Myth-ing Time

There is a general myth about time and it has been remarked on at great length but I thought I'd throw in my tuppennies (two pennies) worth for good measure.

*The Average:
Ten men take 40 hours each to dig a hole, therefore the hole takes approximately 400 man hours to dig

*The Pros:
Three strapping professional diggers take 65 hours each to dig the same hole, ergo the hole is 195-400 man hours deep

*The Managed Team:
Sixty managers take 15 meetings of 2hrs, 60 consulatncy sessions of 1 hour, 18 business lunches of 3hrs and a trade review lasting 20 weeks by 6 men at 30hrs a week to decide to dig the hole, which is 3744 hours, they then appoint Twenty men to work 45hrs, taking 900hrs making the job 4644hrs. Ergo the hole is now between 195-4644 man hours deep

*The Machine Solution:
A machine manufacturer build a digger that takes 1hr to dig the hole. the official specs state that it does approximately 250 man hours per hour, the marketing promotion claims that is does 3000+ man hours per hour saving you the job of employing 3000 people. A company buys the digger, sacks its 3000 professional diggers and gets 6 months behind on its projects in the first 2 weeks.

I was talking to a couple of friends about the number of hours I had worked one day, and he was comparing it to the numbers of hours he worked in a general week, you know this type of conversation and you know where it goes and how it leads to a general pissing contest with each stating how much longer, or harder, they have to work.

Me: Wow I had a seventeen hour day yesterday as I absolutely had to get that work done.
Friend #1: That's nothing I had to work seventy-five hours last week and I will most likely do the same this week.
Friend #2: Yeah, well me and him (he indicates #3) had to do a thirty hour shift to move some server code.
Friend #3: And we stayed up all day after that to wind down and chat
Me: Well I have done a thirty-four hour shift
Friend #1: I had to work for three months at sixteen hour days without a break

(And as we strayed into Monty Python territory)

Friend #3: That's nothing I once had to do one hundred hour weeks when I was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.
Friend #2: That's nothing, I was once trapped in a Chinese brick works where I worked for sixteen years at twenty hours a day on a stale crust and a cup of water each week.
Me: Luxury, I had to single handedly build the great pyramids at Giza….

Now this particular conversation is in fact fictional (well except for the bit about the pyramids), but I am sure that you recognise it. We have come to place a value not on what we do at work, but on how long we are physically doing it.

I began to think about this in the light of my office. Primarily there are three of us who work out of the same office, and it is a moot point to some of the people I talk to how much we actually do work out of it as our office hours are a little odd.

There is no imposed regime for times, I generally work nine to five at the office and then at home on some evenings, early mornings and weekends. My companions will work twenty-hour shifts, or do three days at eleven hours each day and then work a Saturday/Sunday at home. Sometimes they will work for two days solid and not leave the office at all. On occasion, and it does happen, so do I. We don't impose a flexi-time or a standard work time, we work to what we find comfortable and effective for ourselves and our lifestyle. This has caused friction in the past, both internally and externally (clients) as there is no set regime for contact and reciprocation, but once you settle into it, the system works very well.

For instance most offices on a diet of 9-5 – mon-fri, may have a regular time for contact but what do you do if you are out of those hours and need someone, what do you do if you are in a different time zone? We have found that because we all work different hours and times of the day, and because we all work on different days of the week, with Sunday being about the only day when we try not to work, we generally cover seventeen-eighteen hours of each day from Mon-Saturday. Many of our clients are between 6-9hrs displaced from us, so this works really well for them, but we would do it if our clients were in the same time zone. The basic point is that we can be contacted (usually in a text manner) at most times of the day and someone will usually reply within a hour or two. It may not always be the person you needed but it will be someone who can take a message and pass it on.

This flexible working also leads to a much more comfortable working environment. We don't usually feel pressured to come into work at a certain time. As long as the work is done and the clients are happy we generally don't mind. This means we are rarely involved in the general exodus of frustration that is the rush hour traffic. It also means that we have all become comfortable about the amount of work each person can be considered to be doing at any one time. Like the mythical man hours above we can vary between the professional diggers and the managed team without much concern as to what the others think as we have come to accept that this is a part of a normal working lifestyle. No one runs at the pace of the professional worker all the time without burning themselves to a crisp, and many of us know that in our working life we often stray into the managed team with surprising ease.

