Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Angry News - Helping the New York Times

The New York Times is a reputable newspaper but I think I can help them improve - they need to simplify their reporting as per my suggestion in this Angry News Bulletin:

The URL for this video is

The Blogging Times - Microsoft go social with Wallop

Here's this week's post for The Blogging Times. Microsoft have chosen to enter the "social networking" web space with their offering which they've named "Wallop". This sector is already overcrowded and some people have questioned what Microsoft thinks they will achieve here. Let me explain it for you:

The URL for this video is

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Angry News - Free Fall Madness

Here's my take on a news story about French surgeons conducting surgery on a specially fitted out plane that allowed them to simulate zero gravity.

This was done to "advance medical science". The people involved argue that it showed surgery in space is viable (e.g. on a space station). I think they just got really stoned and had a conversation that started:

"Duuuuuuude, you know what would be really awesome? Operating in zero gravity!"

The URL for this video is

In Praise of an Average Career

From time to time, I'm sure most people ask themselves the question "What am I doing with my life?" Why am I stuck in this dead end job? Don't I deserve better? Why aren't I writing that great novel? I should be trekking the Himalayas. I've never been to Paris in the springtime. In the IT world we seem to be constantly asking ourselves “Why aren’t I working on the next killer app that will change the world?”

Most of the literature I've read on this subject seems to contain the implicit message "It's because you suck." True, I haven't found anyone honest enough to actually phrase it that way but they do tend to say you aren't achieving greatness because you aren't trying hard enough. To an extent, that's true but if you really look at it as a logical proposition it doesn't hold up.

Greatness is a comparative term - high achievers look good because their accomplishments are so far above everybody else's. If everyone moves closer to greatness, the measure of what is great moves further away by definition. Even if everyone continually improves, only a small percentage will ever be regarded as truly great because they're great in comparison to everyone else.

This is not a clarion call encouraging people to be wilfully mediocre (or worse) but I am calling into question the attitude that "I will not be happy unless I am the greatest in my chosen field." It's good to aspire to improve but if we're all supposed to obsess about being the best then the unavoidable fact is 98% of us are going to end up disappointed. This attitude seems more prevalent in the IT industry than others. I remember a quote from the late 90's dotcom boom that the speaker doubtless thought was insightful and inspirational: "I don't want my obituary to say: He improved the company's e-commerce efficiency by 5%"

The only thing that pisses me off more that that sort of fatuousness is someone in a black turtle-neck and trendy glasses telling me the reason I think their concept sucks is because "I don't get it." When you look at it objectively, at least 80% of IT jobs are limited to this sort of achievement. IT development isn't a never-ending series of epiphanies and flashes of brilliance. For most people, most of the time, it's a long, slow grind. If more and more people achieve what they thought would be "life changing" moments then, conversely, less and less things will seem like they actually are life changing.

At some point, this perpetual urging towards greatness crosses over from being inspirational / aspirational to being downright cruel. I think everyone should always be looking for ways to improve and even the crappiest job can give a sense of satisfaction if done well. But face it - we aren't all going down in history and that fact alone shouldn't make us feel like failures.

This line of thinking was inspired by some recent articles that showed a "best of the best" approach being deployed in the real world to pretty impressive effect. At the smaller end of town, Joel Spolsky's posts on hiring processes at his company show a very well thought out way to get what he sees as the best people working for him. A post from Steve Yegge shows this quest for excellence being deployed on a huge scale at Google. It starts off by slagging off Agile development (which is really funny if you're a nerd like me) but the meat of it is a description of working practices at Google.

While Yegge's piece is my new favourite piece of writing on software development, it's also a little depressing. Just coming to terms with how far my work environment is from Google is tough. I'm not motivated enough to get a job at Google (arguably I'm not talented enough but I prefer to live in denial) and very few other workplaces will ever be run in a similar manner to Google. When I read of the "perks" etc at Google it really seemed that these were fundamental to their success. Google isn't successful in spite of their programmers being spoiled (by most corporate standards), Google is successful because their programmers are spoiled.

This sort of treatment is never going to be widespread, not because it isn't economically viable (Yegge paints a convincing portrait of this as Google's very reason for economic success) but because most workplaces suck. Most bosses simply couldn't stand treating IT staff that well. The majority of IT workers will have experienced resentment from both management and non-IT staff. Sometimes it's implicit, sometimes it's overt "why are you complaining? You already earn more than everybody else." This is despite the fact that basic economics shows that a worker is unlikely to be paid well if they don't provide commensurate economic benefit to the company (I'm talking workers, not management). Google looks like the decadence of ancient Rome to tight-fisted employers.

In the end, not only are most of us not going to be as spoiled as Google workers, we won't change the world either. A far more sensible approach would be to have realistic workplace goals and maybe even look for fulfilment outside of work (god forbid!) I know many people would argue that we should always aim for lofty goals no matter how unrealistic they are. After all, isn't it better to try and fail than to never make the attempt?

I'll repeat my previous point; I'm not actively encouraging people to be deliberately mediocre. But isn't someone who sets realistic goals and maybe even helps improve the life of one or two people going to be more fulfiled than someone who spends their whole life following a series of doomed, quixotic quests to save the world? If you have it in you to be one of the very top performers in your chosen field then it's a waste to not aim for the very pinnacle. I'm a big believer in setting goals that are outside your comfort - you're never going to reach your potential without setting a few goals that scare you.

But who exactly is served if we set ourselves goals that are so far beyond what is realistically achievable we spend our lives feeling like miserable failures?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Angry News - To pod or not to pod?

Not much time for an into... let's just say that Apple computer is run by power-mad hypocritical wankers.

The URL for this video is

My ongoing struggle to stay angry

It isn't always easy staying angry 365 days a year. Sure, the generally fucked-up nature of the world helps, there's always something new to be angry about. But since starting this blog and, more recently, posting video to YouTube good things keep happening. Here on the blog, the dialogue I'm able to have with a broad range of people is constantly rewarding.

It's easier to stay angry on YouTube simply because it has a much higher moron quotient but even there, people are capable of making you forget about idiots. One of the higher profile users on YouTube goes by the name of Mr Safety (real name Cory). Here's very funny and quite a good film maker and he decided a while ago he liked my videos and has been quite a bit of help in promoting my work. Just the other day he took it to a new level, as shown in the following video (this is Cory's video, not mine - the first time I've featured anyone else's work on this blog):

This video had a pretty immediate effect. It took me about 3 months to get my first 100 subscribers. I got the next 50 in about 20 days. After Cory posted the above video I got about 50 subscriptions in 48 hours. The power of influential friends! Anyway, I was totally floored by Cory's generousity and thought for a while about how to respond. I decided to do something positive in return and this video explains what I decided:

After I posted this, Cory suggested I might be going a bit far. His advice was:

"I've found that deleting the bad comments isn't always the answer though if you really want to get back at them... the best way to get back at them is to leave the comment up there and let them look like an ass.

"I know with your character it's kinda hard to do this but, every time someone says something negative, just say "thanks for the comment" because more comments is what helps you in the long run :) "

So I'm not sure what I'll do now. But there's no way I'm letting these freaks get me down. I'm going to stick with being angry over inconsequential things!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Angry News - Health Update

Here's another way to make me angry - blatantly misrepresent a product. New research from Australia’s leading consumer advocate has revealed only a handful of more than 150 so-called healthy snack bars contained any real nutritional value, with many instead loaded with disturbing levels of sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Less than 10% of these fucking things marketed as "healthy" actually met healthy nutritional requirements. The quaintly named "
Nice & Natural Yoghurt Natural Nut Bar" actually has more kilojoules than a Mars bar. And I'm a real fan of the Sunibrite Muesli Slices which contain as much saturated fat as a fry-up of two bacon rashers, two fried eggs and a fried tomato.

Some negative nellies would use this as an excuse to give up: "Why try to be healthy? They're all lying to us about what they're selling." Well, that loser shit don't fly with Mr Angry. I'm taking control. I'm gonna set up a stall outside a "health food" shop frying up bacon and handing out flyers showing my bacon is healthier than their "health food bars". And god help the hippie that tries to get in my way.

The URL for this video is

For the full, awful truth, check this report from an actual newspaper:

Mars Bars as healthy as breakfast bar snacks

Get off the road!

Yesterday I made the call on my number one pet hate when driving - testosterone fuelled morons who threaten the well-being of everyone else. I have to admit, a close second for me is drivers who are overly timid and tentative. I know traffic can be an overwhelming and scary thing and a certain degree of caution is warranted, but every day I have to deal with people that give the impression they'd be more comfortable wrapped in cotton wool in and underground bomb shelter.

