Monday, July 31, 2006

Mr Angry's rules for permanent employees working with contractors

This post in my series on contracting focuses on suggestions for non-management permanent employees working with contractors. The driver for this is that over the years I've worked on both sides of the fence and I've seen the sorts of preconceptions and misconceptions that can strain working relationships between permanent and contract staff. The sources for the suggestions in this post are a combination of things I have seen myself and the questions I am most commonly asked about contracting by permanent staff.

Let's get the touchy one out of the way first: money. Don't ask a contractor how much they are getting. Ever. It's unprofessional and rude and, honestly, no good is going to come out of asking. If you want an idea of how much contractors can earn, look up some job ads. I've covered this topic in detail in previous posts so, if you need to, go back and re-read the sections comparing contract rates to permanent rates.

Contractors are not, by definition, any better than permanent employees at what they do. The reason for employing a contractor can vary from case to case and it's worth finding out the reason a contractor has been hired if you find yourself working with one. If there's any sort of decent management in your workplace (a big "if", I know) then the contractor will have skills and/or experience that nobody else has. In the case of specialists, it's easy to see why a contractor has been brought on but this is not always the case. Sometimes a contractor will have the same skill set as permanent staff (or even less skills) and they have been employed to provide "an extra set of hands". This can lead to the unfortunate circumstance where someone appears to be getting more money while offering less return but this premium is the return for giving up the security of perment employment.

It's worth getting clarification (preferably written) of how you, as a permanent, are expected to relate to a contractor. Are they a peer? Are you expected to report to them or pass any of your work through them? Will they have no impact at all on your work or who you report to? Once you have the word from management, introduce yourself to the contractor in this context:

"Hi, I'm... we're going to be... I'm looking forward to..."

All those nice platitudes. This is good practice for two reasons. First, it gets you both off on a positive footing. Second, it can reduce miscommunication. It is not unheard of for management to tell a contractor one thing and permanent staff something else (shocking, I know).

I can't recommend strongly enough that, where appropriate, permanent staff have a lot of interaction with contractors. There's all those airy-fairy "team building" concepts of course (and I strongly believe the contractor should be treated as part of the team - for everyone's benefit) but there are also some excellent selfish reasons for doing this. I'm going to approach this from a positive perspective and assume that you, as a permanent employee, want to improve your position/career/pay rate. If you happen to be the bump on a log type who is happy to sit the same desk and do the same job for as long as a regular paycheck keeps coming, feel free to ignore this advice.

A contractor, by definition, is doing something that a permanent employee isn't and they are a much better source of information than any agency, article or guidebook when it comes to discovering what life as a contractor is really like. You may have no interest in becoming a contractor as such but a contractor is likely to have had more diversity in their roles and can provide some valuable insight into how to develop new skills, how to adapt to changing environments and what skills and/or experience are most valued in the job market. Whether you are looking for advancement in your current workplace or wondering what roles might be available elsewhere, someone with active experience in the job market (e.g. a contractor) can help you make a decision.

What it all comes down to is don't build walls between yourself and contractors. Honestly, some contractors are jerks, gloating about their exciting life and sky-high pay rates and they can make you feel resentful towards contractors in general. If you're going to dislike someone, do it because they're a jerk, not because they're a contractor. In my experience, the vast majority of contractors want to get on with their permanent co-workers so give them the benefit of the doubt.

Pretty much the only platitude I subscribe to is "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Bitching about contractors having too many advantages doesn't help your situation. Besides, if you were so sure they had things so good, surely you go out and do some contracting yourself? Permanent staff can gain a lot of benefits from working with contractors so don't be shy. Treat them as part of the team and you never know what you might gain.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

An angry drive (part four)

This is why it's dangerous to let me have a camera - I get a head of steam and don't stop. This one's almost six minutes without an edit and includes my calm and measured attitude to 4WD/SUV owners.

The Malcolm Gladwell article I referred to in this rant is at the following URL:

The URL for the vlog is:

Mr Angry on MySpace

This is another YouTube "response" video, answering the question posed by Mr Safety: What would people do in a world without MySpace?

If you know somebody who needs to adjust to life beyond MySpace, send them the following link:

Beauty tips from Mr Angry

This video is a response to one of the popular YouTubers, i.e. another desperate attempt by me to ride on someone else's coat-tails. It also features the behind the scenes "making of" video of the first of my new t-shirts, courtesy of my wonderful, talented girlfriend. Bound to be the top fashion item of the summer.

I'm having a bit of a mad run on videos today so there's a few more to come. Stay tuned. In the meantime this one is also at:

An angry drive (part three)

This is a shorter grab from my angry drive that starts where the last ones finishes and ends with a frank and shocking admission. I'm nothing if not honest.

I had to finish this at that point (although that's a good finishing point) because after this I go on an uninterrupted chain of consciousness rant that doesn't stop for more than five minutes. So there's something to look forward to - five minutes with no edits.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

An angry drive (part two)

Well, after a bit of editing, here's the second stage of my drive to work. I start off fairly philisiophical but then my mood degenerates pretty quickly. In other words, it's Mr Angry being Mr Angry.

For anyone who wants the URL, here it is:

Friday, July 28, 2006

An angry drive (part one)

I thought I'd try something a little different and do a vlog while driving to work. It's a bit of a long drive so I've cut it into bite sized chunks and this is the first part.

Feel free to distribute far and wide from this URL:

Mr Angry's rules for employing contractors

I previously wrote about rules I thought contractors should follow in order to have a happy life. Of course, contractors themselves are only part of the equation. Everybody else has their part to play. This post contains suggestion for people currently employing or planning to employ contractors. The rules covered below are based on my experiences in a range of workplaces; some handled contractors very well (and are used as positive examples) and some failed badly (and provided the negative examples).

First and foremost, make sure you actually need contractors. Ideally your project planning will be well thought out enough to see staff and skill shortages coming. When you identify such a gap, consider a range of options to fill it. Would it be covered by providing additional training to existing staff (and so boost your long-term advantage)? Is the need an ongoing one and so needs a permanent solution? Can the need be covered by some reshuffling of existing staff and/or project schedules?

In other words, don’t just wake up one day and go "Oh god, we’re shorthanded. I’d better hire some contractors." Do everyone a favour and go out and read "The Mythical Man Month." This may sound a bit counter-intuitive, a contractor saying don’t rush to hire contractors, but I’m saying it for a number of reasons. Mainly I’m saying it because being hired onto a project as an act of desperation means I’m going to be dumped in a pile of crap. I like to think I’m good but I can’t work miracles. Plus, it tends to piss off existing staff if contractors are brought in as "saviours" before they are given the proper opportunities to deal with the situation themselves. And rightly so.

Also, I know I can say this without affecting my future job prospects because I can safely say not enough employers are going to listen to change to change anything. I’m sounding cynical (hard for any of my regular readers to believe, I know) but I’ve been doing this sort of work for around 15 years (10 as a contractor) and I’m yet to see any significant improvements in management practices.

And speaking of pissing off staff, another time when you really shouldn’t hire contractors is when the disparity in pay between the contractor and your permanent staff is too high. If you can’t get a contractor without paying them double what corresponding permanent staff get, then you should be paying your permanent staff more. I covered this issue in more detail in my previous post but in short, avoid increasing the pay-based antagonism between contract and permanent staff.

Short term, I am thinking of my own interests – I don’t like working in negative, resentful environments. Long term, it serves any company to have a stable, satisfied workforce. The simple act of not hiring people who seem to swoop in, scoop up piles of cash and then fly out can really help the job satisfaction of permanent staff.

There are always the exceptions to the rule, the super-consultants whose knowledge is so deep and/or specialised that they can command over a grand a day in any job market. This isn’t me but I’ve heard these creatures are not totally mythical. But bear in mind this sort of pay disparity is rarely justified. If you find yourself in this situation you’re either not paying your permanent staff enough or you’re paying the contractor too much. Most likely compounded by very poor resource planning on your part.

But let’s think positive, when are the right times to hire a contractor?

The obvious times to hire a contractor are when there is a skill or experience gap in your team that you can’t fill internally or when you simply need some extra hands for a set period of time. Notice I said a set period of time. It’s a common mistake to say "we’re overwhelmed so we needs some contractors" without thinking it through. The one sentence summary of the book I mentioned before, The Mythical Man Month, is that you can’t make a project go faster simply by throwing more people at it – the management and communication overhead for larger groups (among other things) counters the benefit of having extra people on board.

And for the sake of everyone involved, make knowledge/skills transfer part of the planned engagement for the contractor. It benefits the business overall by increasing the skill set permanently available, it benefits permanent employees by helping them develop new skills (and almost everybody in IT wants to increase their skill set) and, speaking personally, it can help make the contractor feel involved with the workplace. Set this sort of goal at the interview stage and if you discover a potential contractor who resists the idea, this is a very good reason to not hire them. Any contractor insecure enough to try to hold on to "secret knowledge" probably isn’t all that good anyway.