So, aside from industries where regular working hours and shifts are essential (it would be crap if everyone at your local A&E decided not to come into work on a Monday morning) the flexible time based approach does work. In a larger organisation it should be possible to use flexible schedules to allow 24hr coverage yet still give staff flexible working hours. It is not beyond the realms of reason to imagine that people would like to occasionally arrive at lunch time or leave at midnight, most staff would stick to a general routine as that's how their lives are composed. What I have found it brings is a greater devotion to work when you set your time to do it. So I may arrive late one day and finish early, but when I am there I dig that hole in 200hrs, and for the weeks where i trudge through my nine to five routine as a lesson to prove it can be done, well for those times I set up meetings, business lunches and consultations on hours worked and goals achieved to ensure tht i dig that hole in the time I have allotted for it 😉



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Vintage QotD: Here Comes The Bride

What was the last wedding you went to?  Were you in the wedding?

Hmmm, gosh, hard, well I married Satrkitten in July of this year and that was the last wedding I went to. I was the groom, which placed me almost to the centre, welll a little-right of the centre-of-the-occasion (and attraction, universe, equation, whatever).

So you can see the images I posted to the wedding photo section or look below 😛

Wedding - Photographer_s Pictures - 9
Wedding - Photographer_s Pictures - 22

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So why no note

So, I haven't blogged much lately, or at all. Generally it is because of an increased level of work and organisation created from getting married in a few days time.
And right at this moment all I can actually think of is all the things that I need to finish before the big day, which isn't entirely inspiring me to wrtie anything at all.
Anyway, I did feel that the lack of blogging was sad and that I should write something and that then I developed massive writing block and couldn't actually work out what exactly I was doing and why i was typing. In fact this just turned into a long series of murbles from a man who has totally lost his brain.


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Innocent or Gulpie?

CAUTION: the following rant may contain random inaccuracies and wild speculation and is not to be taken as the literal truth (though if anyone would care to weigh in on how we are able to obtain literal truth from anecdotal evidence I would be glad to hear it). This is in fact an interpretation and response to a conversation which contains elements of an interpretive nature (which can translate as "people make sh*t up when they are telling a story as it adds dramatic narrative").

I was approached by a smoothie-groupie last night, I say approached but I know them quite well so actually I was latched on to and held, for my interpretation and opinion on a particular argument that had come under their gaze at it concerned a said company and their recent announcements and the furore of reaction this has caused.

So let me give you a brief overview of the company and the argument before I carry on with what the groupie was groping for :0

The smoothie company in question does a nice line in real fruit soft drinks. they have no artificial flavours or colours, great taste and are fairly ethically minded for a business. They contribute to the community and the environment with good hiring practices and a strong lean towards improving the recyclability of their processes and products. They have won numerous awards including awards for the good treatment of their staff. Many people like their products and are enthusiastic about the ethos and attitude of the company.

So the argument:

the smoothie company has recently announced a deal with a large fast food chain. this chain has been seeking to improve its image and the range of products it offers to keep its market position and to prevent further negative portrayal.

The response has been two-fold:

Firstly the company and those who seek to continue to support are claiming that this bold move is a positive influence on the well-being of the fast food seeking populace as it will add balance into their diet and more choice of healthy meals at their favourite eatery.

Secondly, some people see this as a sell-out by the company and that they are degrading themselves by climbing into bed with a hungry giant who only seeks to destroy the world with their fat-laced obesity-causing meat products.

Some of these people have gone even further by declaring they will never touch the smoothie companies product again, and in the case of one person who was so incensed they instantly poured their smoothie away. Lucky they had one to hand when they heard and what a waste of a smoothie, I cannot imagine how further wastage is a proof of moral superiority.

Which is principally what these two arguments are, who has the moral superiority. I was asked by the said smoothie-groupie for my response.

I opted for the third way, more loosely known as "my own answer".

My answer was that the company in question is not a charity. When whomever set the company into existence they did so with the intention of making a profit.

(Now there is a call for why this can be a bad thing even if we ignore the Marxist/Communist argument there is a view about profits being a bad reason for production and that the pursuit of greater profits leads to a degradation of product and consumer (but I am not going to discuss that here).)

The company charges a good price for their product, in fact they charge between 130 pence (£1.30) and 200 pence (£2) for what amounts to flavored water through the product range to a handful of pressed fruit in an approximately 300ml bottle. This charge can be increased by some purveyors but it still accounts to between £5-7 pounds per litre of fruit drink.

This is not entirely good value for a small bottle of water, in fact it is quite an expensive way to obtain fruit, one apple, one banana and a pint of water has the same nutritional value, with the advantage of being more filling and costs about a quarter of the price.

So, contrary to the perceived notion by smoothie-groupies and the inconsequential idiots seeking a set of morals and viewpoints as they don't have the backbone to construct their own; the company in question is in fact perfectly justified in its approach. It is following the same course it did when it was set up, that is to provide a product at a cost that leaves it able to maintain its position and increase its output in proportion to its ambitions. In other words it is doing what every company like it wants to do, it is being successful. Not only that it is keeping exactly the same moral stance.