I also acknowledge that confidence is something you gain with experience and everyone needs to build their driving confidence with time. In fact one of the biggest problem with my number one hate (hoons) is an absolutely unwarranted level of confidence in their abilities. These cretins seem to have an inverse proportional relationship between their arrogance and their actual abilities. Having said that, I do have an issue with drivers who never seem to lose their fear of driving.

At a certain point, my advice to pathologically timid drivers is get some fucking therapy. Spend some time on the psychiatrist's couch or even stay on your own couch at home watching daytime soaps. Anything that keeps you off the goddam roads. Think about becoming a shut-in. Get a dozen cats and see how it feels. Because if you brake at a green light again in front of me I'm going to pound your fucking head into a colour chart until you understand the difference between red and green.

For people who are only a little bit timid and are looking to improve their confidence, the number one piece of advice I would offer is "learn how to read traffic." I am constantly frustrated by people who don't react to changes in traffic until the last second. The first skill of driving is learning how to deal with your immediate surroundings and being able to react but an absolutely necessary longer term skill is being able to look more than a car length in front of you.

A few examples: If there are two lanes going in your direction and you can see a block or so ahead your lane is blocked by a vehicle waiting to turn, change lanes as soon as practical, NOT AT THE LAST FUCKING SECOND. At worst, you'll cause an accident and at best you'll fuck up the flow of traffic when you have to come to a complete stop rather than fluidly moving between lanes. And people behind you often can't see past you (particularly if you're driving one of those stupid oversized 4WD pieces of shit) so you can end up causing an unnecessary banking up of really frustrated people. On the plus side, this is often a chance to broaden your vocabulary as passing motorists share their "well wishes" with you.

Another good one is when you approach an intersection, try and work out what's happening before you actually get there. Give way signs and roundabouts are not stop signs; you're only meant to stop if there's someone to give way to. At an open intersection with good visibility you should know what you're going to do before you get there - a sure way to get on my shit list is to stop unnecessarily, THEN look, THEN decide there's no traffic so you can go.

Also, when merging with traffic get a realistic idea of when you can go forward. I've seen people at intersections who seem to be waiting for someone in the next suburb to drive through before they'll go themselves. You're not going to get a written fucking invitation, you need to be a little proactive. Again, commonsense is required - visibility and the speed of traffic are variables that need to be taken into account but I'm not the only one who gets angry at people who don't go through gaps that you could run a circus parade through.

In short, if traffic scares you, you need to deal with it. If you've been driving for more than 5 years and you're still overly tentative it's time to take action. Maybe you could take an advanced driving course. Or maybe you could drink heavily before driving to calm your nerves (kids, this is a joke - don't do this!) But if you think you can't deal with it, do everyone a favour. Stay off the fucking road.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Angry News - the new terror threat

The constantly touted spectre of Islamic jihadists just not striking terror into you any more? Do you need a new threat to worry about? Fortunately, there are "experts" out there who can be relied on to produce studies that are so stupid, they truly boggle the mind.

Thanks to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, we now know that anyone who doesn't like the internet is a terrorist. Are these people a branch of the Republican Party? "If you aren't with us, you're against us"

The URL for this video is

Driven insane

Everything about driving cars in cities is fucked up. There, I've said it. Someone should take all the cars off the road. It wastes a phenomenal amount of resources, it makes people fat because they drive to the shop that's a block down the fucking road instead of walking (don't even get me started about the McDonald's drive-thru) and worst of all, most people on the road CAN'T FUCKING DRIVE!

Actually, screw all that hippy shit, my only problem with cars is the number of them being driven by ignorant fuckers who shouldn't be let out of the house, let alone on the road. Any time I feel insignificant I just go for a drive because I start to feel like I'm the centre of the universe simply because it can't be a coincidence that every other car on the road is trying to ruin my fucking life! My car does not have the button next to the ignition that switches my brain off while I'm driving - why does every other fucking car seem to have this function?

At least there's variety - there's no single stupid thing other drivers do to piss me off. I get every single colour of the stupidity rainbow whenever I drive to work. Some drivers are aggressive and obnoxious, some are timid and tentative and some of them apparently suffered a traumatic head injury recently. I'm all for rehabilitation but if you've lost the majority of your cognitive ability (as seems to be the case with the idiots I see every day) then thinking you can drive a car competently is a little, shall we say, optimistic.

It's really hard for me to pick the type of idiot driver that pisses me off. The aggressive ones are probably the worst simply because they're more likely to kill people. These types seem to be male about 90% of the time and under 25 about 75% of the time (although there are exceptions - that 70 year old lady who screamed at me the other day to "get out of my fucking way if you aren't gonna go at least 90" seemed pretty serious). They zip in and out of lanes, cutting people off, they ride your back bumper, they floor it if they get 5 metres of open space in front of them and then slam on the brakes 2 seconds before they hit someone (if you're lucky).

These dicks make everyone's life a misery. In Australia, there are actually lots of laws aimed specifically at giving cops an excuse to nail these idiots; they're normally known as "anti-hoon" laws. I'm usually not in favour of expansion of police powers but fuck these guys. When they do get pulled up for driving like idiots in their unroadworthy cars with their shit music playing on their stereos at headache inducing volumes they say something like: "Aw moite, thees ees persekewshen. Nuffin wrong wif moi cah - it's fully sic moite." That might not translate well, but that's how Australian hoons talk.

We need a way to make it easier for cops to spot these pricks with too much testosterone and not enough brains and I think I know what it is. Cars should be fitted with a cannon that fires LED "throwies" (look it up if you've never heard of them) so every time on of these pricks charges straight through a give way sign or tries to run you off the road you can mark their car. You thought I was going to say the cannon should fire missiles, didn't you? Don't worry, it crossed my mind.

Everyone should have a limited number of throwies (say, three a month) in order to limit abuse of the system. That way you'll save them for some arsehole who really deserves them. And if the cops spot a car with more than about half a dozen throwies attached they can pull them over and take their car away. The car doesn't need to be doing anything wrong when the cop stops them, the throwies are considered evidence enough that this yob is too much of a dickhead to be allowed to drive.

There will obviously be some "false positives" but you know what? After the drive I had this morning I don't give a shit. Anything to get a few fucking cars off the road.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Angry News - because everyone else is lying to you

I've decided to provide a new service to my video viewers - The Angry News. Because you can't trust media outlets, I'm going to bring you the truth behind the stories of the day. This format is the product of a number of suggestions from YouTube viewers and blog readers. I'm going to try and do a one-minute story every day - I have a tendency to go on for longer than that usually.

I've had a suggestion this format might be useful for another website so I thought I'd practice - it might open up new opportunities. I'll let you know more than mysterious hints when I know something for sure.

This first edition of The Angry News answers the big news question of the day: is Osama dead?

The URL for this video is

March of the Penguins

It feels like a while since I've really gone off about something that's utterly inconsequential but today's the day. I am sitting at my desk freezing my fucking arse off right now because the office air conditioning is completely screwed. What is it with office air conditioning? It never seems to be right, it's either too hot or too cold.

Everybody else here seems more sensitive to it than me and they complain about it more than me but today I am actually shivering from the cold. Now, a certain someone in my life might start to think that some of this is self-inflicted. One of my more unusual habits is to enjoy my favourite caffeinated beverage in a large glass full of ice. Even in the middle of winter. On more than one occasion she has noticed me shivering while downing said concoction which is more ice than drink.

"Are you shivering?"

"Ummmm, yes."

"Is it because of that drink full of ice?"

"Ummmm, yes."

"Then why don't you stop adding so much ice to it?"

"Ummmm, because I like it this way."

I know it's dumb. But I don't smoke (ever) or drink alcohol (usually) so I feel like I need one really dumb habit. And besides, that isn't the issue at work. There's no freezer here (curses!) so I don't get to enjoy my drink with ice. It's just the goddam blasts of arctic air coming out of the vent above my head. I'm starting to think the building administrator went and saw that documentary "March of the Penguins" and is trying to recreate the mood here.

So I'm sitting inside AND wearing a jacket and I'm still fucking freezing. I think I maybe need to visit some right-wing political blogs. Or deal with the nazi comments on YouTube. I'll use the boiling of my blood to keep warm.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mr Angry goes Post-Modern

Here's what happens when I think about things for too long. A while back I had the idea of exposing myself on YouTube as a fake because a few people had commented that they thought my stuff was too good for an amateur. It's a very nice compliment but then I thought maybe what I need was some controversy - if I started a rumour that I was fake, maybe it would attract lots of viewers trying to work out who I really was.

So I invented another YouTube account with the user name ProudReb. The sole purpose of ProudReb was to expose AngryAussie as a fake. I actually couldn't be bothered putting much effort into it but when I did the video discussing LonelyGirl15 being fake, I thought about doing another ProudReb video exposing me as a fake. Then I got a bit of a surprise when a previous ProudReb video showed up next to the LonelyGirl15 video as a "related video". This settled it for me, I was going to do another ProudReb video.

