Conway’s law held in place by the Shirky principle

I had a good time at Devopsdays.  It’s been a few weeks, and two things are still near the surface of my thoughts.

  1. Conway’s law

    “Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” — Melvin Conway

  2. The Shirky principle.

    “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky

This leads me to the following:

Organizations have many teams and departments, each ostensibly required to build a complex system. These sub-divisions function to preserve themselves.

These two principles work together to produce something that’s very resistant to change. It’s even worse when the entrenched org prevents meaningful change in something new – such as a move to the cloud, adoption of devops or agile.

Put another way :

Companies build machinery (structure, people and tooling) to create software that become inflexible because the people that are the machinery hang on to their cog.

There is another factor keeping systems and organizations static:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

Change is hard, but change is inevitable.  Thinking on and trying to understand why it’s hard has helped me.

The catalysts for these thoughts:

Dan Slimmon‘s talk on Conway’s Law: The Skeleton Of Devops

Ian Malpass‘ talk  on Fallible humans: dealing with failure in the absence of scapegoats


Filed under software, work

Top 100 artists in my iTunes

Word cloud of top 100 artists

Top 100 Artists by plays


I made this with Wordle, it represents the top 100 artists in my iTunes library since mid-2005.  Wordle is really cool, two tips:  you must replace spaces with ~ and it doesn’t seem to handle the ‘&’ character at all.

I wish there was a way to get data on the last year.  The data just isn’t there – playcount is the only thing I can get.  I’m sure I played way more Black Keys than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in 2011.  I’d say 40% of my listening is podcasts – as evidenced by Chicago Public Radio making into to the top 100 artists.

Don’t judge me harshly on my music tastes.


Filed under music

Coolness as defined by Apple products owned

I work at a place where your level of cool is directly proportional to the level of Apple products owned.  There is some debate about the residual cool of say, owning 4 different models of ipod.  I tend to de-crap immediatly while my cast offs are still useful to others.  In fact my ipod touch was engraved “Stolen From: Kevin”.  I believe the guy that bought it found this too be at least a $20 value add.

I’ve had an explosion of apple at my house in 2008.  As you can see from my not-to-scale graph above, I’m getting pretty damn cool.  The quality and sophistication of my charts, graphs and other technical illustrations was been called ‘questionable’… So I chose tools fitting my level of expertise for this task.


Filed under Uncategorized

As You Like It

As You Like It, originally uploaded by kbb.

I bought this for $5 in an antique shop in Fargo, ND. I already have at least two copies… But this one was gorgeous and the quote in the inscription is fascinating, it’s from an 1894 lecture titled ‘Shakespeare. A lecture’. I think Judy fudged the last word, but I’m not going to fault her – I wish my friends inscribed books like that.
Here it is with a bit more context:

Shakespeare was an intellectual ocean, whose
waves touched all the shores of thought
; within
which were all the tides and waves of destiny and.
will ; over which swept all the storms of fate, ambi-
tion and revenge ; upon which fell the gloom and
darkness of despair and death and all the sunlight of
content and love, and within which was the inverted
sky lit with the eternal stars an intellectual ocean
-towards which all rivers ran, and from which now
the isles and continents of thought receive their dew
and rain. — Robert G. Ingersoll

The whole lecture is digitized and available online (this quote is from 73). I love the interweb, but I still think there is no substitue for a real book.


Filed under books

dy/dx of cool

Nothing is ever equal. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s also true that everything changes. I had a realization a few months ago, that most of my friends have blindingly cool spouses, who over time seem to get cooler. There are exceptions to every rule but I give you this chart as gospel truth.

Does anyone know what causes this phenomenon? I can think of a small handful of counter-examples, but they may be errors in judgement.


Filed under Uncategorized

Place your bets…

I’m pretty sure my car’s ‘hippy’ factor actually goes past 11. The burning question is:
How long will it take for someone to steal my magnet?
Place your bet by leaving a date in the comments. The closest one will win.

Obama magnet

Obama magnet

Other questions… will an Obama supporter steal it? or will some PF’er in town for the RNC throw it down a drain?


Filed under politics

Feast day of St. Kevin

I’m not catholic. I actually have no religious beliefs of any kind (aside from a deep believe that 8 spaces don’t make a tab). However, the catholics are no sillier than any other faith – particularly the Irish Catholics.

They celebrate the feast of St. Kevin on the Third of June.  I’m going to start celebrating annually.


Filed under Uncategorized

baked goods & corporate culture

I work for a small company – it’s no where near as uptight as some of the large publicly traded places I’ve worked.

The contrast is best shown with this snapshot from a tiny company’s employee potluck.

Baked Goods


Filed under Uncategorized

Marx was wrong

Marx, originally uploaded by kbb.

Mr. Little guy has never steered me wrong. Ever. For those of you from out of town if you have a burning question, I’ll drop it off for you.

I’ve asked this guy many things… But I lost most of them.


Filed under Uncategorized

Minneapolis stank water

There is something seriously wrong with the Minneapolis city water lately. Our fridge has a filter that takes care of it, but every restaurant in town has fishy nastiness in the water. For those members of my vast readership from out of town, imagine the smell of Amy Winehouse’s crotch on a hot day. It’s that bad.

At least there is no need to drink water – the current Summit seasonal is the best of the year.


Filed under Uncategorized