Yes, they may be aligning with a perceived monster in order to alter the ethos from within.

yes they may be continuing their marketing spin about ethical approaches. And, yes, I can give you a hundred reasons why both of those are b*ll*cks, and I could probably give you a hundred why they are valued.

But it doesn't matter as the company is doing no different to what it has always done. So this recent reaction by the two camps is completely pointless. The companies in question have in fact changed very little in terms of their structural approach to business, they have simple re-organised in order to survive in a fluctuating marketplace built on shifting perceptions.

Hence the spinning. Hence the deals. Hence the reaction and counter-argument.

AFTER CAUTION: So, if anyone feels this is invalidated by that fact that it was a story, or that there was speculation and third-hand telling of someone's possible actions or words, then you are missing the point, this rant was about the perception of argument and the need to think around the discussion and present your own thoughts.

PLEA: Please leave a comment after reading this, go on, be the first to do so, I haven't had any yet and that makes me sad 🙁

AFTER PLEA: Okay that was wheedling and manipulative. have you not left a comment yet?

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Happenstance to illuminate a vernacular with archaic lexification is so quaint


I am perceived as a wordmonger

For the phlegmatic, autocratic, I hunger

In as mellifluous tone

Onwards I drone

Because I don't get any younger

I can even be tiresomely described as a verbiator, which sounds like a Prodigy song:

I'm a verbiator, twisted lexicator, yeah

I'm a word-addicted, twisted educator

lexicate the verbiator, twisted verbiator

"Don'na du Anglish, as wurds as bad fur us all as it twists ur littal mindz rund and rund…"

Good morning one and all and welcome to the cheap seats where you have the wet and wild view of a man so lacking of a coherent thought it is like watching an epileptic disphasic during an acid flashback. So, and anyway, what's it all about Alfie? Not a lot really, in a weird mood and just wanted to jot some stuff that randomly floated into my mind.

Insane in the mainframe, a written spew of dialogue and paraphrase that is vaguely edited or maybe that should be remotely edited by a bloke called Bob from the little town of Swiftpiddle-on-the-Marsh.

"I clear my mind of the random crap that is floating below the level of consciousness so that I can amuse you for a brief moment, a passing minute of your time."


"Yes, for there is a belief that if we empty the consciousness of clutter we can access the pure reasoning that floats like a three week dead sturgeon in the depths of our subconscious."

"Float in the depths? Really, that's a nice mixture of imagery."

"I'm glad you think so."

"So, are these icy-depths?"

"No, I wouldn't have thought so, icy depths cannot quite describe the bleak blackness of inner space one achieves in the vast reaches of the abyss."


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Hubrisitation on your moribundity…

Hubrisitation on your moribundity


R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I'm the CEO of an SME

You open the door and step through the window of reality into a land where the trees grow down and the sun sets like a jelly in a fridge. At last you see the value in forms and regulations, of the minutiae of governmental organisations and their repetitive acquisition of information. You clap at the endless stream of brown envelopes with franked stamps and paper clips. No, you're not on drugs nor have you sustained a bump to the head you have in fact entered…"The Managerial Zone".…

Internet startups, software consultancies, software houses, yada…yada… all usually contain the same set of internal dynamics. A small group of people who decide (foolishly, those poor deluded children) that they can make a 'go of things' outside of the constraints of larger organisations or corporate strictures. Often they are almost entirely a technical team, there will be the, occasionally confusing, mix of talents and abilities and one of them will be given the role of manager. Like me, that's you.

So what is the principal problem that you'll face?

Is it…getting people to obey your instructions…

No. they will either do it or not do it dependent on circumstance and nature of the person asked, so don't fight battles for your right to rule.

Or…making the workers part of a team…

If you have to 'make' someone part of a team then there is a fundamental problem. Teams, relationships and groups form by themselves in human interaction* so you cannot force someone to be part of one, or force others in an existing team or group to accept them (*A cheap term and I know there is a lot of learned manner and distinct forces for relationships in this, but this is not going to turn into a discussion on the nature/nurture aspects of social and cultural experiences or on human need for extended family/familial interaction).

You can encourage people to work together, and you can try to make it a level playing field with methods for discussion of team focus, a neutrality of position when it comes to complaints and compliments and etc. (to be discussed later perhaps). You can appoint a team leader, or group co-coordinator or any other titled position to provide a core direction. But, you cannot force people to like it, or to participate freely unless you allow them a little more freedom. So in real terms you don't really make teams, you put people together and add some salt, place them in a hot pan of sizzling butter and simmer until they burn. Though occasionally they caramelize and you have a great tasting dish.