So here's ProudReb exposing AngryAussie:

Then I noticed some of my regular viewers had been leaving angry comments for ProudReb and I got worried that if they bought into the story they would get pissed off at me when my "lie" was revealed. So despite the fact I did an in-character rebuke to ProudReb I wrote in the description for the video that it was all a joke and it's me doing it. I probably should have apologised for the appalling attempt at a southern US accent as well.

Here's AngryAussie's response to ProudReb:

So hopefully people read the video description and know I'm joking. Or maybe I will actually generate some controversy and become really famous. In that case, fuck anybody's feelings.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

LonelyGirl15 and YouTube

I'm guessing that everybody online (and a hell of a lot of people offline) has heard of the LonelyGirl15 story. Essentially, what was touted as the personal vlogs of a 15/16 year old girl was a series of fictional pieces created by professional film producers. LonelyGirl15 has the most subscribers of anyone on YouTube by a massive margin - over 40,000 subscribers and the videos have been viewed more than 3 & 1/2 million times. The vast majority of people subscribing to her videos thought they were genuine when they subscribed but a lot of people started to suspect all was not how it seemed before too long.

There were a few telltales, many people thought the lighting was too good and consistent, others thought her "room" was just too perfect. Personally, the things I saw as giveaways were that it would be close to impossible for her to keep the videos secret from her parents (as was supposedly the case) and the storyline running through the videos was simply too clearly defined and too linear. Life doesn't have a "story arc" the same way that a TV show does. LonelyGirl15's story was too "Dawson's Creek" to be true.

In the end, some very determined sleuthers found incontrovertible evidence that the videos were fake. The first big piece of the puzzle was someone discovering the domain had been registered before LonelyGirl15 existed on YouTube. Suspicious. Then someone actually traced the whole thing to a high profile Hollywood agency. When this broke, the makers posted a notice on the LonelyGirl15 forum admitting that they were film makers but proclaimed that they were independent which was somehow supposed to make a difference.

There was more than a little uproar on YouTube when what was obvious to anyone with a clue was finally made official: LonelyGirl15 was a fake. Her name wasn't Bree, it was Rose. She wasn't a home-schooled 16 year old, she was a New Zealand born 19 year old aspiring actress. Honestly, the way a lot of YouTubers were outraged and professed deep hurt and betrayal was pretty fucking pathetic. Get a sense of proportion people, we're being lied to about why the Bush administration was so keen to invade Iraq - I think we might be able to agree that someone faking a few videos is pretty damn inconsequential.

Here's a video I did for YouTube explaining why I think the whole hoax is a good thing.

I'm actually disappointed that they had to "come out" earlier than they planned to. I'm interested in what they thought they were going to achieve. At some point, they were going to have to come clean and admit they were lying to everyone. To describe it as anything other than lying is being a weasley sack of shit. And unless they were deeply delusional, they must have known it would generate a pretty angry backlash.

It's a pretty weird storyline they appear to have been developing as well. Under the surface they seem to be setting up that "Bree" is a devil worshipper or something equally wacky. Some very sharp eyed observer spotted a poster of famed occultist Aleister Crowley on her wall and for a while she's been building up to a "religious ceremony" that falls on solstice and involves her learning some ancient language. Seeing as she's going to the big solstice baby eating (or whatever) ceremony this weekend, I did the following "response" video after she posted a video talking about the solstice.

Doing responses to popular videos on YouTube is a good way to get lots of views - it's pretty much leeching off someone else's popularity, something I have no hesitation in doing. I've had to responses to LonelyGirl15 accepted before and they generated about 10,000 views between them. I don't think they'll accept this one which means I won't get as many views. First, I'm not sure if they accept video responses at all now and second, the fact that I talk about "Bree" being a virgin will probably work against me.

Now I'm waiting for the next fake to be uncovered on YouTube. There will undoubtedly be more and anyone who wants to fool people will learn from the mistakes of the LonelyGirl15. The next fakes will be more subtle and will include deliberate production errors to see more "natural". And people will be even more pissed off when they get uncovered.

Angry about Net Neutrality - The Blogging Times #5

This is my 5th viceo post for the Blogging Times. This week I got more than a little peeved at the outrageous behaviour of bought and paid for US politicians spreading deliberate lies about the issue of net neutrality.

The URL for this video is

Friday, September 22, 2006

Good Boss/Bad Boss

A lot of words are expended here and elsewhere on the topic of what constitutes good management and what constitutes bad management. It's fair to say there is no absolute answer to this question as the relative importance of different elements will vary depending on the perspective from which you view the situation. Working life and the decisions that affect it look different depending whether you are a skilled worker, unskilled worker, manager, finance director, CEO, shareholder, customer or omnipotent deity who gets to decide the fate of everyone's immortal soul.

The US Constitution holds certain truths to be self-evident and most people have very definite ideas on what truths of good management are self-evident. It's just a shame that exactly what is evident varies so much from self to self. The following real-life stories showing the actions of good bosses and bad bosses are told from the perspective of an IT worker but when I've shared them with others in the past, I've found that the experiences are very broadly shared.

Although the companies involved were very different, they had the following things broadly in common: they had a requirement to make a profit, losing good staff would be negative both in terms of the loss of expertise and experience as well as the costs incurred in replacing them and finally, there were certain "deliverables" expected of the department and you could objectively measure whether or not these things were delivered.

Scenario 1 - an outside entity attacks the team in a game of office politics.

Good Boss The first thing a good boss did in this situation was to treat me specifically and the team generally as grown ups who were capable of dealing with the truth. He told us exactly what was happening, what had been said and what the potential implications were. He then asked for our side of the story and if we had any evidence to support our version of events. Fortunately we did have a paper and data trail that covered our collective butts so our boss told us not to worry and went off and dealt with the situation. In short, he trusted us and recognised we were his best asset so went and represented us.

Bad Boss The worst response I have suffered from a bad boss in this type of situation is from a boss who constantly attempted to deflect criticism away from her and straight onto her team. She seemed to think that actually defending her own team was too high risk and so responded to almost every attack by automatically agreeing with the attacker and blaming an individual on the team. "Oh yeah, that Mr Angry. He's always screwing that up no matter how many times I tell him."

There are three major drawbacks to this strategy that all cowardly managers really need to consider. One, it makes you an easy target because other parts of the business realise you never mount a defence so they can blame you for everything. Two, it makes your team regard you as the enemy because they sure as hell can't trust you to be an ally. Whether you realise it or not, one day you will need their support. Three, when your scapegoat(s) eventually quit, the whole strategy falls apart when things don't get any better. If the problem doesn't go away when the person you always blamed leaves, it becomes slightly more obvious where the blame might lie.

Scenario 2 - There really is a performance problem you have to deal with

Bad Boss I'm not perfect and I have screwed things up in the past. The classic way for a bad boss to deal with this is to be punitive from the outset. This is where the boss conducts a performance review or (shudder) "counselling session" in three distinct stages. When the session starts the bad boss has already reached a negative conclusion - "You are bad for this reason." The second stage involves piling on damning "evidence" that is often arguably true but all spun to present the recipient in the worst possible light. The third and final stage is the threat, sometimes known in doublespeak as "improvement criteria" but could be more honestly described as the manager's plan for screwing the employee no matter what.

This whole process can be documented to look extremely fair. The problem is, when you make your conclusion before starting this process, everything after that is done simply to justify the conclusion already reached which sucks the fairness right out of it. If all you want to do is punish someone, go right ahead but that sort of mentality is not maintainable long term. Good (or salvageable) employees will leave for a more positive environment. Truly bad employees will make your life a misery no matter what process you follow so may as well hang onto your own integrity and deal with situations in a productive way.

Good Boss The way a good boss shows themself to be a good boss in this situation is to be open and honest. If you start with the point of view that the situation can be remedied then you're far more likely to actually reach a positive resolution. Be honest with the employee about what the issue is and why it's serious but be open to the possibility that there's something you don't know about that could paint things in a different light.

In one situation, I was called to account for not doing some paperwork that turned out to be critical for an audit. My boss dragged me in to tell me what was happening and why it was important (the fact the paperwork was missing had been discovered by an auditor who was making a big scene about it) and asked me for my side. I came clean and admitted I hadn't done it because, well, it was a pain. He took a "what's done is done" attitude and asked me how I could recover the situation. I said I could have the paperwork all done within a week and I would work with the auditor to make sure it was all OK. He accepted this and gave me a gentle "don't let it happen again" nudge. Then he told me he probably would have sacked me if I had lied about it or tried to blame someone else. He probably also would have kicked my arse if I didn't follow through on my commitment as well.