Another important rule for employers dealing with contractors: if the contractor has been hired through an agency you DO NOT discuss pay rates with the contractor. EVER. You discuss work issues with the contractor. You discuss contract issues (including rates) with the agency. The agency discusses contract issues with the contractor. It’s like the separation of church and state. Except more important. And don’t ever say anything along the lines of "isn’t that why you get paid so much" to a contractor. Not even in passing, not even as a joke. The rate was set when the contract was signed and shouldn’t be discussed again unless the contract is up for renewal.

Plus, it hurts. Most of the time, most contractors will let it go but they shouldn’t have to. Any discussion about performance etc. should focus on professional expectations. Talking about money is unprofessional and is almost certain to damage the working relationship, however slightly. There are a thousand legitimate things that can strain a working relationship without introducing unnecessary crap like this.

It’s only human for an employer to expect more from a contractor than from an equivalent permanent employee. But set these expectations at the interview stage and confirm them in writing with the contract. Don’t add things in after the fact and keep piling the contractor with more and more work "because they’re paid for it." It’s unprofessional and nine times out of ten it will result in a worse performance from the contractor, not a better one.

A final word of advice, don’t be scared to ask the contractor for input on what they should be doing. No matter how unique a situation seems to you, most contractors will have seen something very similar before. You’re hiring this person as an expert or at least for their additional experience and expertise. Use that wisely.

Technorati seems to be having some problems

I was doing one of my random trawls through Technorati (I've hit the top 50,000 by the way, woohoo!) instead of working and saw that they may have a few bugs to work out with their new-look site. For those of you who don't keep track of things (99.9% of the human population) Technorati revamped their site recently giving it a sleeker look and feel and changing a few of their features. Broadly I think the changes are good although I'm still getting used to a few of them.

I did a search for new posts on Google and got the following result:

I don't wish to suggest that the blogosphere is completely unoriginal but how many posts relating to Google do you think appear every day? I'm guessing more than zero. I guess you can't make big changes without experiencing a few teething problems.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A short video interlude

I am still deeply dissatisfied with my failure to dominate YouTube. Originally I was simply using YouTube as a tool to serve up videos for this blog but since seeing how many viewers a lot of the videos on YouTube get, I'm determined to get a bit of that action. It's that whole world domination obsession of mine.

I have learned two tricks to attracting viewers, one is featuring (or seeming to feature) semi-nekkid people and another is to respond to a popular video and ride on their coat-tails. This video is a response to one of the most popular YouTubers - a perky little 17 year old girl (so I'll obviously never be as popular as her). The context is she makes a humourous video about a science topic, this one was the coriolis effect. So here's my response:

If anyone wants to see how gross and childish I am, I'll post the first take where I farted then couldn't stop laughing. If I get enough requests, that is :)

I was also thinking of doing a "social experiment" on YouTube like my "uncut action" video where I see how many viewers I can trick into watching my videos by making them look like porn. I was going to do one with nekkid ladies, one (as requested by Saly) with nekkid men for the ladies, one with lesbians (which would attract horny hetero males, not lesbians) and one aimed at gay men. Then I would know what porn images were best for tricking desperadoes.

But I couldn't bring myself to do it. It just seemed to icky. What do you all think? Should I exploit the horny nature of YouTubers?

Mr Angry's rules for mobile phones

I can't believe I have to post on this topic. Mobile phones are not new, people should have gotten over the "gee whiz" factor and remembered some basic rules of courtesy. Apparently not. People's current stupidity seems centred on Bluetooth (wireless) earpieces but I see plenty of examples of people being downright morons without an earpiece.

I was prompted to write this after reading an article in the Washington post titled "A tough call - invisible phone or invisible friend" which includes interviews with a couple of morons who think they are cool, switched on, cutting edge but are in fact ignorant fuck-knuckles. It's a shame the WP was beaten to the punch by a couple of months by a fairly unfunny newspaper comic who used the punchier line "hands free or off her meds?"

So for the etiquette-challenged, here are some common sense rules for using mobile phones in general and earpieces in particular.

Rule 1: Don't be a moron. This is really the only rule that is needed but clearly some people need an explanation of what behaviour qualifies them as a moron. Simply put: any person you are with, face to face, is more important than any person on the phone. You are already with a person who is physically there. You do not have to answer the phone. Wrap your head around that. You. Do. Not. Have. To. Answer. The. Phone. Which brings me to the next rule, the primary one for earpieces.

Rule 2: Only use an earpiece when you need your hands free. Driving is pretty much the only activity that I can think of that justifies this. Assuming you are not incapacitated in some way, use your fucking hands to answer your phone. The earpiece is not required to be "always on". The earpiece does not make you look cool, important or in control. When used unnecessarily, the earpiece makes you look like a fucking dork. And people hate you for using it.

Rule 3: If you're going to ignore rule 2, when wearing an earpiece, don't have it set to "auto pick up". For those who haven't inflicted one of these devices on themselves, most of them have a setting where instead of doing anything to pick up a call you can set them to "push" a call to the earpiece automatically. There's no ringing, no warning to an outsider. The wearer hears a beep in the earpiece and they start talking. Don't do this. EVER. This is amongst the rudest behaviour imaginable. The action of stopping a face to face conversation mid-sentence with no warning to start talking to someone who isn't there marks you as a fuckwit of the highest order.

So, let's pretend you're intelligent enough to follow the first three rules. When you're in public you have your phone with you and it's going to ring sometimes. You are not going to use your earpiece unless your hands are 100% unavailable. What etiquette do you follow?

Rule 4: Be polite. Defer to people around you ahead of ANY incoming calls. If you are talking to someone when your phone rings say something simple like "excuse me" and check the display to see who's calling. If there's a reason to take the call, apologise before doing so. The call is an interruption, treat it as such. Keep it short. Get over the idea that things always have to be done now. Tell the person you will call them back. Better yet, don't answer the call and let it go to voicemail. You don't have to be contactable 24 hours a day. The person on the phone has no idea why you can't answer, let them assume it's because you're doing something important. The person you're with has no doubt when you're being a rude piece of shit.

Rule 5: Some workplaces ban mobile phones. I think this is stupid but it pays to impinge as little as possible on cow-orkers. Don't have a loud, obnoxious ringtone. Ideally have your phone set to vibrate. And take your mobile with you whenever you leave your desk. Personally, I'm not going to answer a call while I'm in the toilet but I'm not going to leave my phone at my desk when I go either. There's nothing more annoying in an office than an unattended mobile that rings and rings and rings. What part of mobile don't you understand?

Rule 6: When you are having a conversation on a mobile phone in a public place be aware of the people around you. If someone else started telling strangers intimate details of your life, you'd strangle them. Why the fuck would you do so yourself? For fuck's sake, just because the people around you can't hear the person you're talking to doesn't mean they can't hear you. And trust me, nine times out of ten they don't want to know the details of your sex life. And never argue on the phone in public. I have had several experiences of people screaming and bursting into tears in public while on their mobile. It's fucking weird. Don't do it.

A corollary of this rule goes out mainly to teenage girls. Don't have squeally conversations that consist of nothing but meaningless phrases like "He didn't! No! Get out! Oh my god! Oh no she didn't! Ewwww, as if! Shut up!" I've lost count of the times I've fought down the urge to enforce the "shut up" exclamation by jamming their fucking mobile down their fucking throat. I was going to limit this rule to mobile conversations in public but it deserves wider enforcement.

Don't have conversations like that ever.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mr Angry's rules for blogging

This post was inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Rory Blyth on his blog Neopoleon (I'm sure he isn't dumb enough to twice fall for someone linking to him in the hope of being mentioned but you never know). Essentially, Rory has close to no filtering between his brain and his blog posts. He uses his real name, occasionally real photos of himself, talks about his employer (Microsoft) and frequently posts on incredibly personal topics including his relationships, his family and mental illness. He explored the topic of "rules" for blogging under the heading "Blogging is stupid" and his take is essentially the idea of rules for blogging is stupid.

On this topic I have to disagree. There are most definitely rules for blogging but they will be different for each person and situation. As far as I'm concerned the rules for blogging are the same as your rules for life. If there is something you wouldn't say or do in your real life, if you wouldn't say it to your family, if you wouldn't say it at work, if you wouldn't walk down the street shouting it at the top of your lungs, then saying it on a blog is borderline insanity.

You don't have to analyse this blog too carefully to see where I stand. I write under a pseudonym and wear a mask in my videos although it would take a determined person (or someone who knew me) five seconds to work out it was me. I generally avoid specifics unless I am writing about very public figures. I almost never post on personal issues, again, at least not on specifics. These rules are not applicable to everyone. These rules are mine and they are self imposed. In fact, I thought them all through quite carefully before I even started this blog.

