers and I have to pull them off one layer at a time to get to the middle. Then I know what to tell the programmers."

"So the people you work with are like onions?"

"I guess."

"Do they stink?" Gotta love 8 year old humour.

"That's a bit harsh."

"Do they make you cry?"

"Sometimes I come close. Usually they make me want to scream."

"So they really are like an ogre? They're scary!"

Sometimes they are very scary. And I know I don't want to find one of them under my bed.

Angry at the mistreatment of Russell Crowe.

There is a funny article in today's Sydney Morning Herald detailing a journalist's brief flirtation with being Russell Crowe's stooge. The writer, Jack Marx, was approached by Rusty to essentially generate good publicity - be his "mole" in the media. It didn't go flawlessly and now Marx is telling his version of what happened. I think it's funny for what it reveals about both Crowe and the writer.

After reading it, I have to admit I thought it was a bit rich that a "journalist" was worrying about the morality of a situation. I put journalist in quotes because, really, the guy's an entertainment writer. Journalists have questionable enough ethics but showbiz gossip should be about fun, not deep moral issues. Read it for yourself, but my take is the writer really screwed up. This was a golden opportunity. Any job I have ever had essentially involved prostituting myself - taking money from someone to do something I'd rather not be doing.

I probably have this worse than many being a contractor. I jump from job to job chasing dollars - job fulfillment would be nice but most of my focus is simply on getting the next job. I have joked with other contractors before that we should just put "prostitute" on our tax returns to describe our work. We always need pimps; most employers will only deal with agencies rather than hire you directly, so the best we can hope for is a high-class madam like Heidi Fleiss who gives you nice surroundings rather than a street corner pimp who will smack you upside the head at regular intervals.

So yeah, I'd pimp myself out to Russell Crowe in a second. In fact, I've already put the plan in motion: I'm going to periodically say good things about Russell Crowe on the off chance my blog gets popular enough that he would pay me to promote him. That way, when I start taking payoffs, nobody will know the difference. This is almost wandering into urban legend territory - I'm creating the story that I'd be willing to shill for Russell Crowe in the future but I'll start being positive now so nobody can accuse me of selling out in the future. So how would you know in the future is I was being paid because I started writing positive stories about Crowe now? Indeed, how do you know I'm not already on his payroll and this is the start of an elaborate smokescreen?

Have I fucked with your head enough yet?

It's an easy choice to make because he'd be way better than most bosses I've had and the pay and the perks would be good (pretending to be friends with Hollywood stars? Hell yeah!) Besides, I think he is a good actor and I can respect that. So he's not nice to people in public, boo-fucking-hoo. He doesn't want you to like him, he doesn't want to be your friend, he wants you to respect his acting.

And he has been hard done by. That dickhead concierge that he threw a phone at deserved way worse. A self-important prick who is supposed to be helping people getting all uppity and copping an attitude with a star to prove what a wicked attitude he has? Get real you wanker, people paying a fortune to stay in your fucking hotel have a right to get pissed off when you cop an attitude. If I was Rusty I would have paid to have somebody whack you. You got off lucky.

And the bullshit that is the Academy Awards. Crowe deserved an Oscar for Gladiator - seriously, how hard was it to get people to take the whole swords and sandals genre seriously? The downside is he's indirectly responsible for the cavalcade of shit that followed like Troy, King Arthur, Kingdom of Heaven and Alexander. Then he got totally ripped off when he was nominated for "A Beautiful Mind". I think we all know that the Academy Awards are not really about talent, it's all politics, but the campaign against him that year blew my mind.

Competing films ran a campaign against "A beautiful Mind" saying people shouldn't vote for Rusty as best actor because in real life, the guy he portrayed (who was batshit crazy) said anti-semetic things and cheated on his wife and the film ignored this. If that sort of shit is important, why is the awards called "Best Actor" and not "Best actor portraying a character of whom I approve and in a way that conforms to my worldview"?

This is how Orson Welles got screwed on "Citizen Kane" too. It's all about politics, not talent. "Citizen Kane" is easily one of the best films made in Hollywood but was snubbed at the Oscars because Welles pissed off the wrong people (Hearst and his Hollywood suck-ups). That's right, it's out there - I said it. Russell Crowe is a creative genius on par with Orson Welles.