Scenario 3 - Getting staff to do what you want

Bad Boss Bad bosses almost alway try to enforce their will through fear or at least through the threat of retribution. They don't trust their staff to do well and think they have to constantly threaten them with what will happen if they don't do the right thing. The trouble with negative motivation is that it produces negative results. You might get the output you are demanding but the staff will have no emotional commitment to the work. In my experience, staff subjected to negative management approaches will find a way to make sure they are producing the bare minimum to escape negative attention.

If the staff don't care about their work, there is no motivation to reach new heights. When your motivation is solely to avoid the metaphorical stick, you can safely stop the moment you are out of the stick's reach. And don't underestimate the negative payback you will get from staff. There is no end to how devious workers will get when they feel they are being treated unfairly. At the more benign end of the scale are simple "go slow" strategies but the worse you make staff feel, the easier many people find it to justify sabotage or outright theft from the company.

Good Boss The most powerful tool at the good boss' disposal is respect. When staff respect their boss they want to earn the respect of the boss in turn. The horrible feeling of disappointing someone you want to impress is a far more powerful motivator than the threat of retribution. This does not mean a boss has to be smarter or better than employees (although that helps). It means leading with integrity, encouraging positivity and recognising achievements. Above all, it means showing respect to your staff and letting them see you treat everyone you deal with in an ethical manner.

As old fashioned as it sounds, at the end of the day being a good boss or a bad boss is an ethical choice. Many environments seem to reward negative behaviour. When the ruthless and self-interested rise more rapidly up the corporate ladder it can be hard to avoid following suit. Positive management practices promote positive outcomes, both commercially and in terms of the well-being of staff (managers included). Sociopaths sometimes get exactly what they want but no matter how much they get, they're still sociopaths. And if being the tyrant king of a steaming shitpile populated by angry, negative people is your idea of success then I guess you wasted a few minutes of your life by reading this piece.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mr Angry Live!

Well, here it is. From the stage of the Comic's Lounge in Melbourne going around the world to you. The first thing I should point out is that this is not a great video from a technical point of view - I set the camera up on a tripod and I *knew* where I had to stand to stay in shot but I got nervous because none of the other comedians stood still so I started pacing around and kept walking out of shot. Straight after the show my friend Adrian was giving me some notes and suggested the character would work better if I held my position.


The second thing worth pointing out is that I have my own theme song! Woot! This was done for me by a YouTube fan by the name of Nutyas - you can find out more about him on his site at

The third thing worth mentioning is that some idiot brought two little kids to the show, about 7 or 8 years old. But in order to minimise any trauma inflicted on the kids they sat them RIGHT AT THE FRONT. In the middle. Right in front of the fucking microphone. That didn't put the performers off much. To get back at the parents I spend a bit of time talking to the kids.

Anyway, that's enough rambling for now, it's time for the video. In case anybody has any issues viewing the video through the blog, I'll also provide some links to the video on YouTube and Revver. I think Revver makes it fairly easy to download the video as either QuickTime or Flash, although I'm having a little trouble with their new interface.

The URL for this video on Revver is

The URL for this video on YouTube is

I plan on doing quite a bit more live performing - hopefully both my performances and the videos will get better. I want to close of by being very un-angry for a moment and thanking a few people "without whom this wouldn't have been possible" (as they say at the Academy Awards).

First, the love of my life, without her support I doubt I'd be maintaining this blog let alone branching out into live peformance.

Second, Adrian Calear, who took the time to come along to the show and give me a significant support, advice and feedback. This guy is a professional and he took the time out to help me as a friend. Yes, this is the same friend who's having health issues. AND he's directing four shows in the Melbourne Fringe Festival. An incredibly generous guy. Besides helping me, he also took time out to talk to other performers there and give advice when he was asked. This was people he's never met before. He makes me feel guilty. As soon as I get the details of his shows I'll publicise them here, they are really good (I've already seen them) and well worth your time if you're in Melbourne for the Fringe.

Third, Nutyas, as I mentioned before he's the guy who did the theme music for me. Another incredibly creative and generous individual. He sent me a message on YouTube saying how much he liked my videos and inviting me to check his stuff out. He's a musician and as I'm completely unmusical, I was really impressed with his work. I jokingly suggested he could do a theme song for me and less than 24 hours later he'd done it! Anyone else out there want me to feature their original work on a video? I'm all for it :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Digg has already won

The biggest question on the minds of people who are interested in the Web 2.0 world (i.e. 0.01% of the population) is which of the new companies is the next Amazon and which is the next Their are multiple contenders for both crowns in video hosting, photo sharing, social networking, blogging tools and "memediggers" such as Digg and Reddit. While each of these fields seems to have one front runner, several possible winners and a bunch of also-rans, there's clear evidence that Digg has already won the race among the memediggers.

When arguing which site is going to win in any field, the common metrics used to measure success are the number of users, the number of page views, the amount of time users spend on the sites and whether or not a site has a significant first mover advantage. All of these are useful for measuring what is happening *now* but events over the last ten years have shown repeatedly that none of these, or even all of these combined, is a sure indicator of success. This habit of focusing on the moment and pretending nothing else exists and nothing will ever change is the IT world's biggest problem and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Netscape had absolute market domination in the web browser market for years but Microsoft crushed them. Google came to market years after other search engines but wiped the floor with them.

Digg itself is a direct competitor to long-time geek favourite Slashdot. For years, people had talked about the "Slashdot effect" - namely, that if your site was featured there you could expect to be overwhelmed with visitors. Digg took a perceived weakness in Slashdot, that it was controlled by a group of editors and was "undemocratic", and created a site that provided essentially the same service (links to interesting stories) that had the difference of proclaiming to be totally democratic with no editorial interference. Whatever users voted for went to the front page no matter what the site owners thought of it.

The rapid rise and overwhelming dominance of Digg must have surprised even its founders. In short order, being "Dugg" made the Slashdot effect look like child's play. Digg's success emboldened others to try the same thing and many similar site rose up; some with distinct differences but many outright clones. And so the game was on - who would win? Once serious VC money gets involved people tend to take the game rather seriously and as "user controlled" memediggers were arguably a new type of site with a big future, there is a distinct possibility of becoming the next Google.

Those closely involved in the business of Web 2.0 (whether site users, commentators, entrepreneurs or investors) spend a lot of time focussing on the users of various sites and obsessing over who has the most users or even the "best" users. An understandable vanity that has absolutely no value in objective reality. The rest of the world does not care how many people use your site, even if it's in the millions (a million is a very small number in world population terms). The rest of the world cares what your site can do for them. And this is why Digg has already won this particular competition - the rest of the world has decided that Digg is more useful to them than competing sites.

The dotcom boom was a wild and crazy time where all of us geeks and nerds spent billions of dollars changing the world. Except the world didn't care. To non-IT folk, the dotcom era was a sideshow - the actual technology had almost no direct impact. The technology did in fact change everything but very few companies made explicit decisions that revolved around any specific technology in and of itself. IT people spend their lives obsessing over programming languages, operating systems, applications and infrastructure. Nobody else does. Its a common failing that techies think the technology is important. It isn't - the result is what's important. Users don't care how clunky the code is, how "ugly" (a dubious term open to interpretation, personal prejudice and changing fashion) the interface is or how outdated the infrastructure is.

And they don't care whether or not a site that promotes links uses editorial control or not. A lot of people got up in arms as it became obvious Digg was exerting some control over how stories were promoted to its front page. This is after all not democratic - a founding principle of Digg. It may not be totally democratic but it sure as hell makes sense. There are two big things that could kill Digg: one is if it became unusable because it was flooded in crap and two is if people stopped using it (either because of the flood of crap or if they became disenchanted). There was a lot of talk that introducing controls would lead to massive user exodus which would mean the end of Digg. I have two words for that:


Digg proved to be absurdly easy to game. About 30 user accounts acting in concert (not necessarily individual users) could pretty much guarantee prominent placement for stories which undermined Digg's objectivity in a way the owners could not control without making changes. So they made changes that reduced the ability of a small number of users to have a disproportionate effect on the front page. This led to several hissy fits and proclamations of doom. At least one of the "top Diggers" made a melodramatic statement that they were leaving because they had been "mistreated" and anyone who wanted to be treated the same way was welcome to take his place. Dork. If you want to add something to the list of the things that make me angry, you can add "be a whiny little self-important dork."

There were hundreds if not thousands of other users who couldn't wait to shovel the dirt on his grave and scrabble for some recognition of their own. Plus, the moves made by Digg were FAIR. A very small number of users had what they perceived as their power lessened to the vast benefit of everybody else. Individual users of web services need to understand that no matter how important you think you are to the success of a site you don't own, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU. Not other users (who probably see you as competition) and not the rest of the world (who neither know nor care that you exist).