The big fear in the blogosphere is getting "dooced". The term means getting fired for something you did online and is so-named in honour of Heather Armstrong who lost her job for things she posted on her blog, Dooce. Another case in the news today doesn't involve a blog but is about getting sacked for online activity involves Melanie Martinez, a presenter for a kids' show on America's PBS being sacked for a video she did a few years ago called "Technical Virgin". The video wasn't even vaguely pornographic but I find it hard to believe that a presenter for a kids' show could be so naive as to think that performing comedy related to sex wouldn't come back to haunt her. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a presenter on a kids' show.

I want to make it clear that I don't support sacking Dooce, Ms Martinez or pretty much anyone else for what they do online but I'm not surprised by it. The IT job market that I have to work in is small, conservative and gossipy. For this reason I'm never specific when talking about work-related issues but I do talk about work. With quite some vehemence at times. I have worked for several managers who would freak out at the idea of me blogging about the shit they go on with and doubtless will be forced to work with such losers again in the future.

To deal with this risk I made three decisions. (1) Don't be specific. (2) Be sort of anonymous. (3) Be prepared to lose a job because of my blog. I made the third decision consciously a while back. I'm no millionaire but I get paid more than I ever thought I would. My skills in the current job market just let me earn a shitload (by my estimation anyway). The thing is, I have to compete for the high paying jobs. I have decided, if worst comes to worst, to go for lower paying jobs where I'll be wildly overqualified compared to other applicants. When I say lower paid I mean still considerably more than average but less than I'm getting now.

If you're not prepared to make a similar decision stop blogging now. Even if you never blog about work. Stop blogging now. Even if you think nothing you write is offensive. Stop blogging now. Because the world is full of fuckwits. And you'll end up working for one of them. And they'll think they have the right to pass judgement on your blog. I don't think they do but then again, I'm not your employer.

That's the general points about work issues and blogging but here are some specifics. If you slander someone you deserve to pay for it. Grow a brain. If you are posting to a "company" blog and say negative/offensive/abusive things I think you're insane. That obviously makes me a wuss but I think tying your personal voice to your employer is crazy. If you're work involves getting paid by the government and you use a blog to criticise the government, well, I'm all for dissent (duh!) but I think only an idiot would be surprised by getting some blowback. A recent case involved a contractor working at the CIA getting dooced after a blog post criticising the Bush administration's policy on torture. I think Bush's pro-torture stance is an abomination against humanity but, seriously, you expect to keep a job at the CIA after saying that publicly?

A few thoughts on blogging about personal topics. Obviously I'm quite conservative in this area. I almost never mention personal things and when I do it's in the most general terms. I never use names. I think this makes me a very small minority in the blogging world and I'm fine with that. For those who focus their blogs on personal issues I say "good on you!" But I really hope you thought it through before doing so and you're not simply spouting off without considering the consequences. I've seen dozens of blogs where the writer is essentially committing relationship suicide. They say such personal things about themselves, their partners, their friends and their families while clearly having no idea if the people they're writing about find their blog they will end up absolutely hated.

Several of the names in my blogroll write about personal issues extremely well and their confidence shows they know exactly what's happening. So, writing about personal issues having thought through the potential repercussions = good. Spouting off incredibly personal details because "it's just my blog and it doesn't matter what I write" = plain fucking stupid. MySpace is basically a series of hand grenades waiting to explode and destroy thousands of lives. I suspect one day even Scoble is going to regret having provided so many details about his family through his blog.

So essentially, my number one rule for blogging is write whatever you want so long as you are prepared for the consequences. Imagine what the worst case scenario for you is. Now come to terms with the fact the worst case scenario has already come true for many, many people. Only an idiot would think it isn't going to happen to them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mr Angry's rules for contractors

This post is something I was actually asked to write. I've been asked for "career advice" a few times lately; I guess having been a contractor for ten years now does imply that I may actually know a thing or two about working successfully as a contractor. The following is what I see as some common sense guidelines both for permanent employees considering moving to contracting and contractors who want to continue contracting successfully.

The first thing to consider is what are the biggest differences between permanent and contract work? That's easy. There are two big ones: no job security and you (usually) get to say a considerably bigger number when people ask you how much you earn. There's much more to it than this but those are the big two that you're likely to be balancing when considering the leap into contracting. How much money will convince you to give up job security? For me this is a no-brainer as I don't believe there is any real job security any more, particularly in IT. Other people don't share this view and value permanent employment more highly. To state the obvious: contracting is not for the risk averse.

The dollars alone are not enough of a motivator for me and although it sounds tempting, only the most soul-less individuals can be fulfilled in their work by money alone for more than a few years. I personally like the control aspect (you never would have guessed that about me, would you?) Properly managed, the contracting lifestyle gives you considerably more control over your career and finances.

If you're going to pursue contracting for more than about a year I can't recommend strongly enough that you look into setting up your own company and contracting through this entity. It can cost a few thousand dollars to set up a company properly, depending where you live (and make it a company, NOT a trust or anything else shifty!) Get a trustworthy accountant to set things up for you. A lot of people balk at paying out the money to set up and the ongoing money to organise taxes etc but it's money well spent. This is an investment and you will get it returned multiple times over every year in tax savings if you do it properly.

Properly. Legally. It is simply not worth the risk of screwing the tax department. Bite the bullet and go legit. A good accountant will save you tens of thousands while keeping everything legal and above board.

Day to day, you're going to have to deal with three sorts of people as a contractor: employment agencies, employers and co-workers. How you relate to each of these groups is vitally important to your viability as a contractor and your emotional well-being generally.

Dealing with agencies: If you're working in a place where the IT job market isn't controlled by employment agencies count your blessings. In Sydney and Melbourne about 80% of all jobs and 95% of contract jobs are placed through agencies. You don't absolutely have to go through them but your choices are limited. Personally I think they're a waste of time. The only thing I can think of that justifies their existence is HR departments who don't want to do their jobs. If a company has an HR department they shouldn't use agencies and if a company uses agencies they should have an HR department. It's unnecessary double-handling. Or maybe I'm crazy.

So assume you have to deal with agencies. Be nice to them. Most of them are decent people (I object to the role, not the person) and you need them to get contracts. Always be professional in your dealings with agencies; this gives the good ones the confidence to represent you well and it avoids giving the bad ones an excuse to screw you. Having said that, don't let agencies dictate terms to you. Agencies should provide guidance on rates and conditions (too many of them provide no guidance at all) but they shouldn't control your life. Make sure you understand the job market so you understand what is realistic for your skill set and experience and never let yourself become dependent on a single agency.

Don't enter into an "exclusive representation" agreement with an agency unless you're on their payroll, i.e. they pay you whether or not you are working for an outside employer. Many agencies push this, they say things like it looks too unprofessional if you are going through multiple agencies looking for work. This is a complete lie. Over the years I have given my resume to dozens of agencies and never once had an employer even comment on this, let alone pass negative judgement. Any agency who pushes too heavily on this front is untrustworthy in my opinion and should be avoided. Employers go for the best applicant. Period. Agencies go for whoever will get them a commission. Period.

Dealing with employers: Rightly or wrongly, employers expect more from a contractor than from an equivalent permanent employee. It's a simple equation for them: they pay you more so they want more from you. It's important that you're absolutely clear about an employer's expectations ahead of time. You don't want any nasty surprises down the track. At the interview stage get explicit answers regarding expectations on hours to be worked, output and responsibility. Asking these questions in a way that comes across as professional rather than seeming like you're trying to get out of work is more art than science, but it's an important skill to master. If you're a contractor, you will be going to a lot of job interviews so you will get plenty of practice.

The politics of your role in the workplace can be as important (or even more important) than your output. One of the joys of being a contractor is that the learning curve for all aspects of a role are sharply accelerated. If you are permanent, often your first 3 months is taken up with "learning the ropes". Many contracts only last that long from beginning to end so you have to squeeze in learning the environment, technology, methodolgies, politics and the actual work you are delivering in the time most people take to simply get used to their new job. Again, if you can't deal with stress, contracting is not for you. The key is communication. Communicate early and often. Feed back to your employer what you understand your role to be, give regular status updates and ask for corrections if you have misunderstood anything.

Dealing with co-workers: Guess what? Permanent staff know you get paid more than them. And it pisses them off. Co-workers will fall somewhere on a spectrum between not caring at all what you are paid and being obsessed with and unreasonable about your rates despite the fact it's none of their business. You can't control how people feel about contractors, you can only control your response to them. One thing you should never do is discuss your pay rate. Seriously, nothing good can come of this. Co-workers will ask you. Come up with your own diplomatic version of "I don't like to discuss that." Anyone who presses the matter is essentially a jerk and you shouldn't feel compelled to respond to them.

