epershand: Delirium, following her fish. (Following my fish)
I am frustrated, on an ongoing basis, by the value we're asked to place on "hard work." It's a puritan virtue that seems to stick around with people a lot. Any time an employee is honored you hear speeches about them working late into the night or crunching all weekend to get a project done. When things go wrong, we remind ourselves that someone was working really hard, so we should have sympathy for the fact that the results still had problems.

The thing is, in my experience the majority of time I find myself working particularly hard it's a sign that I'm working *wrong.* The environments where I've personally had to work long hours have all either been the result of bad planning on my part or a destructive environment that required it. Certainly, with the exception of a few adrenalin-fueled rushes, there has always been an inverse relationship between the overall numbers of hours I've worked and my overall productivity during those hours. And every one of those stretches was the result of a bad system design.

The thing is, basically any engineering work is about system design. The goal is to optimize your resources (processor power, memory, bandwidth, disc space, number of complicated operations such as disc reads and writes or database access, etc.) You don't necessarily want to minimize your use of them all, but you need to use them in appropriate amounts such that if there is a sudden change your system can handle it (that link is to Maciej Cegłowski's account of how pinboard handled the day the "delicious is going away" slide leaked).

And people are part of any system. Developer time and energy is something that a good tech manager manages as much as they manage memory usage and runtime complexity. (I cannot *count* the number of times I have heard the chestnut about Ruby and Python development being about optimizing developer time at the price of computer time in a world of cheap computers.)

I was lucky, early in my career, to have a mentor who taught me the value of virtuous laziness in the form of an obsession with automating boring tasks in order not to have to do them. (My current coworkers are probably sick of hearing the sentence. "But... why is a *human* doing this?" from me.) Later mentors, and my own trial and error (soooo much error) and also my therapit, taught me the value of setting appropriate expectations for what I could accomplish, not promising to promise more than I could do in a given time period, efficient process management to keep myself working steadily rather than in a rush, etc. I have to admit, a lot of my own personal anguish in watching the first forty-eight hours after the last AO3 launch unfold was the bitter reminder of disasters of my own on that scale or larger.

Every time I hear "but I worked hard" my heart screams out that working hard is the WRONG THING TO DO. Communicating about what you're capable of is the right thing to do. Asking for help when you need it is the right thing to do. Offering help to someone who is overworking is the right thing to do. Re-setting launch dates around what is posible is the right thing to do. Making sure that time-sensitive updates are uncoupled from other updates is the right thing to do.

Preventing cultures where heroism is not only the norm but mandatory? Is the right thing to do.

Look. I know it's easy to backseat quarterback. But like. These are not new problems. People have worked out the answers before. (Oh yeah, that's another general vice/virtue thing I take issue with. A lot of the time copying someone else's answer is ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do. Of course, in that context it's called "following best practices"...) You can learn things the hard way if you want. (Some of us need to learn things the hard way in order for the lesson to stick.) But. Take the lesson when it is given to you, rather than defensively claiming that you worked hard and that the people criticizing you are doing so with unnecessary vitriol. (Yes, some of them are absolutely using unnecessary vitriol. But having worked in customer support as well as in software development, I'm a big believer in the right of customers to bitch unproductively and the right of engineers to be filtered from the bullshit while getting the productive stuff. That's what, wait for it, good tech managers are there for.)

And the pain of watching someone repeating your own past failures in ghastly slow motion in front of an audience of thousands? Is a pain like no other.

ETA: when I use the word "failure" I am not referring to launching some code with a few bugs in it. Everyone does that shit. I'm talking about the communication and process management failure around it and the fact that it cost their project a developer who, according to the AO3's impact chart has been responsible for a MINIMUM of 10% of the code in the archive. (Because of whatever emergency push process juggle led to last week's mess, for instance, none of the skins code is credited to lim in that report. I don't know what other code Naomi's committed on lim's behalf because the practice in question makes that impossible to determine.)
epershand: "It was becoming an obsession" (Obsession)
And how awesome they are.

In particular, let's talk about how fundamentally what [personal profile] lim did there was RE-WRITE LJ'S S2 ENTIRELY IN CSS. Hands down it is the most technically-impressive and well-designed thing I have ever seen come from the AO3 development team.

It's really fucking sexy, guys. Like. A lot. A whole lot. I've been playing around with it since it launched and I KIND OF WANT TO HAVE ITS BABIES.

Yeah, ok, the initial skins that launched with it aren't the best ever, especially to eyes that are used to the sexy layouts that most web2.0 social networking sites provide in advance. And yeah, there are some bugs in them. But the change this represents? Is probably the single thing I've wanted most from that site forever.

For the first time, the AO3 is offering its users a way to customize part of the site from the ground up and submit that change back to them so they can make it available to everyone. (No, the previous skin system did not do that. The previous skin system provided a way for people to override the look-and-feel of the site if they were willing to fill their code with painful overrides and forcing mechanisms.) And that is a very good sign of things that could come.

I am not an AO3 coder, and am very unlikely to become one any time soon. But now I can do really cool things with the AO3 and bend it to my will (visually, at least) without having to become one! And so can fandom's very many awesome designers--I've seen what people can do with an LJ layout, and I'd love to see what fandom will wind up with if those people are let loose on the AO3 and given encouragement and incentives to play with it. I'm competent, but so many people are BRILLIANT. (And while it's not great for a lot of *other* AO3 users, it's pretty swell for me that the set of available skins right now is really just a set of tutorials/examples for ways you can modify different parts of the site.)

Fundamentally, the revolution in social media in the last five years is "do not try to be everything to everybody. Build a solid foundation and give people the tools to bend you to be what they want." This, IMO, is the primary factor responsible for the success of Twitter (via replacement apps), Facebook (via add-on apps), etc. This skins launch isn't perfect, but it's the AO3's first step down that road, and it makes me more happy than you can imagine.

(Now if only they offered an API for bookmarks and tags. The things I would do with that! The glorious, GLORIOUS things I would do with that. (By which I mean, the fun I would have playing with that...))

EDITED: To remove the passive-aggressive block. This is a positive fucking entry, damnit.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011 08:21
epershand: "Geek" (Geek)
Are there any standard APIs for authenticating an LJ/DW account? Is the XML-RPC interface the one I'm looking for?

Desired features - ability to access access-locked pages, ability to use an account's adult content settings.

(No sir, I am in no way considering writing the Android Instapaper client of my heart. I *promise.*)


epershand: An ampersand (Default)

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