Perhaps…achieving the company goals….

ROFLMAO…Seriously, I will cover this elsewhere. Not only is it a different discussion, but it is a pointless one as no-one truly has the answer to it. Those that do are selling you something 😛

Okay before I take too long I will tell you. it is getting someone's respect. As it says in the alternative title. So how do you do that?

Simple. You don't. They give you their respect. You earn it by being good at what a manager really does.

A lot of people see their manager as the pointless b*stard in the suit, who turns up when he feels like it and sends irritating messages about tardiness and focus. A person who decides to have group forming and team-building days doing something he would like to do without asking his staff. They often discuss people freely, yet prohibit that type of communication unless they started it. they are in fact SFFA.

Small businesses are different to this as there is often a lot of work for a manager as well. The person appointed as manager will often be expected to be part of the work teams and to answer all the irritating paperwork and do the unimportant stuff like banking, accountancy, payroll, the mediocre stuff that stops you getting sued, imprisoned or going bankrupt. They also have to interact with the clients. It is a job with 24/7 stress and little fiscal reward in the first few years. It is a huge challenge and many people think this gains them respect when they do this, and they do it on time and without 'too much' complaint.

Well, that does gain you some respect, but it isn't what a manager (or mangler as a child recently called me) really does to gain true respect.

So what does?

The answer is easy… a manager supports his staff.

He doesn't just support them by listening to their complaints, helping them if they have problems, defending their work or their rights, and a host of other obvious examples that are the core of being a manager. He also supports them in small ways.

Recently we moved office. Since we are a small company that involved me doing the majority of the moving of the office. I could have ordered the rest of the staff to help and they may have grudgingly come, or they may have been willing, or they might have told me to stick my head in a bucket of badger's sick, we're an easy going gaggle of gits, that can happen. As it was, they were busy, so I (with the help of part-time staff and friends) moved the office and did the round of paperwork and other minutiae (and there is a lot of it) involved in doing this.

During the move I bought a new kettle/fridge/toaster/coffee machine for the office (as requested when we discussed what we needed collectively). but, I also bought something else, a small thing really. I put a new coffee mug on each person's desk, that I chose to fit the staff member. A nothing thing really, I was in a shop that sold kitchen things getting the paraphernalia that accompanies said electrical items, and I thought it would be a nice gift for the new office.

This earned me kudos. In fact it probably bounced up my karma with my staff more than paying them on time does.


Simple really. it wasn't needed, it wasn't asked for, and it wasn't expected. But it shows that I think about my staff as people not as part of a company, or a team, or a project, or a goal. But as living and breathing individuals that I should invest in as much as I do a new computer or a profitable client.

I also tend to be in the office more than the other staff. Being a company where the only equipment you truly need is a computer and a net connection, my staff have the freedom to work from wherever they wish. Also we have a number of clients in different time zones so we work odd hours sometimes. This isn't a problem but it means that the office can be empty for a few days and then full. I always make sure to buy coffee, biscuits, tea, and to empty the bins so that they can come into the office at any time of the day or night and work without needing to face those minor problems. Trust me on this, you will earn more love from a staff member who needs to snack at 4 a.m. in the morning with no nearby convenience stores if you leave biscuits in the office than if you take them paintballing on a team-building exercise.

Not that you shouldn't also do the team-building 'thang' as that sounds fun as well. But it is the constant little things you do that mean more to your staff, and it is when they miss you when you're not there and support you without question in return, that says how much you are needed and respected.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, know you know what it means to me…

A little background history for shits and giggles…

I am a literature graduate who also studied education and linguistics as part of my joint honours, I worked as a typesetter (editorial staff) and designer in a publishing house for many years before learning flash, html and css to do the SB website (and to experience the pain of coding for different browsers). My technical knowledge then extends to a good background in science fiction and the adherence to standards in mark-up languages, with a fine grounding in stylesheets. Not a heavyweight I'll grant you, but I have learned a great deal about the way languages and frameworks join together, templates and user interfaces so I am not entirely unnecessary in the technical work as I do a lot of work on the client-side of the frameworks.

My business partner and I decided to take the plunge and form a company in 2005 when we realised we worked well together and that he could handle the technical direction we wanted to follow and I was capable of the business side (my half has yet to be proved ;P ).