If you feel compelled to respond, I recommend keeping it abstract rather than mentioning the exact amount you earn. Point out that a direct dollar comparison isn't valid because of the different nature of permanent vs contract work. The following analysis I use is reasonably accurate. It's based on Australian conditions so it won't be directly applicable to all other countries, I know some places have more annual leave and some have less. Imagine the contract rate is double the permanent rate in dollar terms (this isn't always the case, but it is sometimes and this is often the figure permanents throw at me).

Permanents get four weeks annual leave, about 10 public holidays and 5-10 paid sick days each year. If a contractor isn't at work they aren't getting paid. So if a contractor is making $100K a year and a permanent is making $50K, the permanent co-worker only has to work for 10 months to get their salary so already they've picked up 20% on the contractor. On top of that, the contractor has to handle their own taxes, insurance and superannuation which all adds up. The margin most contractors have over their permanent counterparts is much closer to 20-25% in real terms and that's simply the premium for giving up the security of permanent employment.

At the end of the day, if you are dealing with a difficult co-worker who really wants to make an issue of your pay rate, put it to them this way: if they are so sure contracting is such a great deal, why aren't they out there contracting themselves? Put up or shut up. Not that I recommend saying something that negative to a co-worker. For most people, enjoying contract work means staying on the right side of co-workers is more important than impressing employers. So try to steer conversations away from your pay rate. Whatever you do, don't be like one contract programmer I worked with who coded a little income calculator that showed in real time how much he was earning each minute he was there. And then he had it on his desktop where everyone could see it. I think they found his body face down in a ditch somewhere.

So that's my overview of rules for contractors. In subsequent posts I will be cover the rules (in my humble opinion) each of the three groups above should follow when dealing with contractors. In the meantime, I welcome any comments or questions raised by these points.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mr Angry runs your life for you

I was planning some future posts for this blog and a long-established pattern suddenly became clear to me. The vast majority of material I have been writing revolves around rules. Rules for life. Rules for work. Even rules for romance. I realised this was for a good reason: people are sheep who need to be led.

Let me provide a bit of clarification: I have decided people fall into one of three categories. (1) Idiots who will never get it together and need to be beaten with sticks/fucked in the neck with various implements/regularly castigated in this blog. (2) People looking for guidance who will follow my god-like decrees without question, I mean, people who will take my thoughtful, gently articulated advice on board and change their lives accordingly. (3) People who completely get it and are part of the angry alliance. See my blogroll and regular commenters for examples of these people. Get to know them because they will be forming the government, secret police and my personal bodyguard when I take over the world.

It seems, without realising it, I have been forming my manifesto through these blog posts. It just goes to show, if you don't know for sure what you want to do with a blog make sure you say what needs to be said first and the big picture will come into focus later. So don't be troubled if you feel a compulsion to change your previously existing world view to conform with mine.

It's for your own good.

Mr Angry vs Alan Jones part three

A little more Alan Jones hilarity. The background information for people who have never heard of Alan Jones:

Among other things, he was coach of the Australian rugby team in the 80's so occasional references to rugby teams and sportspeople pop up. His main employment is as a talkback radio announcer where he makes a fortune shilling for anyone who pays him. Sometimes this transaction is obvious (he's obviously recording an ad in many of the soundbites I use) but he's also caused some controversy by appearing to state his honest opinion when was being paid a fortune to put someone in a good light (reportedly around a million bucks to improve the public image of banks).

He's been number two in his field in Australia for ages. He just can't get ahead of the "Golden Tonsils" of John Laws in ratings or money or credibility. Although they have mainly worked for the same radio station, they are bitter rivals. And as the sound bites I use in this video show, being number two makes Jones very frustrated and bitter. In fact he's a complete prima donna. Good for a laugh.

As always, feel free to spread, embed and use this and other videos in any way you wish so long as you use my original YouTube video as the source. Other than that you can pretend it's yours for all I care. So long as people watch it. The link to the video is :

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Should Nazis be banned from the Internet?

A few rambling thoughts to introduce my first video blog done on the new camera with thoughts on the camera to follow. For those who aren't into watching the videos this post covers the same ground. For those who don't like to read, jump straight to the video.

This video is a response to some stuff happening on YouTube right now. There were quite a few openly racist and even proudly Nazi users on YouTube who were posting some fairly hateful videos which is against YouTube policy, not to mention common human decency. One fairly prominent user started a chain of anti-racist messages that I took part in, there's about 50 videos in the chain right now. Speaking out against racism and similar cowardice is an important thing. Then I got a message (presumably because I was part of the anti-racism chain) asking me to join a campaign to have Nazis banned from YouTube.

At the risk of being unpopular and having to hand in my left-wing credentials, this is not something I feel I can be part of. My main reason is I simply don't agree with censorship - first because it usually ends up getting wrongly applied and second because I don't think it works. Things that are "banned" don't disappear, they go underground and continue to thrive. Also, since being granted honorary freedom of speech rights by Sandra I want to preserve those rights and I can't really celebrate my rights by depriving someone else of theirs. I believe the answer to "bad" free speech is more good free speech to counter it, not the suppression of speech that I disagree with.

If I was in charge... Make that when I take over the world, this won't be an issue. I won't ban anything that doesn't deserve it. In the meantime, I don't trust the sort of prick that tends to be in power. They're gonna fuck things up and extend the banning to things and people that don't deserve it. Like me. I've heard rumours that I occasionally offend people. Pathetic, weenie, loser fuckwits to be sure but they're out there.

And probably the most annoying part of banning Nazis is it gives them a false sense of credibility. They enjoy being able to say they're being oppressed. There's nothing as annoying as hateful oppressive fucks acting like they're the underdogs. Let them have their say and then point out how fucked up their attitude is. Racism is just so astoundingly stupid it's incredibly easy to refute. There are people, however few and however stupid they are, react to something being banned by thinking "Oooh, there must be something to this, 'big brother' doesn't want me to know about it."

So shine a light on these cockroaches, don't let them hide in the dark places. That's the way they like things.

So far as the new camera goes, Adam at the camera store showed his integrity by suggesting that I didn't need an expensive video camera to do the sort of things I've been doing. So I went for a better quality digital camera that does better video than my previous one. And it also hasn't had its microphone blown out by me shouting at it yet. This saved me a shitload of money and I avoided giving any money to the bastard company that fucked me around with the video camera I originally wanted.

The white balance and colours seem much more accurate in the new camera. Which isn't as good a deal as it sounds at first. Now you can see how pasty white and sickly my complexion is. I actually looked healthier when there was a bias to yellow colouring - I almost looked like I had a tan. The contrast is also better and it does a better job in low light too. So all up it's a pretty good deal. And if I decide I want to get more serious about making films in a year or so, the cameras will be cheaper and better. Sweet!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mr Angry versus Alan Jones part two

With all the shit going down in the world right now, it's refreshing that some things never change. What a shame that it's the most base and reprehensible aspects of humanity that don't seem to change. And when I think base and reprehensible I think Alan fucking Jones.

I heard him on TV last night, applauding one of his listeners who said that Lebanese Australians who had been caught in the current conflict in Lebanon weren't real Australians; they were "opportunistic" and they should be left behind and only their Australian passports should be repatriated. The stupidity behind statements like that is not unusual but it always manages to astonish me how ignorant people can be.

Jones continues to amaze simply because he's playing with fire. He seems to be really enjoying inflaming redneck passions lately but it's as if he's prodding pit bulls to attack toddlers while he has a lamb chop hanging around his own neck. The pit bulls might be enjoying attacking the targets selected by Jones but one day its bound to notice that he's wearing a tasty chunk of meat and they'll rip his throat out getting it.

In case my well crafted metaphor was too obtuse for you, it's meaning is thus: Rednecks who hate foreigners also have a tendencies to hate gays. Not saying Alan Jones is gay because I don't actually know - he's never sucked my dick and I don't want him to. A certain police officer who arrested Jones in a public toilet had an opinion on the matter - he thought Jones "shook it once too many times" shall we say. I think persecuting people simply for being gay is wrong. I also think vilifying people because of their ethnicity is wrong.

Jones clearly thinks it's OK to inflame passions and prejudice along ethnic lines and a significant number of his listeners embrace this enthusiastically. From what I know of Australian yob culture (first hand) it would be easy to turn this same mob violently homophobic. I wonder how Jones would react then?

Ah well. There a few laughs to be had at his expense with the recordings featured in this video. I wonder if the egg marketing people would be impressed to hear his views of them after they paid him a fortune to shill their crap? An a bit of the potty mouth action always cracks me up. Enjoy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why is it so hard to give some people money?

Those of you with good memories will remember I blogged about getting a new video camera a few weeks ago. For those of you with bad memories: I loaned you fifty bucks last month - when are you going to pay me back? I was prompted to get a new camera because the cheap one I was using went screwy and was making a high pitched noise. I thought it was unusable but everyone voted it was fine so I kept going. I've made about 20 videos since then.

