WR A lot

Posted: 20th October 2019

Apparently this is the 12th one of these I've done and the 6th in a row. Don't know why I'm telling you that but it amused me. Anyway a lot of stuff this week so here goes.

To start (and in light of yesterday's Brexit vote[1]): I really enjoyed Nick Cohen's Have you heard of the catastrophic men theory of history? Step forward Boris Johnson.... From a historical theory point of view I assume most people work on a mix of the "Great Person" and "Historical Inertia" views (using which ever makes most sense for a specific incident). The addition of the "Catastrophic Leader" to this feels less useful but Boris Johnson is definitely deserving of a leading amongst them none-the-less.

Continuing the theme of politics What does PewDiePie really believe, an interview/bio by Kevin Roose. It's not the most gripping interview (it seems that PewDiePie doesn't really want to answer questions, which makes sense) and it certainly doesn't answer its own question but it is a pretty good history of the ur-YouTuber. This shines a light on the odd situation of the "apolitical gamer" and just how much work they're willing to put into not paying attention to politics. Which I think is the answer to the title: I guess PewDiePie believes he doesn't believe anything so can't understand why others read belief into his actions or words, I suspect this is a common thing and possibly a source of rage for many.

Next up is a YouTube video from a different YouTuber: Lindsay Ellis at XOXO. Talking about how she's dealt with the online harassment campaigns against her. It's a tough watch and obviously a tough talk for her to give. I'll also take this chance to plug her YouTube channel in general which I really enjoy for its deep dives into film criticism and theory.

Metropolis Meets Afrofuturism: The Genius of Janelle Monáe is a great look at Janelle Monáe's work by LaShawn M. Wanak. I've been a fan of Janelle's for the last year or so since a friend introduced me to the gloriously queer Pynk. Listening to the rest of her stuff and finding a lovely seam of afro-futurist story telling was a joy. This is a great write up of all of that.

One more on the "stuff I just like" theme: Holly Gramazio's Writing about MINIT but every minute I start from the beginning again, which seemed like a good gimmick when I began. I've not played the game, I'll probably pick it up soon, but it sounds a lot of fun and this is a fun review.

Last is Dear Startup: You have no idea how much that costs by Kyle Prifogle. Who I don't know and is probably lovely, he's trying to help and I agree with him on a lot here, but not his conclusions. I'm linking because his piece is of a genre I find particular annoying: "software development is some magical thing incapable of being bound by process". I understand the argument being made here: that too often estimates given by engineers are interpreted as something very different by managers. I also agree that time estimation is difficult[3] (this article, Why software projects take longer than you think – a statistical model, seems a reasonable explanation for some of why).

All that being said you can still give estimates (your managers will make them up otherwise and call them a deadline). Plenty of other disciplines deal with unknown-unknowns and top-down deadlines (e.g. art, engineering or science). Some deal with it better than others and it's rarely easy but it can be done. Doing it well though, takes effort and practice. You probably want to give several estimates (e.g. "all being well", "had to use plan B rather than A", "there was a horrible blocker that set us back weeks") and you want to be clear about them. You'll also want clarity from your managers as to what their deadlines mean (e.g. "no-one will really care", "that will cost us a bit", "this will now cost more than we can recoup: stop."). And when you do it you'll need to document it all and realise, once the dust has settled how wrong you were. Then you'll need to do it again (hopefully better). All of this needs good communication and trust and practice and patience which are hard. Some magic bullet "one trick to make good communication obsolete" will not do it.

[1]: Hooray! Boris lost again, shame it doesn't resolve anything but the continued shaming of Boris is the only joy I currently have in UK politics[2] [back]

[2]: The fact that he's in such a position to be shamed is a source of much sadness. [back]

[3]: for novel work its very hard due to unknown-unknowns. [back]

[4]: time estimation is hard. [back]