A second reason Digg was wise to make this move and would be wise to move further down this road is that people generally trust an editorial voice (or at least they gravitate to an editorial voice they can trust). If pure democracy was the answer then none of the precursors to Digg that have editorial control (e.g. BoingBoing, Fark) would still be around. They're still around and they're still going strong. At a certain point, online communities simply become unmanageable unless there are controls in place. I've said it before, online democracy doesn't work except in the purest sense: if you don't like what's happening, go off and start an alternative.

In short, Digg has won their race not because they were some revolution in online democracy but because external parties have decided Digg provides a service they actually want. When mainstream media outlets in somewhere as out of touch with Silicon Valley as Australia are adding "Digg this" to their stories you've really achieved something.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to have the number one post on Wordpress

This is another "answering a reader request" post. This blog has grown quite a bit in its first six months. To be honest, it has grown further already in terms of readers than I had any realistic hopes of reaching EVER when I started out. The "angry 365 days a year" tag is not accidental - I set myself the goal of posting at least once a day, every day for a year, no matter what and then review the situation. Things have changed so quickly that I have been reviewing my situation blog-wise quite regularly.

I have been listed as the number one post of the day by Wordpress about half a dozen times and been listed in the top ten maybe half a dozen times more, which led to being asked "how do you do that?" It's a question I can actually answer as it didn't happen by accident - I put quite a bit of effort into getting there. Having said that, this is a very shallow goal. Don't fool yourself on that. I accepted quite a while ago that I was being very shallow in pursuing some level of blog micro-celebrity and I decided I'm OK with being shallow. Without further ado, here are my tried and true top tips for getting the number one post on Wordpress.

1. Be Robert Scoble. I realise this suggestion is not terribly practical for most people but it remains true. No matter whether you personally love him, hate him or remain indifferent to him, Scoble is a bona fide blogging celebrity and there's little doubt he's Wordpress' number one blogger. He may occasionally cede the number one spot on a given day but over time his traffic is streets ahead of anyone else. In terms of numbers, he provided some insight into this back when the news broke he was leaving Microsoft. He showed an image of his Wordpress blog stats graph which revealed that an average day for him was over 10,000 hits and this news produced a spike of over 90,000 hits in a day.

Yikes! It's hard to compete with a heavyweight like that but what his success shows is this: if you are a recognised authority or personality in a given field, people will flock to your blog. Guy Kawasaki is another who springs to mind. I previously listed him as my unofficial mentor both because of his determination to climb to the top of the blogging pile and his cheerful admission of what a shallow goal this was. These guys are the exception - the vast majority of bloggers are like your humble correspondent; nobodies who have varying aspirations of possibly becoming a somebody through their blog. This is a hard road that will almost certainly end in not reaching any significant fame or financial reward. This is the reality that 99% of bloggers need to face, so I hope you're having fun on the journey (I know I am.)

2. Choose a topic people want to read about. Check the top 10 posts list for a while and you'll see the same themes popping up: technology, anime and celebrity gossip all seem very popular. My recommendation is that you pick a topic you're actually knowledgeable and/or passionate about as it will be easier to stick with. Maybe you're cynical enough to write about a topic you don't care about simply to get attention but I'm not.

3. Be aware of the theme or tone of your blog and maintain it. This is not an absolute must-do but it will sure make your life easier. This is more about encouraging readers to return that winning them in the first place. If people get a consistent experience from your blog (consistent tone does not mean the same thing day in, day out) then they have a better idea of whether or not it's worth returning.

If you're an idiot like me and pick something as abstract as "anger" as the theme for your blog, you're making your life harder than necessary. In retrospect, I have the singular genius to choose a theme that feels simultaneously vague and maddeningly narrow. If you make a choice like this, it's a little harder for people to get a handle on why they should read your writing and, trust me, sticking with it can be bloody hard. On the other hand, one of my core beliefs is stick with what you know and I know the angry.

4. You can't do it alone. There are two ways for us non-celebrity mortals to generate site traffic; the slow, organic way of reaching other bloggers one by one and the sudden surge in traffic driven by a referral from either a prominent website or a social bookmarking site (like Digg or Reddit). Trying to get featured on a prominent site is seductive, especially when hitting the front page of Digg can be worth tens of thousands of hits, but the important thing to remember is that this is fleeting - usually a two or three day wonder. You will be very lucky if 1% of a big surge become regular readers. Plus, don't underestimate the influence of the smaller sites. I have never had a hit on either Digg or Reddit but several of my posts have been popular on the sub-reddit for Joel on Software. I also seem to be getting a bit of traffic from a site called stumbleupon - I must look into that one.

Commenting on other blogs encourages people to check out your blog. I'm talking about real comments where you contribute some meaningful insight to the conversation (or at least a good question). Leaving some variant of "hey, check out my blog" pisses people off. This is a slow and steady approach but it really is the best way to build up a core audience for your blog. Then the intermittent surges you might get from prominent referrals become gravy rather than the only traffic you have.

5. Write a how-to guide. People seem to be mad for the how-to guides. It appears you don't have to be much of an expert for your guide - I've seen some really crap how-to's get massive traffic (how to use MS Word - yeah, that's some real fucking rocket science there). The thing is, if you write a how-to guide simply because it's a topic you're passionate about or willing to research, it can be a pleasant surprise when it generates huge interest.

When Range wrote his guide to High Dynamic Range (HDR) digital photography, he subtitled it "saturday morning relaxation". He didn't intend for it to be a major "hit", it was simply one of his areas of interest. A similar how-to could easily work for you if there's a particular topic on which you can share your knowledge. Coincidentally, he timed it with a weekend when Wordpress' stat counting went screwy - he's since told me the traffic was as high as he thought at first. It was still good but not astronomical (my stats temporarily showed a boost of 10,000 that weekend too).

And the magic number is... This is the other half of the question I was asked: how many hits does it take to be listed as the number one post? Well, the slightly vague answer is that this number is relative. If you pick up a huge number of hits on the same day that other people pick up a similarly huge number then you will have more competition. So be lucky. But all things being equal, from my experience you need to get more than 600 hits to reach the top ten and more than 1,000 hits to hit number one. Bearing in mind this is hits to a particular post, not people landing on your home page. This is why you need the help of an inbound link from a major site or a hell of a lot of people coming in via your RSS feed.

So pursue these tips if you like and see if they work for you. But I can't recommend strongly enough that your first step should be writing high quality content for your blog. I know when I look at some popular blogs I am completely dumbfounded; I find many of them boring or downright shitty. This is reality, get over it and stop worrying about what other people are getting away with. Set your own standards for quality and get to it. The more you write, the better your writing will get; trust me on this one.

And for god's sake, have some personal goals that are more important to you that blog traffic. I'm not joking, this is a really shallow aspiration and you don't want to base your life around such a shallow focus. Find new people online. Find like minds and different minds. Broaden your horizons and learn something new. I have found that blogging can create amazing new possibilities, so focus on the positives and don't dwell on what you might not be getting. Life's too short and a blog shouldn't be your life.

Do I look ready to you?

Well, wish me luck. Tonight I step onto a stage in front of a live audience. No idea what sort of audience it will be or how large - it depends on who's interested in seeing an open mic night I guess. I don't know if there are any professional comedians filling out the bill. Maybe I should have asked that.

Anyway, here's a video of me rehearsing last night.

I figured it was a safe bet to go with toilet humour. My friend Adrian reckons the venue in question attracts a toilet humour crowd so hopefully I'll do OK. I got approval to video my performance so barring any disasters, you should be seeing how I went sometime over the next couple of days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why all Muslims are responsible for the words and actions of any particular Muslim

So, relations between Islam and the rest of the world have taken another dip in the last week. If nothing else, this is quite an effective demonstration of one of Murphy's Laws "No matter how bad things get, it's always possible for them to get worse." I honestly feel for the intelligent and/or moderate Muslims who any rational person would acknowledge obviously make up the vast majority of the Muslim faith. They may make up the majority of the religion but they sure don't make up the public face.

A quick, logical explanation for anyone who thinks I've been fooled by the "religion of peace" propaganda. A couple of billion people who were all homicidal maniacs would have wiped out all opposition a long time ago. A small minority of homicidal maniacs can inflict quite a bit of pain and suffering. Political and religious leaders who seem to consistently spout intolerance can do the same. And lying, opportunistic, grandstanding politicians and media in non-Muslim nations can also do the same.