Now prove I got paid to say that.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Invasion of the Gay Cane Toads

Environmental disasters causes by the careless introduction of foreign species makes me angry. In Australia we have feral foxes, pigs, cats, camels and possibly the most toxic of all - the cane toad. The idea was that introducing cane toads would help the sugar cane crops in the north because the toads would eat bugs that were troubling the crops. They didn't eat the bugs and ever since they have been breeding at a prodigious rate and slowly but inexorably spreading across the entire country.

They kill a huge amount of native animals and many efforts have been made to stop them. The latest idea is to genetically engineer some toad embryos so you end up with an all male toad population - no more breeding. This sounds like a fine idea - genetically engineered mutant poisonous toads; what could possibly go wrong?

My issue with this is that I've seen the movie "Cane Toads - an Unnatural History" and one interesting fact a naturalist pointed out in that movie was that cane toads are incredibly horny. He witness one of them humping a dead one that had been squashed by a car. So if this population is made all male, there's only one possible outcome: hordes of gay cane toads! This ought to push the government into action - they seem to think expending their energy stopping gay marriage is a good idea so I'm sure they won't put up with gay cane toads humping in the streets.

Who has the angriest blog?

I've been very happy with the growth of my blog so far. My measure of success (at this point) is that I'm happy with the quality of my writing, I'm maintaining daily posting and I'm getting readers. All of these are going well. Actually, I want to give another thank you to my readers and commenters - I had no right to expect to get such dedicated readers and the positive feedback I receive is both immensely gratifying and a real stimulus to constantly improve.

But it wouldn't be so good for my readers if I was too happy would it? This is not the sunshine and flowers blog, it's the angry blog - Mr Angry want to stay angry 365 days a year. Becoming the number one foreskin blog was a true honour but I was essentially ego-surfing Google and found I don't even figure on searches for "angry blog". This is more than a failure on my part - this is a crime against humanity.

It wouldn't be so bad if the other blogs were actually angrier than me but some of them aren't angry at all. It is clearly my duty to be even angrier. I never actually go hunting but right now I am dedicating myself to a virtual hunting trip. I will hunt down every so called angry blog that doesn't deserve to be called angry, get them in my cyber cross-hairs and blow their virtual brains out. Which is to say two things, I'm going to be focusing on being even angrier and I'm going to spend more time promoting how angry I am.

Because that's the sort of guy I am. Angry, shallow and vain. As John Lydon said "Anger is an energy" and it is my goal to spread the angry meme far and wide across teh internets. One thing that is important to me is also to promote the difference between productive anger and moronic behaviour. One example: railing against how mind bogglingly stupid other drivers are = good. Actually attacking someone in a road rage incident = bad. Stupid. Fucked in the head.

Road rage has apparently recently been diagnosed in some circles as an illness: Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). I am going to sue the people promoting this because they stole it from me. I diagnosed IED years ago but in my study it stood for Idiotic Example of a Dickhead. I had this crazy idea that doctors have enough work but apparently they have to keep creating new diseases because they cured cancer years ago. The real idiocy of this is the claim of how widespread it is - up to 16 million Americans are suffering from IED apparently. Listen, they aren't suffering from an illness - they're fuckwits who need a smackdown. Cut loose Chuck Norris on their arses and give them a sense of proportion.

It's sad when you can't out-parody reality. I keep hoping each of these new "diseases" is an April Fool's joke but sadly that's hardly ever the case. Apparently these idiots are serious.

6/6/6 Update

No significant satanic manifestations to report although my Wordpress counter did pass 6660 while it was still 6/6/6 in other parts of the world. Does this mean I have 10 times the power of the beast?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogger vs. Wordpress

I was recently asked to help someone set up a blog so I had to decide which tool to recommend to them. This helped crystallise a lot of my thinking on which tool I should be using myself as I have been conducting an ongoing road test by running this blog on both Wordpress and Blogger. Neither of them is perfect and they have different positives and negatives. So to tilt this in my normal manner, the following review covers what makes me angry about each of these tools.