Just as well I didn't wait until I had a new camera because I'm still fucking waiting for one. I decided on the model I wanted and found a shop that was selling it for $200 less than anyone else and seemed to know what they were talking about. Then I missed getting the last one in stock by literally 30 seconds. Oh well, I thought, no biggie. It'll only take a week to get another one. Yeah, right.

One week stretched to two and this weeks make three. This morning I get a bizarre call. Adam from the camera shop tells me the wholesaler has cancelled the order without telling them until today. This is because they're releasing a new model. Next month. So they're not supplying any more of the model I ordered. But they didn't tell anyone. Fuckers.

In retaliation, I'm flexing the only muscle a consumer has - I'm going to buy a different brand. This isn't the top dollar model (damn, I'd love one of those $5,000 jobbies) but it's not a cheap one either. I'm not saying exactly how much in case everyone thinks I'm an idiot. So it's a shopping trip for me tomorrow. Retail therapy is always such fun. Anyway, I'm also going to write a letter to the maker of the one I'm NOT buying to tell them how much the whole situation sucks and how they lost my money. Then when I'm famous I'll slag off the brand on every chat show in the world.

I'm sick of being fucked around by bastards. Fuck them in the neck with a credit card.

Beirut video blog

Okay, one more visit to the middle east before I leave this topic for a while. I noticed a featured video on YouTube was carrying a simple message: let's ask for peace in the middle east. So I did a response video which includes some of Mazen's work from his blog at

Hope you enjoy it.

Is this turning into a video blog or what? I haven't even put all the YouTube videos I've done in the last week up here - they seemed a little too YT-centric and less relevant to this blog. If you ever want to catch up with my YT videos, go to

I'm planning to do a few more Alan Jones videos this weekend so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

How to hang toilet paper - the video version

So here's one of the old favourites converted to video form. I'm always amused by how many searches for the correct way to hang toilet paper end up on my blog. So I decided to put the question beyond doubt with a video guide. I think I got a couple of edits wrong so don't be surprised if it doesn't make sense in places. I also think I'm too lazy to re-edit it, but you never know, I might fix it later.

This one is an important message for the future of humanity so spread it about... here's the url:

If you want to embed it in your blog and are not sure how to, leave me a message and I'll help you out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Can't we all just get along?

The real Mr Angry heading for this post is "Can't we all just calm the fuck down and stop bombing the fuck out of each other for five fucking minutes and come to terms with the simple fact that an endless cycle of revenge and retribution is suicidal for all concerned?" That's slightly long and there might be some filtering software that would block that as a post title. But still, what the fuck people?

I don't think there's a nation or creed on this planet that can hold its head up and say "Well at least we've never done anything morally reprehensible that's caused untold pain, suffering and death or at least stood by and done nothing while said acts were perpetrated in out name." But every now and then things come to a head and I think why don't you people just sit back and relax with a big frosty can of calm the fuck down? Seriously, neither then end of the world not the price of petrol going over $5 a litre by the end of the month fills me with joy.

Obviously I'm talking about the little brouhaha in the middle east. It's perfectly natural to be a little paranoid when you're surrounded on all sides by people who have expressed the desire to exterminate. But you can only over-react and lash out killing hundreds of civilians before the next round of payback starts. And I'm not talking about a few pissy rockets landing on Israeli towns closest to Lebanon, I'm talking about Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iran launching retaliatory attacks at the same time to realise their oft-stated goal of sweeping Israel into the sea. And nobody in the West is going to stand for that (not to mention that Iranian ground forces would have to go through Iraq - wouldn't that be fun) so the shit spreads pretty quickly.

Unless. People. Learn. To. Calm. The. Fuck. Down.

Take a look at the troubles in Ireland (and only the Irish would give a civil war that's lasted 100 years an innocuous name like "the troubles"). It isn't perfect but it's calmed down a lot. More and more people woke up to the fact the downward spiral of violence couldn't go on. They decided they needed to cross the road (literally in many cases) and say "hey, let's stop hurling petrol bombs at each other." They joined the political process to solve things more and more. Of course there are still thugs on both sides who enjoy the power they gain from conflict but their power is almost universally on the wane.

It all starts with saying enough is enough. You can't always get payback for the last damage inflicted on your side because that gives the other side fuel for their next strike. It's no good both sides saying the others have to make the first move. That's a recipe for disaster. The situation in the middle east is incredibly complex, far more so than most people pushing a particular political or religious barrow admit to. But there's no denying this: somebody has to say "I'm not going to retaliate any more."

Nobody holds the moral high ground by force of arms.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mr Angry solves all your problems

I'm planning a couple of advice-style posts as I've had a few ideas in this area floating around in my head for a while. I've written quite a few work-advice posts and it was very popular when I provided relationship advice. I must admit, the idea that relationship advice from Mr Angry was helpful to people was quite disturbing to me. Obviously, people's problems are far worse than even I realised.

So, while I'm in the mood, what problems are you having that Mr Angry can solve? It's my belief that there's nothing that can't be solved by hitting it with a big dose of angry. So take advantage while I'm in public service mode. Unfortunately, this won't count towards my court-ordered community service tied up with that unfortunate incident with the shopping trolley and the eight items or less lane but we can't have everything I guess.

Monday, July 17, 2006

An Angry Video Blog about Sponsorship

This is another video response I did for YouTube responding to Mr Safety - Professional Idiot talking about people he's NOT sponsored by. I'm not sponsored by anybody so i could have gone on about not being sponsored for quite a while. I decided to keep it short and sharp.

Maybe some big company will recognise how desperate I am to whore myself and offer me a deal. And yes, I did the cheap trick of the scantily clad female in the middle to attract the sad desperadoes on YouTube. And if anyone thinks I should use nekkid men, (a) they don't attract as many YouTubers and (b) I showed plenty of nekkid men on the Stormfront post.

On that note, I'm starting to get some search engine traffic for "Stormfront". This warms the cockles of my heart. All those people thinking they will find information about a hateful white supremacist group find instead they have remade themselves as a Jewish gay support group. If only hate groups everywhere could learn from the fine example of Stormfront.

Waste Not Want Not

I am the sort of cheap bastard who likes to get the last bit of value out of everything. For instance, after you empty a can of drink, if you let it sit for a minute a tiny bit more drink pools at the bottom which allows you to get another tiny drink. I was just doing this when things went a little wrong.

I tipped both my head and the can back sharply to get that last bit of caffeinated goodness but my aim was off. Instead of going in my mouth, the drink shot straight up my nostril. Today is one day I would have preferred it if my nose was blocked up. It wasn't, so now I have carbonated liquid caffeine blasting its way through my sinuses. This leads to the coughing fit from hell, followed by much sneezing and nose blowing.

On the plus side, I now have really clear sinuses.

The Alan Jones Tapes - Part One

I hate Alan Jones. I love TripleJ. I've posted my thoughts about Alan Jones several times and as a result I figure pretty highly in search results for people trying to find out what happened in that public toilet in London back in 1988 when he was arrested as part of a "public morals" campaign. The truth is, I don't know exactly what he was doing there and I don't really care. I think persecuting people for their sexuality is bullshit. What I care about is Jones is a liar and a hypocrite.

The wisdom about the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon presidency is that it was the cover-up that hurt him, not the crime. Well, if Nixon's crime had been trawling for anonymous sex in public toilets it might have been the crime that did him in. Jones has gotten away with the cover up for nearly 20 years but the forthcoming publication of a biography by respected journalist Chris Masters may change all that. I've covered that ground before so I'm doing something a little different today.

To get to why I love TripleJ. TripleJ has in their posession what they call "The Closet Recordings of Alan Jones" - basically outtakes of when he was recording commercials for his radio show. They have made these tapes available throught the website for their current affairs show, "Hack". In these tapes, Jones swears like a trooper, disparages the advertisers paying him, follows some very weird trains of thought and acts like a prima donna. I've been meaning to do something with these recordings for a while and now I have the technology at my disposal to do so.

Thanks to the magic of computer-driven special effects I have simulated Jones himself reading so you're not limited to sound (which I thought would be too boring for YouTube). Enjoy!

Isn't the CGI flawless? I should be working for Spielberg! And as always, distribute far and wide of you so desire. Here's the URL:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mr Angry on Design

Want to bet I can't find the common thread between movies, toilets, BMW and web sites? Here goes:

The steps that had to be taken to have this ridiculous fucking tap design come into existence simply boggle my mind. First, some deluded wanker had to come up with it. Then it had to be approved for production. Then it had to be manufactured. Then it had to be distributed to wholesaler. Then it had to be stocked by retailers. Then somebody had to buy and install it.

