Wednesday 23 May 2012

Don’t light my fuse

In the fabulously funny (I may be overselling it) Mystery Men, the hapless heroes are brought together by the shadowy Sphinx; scrum master by day, crime fighter by night, a figure whose aphorisms inspire his team to save the city from Prince Practitioners. Judge for yourself:
He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions.
To summon your power for the conflict to come, you must first have power over that which conflicts you.
When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack.
I’m psyched. I’m exaggerating. The Sphinx, as far as I’m aware, isn’t an Agile consultant; though sometimes my Twitter feed suggests he could be. A 140 character per-post social networking service does tend to encourage brevity, tending to meaningless. It’s harmless enough, and within all the chaff there’s an occasional nugget. It is - and I wish I didn’t feel the need to say this - in no way indicative of the worth of this set of development methods, as Twitter is in no way indicative of the worth of anything. It makes me smile, if not always in the way intended. Sometimes it makes me frown:
Legacy maintenance is nothing but a pay-cheque. Sustaining a healthy, talented team of engineers in that arid environment is impossible.
Now there’s a statement that troubles in a multitude of ways, it’s a dead-end, a mixture of obvious, worthless and insulting. “Obvious” because we learn nothing in being told certain tasks aren’t that enjoyable; you might as well comment children are our future and fun things are... erm... fun. “Worthless” as one definition for legacy is any live software (I read that on Twitter!) and therefore most projects would require, bar the first iteration, some level of “legacy maintenance” - how do we live with ourselves? “Insulting” since telling those who do such work they’re only in it for the money, and (unintentionally?) insinuating they have no ability, isn’t very helpful. It doesn't progress the subject. It’s also bollocks. It’s a cul-de-sac of thought; at worst a “talented people don’t do these kind of jobs”, at best a “some jobs are more enjoyable than others”; well, you don’t say, but they still need to be done. Just what kind of world do we seek; one that would ghettoise certain types of work, or one where all can contribute, and all contributions are valued?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Police misuse of the English language is “criminal”

The Home Secretary Theresa May, speaking at the Police Federation's annual conference, did so in front of a stage bearing the slogan “Cutting Police by 20% is criminal”. Literally speaking this isn’t true, but of course this is wilful ignorance on my part; it’s a play on a word, though its passive-aggressive tone serves a purpose – to discourage debate.

The Police don’t want to discuss how a 20% cut might be achieved, because their most recent complaints have included how much time they spend doing paperwork. Some of this, they claim, is the result of cuts to back-office administrative staff, presumably to keep up the headline number of the boys and girls in blue.

I share this concern, and as I want to help might I suggest one obvious measure? Since it is cheaper to employ someone trained for admin work in an admin role, we can save money without affecting those on the ‘front line’ by making the highly trained (and expensive) police officer – the one his/her Federation says is stuck at a desk - redundant.

Saturday 5 May 2012

It’s useful to know what you’re voting for

If there’s one lesson to be learnt on the referendum held in 10 cities on whether to have directly elected mayors, it’s this: it’s useful to know what you’re voting for; because without detail on what the job entails, voters will justifiably question the need for any change. In a Guardian article, Chris Game from the Institute of Local Government (INLOGOV) comments that in mayoral meetings the two issues that came up were “what additional powers would a mayor have and how do we kick out a deadbeat?” I don’t doubt it and the “Yes” campaign are right to be disappointed in not having an answer to give, but earlier in the same article we’re told:
It was thought white, working-class communities in Birmingham were most opposed to what they saw as another layer of politicians.
Quite who “it was thought” by isn’t made clear, and neither is why “white working-class” people are singled out, let alone identified as a community. Only kidding, this is The Guardian; lumpen profiling a speciality. Never mind the perfectly reasonable concerns at another layer of bureaucracy, it’s as if the idea of replacing one layer with another hasn’t even been considered by INLOGOV, though one supposes that might result in biting the hand that feeds it.