The point of this post is to explain why all Muslims have accept the burden of the words and actions of any particular Muslim. Some might argue that if the majority are peaceful, why aren't I judged by this peaceful majority? Ha! Nice try Achmed! Others might say why aren't all Christians judged by the violent actions or words of a minority of Christians? You wish, Abdul! Others still will argue that scripture is being twisted and perverted by extremists and you play into the hands of radicals by marginalising all Muslims. Not good enough... ummm... damn, I've run out of generic Arab sounding names. Wait, Osama! Yes, I should have used that one first. Not good enough, Osama!

So the Pope opened a speech by saying "I read in this one book that all Muslims shag their sisters" and now every single Muslim in the world is acting all crazy about it. The proof that all Muslims are crazy is that some Muslims in response attacked some Christian churches and a nun may have been murdered by Muslims. Case closed. Besides which the Pope never said he reckoned all Muslims were bad, he just repeated what he read in a book. Which is the same as saying he doesn't agree. True, he didn't actually say he didn't agree and repeating a negative assertion without explicitly disclaiming it could be seen as endorsing it, but you're forgetting one thing.

He's white.

The thing you have to realise is no matter how much you as a Muslim may protest your innocence, you can't get away from the fact that you aren't white. This makes you automatically suspect. Unless you are a white convert. That makes you a traitor. I know there's a danger in revealing this secret bit of white people's business, but the truth of the matter is that no matter how exemplary your life, no matter how accepted you feel, white folks are just waiting for you to reveal your true colours. A minor mis-step for a white person (say drunk driving, hitting a pedestrian and running from the cops) doesn't taint other whites but it is seen as proof of the failings of a non-white ethnicity in totality.

In Australia, the leading members of the federal government have made it clear that all Muslims need to denounce terrorism specifically and extremism generally. All the time. Saying "We already did that" isn't good enough. Look, Muslims can handle a call to prayer several times a day. They should be able to handle saying "I denounce terrorism and the killing of innocents, it is expressly forbidden by the Koran and its perpetrators are a disgrace to all true Muslims. By the way, mateship is totally ace.". Three times a day should be fine. After that, work on losing your accent. And those funny clothes aren't doing you any favours.

A brief note for the irony challenged (not to mention the intellectually challenged):

In my wacky world view I condemn all extremism. If you advocate the criminalising, sterilising, jailing or execution of any particular group you go into my broad category of Not Nice People. I understand that many people regard a range of things, words, people as "sacred" and get really pissed off if anyone disrespects that. I just care more about freedom of expression. My response to anyone who wants to restrict artistic freedom or expression in the name of ANY religios or political sensibility is "fuck you".

I know that "Piss Christ" is a pretty crap piece of art and it's far more about cheap sensationalism than artistic expression but if you want destroy it or threaten the life of the artist, I think you're a moron. And I really do think getting worked by some cartoons, no matter how deliberately inflammatory they were, is the height of stupidity. I deeply believe no amount of words or images, no matter how deeply hateful and hurtful, justify a violent response. EVER.

It doesn't matter to me what your level of melanin is. I don't care if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Shintoist, I don't base my judgements on your religion. Unless you're a Buddhist. Fuck those smug bastards. Acting like you have more inner peace than me. Someone ought to roll right into those Buddhist's headquarters and kick them out on their meditating arses. But nobody's got the guts to take on the Buddhists.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Small Talk

I never really get into office small talk, I don't have the knack for it. In my more misanthropic moods I'd say I didn't have enough missing brain cells to get into "water cooler talk". But really, I feel like I rarely have anything particularly interesting to contribute. I'm not in the habit of discussing my personal life and the most interesting non-personal part of my life in this blog and my videos. And I really don't want people I work with knowing about this.

But tomorrow morning, I'll actually have something interesting to respond with when people ask "what did you do on the weekend?" Last night, I got to see four world premiere performances. It isn't often I get to use that sentence. I previously mentioned my college friend Adrian Calear directs quite a bit these days, comedy in particular. I bumped into him at this year's Melbourne Comedy Festival where he was directing a show call "I Heart Racism". Now he's directing four shows at the impending Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Anybody who has done live performance will know that after rehearsing a show for while, you start to lose any objectivity and you have trouble seeing what "works" about the show and what doesn't. This was the stage the performers Adrian is directing had reached, so he organised a night for them to perform live to a small audience and I was lucky enough to score an invite. It was a full night - four shows each about an hour long. One was a two-person drama, one I would call a fairly traditional standup show and the other two were one-man comedy shows although not really standup.

I'm angry at myself for not picking up flyers for the shows so I could tell you a few more details about them and give them some promotion. That might be a moot point because although I enjoy quite a few readers these days, I have a funny feeling none of them are in Melbourne. The internets are a funny place.

Adrian has promised to come along to my performance at the open mic night on Tuesday so I'll get some flyers from him then. And for anyone actually in Melbourne while the Fringe Festival is happening, I'll have four very strong recommendations for you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ways to make me angry

It might be hard to be sure when I'm serious about being angry and when I'm joking, but here are a few sure fire ways to make me truly angry.

Tell me what my opinion is. By all means, tell me what my words suggested to you and how you interpreted them but don't tell what I think. I'm one of those wacky people who form their own opinions rather than accepting what other people impose on me.

Spurt forth a series of incomprehensible, unconnected brain farts and declare that this gibberish proves you are right. I don't think this one needs any further explanation.

Declare that the particular form of oppression you want to inflict on the world should be allowed because otherwise you're being oppressed. This is the most morally and intellectually bankrupt argument imaginable and yet some morons seem to think it makes sense. "You preach tolerance but you want to get rid of nazis - how do you justify that?" Really fucking easily actually.

Can anyone tell I've been dealing with the nazis on YouTube again?

Link to first bunch of idiotic nazi comments

Link to second bunch of idiotic nazi comments

The above links are not suitable for those with an aversion to extreme profanity (usually on my part) nor for those who don't want to get depressed by how low humanity can actually sink.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Death by PowerPoint

One of the "fun" things about working in an IT office environment is how often you have to sit through some agonising over-long pointless presentation that sucks the very life-force out of you. It has been said that one should never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity but I am starting to suspect their is some sort of secret management cabal that meets in dark caves to plot ways to torture us poor workers. The Society for Cruel and Unusual Management perhaps? And its graduates are given the title of official Developer of Really Odious Presentations.

The weapon of choice for these SCUMDROPs is without doubt Microsoft's PowerPoint. If you've never experienced someone attempting to inflict Death by PowerPoint, count yourself lucky. I have heard people say that this isn't the fault of PowerPoint, it's the fault of the presenters. Yeah, right - guns don't kill people, people kill people. It's just that someone with lots of guns has a head start on killing lots of people and these SCUMDROPs wouldn't be half as dangerous without PowerPoint in their arsenal.

You get over 7 million hits on Google for Death by PowerPoint but my favourite online resource for showing the horrible potential of PowerPoint to destroy a presentation was done by Peter Norvig. He has constructed a PowerPoint version of one of the most famous speeches in modern history, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This devilspawn software effortlessly reduces one of the most powerful pieces of oratory ever into meaningless drivel with dot points and charts. Much like every business presentation I've ever seen. Apart from the fact the presentations in question were probably never going to be great oratory in the first place.

Recently I had the misfortune of being subjected to one of the worst excesses in Death by PowerPoint I can imagine. I was working for a company that was looking to acquire an ERP system to run the finances and logistics for their nation-wide business. This is a fairly big ticket purchase so there were a lot of vendors vying for the contract. Included in the contenders was one of the biggest international players in this field (I won't mention them by name but they're known by the acronym of their German name which rhymes, appropriately enough, with CRAP)

Like all of the vendors they were allocated one hour to make their initial pitch. They were told this ahead of time: "You have ONE HOUR to explain your product to us." Their presentation was obviously the company's standard one and it involved 85 PowerPoint slides. 85! What made it worse was nearly all of them were animated, often involving sound and ALL of them were too complicated to understand by simply looking at them. And they barrelled through them in less than 60 minutes. More than a slide a minute when it would have taken a minute just to read the words that were on each slide.

So the audience were barraged with an hour of whooshing noises, flying text and blinking lights that left us all exhausted and more confused than when we started. It absolutely boggles my mind that when several million dollars are at stake, a supposedly world-leading company would not take the time to put together a presentation that would actually be meaningful to a potential customer. Maybe I'm giving the presenters in question too much credit but they could not possibly have though any audience was going to enjoy being rushed through so many slides in an hour. The real problem is that there were too many slides for any length of time and they were far too complicated but their crimes was made exponentially worse by cramming it all into an hour.

Any rational person would say that this is only going to end badly for the company in question. The only conclusion I could draw (besides the possibility that the presenters were clinically insane) is that they thought they could overwhelm us with the sheer volume of their presentation. Then when we were too weak and dazed to struggle they could force us to sign a contract. Needless to say, they shot themselves in the head at this meeting and we never spoke to them again. I was going to say they shot themselves in the foot but seriously, these guys had the barrel in their mouth when they pulled the trigger.