In all that long line of people, couldn't one of them have stopped for a minute and said: "Hey, this tap design is really fucking dumb."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How to make IT staff less angry - Part Five: Pay and Benefits

This is part five in my series of posts designed to help managers and employers who simply don't understand why their IT staff hate them so much. Lacking the power to send the Clue Fairy around to smack clueless managers upside the head, I have been posting these tips which are the product of 15 years experience in IT. This group of posts is based around the idea that there are three key areas of job satisfaction; a good environment, interesting/fulfilling work, and compensation. Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four provided an overview and covered the first two points. This part will explore the pay and benefits that make up the compensation package for IT workers.

On the surface, pay rates should be completely straightforward. Supply and demand dictate the average rate for a given skill set and in individual cases the employee pushes for as much as they can get and the employer pushes for the minimum they can get away with. In truth, pay rates are a minefield. A lot of people measure their self-worth according to their pay packet, hence this topic can become very emotional very quickly.

One of the most important things to consider when looking a pay rates is the motivation of both parties involved. The Cabal Of Disaffected and Exploited Information Technology (CODE-IT) workers tend to be quite conflicted on the issue of pay. Most CODE-IT workers are working in IT because if they don't actually love it, they at least have a very strong affinity for it. If you read stories from the early days of the PC revolution, most of the early employees of Microsoft and Apple (for example) could hardly believe they were being paid anything at all to work on a hobby they were passionate about.

Having said that, the majority of CODE-IT workers are highly trained, highly intelligent and possess specialised skills. As IT has become more and more indispensable to business, pay rates have gone up. If you work in the IT department of a non-IT company (i.e. a company whose business is not IT software or hardware but needs an IT department to support it) then it is quite common to be earning 50% or more above other (non-IT) employees of equivalent seniority. This translates in many people's minds that CODE-IT workers are overpaid and should shut the hell up with their complaining about pay rates.

In certain cases this might be true but broadly speaking, pay rates for CODE-IT workers are self-correcting. In a boom market, if employers aren't paying their CODE-IT legions enough, they will leave for somebody willing to pay them more. Then it will cost more to replace the staff who have defected meaning, as often as not, that employers are poaching their replacements from other workplaces and so the cycle feeds on itself and pay rates go up and up. Eventually the job market will crater and the pendulum swings the other way. There is less work available and employers realise they can get away with paying their CODE-IT workers less (particularly contract workers) because their options are limited. Pay rates spiral down until the next upswing and it starts all over again.

From my limited experience, the pendulum tends to swing too far each way in the peaks and troughs. It basically seems that when the power relationship changes, the party gaining the upper hand wants some payback for how they were screwed when things were stacked against them. Around 1999-2000 pay rates for the majority of CODE-IT workers were going through the roof. Graduates in some disciplines were getting starting salaries that most people had to wait 10 years for. Unscrupulous recruiting agencies sprang up like mushrooms to grab their slice of the pie and there were many cases of grossly underqualified and inexperienced workers being slotted into high-paying roles.

The inevitable happened around 2001 - the IT job market crashed. Hard. Many companies had blown several years' IT budget on Y2K readiness, dot-com bubble mania and (in Australia) GST readiness. Also, I think more than a few employers woke up to just how much they had been getting screwed on pay rates for the previous few years. Hell, I think I'm worth more than I'm paid but some contract rates in particular had been pushed to ridiculous levels. Several workplaces I knew cut contract rates in half and people were happy to stay because it was still more than they had been making a few years previously.

So much for the preamble and disclaimers; what should you actually pay CODE-IT workers? There's no absolutely right answer regarding the amount, but there is a right way to approach the decision. Be aware of how your offer compares to industry averages, highs and lows (because the applicant definitely will be) and be absolutely open about why you have chosen to make your offer. Unless your reasoning is that you want to screw potential employees as much as possible and pay them the minimum you can get away with and to hell with them if they don't like it. Stop reading now if that's your attitude, you won't learn anything useful here.

Plus, if that's your attitude it will be blindingly obvious to the applicants as well. Unless they're very stupid. So all your employees will be stupid, low achievers, desperate and/or criminals. Good luck. You deserve each other.

Pay is not the only motivator, or at least it shouldn't be. If pay is the only thing motivating your staff you are on very precarious ground. In this situation the only way you can increase or even maintain your staff's motivation is to pay them more which is going to hit a limit unless you're Google. And if you're Google, the one thing you don't need from me is lessons on recruiting staff. Also, it becomes very easy for a competitor to poach your staff if they have no attachment to their work. Simply offer them more money and they'll jump ship.

Having said that, the pay rates you offer send a very clear message. For those who can't guess, in simplest terms if you are paying above average you are saying you want above average staff or you value your staff above average. If your pay rates are average, you are aiming for staff who are, well, average. Hardly inspiring. If if you are paying below average...

Possibly the worst mistake an employer can make regarding pay rates is applying some arbitrary rule instead of judging each situation on its merits. With a new hire, you have three basic choices; offer them more than they were getting previously, offer them the same as they were getting previously or offer them less than they were getting previously. In different scenarios, any of these three options might be the right option for all parties concerned, or at least be an acceptable option. Make a call based on the current market, the value that person can bring, the value that person has compared to other potential candidates and the cost to your company and/or department of NOT hiring this person.

Pay rates should always be a considered value judgement. The idea that some managers have that pay rates are set objectively rather than subjectively is so opposed to reality that it boggles the mind. Every decision about pay rates is a value judgement and even if you delude yourself that this isn't the case for you, the person on the receiving end is in no doubt. You have quite literally made a judgement about their value. At least have the decency to do so in a conscious and open manner.

Most of this post has focused on pay decisions for new hires but really, the thinking holds true when considering pay rises for existing staff. One additional piece of advice for judging what's adequate for pay rises: if an employee's pay rate is going up slower than inflation, they are literally worse every day they continue working for you. If you think this isn't an important consideration for your permanent staff, well, enjoy your voyage on the good ship Titanic.

Mr Angry's Cavalcade of Masks

Well, it's audience participation time! I've been experimenting with different masks for the videos and want you votes for which ones work. Check it out:

Leave me a comment, let me know which ones you like. And in case you wanted to check my collection on YouTube (or I screwed up the embed again) the link is:

Friday, July 14, 2006

Putting Humpty together again

I've just been visiting little Mr Angry (that's my son, not a perverse nickname for my... well, anyway) to see how he was because he fell in the shower last night and opened a fairly nasty gash on his forehead. Apparently these days they don't stitch you up, they actually glued the cut shut. That sounds risky, if the doctor wasn't paying attention, he could end up with his hand super-glued to my kid's eyebrow. When I was a kid I got sconed with a 2.5 kilogram discus at school and needed a couple of stitches. Yes, I know that explains a lot.

I have a lot of time for emergency services staff, they do invaluable work and should all be millionaires. It's absolutely criminal that soulless stockbroker types who produce absolutely nothing of value make a fortune while society's shock troops are paid a pittance by comparison. I say that as a lead-in disclaimer because in this particular case the hospital staff made me very fucking angry.

After waiting a couple of hours (aren't casualty wards fun?) a doctor got to work on stitching my head. He had a couple of trainee nurses with him and the following discussion took place just behind my head:

Doctor: Have you two had much experience suturing?

Nurse: Not on an actual person.

Doctor: Oh, would you like to practice on him?

WHAT?!?!?! I know everyone has to do something for the first time but they didn't have to let me hear! They could have gone into the next fucking room! The nurses sensed I wasn't happy and suggested the doctor do it himself. This may not have been the best idea for me as this was his running commentary:

Doctor: Now, I know there's a standard way to suture, but I have my own way. I go over and under and... oh damn, I've done it wrong.

I swear, if I hadn't had anesthetic pumped into my head a few minutes before this, I really would have lost my shit. I think if they had used glue in my day, this clown would have stuck my fucking head to the operating table. Anyway, the little dude's doing well. The cut is just above his eyebrow so I told him not to worry, even if it leaves a scar, it will look cool.

He thinks I'm weird.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mr Angry hates the Haterz

Another video treat :) I decided to respond to a video done by one Seanbedlam whereing he taunts the Haterz. Anyone with a blog has probably met the Haterz but they are particularly prevalent on YouTube. They are essentially worthless little no-life sacks of shit who are achieving nothing with their lives and so feel compelled to spew hate at people who are actually doing something. Fuck 'em.

Sean was also kind enough to give me some tips on shameless YouTube self-promotion, and you should all know how much I like shameless self-promotion.

And here's the link in case I messed up:

And this is healthy?

So I'm enjoying my regular after-lunch piece of gum (sugar free of course because it's good for your teeth) when I notice the following warning on the packet: "EXCESS CONSUMPTION MAY HAVE A LAXATIVE EFFECT." This is printed after the ingredients in bold capitals twice the size of the other printing so I figure this is important information. I have one question regarding this:


When someone mentions a "laxative effect" I want some specific fucking information. And it's so goddam vague! This vaguely threatening warning full of ambiguous language so you're not sure sure what exactly is going on. What exactly is a laxative effect? What's excess consumption? And what do they mean "may"? What are my fucking chances here?