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Stephie and Mike’s wedding Day 5th may 2007

One of my oldest (in that I have known her for eons though she remains terminaly youthful while I squander the passing moments in the pursuit of my dotage) and most adorable friends, Stephie, was married today to the quite dandiferous Michael. (So you must be wondering about that new word, so wonder, I like it, dandiferous sounds like a term to apply to Danby Minsk who is of course my phantom child).

They make a lovely couple.

I think, even through my current beer haze denies any serious cogitation, that I am the first person to blog their union and to post piccies, and here they are. My best wishes…lovely couple…interesting bouquet…yada yada, I already said it to them I don't need to repeat it here, on with the images.

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In search of a Holy Allegory

"Holy metaphorical connundrum Batman!" the Boy Wonder exclaimed exclaimingly, "how can we emphasize the point to the client without yet another mis-appropriated allusion that he doesn't understand?"
"I'm not sure," replied the Caped Crusader pondering the ponderable in a pensive manner. "Though perhaps…"
He spun and confronted the Capracious Client
"it's easy you villanous fiend," intoned the black masked hero, "building your site is like constructing a house. All houses are built differently though many of them use an exact same pattern and the same pre-fabricated parts and construction methods and…"
"Holy wandering allusion," moaned Robin as yet another metaphor rained down like a house on fire.

Okay, so we've all been there. You build a framwework for the client who is prepared to waste months to-ing and fro-ing a design based on just the right shade of vermillion to a bunch of low-life interface skinners (like me); comfortably burning into both the budget and the time to complete the project when you come to the final pieces.
These can be anything from the shipping model to the shopping cart or payment processor, or perhaps it is the packaging types – it doesn't matter. What does matter are the words: "heck, every business like mine has one of these, why can't we buy something 'off the shelf' or adapt an existing one?"
Now you know the answer is really quite simple, and as you mentally put the hammer quietly down and reconstruct the clients mangled body in your thoughts, you smile politely and try to explain it to them.
Except of course you cannot.
Well…. you can….
You can tell them about data models and hooks to code and logic processes and the many other elements that have been custom built and uniquely implemented onto their pretty interface to actually make the site work (using the new way they required), and then you could get a bucket and scoop the melted remains of their brain into it and funnel it back up their nose.
Or you could search, as our eponymous heroes might, for the next best thing, a real-world metaphor or allegorical situation to give them. Except, like many prophets have found, these do not always work. I always liked the parable of the lost sheep myself, go away do wtf you like as long as you return right at the end and say sorry I love you God, you're safe. Hamlet hated that clause. But it does show that a message can be lost as it is not always the allegory that's wrong it is how people interpret it.
So what can we do, well the answer is not a lot really. Search for the best allusions and metaphors we can and share them is about the best I can come up with. So here we go, an I have thought of and seem interesting as to why custom elements have to be used even if there is similar technology to be bought 'off the shelf' so to speak. If I think of more I'll let you know.

The Conveyor/Escalator
Imagine that every site is in fact a gold mine (or diamond/steel whatever you like), now the mines all use the same techniques for digging, the same tools and the same processes for extracting their ore and they all use conveyor belts for transferring that ore and pumps to keep the mine dry. But, they are all different shapes, in different rock and at different depths, so the mining companies do not in fact buy standard conveyors and standard pumps and adapt them, as they will either end up with more than they need which is wasteful or end up with an inadequate solution. Both of these will result in lost profits or dead miners, both of which are disastrous. So mines have custom built conveyors and pumps, the principles are the same but the exact equipment is different.

You can even use a real world example of this to explain why sometimes it takes so long to fix or ammend custom created code by referrring to the refurbishment of the London Underground escalators which took many years as the originals were very old and were custom built to size and purpose.

Some shops and mass produced buildings do have standard fit designs, but these are generally less-favoured both by architects and engineers as they are an unwelcomed compromise in terms of creativity and flexibility of design and construction.

If you start to compromise your entire construction just to use regular repeated elements you will not only build an inadequate item but will suffer from looking like every other of that type in existence and loose the edge of being individual.

It is important to draw allusion to the fact that like a mass-mining project their site is engineered, we do not have 'off the shelf' solutions for mines, bridges, motorway projects, etc. Any large and complex undertaking requires planning and construction of many elements individually, even if those elements are shared with other constructions of the same type. Internet sites and applications are no different to these undertakings.

At this point my mind has wandered to the many CMS systems and design-a-site-php-alike stuff that is pouring out atm and I would like to distinguish that what I discussed above was not the mass low-level estate housing that these programs cater to (albeit in some cases extraordinarily well and in others truly badly). I was in fact discussing rather grander undertakings and before I wander to the intracacy of design and magnifiscence of soul or ascendents used in their constructions I will leave it here.

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