If anyone can explain to me how travesties like this continue to happen in the corporate world I'd really like to hear your thoughts. Every available piece of literature says DON'T DO THIS and yet it continues to happen. I can almost forgive a clueless middle manager who is simply committing a sin of ignorance but this was from a supposedly world-leading IT company! I would be wishing for this company to collapse under its own weight but they're so bloated their collapse would form a black hole that would destroy us all.

There are a million guides out there to help you avoid committing truly horrible crimes against humanity with PowerPoint. For god's sake, do everyone a favour and read some of them before your next presentation. If you think I'm exaggerating you haven't seen how bad things can get. I'm sure in the deepest, darkest pits of Gitmo there are gathered the world's most evil SCUMDROPs who work in teams to force detainees to watch 3 hour PowerPoint presentations. And each slide features animated text, charts and red writing on black backgrounds.

One thing you'll probably find if you read a few different guides is that they will contradict each other in places. It's more art than science and you'll have to decide for yourself who's opinion you agree with. Whichever guide you choose, remember the following three points over everything else - the rest is just detail:

PowerPoint is no good for explaining complex concepts: You can use it to illustrate or support points but you can't use it to teach. You have to be working closely with your subjects to teach anything complex or worthwhile - you can't do it with words on a screen.

PowerPoint is no good for words: If you think you need to provide your audience with lots of words then POWERPOINT IS THE WRONG TOOL! Don't use it just because it exists, use the appropriate medium. The printed word has served humanity well for centuries, try going with that.

PowerPoint is no good for inspiring an audience: It can work with basic reporting of data, it can reinforce or support points but it simply isn't inspiring. A good speaker can inspire an audience but not with PowerPoint. You can't reach out to an audience with PowerPoint, it actually distances you from them, it gets in the way.

In short: PowerPoint - just say no. Do it for the children. Won't somebody please think of the children? And if that doesn't sway you, remember this: guns don't kill people, people who have been forced to sit through one too many truly horrible PowerPoint presentations kill people. And the presenter is usually the first victim.

Post four for The Blogging Times

Here's my fourth video done for The Blogging Times. In this piece I look at evidence that the "bubble" around Web 2.0 is growing. The main evidence that people may be making the same mistakes that were made in the first dot-com boom is when really stupid ideas start getting money. An even clearer indication is when an idea that has already failed once re-appears, especially when it makes less sense now than it did the first time. Like the culprit in this video...

The URL for this video is

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Appearances matter more than reality

I feel the need to occasionally mention that I like my current job. When I talk about work issues it's usually to rant angrily about bad things - partly because I think they are important issues that are worth brining up and partly because it's fun. The experiences seem to be fairly universal as well, so everybody gets some catharsis out of it. The point is, these stories are nearly always from past jobs. My current roles is one of the best I've had, a year after starting a 3 month contract I'm still here, still enjoying it and still being treated well.

If there's one weakness here it's that, because it's a government department, people aren't paid that well. As a contractor it seems on paper that I get about twice as much pay as everyone else (I've explained at length in previous posts why this isn't accurate but that's how it looks on paper.) This manifests itself occasionally when the broader team I work with has any sort of group meeting that isn't directly related to what I'm working on. A decision was made that I shouldn't attend things that aren't directly related to my work because of the associated cost of me attending - they don't want to pay me for things that aren't my main job.

This is fine with me, fewer meetings are good and I'm always included in any social events. But I found out the other day that not all departments work the same and not all contractors are as happy as me. I think it's universal in Australian government departments that the IT help desk is outsourced - it's never staffed by permanent staff. It's certainly the case here and recently one of the help desk contractors came past my area when I was the only one there as everyone else was in a team meeting. She asked where everyone was and I explained they were in a team meeting.

This touched a nerve with her and she started going on about how "this place" treats contractors as outsiders. I decided to act empathetic and not point out that I was happier not being in the meeting. Then she told me a story that I found truly disturbing. The consultancy that operates the help desk used to run regular meeting where they provided free cake for attendees. Someone in management decided this was a bad look because it gave the impression they were paying too much for the help desk services because the consultancy could afford to squander money on cake.

So the word comes down, the consultancy is not to provide cake any more. The individual contractors decide "dumb attitude, but what the hell." They still want cake so they decide to put some of their own money together to buy cakes and bring them in for everybody. This goes on for a while until somebody from management notices and says you're not meant to be providing cake. The contractors explain the situation and the manager says it doesn't matter what is happening, it's the appearance of what's happening that's important.

This is one attitude I really can't stand and unfortunately it's fairly widespread. I don't feel like I get it here but in previous workplaces I've had it crop up in truly bizarre ways. In one case I was admonished for being away from my desk a lot. Bearing in mind my job involves interacting with people in different areas of the business which by definition means I have to spend time away from my desk. Some deskbound knucklehead couldn't fit my behaviour into their narrow, fucked-up world view and so it was suggested I reduce my effectiveness simply to appease a moron.

On another occasion, a divisional manger happened to wander by my area when a few of us had the audacity to be talking and laughing. This did not conform to his worldview and so he gave our manager a dressing down (apparently enjoying yourself at work is the same as stealing from the company). Our manager in turn told us that we had to stop mucking about - it made us look bad. I asked a few pertinent questions:

"Is there any issue with the quality of our work?"


"Is anything behind schedule?"


"Is anyone failing to make their performance targets?"


In short nothing was wrong. Senior management would just prefer it if we never enjoyed ourselves while at work and our manager was too spineless to point out the idiocy inherent in this. To be honest, this department was not a laugh a minute. For this divisional manager to wander by at one of the rare moments people were actually engaged in animated conversation was really against the odds. That actually made it worse - being punished for one of the rare light moments. The idea that someone could actually want their staff to be unhappy is so stupid that I have difficulty processing it. I can live with management who don't want to make any effort to increase staff happiness but actively crushing positivity?

This pervasive attitude is why I can't ever fully shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen, no matter how well things have been going up to that point. Generating and maintaining happiness takes time and effort. Crushing people's spirit only requires a short sighted moron and can be done in a second.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Hater Conundrum

I've been dealing with more than a few haters on YouTube lately and even a couple here on the blog. I realised I'm not in this alone - I got all the masks together and we discussed how best to deal with the issue.

It's fun to have friends!

The URL for this video is

Mr Angry's first live performace

Next week I take the first step in one of the pledges I made in my 200th post - I am making my first attempt at performing live stand-up as Mr Angry. This will be at an open mic night in a Melbourne club and hopefully I'll be able to video it so I can put it up here.

So I'm looking for a little help from my readers: of all the stuff I've posted, what do you think would work best as a stand-up routine? I'm thinking at the moment that I'll do some of the "toilet rules" material - toilet humour is fairly universal. Barring some disaster, I plan to keep working on this, probably at least once a week until I decide whether or not there's a future in it. So even if I don't do your favourite material at first it might get a run further down the line.

If anyone is actually interested in going, let me know via comments (identify yourself with your email and/or blog so I can reach you) and I'll tell you the time and the venue. Given some rather aggressive hater attitude I've been getting lately (mostly on YouTube) I'm a little reticent to publicise my whereabouts too openly. Particularly not on my first outing when I'll be nervous enough. But if I get a chance to stack the audience in my favour I'll definitely take it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Making the right "Build or Buy" decision

A recent post by Mike on his blog Mike-o-Matic gave me flashbacks to some of the most ill-informed management decisions it's been my horror to witness in the past. He provided 7 tips for the great build or buy debate which plagues IT departments everywhere. For those who don't work in IT, this debate is basically "do we buy and off-the-shelf product to accomplish what we need or do we develop a custom tool in-house?" Again, if you don't work in IT this might not seem relevant to you but I don't think there's a job today that isn't affected by IT implementation decisions so this article might give you some insights into why certain IT systems that feel useless have been inflicted upon you.

There is not one single answer to this question. If you are working in a place that decrees there is a single answer ("we will always buy an existing product" - "we will always build our own solutions") that's your whole problem summed up there. If each situation isn't judged on its own merits then it's pretty much inevitable that some inappropriate decisions will be made. It shouldn't be surprising that I have a bias towards up-front analysis - I am a Business Analyst after all - but I don't recommend crippling progress with exhaustive (or should that be exhausting) analysis at the cost of actually doing something.

This being the angry blog of Mr Angry, I'll illustrate my points with some insane decisions I've witnessed that have made me truly angry.

The first example I'll use is a business that had a chronic problem with people developing a custom tool for every little task. I didn't realise how bad the problem was at first because most of my work revolved around the core systems - propping up aging IBM AS/400 mainframes rather than developing any new tools. As an aside, I don't even mention working on these dinosaurs of the Big Iron Age on my resume from fear a recruitment agency will try to place me somewhere else that uses them. I know some people like mainframes - I'm not one of them.