Now, I'm not a cynical man. All right - I'm deeply cynical. But can you blame me when these evil fucking corporations are messing with us like this? The laxative effect is apparently the by-product of the PHENYLKETONURICS (also printed in big bold capitals - very fucking scary sounding) in the gum but I'm really none the wiser for reading that.

Let's break it down: first, the laxative effect. What level of laxative effect are we talking about here? I have a suspicion if it was the good "that's a nice regular start to my day" sort that the gum maker would be teaming up with a health food company to promote it as a bran substitute. No, I think it's safe we're talking about the uncontrolled underpants-filling type of laxative effect here.

And what exactly is "excess" in this case? One pack a day? Two packs? Ten packs a day non-stop for five years? It's a real weasel word. I think it's safe to assume that this "excess" is an amount that normal people might hit. The only reason a company is going to put such a scary sounding warning on their packaging is to protect themselves against lawsuits. And they'd only worry about that in this case if there's a real risk that one of their customers is going to end up losing control of their bowels and shitting their pants in public.

And that brings me to "may". Don't bullshit me with "may", you bastards know what the risks are. You did lab tests and saw the results. Stop fucking around with us and come clean. All I want is a clear warning. Something like: "eating more than a pack a day of this gum will cause your bowels to unpredictably and spontaneously loosen resulting in the uncontrollable shitting of your pants at inopportune moments."

Is that too much to ask for?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mr Angry solves the Rubik's cube in 10 seconds

I'm sick of these uppitty little bastards on YouTube showing off that they can do a Rubik cube in two minutes, 60 seconds or even 20 seconds. Here's the real deal: a video of me solving the Rubik's cube in 10 seconds. You thought I dealt with everything through anger but I have other talents.

Solved as only Mr Angry could do it.

An Angry Dream

I can barely keep my eyes open today because my sleep was disturbed all last night by weird dreams. I was always angry in the dreams (which isn't weird - that's normal for me) and that was making my heart rate jump up like I was running a marathon, hence I'm really tired even though I slept.

The dream started with me being really small, surround by this swirling mass of people. I was being totally overwhelmed by them and their words. When they spoke it was literally words - I could see typed words flowing out of their mouths. These words were crashing down on me, trying to crush me. I can't remember the specific words but I know I didn't like them. I have a suspicion the words were just gibberish but I knew they were trying to use the words to control me. I wanted to fight back but all I had to use as a weapon was a toothpick.

At first I thought this was useless, but I found I could skewer the words with my toothpick. The words would deflate like baloons when I skewered them. This made me feel better and I thought I was the only one who could see this but then I realised some of the crowd were behind me, they has started to support me instead of crushing me. As I realised this, the toothpick changed into a stick that was heavy enough to swat the words away, I could sweep away whole waves of these words that were trying to overwhelm me.

Slowly I realised I was actually rising above the words. Instead of the words I didn't like crashing over me, I was over them, smashing them away. The stick had turned into a huge club and better still, I found I could create my own words. When I shouted, my words would buffet against the others and they would smash each other into oblivion. I started to see recognisable faces in the crowd that had been hurling words at me: George Bush, Alan Jones, Anne Coulter, that bastard who cut me off in a carpark last week. I directed my word straight at them and more of the crowd got behind me and started adding their words. It seemed each figure I recognised could resist my words but slowly it started having an effect.

The first signs were just some chips at the edges of their faces but as more and more words hit them from more and more people they started to bruise and bleed. Slowly, they began to realise how big the crowd was that had turned against them and they were swept away. Or so I thought. I realised they hadn't been beaten, they'd retreated to another strong point. As I had fought, I had grown in size until I could stand above the crowd that was originally standing over me. Now my enemies had joined a mob that dwarfed the original.

This new crowd of giants all had TV sets for heads and it seemed my enemies could control the TV-heads to turn them against me. The TV sets had originally shown individual faces but waves of change would sweep through them where they would all change to one or another of my enemies' faces. It was hideous. Huge clumps of talking heads on TVs swarming to attack me. Attack of the vampire pundits. Their attack was to vomit a rainbow out of their screens which seemed to infect surrounding TV heads and change them into the same face so they could attack me en masse. They were also cross-infecting each other's TV heads, trying to cancel each other out and take control for themselves. I sensed their weak point and attacked.

At the fringe of the horde of massive TV-heads was an even larger mass of smaller TV heads. These had different heads and I thought they could be persuaded to help attack the killer pundit heads. The smaller TV heads seemed to be dominated by vapid, pretty individuals but slowly I was able to gather them together to strike at the monsters. At first, the individual TV-heads had no effect on giant pundit TV-heads. Even worse, whenever one of the small TVs started to make some headway one of the big TVs would reach down, crack its head open and suck the life out of it.

But the individual TV-heads started to find cracks between the monster TV-heads and force the cracks wider. And no matter how many individuals were crushed, more and more of them swept in. They were eating away the ground beneath the behemoths, smashing their controls and slowly but surely, forcing the big TV-heads to change or switch off forever. The battle seemed to go on for years (which could explain why I feel so tired) but eventually we won.

There was a massive explosion. All the giant TV-heads fractured into millions of individual TV-heads. The force of the explosion scattered the individual TV-heads far and wide and wherever they landed they replicated. They didn't form new giant TV-heads, instead they were forming hundreds of individuals. I was mildly disappointed that after all the struggle it wasn't my face on all the TVs but I was glad the lumbering giants were gone.

Now if only I could figure out what it all means.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Poetry of Spam

I was going to call this post "Why are characters from Bromwell High sending me comment spam?" but I thought that was slightly long and more than a little obtuse. For those who don't know, Bromwell High is a British-made animated comedy aimed at adults. It isn't for the faint of heart - it makes South Park look like Sesame Street. I'm a fan of South Park but Bromwell High beats it on a number of fronts. It's uncensored for one; I'm extremely juvenile and seeing a schoolgirl character punch another while saying "fuck you" makes me piss myself laughing.

The humour seems more intelligent and incisive than South Park's (and despite what some people think, I believe quite a bit of intelligence is applied to South Park) and it may be my imagination but I think the makers of Bromwell High lean further to the left - they throw up outrageous stereotype to make fun of people who might believe the stereotypes rather than the stereotypes themselves. They certainly don't have the annoying habit of saying global warming doesn't exist or isn't a problem (the one thing I wish they'd shut the fuck up about on South Park). Having said that, they hardly fall into any idea of being "politically correct". Essentially, if you aren't offended by the show, you aren't paying close enough attention.

The show is set in an inner-London state school populated with students of every ethnic variant imaginable (even one white English girl who knows both her parents!) The central characters are three early-teen schoolgirls: Keisha, Latrina and Natella. Natella is Asian and, predictably enough, she's the smart one. Keisha is black and stupid (they have the audacity to make their black character the dumb one!) Latrina is white, illegitimate and a slut. And also stupid. Keisha is my favourite: violent, subversive unremittingly stupid. She has the following conversation with the school counsellor:

Counsellor: You're going to be sent to a school for "exceptionally challenged" students.

Keisha: Yes! (does victory dance) Wait, what does "exnepshunly" mean?

C: It means "very".

K: And what does "challenged" mean?

C: It means "stupid". So it would be fair to say you're going to this school because you're "very stupid".

K: Yes! (does victory dance)

The teachers are worse than the students - dysfunctional is a dizzying array of ways. My favourites are the Principal, Iqbal, and his deputy, Mr Bibby. Iqbal is Iranian (I think), a complete criminal and speaks in broken English. Mr Bibby is a stereotype upper class Oxford graduate who is casually racist and offensive in the way only an arch conservative who has never questioned his world view can be (when he was arrested while trying to make money by kidnapping, his response was: "Kidnapping, illegal? Are you sure? This is political correctness gone mad.") A classic conversation between them resulted from Iqbal's disgust at other teachers dressing like kids in an attempt to be "cool":

Iqbal: Ah, Mr Beeb, at least you'ma not like the children.

Bibby: On the contrary headmaster, I'm-a like the children very much.

I: No, I mean you not want dress like children.

B: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were speaking banana boat English.

Which brings me back to comment spam. I still hate those comment-spamming rat bastards but thanks to Akismet I can afford to laugh at them. Akismet has these scumbags hog-tied and butt-fucked. And there's no reach-around from Akismet. I think I'd name my first-born "Akismet" if she didn't already have a name. That's actually not a bad name - I've heard worse. There are surprisingly few variants in the comment spam Akismet blocks, they are obviously being generated by scripts. Scripts written largely by people with poor English skills, many of them remind me of Iqbal:

"beautiful online information center. greatest work... thanks"

"Great job guys... Thank for you work..."