Obviously there are a hell of a lot more blogging options than just Blogger and Wordpress but I don't have the time or energy to compare them all. I started on Blogger because I figured as Google owns it, this would be the easiest one to include Adsense ads on if I wanted to go that way (so far I don't want to do this but it is true, Blogger is the easiest one to put ads on). There are plenty of good comparisons out there, do a Google search on "blogging tool comparison" or try this one that I found to be really comprehensive. This particular review was the one that convinced me to try Wordpress for comparison.

So what good things did I discover upon setting up a blog on Blogger? Well, it's damn easy to set up. You can do a nice profile with photo if you want. My girlfriend likes the fact it puts a date and timestamp at the top of each post. It has an auto-save function when you are drafting a post that usually work (although not always). That's about it. Blogger is a bastard to customise, you have to go right down to html. There are no diagnostic/site visit measuring tools provided. It's hard to find other active blogs you might have something in common with - in the early days of a blog when you're linkwhoring this is important. Broadly speaking, site management tools are shit compared to Wordpress.

Wordpress is slightly more involved to set up but still dead easy. You can't put Adsense ads on a Wordpress blog (although they have pretty good reasons for this) and they don't have an easy profile with photo setup like Blogger. Beyond that, the customisation options provided by Wordpress are awesome. Through the magic of "widgets" you can add all sorts of features in a few seconds (literally - it's drag and drop). You can be a clueless non-techie like me and still have heaps of customisation on your blog. Sadly, it's very easy to over-design and you don't have to go far to see a Wordpress blog where the user has gone way over the top and added so many bells and whistles the site is unusable.

Wordpress include very good site stats monitoring tools, it's way easier to track comments and they have excellent anti-spam protection. I had a doomsayer comment on Blogger a while back that said I needed to introduce word verification and/or comment moderation or I'd be overwhelmed with comment spam. I made a specific choice to make it as easy as possible for people to comment on my blog because that's what makes it worthwhile for me. I figured I'd manage comment spam manually for as long as I could. I haven't had a significant issue with spam on Blogger yet, I've had to delete maybe half a dozen altogether (although one dick posted 3 spam comments in one day last week). Recently on Wordpress I have had about 20 spam comments and the spam protection has worked brilliantly.

Wordpress only missed one spam that I had to delete manually and it only had one false positive. That was the right-wing dork I was arguing with a while back and it happened because he included a lot of links in a comment (classic sign of spam). Or maybe Wordpress agreed with me and decided the fuckwit shouldn't be allowed to comment. Either way, it was a simple job to mark it "not spam" and have it appear.

You might have noticed by now I'm quite a cheerleader for Wordpress over Blogger. And if you look at the site stats you'll see all the traffic is coming to my Wordpress blog (around 6500 vs. 1500 on Blogger). This is largely because Wordpress is way easier to promote, they provide lots of links to active and popular blogs - the bread and butter of shameless comment whores like myself. Oh, and it's way easier to add people to your blogroll on Wordpress. I kept meaning to change the html on Blogger to add my friend to the blogroll but it is a pain. I'm pretty sure it's going to die soon so I'll add everyone to my Wordpress blogroll instead. So if you happen to have a link to my Blogger blog, you'd make me very happy if you changed it to Wordpress.

There is one flaw they have in common - they both have shit spell-checkers. It's churlish to pick on a free tool (you get what you pay for) but one aspect of their spell checkers actually makes me laugh more than it makes me angry. Neither of them recognise blog, blogger, blogging etc. as words. Nice attention to details guys.

666 - No Satanic Manifestations Yet

Thought I'd give my northern hemisphere readers a heads-up as my time zone reaches 06/06/06 sooner. So far, Satan's day is not living up to the hype. Although I do have some weird red swelling on the top knuckle of both of my little fingers. Seriously. Weird because I've never had anything like it before, I have no idea what's causing it and it's happening to the same finger on both hands at the same.

I'll let you know if claws burst through at any time during the day. After all, my middle name is Damien. Seriously.