Realistically, it isn't surprising that people were developing custom tools in this environment because the process for making changes to mainframe systems isn't exactly nimble. The trouble is, the decisions being made were all short-term gain, long-term pain. One of Mike's recommendations was to ban widespread use of MS Access across companies to limit people's ability to make their own custom applications. He was being tongue in cheek but it's a classic example of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." People learn how to build their own little database applications so they run off and do it despite the fact it would usually be better to have a common tool used across the company.

In this company, people went one better (which really means one worse) and were building applications in Excel. People often stretch Excel's ability (it's a spreadsheet, dammit, that's all it should be used for) to make it perform like a database (a bad idea as illustrated in this fun comic) but these people were actually building full-blown VB applications in Excel. For the non-geeks that means that although it looked they were running a custom built program, it was all jury-rigged on top of Excel. The data they were working with couldn't be shared across the business (like it could have been if it was built on the mainframe as it was supposed to be) and it was pushing Excel way beyond its intended limits which meant it could collapse at any moment.

This was actually the problem I had been called to look at, their "solution" kept crashing and losing all their data. I heard they were running their work in Excel and though that meant they were running complex spreadsheets. I was absolutely stunned when I saw what they were doing. They had gone so far as to design a complex graphical user interface in VB and paste it on top - it looked like a fancy web application. "What can you do fix the problem?" It was a few minutes before I could think of something to say beyond:

"You're the problem, my solution is to shoot you and put a hand grenade in your hard drive so nobody else copies your idea."

In short, this was a textbook case of people developing custom solutions when they should have been looking for a standard company-wide application. The people doing this thought they were right because they believed they had solved their problem. What they had was a work-around, not a solution. The main problems with their work-arounds were that they weren't available across the whole company (and a real solution was needed company wide) and they were totally unreliable.

For the other side of the coin I'll use an example of a company that insisted on buying a system instead of looking at the possibility of developing a solution in-house. One of the problems this company had was they were trying to do too many big things at the same time and so management's focus was completely splintered. The financial system, e-commerce engine and web publishing system were all planned to be replaced concurrently. Any one of these projects is a major undertaking but to plan to do all three at the same time is pretty goddam scary. Oh, and a new head of IT (Chief Information Officer/CIO) was put in place at the same time.

The new CIO issued a blanket ruling: "We are not a specialist IT development company," (accurate enough statement) "so we will not develop any software in-house. We will always buy off the shelf. And we will never use open source, we will only use commercial products." Ouch. That did not go down well in the IT department. The problem with his seemingly logical statement was that we might not have been specialist developers but there were some highly skilled and very motivated coders in the IT department. I was just the shitkicker BA but there were some damn smart people there.

It was my job to put together the requirements and tender documents for the web publishing tool so off I went and started. One day the lead developer comes up to me.

"Can we put in a submission for this project?" he asked.

"How do you mean?"

"Show the development team the tender documents all the vendors are getting and we'll respond with our proposed solution along with everybody else."

He outlined their proposed solution. They had a prototype that involved putting together a couple of open source applications to form a complete web publishing tool. They had worked out how to copy the existing kludgy database of web content straight across so there would be no interruption to the site. Once it was in this more stable architecture they could progressively tweak it until it was better structured which would make it much more manageable, allowing for the deployment of a consistent design across the site, easier editing and it would be much easier to manage the growth of the site. This solution would be quicker to deploy than any alternative, easier to maintain and much cheaper than any alternative.

Management responded with a wall of silence. The wall was occasionally broken with the rote "we are not a development house" line but largely there seemed to be a mentality of ignore it and it will go away. This proved to be an effective strategy as all of the motivated developers quit over the next six months and so did I. So the CIO's vision was not challenged and the company missed a huge opportunity.

At the end of the day, this is not a decision to make lightly. As Mike pointed out, software developers are often the highest paid non-management staff in a company and having them work on development can be costly both in dollar terms and lost opportunity terms. Uncontrolled custom development usually ends up with a series of incompatible (and often unstable) systems across departments that cost time and money to maintain and as often as not, this aspect causes reduced efficiency, not the improvements each individual claims. But likewise, arbitrarily ignoring the possibilities of in-house development can cost the company more and can definitely affect the morale of the IT department (an issue that management ignores at its peril).

The following list is a summary of Mike's 7 tips. They are a good guide on how to make the best "Buy or Build" decision:

1. Do research before building requirements
2. Be willing to change your behaviour to suit a software tool
3. Consider open source
4. Get a range of people involved in evaluating options
5. Focus on flexibility
6. Remove the incentive to empire-build
7. Ban people from building custom applications in Microsoft Access (really, really ban them from building custom applications in Excel)

These are not necessarily in order of importance but number one should always be first as everything else flows from this. In short, THINK before making a decision.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Blogging Times post three - Blog Vigilantes get Lucy Gao and Lee Siegel

This post to The Blogging Times was inspired by a few more scalps being scored by online vigilantes. This phenomenon is nothing new but the thing that interested me about these two was that they come from opposite ends of the spectrum with regards to their transgressions. Lucy Gao made an absolute prat of herself regarding her personal life and Lee Siegel made a very serious professional blunder. Without further ado, here's the video, more discussion to follow.

It's more than a mild understatement to say people have a tendency to be judgemental online. If you haven't heard many of the stories on this topic, the Wikipedia article on Internet vigilantism is a good place to start. There have been a huge number of stories over the years that could be included under this umbrella and depending on your point of view (and maybe the specific case) this is either the rise of empowered citizens or scary as all fuck.

The end of the spectrum that is easier to support involves serious professional or criminal misconduct. Some people go after pedophiles, some bait scammers and there was even the case that basically ended the careers of a couple of US journalists when they publicised a memo that made George Bush look bad. The memo was the smoking gun that proved W had skipped out on his national guard service which he was only doing to avoid going to Vietnam anyway. It was just a pity that they didn't do enough fact checking to find out that the memo was a fake. Personally, I think if someone dug far enough they'd find the whole thing was set up by Bush supporters... I should probably take off my tinfoil hat now.

This is the company that Lee Siegel falls into. As someone employed by a magazine as a professional writer there are standards of behaviour he's expected to follow. It seems he was a hell of an unpopular art critic. It also seems he had trouble dealing with the strong reactions he rather negative and apparently clueless writing provoked. So he invented a persona to post positive comments about himself on his own blog because no real people would support him. Which makes him unprofessional, unpopular and a pathetic loser. I have my fair share of haters but at least I have real supporters in my corner to balance them.

At the end of the spectrum that makes me more queasy are people who have been exposed and humiliated for stupid and/or embarrassing things they've done in their personal lives. There was "dog poop girl" who suffered fairly severe retribution for not cleaning up when her dog crapped on public transport. There's multiple stories of people sending inappropriate emails from their work accounts that get them fired. Sometimes they're bragging about sexual exploits, sometimes they're having nasty bitchfights over petty things and sometimes they're just being jerks.

And then there's poor Lucy Gao. It isn't as if she actually hurt anyone, she's just... well, she's a fucking idiot. A sad little control freak socialite wannabe. But I'm not sure that she deserved to have her life ruined. It isn't as if I lie awake at night tortured by the injustice of it all but being an idiot doesn't justify being vilified around the world. Anyone who believes in karma or simply being fair wouldn't indulge in this shit.

Some readers might be surprised I would be so conservative on this topic, after all, I'm not shy about cutting loose when I think someone deserves it. The difference I try to maintain is I focus on public personalities or at least someone who launched an attack on me first. And I can't imagine a scenario where I'd divulge someone's private details simply because I thought they were stupid and/or embarrassing. I honestly think we're barrelling straight for a hell of a shitty future as this sort of behaviour becomes more widespread. Anyone still want to know why I wear a mask?

Actually, I know I'm playing russian roulette by having this online profile. Because I take an admittedly extreme stance on a range of topics, I piss a lot of people off. If I ever get any halfway serious public profile there will be a long line of people waiting to fuck me over. Hell, outside of strangers that I piss off, I know for a fact a particular ex-girlfriend would go straight to the tabloids to talk shit about me if I attracted any fame under my own name. She's a pathological liar but it seems most tabloid writers are as well so they'd get on like a house on fire.

I know all the bad things I've done in my life and I'm prepared to own up to them. I'd better be, because the odds are I'll have to one day. It's an interesting concept - would a future where every little detail of your life could be made public encourage people to behave better? I'd doubt it. Besides which, even if you're a saint, some fucker will spread vicious lies about you. So OK you guys, when some horrible stories get circulated about me, you know it's all lies, right?