"i try to find something at and take it on your site... thanks"

A few new ones have been cropping up lately; some are just strings of random characters and I'm now getting German comment spam! But there are a couple I'm tempted to actually let though because I like what they say:

"Your site is very cognitive. I think you will have good future.:)" and the charmingly rambling: "Not much on my mind right now, but it's not important. I've just been letting everything happen without me. I just don't have anything to say right now."

I like that spammers appraise me as cognitive. I wonder if they like that I appraise them as worthless pile of dogshit? I can't for the life of me work out why Akismet hasn't taken over the world. Spam is basically the worst problem on the internet and Akismet seems to have it totally beaten. Forget making Mother Theresa a saint, the Vatican should be moving to beatify Akismet!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mr Angry Vlog Number Nine

So I'm taking Sean's advice on how to conquer YouTube and responding to a highly watched video that I could relate to. So I suppose this is the first vlog I've done that isn't based on previously published blog material.

I probably should get over this desire to dominate the online world but I'm very shallow. And I don't have a nice enough bum to wave it around in front of a camera so I'm trying this method. And you might notice my new camera style - I'm experimenting. I hope it isn't too annoying the way it moves but I think you can feel the anger vibrating.

How to make IT staff less angry - Part Four: Interesting Work

This post is my fourth in a series providing some straightforward recommendations for managers responsible for the care and feeding of IT staff. I suggest reading Part One, Part Two and Part Three first if you haven't done so already but it isn't absolutely necessary. This part deals with the second key area of job satisfaction: the actual work performed by staff. This is one area where the Cabal Of Disaffected and Exploited Information Technology (CODE-IT) workers can be particularly demanding in ways that confuse managers and employers. To be honest, CODE-IT workers sometimes complain quite unfairly about their work being "boring" but this is an area where positive changes can be made to the great benefit of both staff and management.

So long as staff and management each understand where the other is coming from (aye, there's the rub.)

Because I honestly believe this is one of the most subjective areas of job satisfaction in the CODE-IT world, I will be treading more carefully than usual. The two extremes of the spectrum are the CODE-IT high-flyer who thinks everything is below his mighty intellect (and this type is almost universally male) and the manager whose motivational speeches consist of variations on: "Getting paid should be all the motivation you need, now shut up and do what I say." Neither of these attitudes is conducive to a happy workplace so I'll be exploring the middle ground today.

I've never been fond of the CODE-IT warriors who spout condescending lines like "I don't want to go to my grave saying 'at least I made the company database more stable'" (these days you're most likely to hear that sort of sanctimonious drivel from a Web2.0 entrepreneur or wannabe.) The truth is, somebody has to do the unglamorous jobs so it doesn't serve anyone's interests to degrade the day-to-day grunt work of the IT world. In fact, this is probably at least 75% of the work faced by IT workers so why is it looked down on so often? I think I hear the intake of breath as the CODE-IT equivalent of Opus Dei assassins prepare to kill me with poison darts from their blow guns (purchased on ThinkGeek of course) but here goes with some brutal honesty.

If you take on a job knowing full well the nature of the work involved, you should commit to doing that work no matter how boring you decide it is. There are two honourable courses of action: honour your commitment to do a job or leave for something you consider better. Don't sit on your arse and complain. I have been accused of simply whining in these posts but I have to admit I have no time for someone who complains about a job and does nothing constructive to remedy the situation. Bad management isn't the problem in these situations, the problem is a bad attitude.

Having said that, I would like to point out that management is in a very strong position to alleviate IT drudge-work. Too often, the complaints of CODE-IT workers are dismissed as whining ("They're never satisfied,") without looking at the root causes. Most CODE-IT workers complain about boring work not because they're complainers by nature but because they're trained, intelligent and driven individuals who want to be challenged and are constantly looking to expand their horizons. If your company can't benefit by harnessing and channeling this sort of power, well, you have bigger problems than complaining CODE-IT workers.

Some self-help for the CODE-IT brigade: so you're stuck doing boring work. Short of quitting and looking for a better job, what can you do? Step one: take pride in your work. If you can't find the dignity in your work, nobody can. Whether you're propping up the corporate database, refactoring code, tweaking the e-commerce engine or writing user manuals it actually feels better if you're doing the work to the best of your ability or better still, finding ways to stretch beyond your comfort zone. A friend of mine was a PhD doing some very fulfilling high flying research work at a well-known university when she was lured away to do contract/compliance analysis at a big legal firm by doubling her salary. People asked if she found this boring and she always said "No, because I apply the same intellectual rigour to this work as I did to my university research so I get similar stimulation."

Plus she was a lot richer. I doubt she'll be doing the contract work for the rest of her life but the point is, this is a very intelligent person choosing to do work that many people would find boring. Instead of focusing on the boring aspects she focuses on the positive and ends up feeling stimulated and well-rewarded. If you're not applying a similar positive approach to your work then you're falling into the old cliche: you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Step two to self fulfillment: identify the solutions yourself and then communicate, communicate, communicate. If you feel that your manager has no idea how to improve the quality of work assigned to you, this likely has one of two sources: (1) They don't care about you and your quest for interesting work (2) They don't understand enough about your work to realise how it could be made more interesting for you. So take charge: don't go to your manager with problems, go to them with solutions. And do yourself a favour; don't couch your solution in terms of how it will make your life better, say how it will benefit the company (increased security/stability/profits are all good).

But these posts were meant to be pointing managers to what they should do. So how can a manager decrease the angriness of CODE-IT staff by making their work more interesting? Listening is a good first step. Encourage your underlings to explain their issues to you, then find a way to turn these issues to your mutual benefit. Higher up the food chain, your focus should be on strategy rather than the nuts and bolts. Focus on your strengths (see how positive I'm being? Assuming managers have strengths!) and ask your CODE-IT legions how their nuts-and-bolts expertise can help deliver on the big-picture strategy. And just to repeat: LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY!

There are two absolutely poisonous things a manager can do in this scenario: (1) be two faced - ask for input with no intention of acting on it (2) come up with some totally inappropriate forced "fun" to make work more "enjoyable".

On point one, you are far better off never engaging with CODE-IT workers on this topic than getting them to come forward with suggestion that you intend to ignore. You may think you have come up with a cunning way to appease their whining by making them think you are their friend or are listening to them. They will see straight through this and know you are a lying sack of shit.

On point two, you can't force something to be fun. Forcing staff to go off on some "team-building" exercise can have two disastrous effects; one, if they really don't want to spend time outside the office with cow-orkers you'll just make them more resentful and anti-social. Two, if they actually have fun doing something that's totally unrelated to work you run the risk of simply highlighting how far away from fun work actually is.

Keep your motivational efforts focused on work. Encourage people to socialise by all means but don't force it. If your CODE-IT workers want to spend more time together, they'll do it without being forced. Also, social events have nothing to do with making the actual work more interesting. Enjoyable social events are part of the overall workplace environment as discussed in previous posts. This is linked to but distinct from interesting, challenging and enjoyable work.

The important thing is to make decisions based on your individual business and staff needs. Don't make sweeping generalisations about what work your CODE-IT staff will enjoy, engage them in the process. The high-flying, fast paced world of dot-coms/Web2.0/whatever the hell is coming next is not for everybody. Some people are absolutely terrified by that sort of thing. Including some of the best CODE-IT staff you may ever be lucky enough to find. Not everybody who maintains mainframes is forced to - some people positively thrive on it. Do your best to match the strengths of your staff to your business needs and you'll maximise both staff satisfaction and productivity.

Remember that; with CODE-IT workers (and almost everybody else), happiness and productivity almost always go hand in hand. I've worked for managers who clearly thrived on having angry underlings - if the staff were happy they must be getting away with something. Any sort of decent human should want their staff to be as satisfied as possible in their work while meeting business needs. That's somewhat intangible, but increased productivity - that you can explain at board meetings.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Other Woman

Well my girlfriend called me tonight while I was driving and could hear the other woman was in the car with me. My girlfriend knew that meant I was driving, whenever she hears the other woman's voice she knows that means we're in the car together. I take her other places sometime but usually it's just in my car.

When the other woman first came into my life, it was for all the right reasons. She was going to make my life better, help me out when I most needed help. So why do I feel like it all devolved into her telling me what to do in an irritating monotone? I suppose I only have myself to blame, there was the promise of good times with music and staying in contact with friends but I could never be bothered.

She makes me angry - she sees it as trying to help me, I see it as her always telling me what to do. I know I make her angry too, especially when I ignore her telling me what to do. It's just that she's so obsessive and controlling - it's impossible to get through to her that there are alternative ways of looking at things. She never says so, but I know it makes her angry when I ignore her. She'll keep telling me what to do until we end up somewhere she's satisfied with with. She gives me direction in life but there are times I want to find my own way.

I left the other woman behind to come inside and write this post. The more I think about her, the more I think she could be my ticket to fame and fortune. If I knew how to program a GPS navigation system to talk with personality instead of that annoying fucking monotone I bet I'd sell a million of them.