The dark craft of Engineering Managemet – Laura Thomson

I came across this wonderful post by Writer & veteren PHP developer Laura Thomson titled The dark craft of Engineering Management. Completely agree with her. Here are some excerpts that I liked in particular:

“Management is the craft of enabling people to get things done.”

Engineers, in general, know their jobs, to a greater or lesser extent.  My job, as an engineering manager, is to make their jobs easier.

Autonomy is the key to scaling yourself as an engineering manager.  As an engineer, I hate nothing more than being micromanaged.  As an engineering manager, my job is to communicate the goals and where we want to get to, and work with you to determine how we’re going to get there.  Then I’m going to leave you the hell alone to get stuff done.

Don’t become an engineering manager because you want power – that’s the worst possible reason.  A manager is a servant to their team.  Become a manager if you want to serve.

 

Online Privacy & National Security – A statement by Oxblood Ruffin

I had the pleasure to listen to Oxblood Ruffin at All India Privacy Symposium at New Delhi last week & was hugely impressed by the way he put the case for on-line privacy in very simple yet extremely persuasive words. I particularly liked the analogy between our virtual selves and our covered real selves. I have included the complete statement for the readers.

 The online citizenry of any country is part of its national security infrastructure. And the extent to which individual privacy rights are protected will determine whether democracy continues to succeed, or inches towards tyranny. The challenge then is to balance the legitimate needs of the state to secure its sovereignty with protecting its most valuable asset: The citizen.

It has become trite to say that 9/11 changed everything. Yet it is as true for the West as it is for the global South. 9/11 kickstarted the downward spiral of individual privacy rights across the entire Internet. It also ushered in a false dichotomy of choice, that in choosing between security and privacy. It was privacy that had adapt to the new realities, or so we’ve been told.

Lets examine some of the fallacies of this argument.

* The false equation. Many argue that we must give up privacy to ensure security. But no one argues the opposite. We needn’t balance the costs of surveillance over privacy, because rarely banning a security measure protects privacy. Rather, protecting privacy typically means that government surveillance must be subjected to judicial oversight and justification of the need to surveil. In most cases privacy protection will not diminish the state’s effectiveness to secure itself.

* The deference argument. Security advocates insist that the courts should defer to elected officials when evaluating security measures. But when the judiciary weighs privacy against surveillance, privacy almost always loses. Unless the security measures are explored for efficacy they will win every time, especially when the word terrorism is invoked. The courts must take on a more active role to balance the interests of the state and its citizens.

* The war time argument. Security proponents argue that the war on terror requires greater security and less privacy. But this argument is backwards. During times of crisis the temptation is to make unnecessary sacrifices in the name of security. In the United States, for example, we saw that Japanese-American internment and the McCarthy-era witch-hunt for Communists was in vain. The greatest challenge for safeguarding privacy comes during times when we are least inclined to protect it. We must be willing to be coldly rational and not emotional during such times.

We are often told that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. This is the most pervasive argument the average person hears. But isn’t privacy a little like being naked? We might not be ashamed of our bodies but we don’t walk around naked. Being online isn’t so different. Our virtual selves should be as covered as our real selves. It’s a form of personal sovereignty. Being seen should require our consent, just as in the real world. The state has no business taking up the role of Peeping Tom.

I firmly believe that the state has a right and a duty to secure itself. And I equally believe that its citizens are entitled to those same rights. Citizens are part of the national security infrastructure. They conduct business; they share information; they are the benefactors of democratic values. Privacy rights are what, amongst others, separate us from the rule of tyrants. To protect them is to protect and preserve democracy. It is a fight worth dying for, as so many have done before us.

Thank you.

Oxblood Ruffin

You can follow Oxblood on Twiitter @Oxbloodruffin

Underdo Your Competition – on building web apps by David Heinemeier Hansson

I am reading one of DHH’s old book “Getting Real“. It is a really nice book explaining nice principles on building a killer web app. He emphasizes on building less rather than more. Building less features but doing them extremely well. I am quoting him here as it is:Getting Real

Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competitors you need to one-up them. If they have four features, you need five (or 15, or 25). If they’re spending x, you need to spend xx. If they have 20, you need 30.

This sort of one-upping Cold War mentality is a dead-end. It’s an expensive, defensive, and paranoid way of building products. Defensive, paranoid companies can’t think ahead, they can only think behind. They don’t lead, they follow.

So what to do then? The answer is less. Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to everyone else. Instead of oneupping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

Facebook for BlackBerry

Facebook web applications are extremely popular but the Facebook desktop app often don’t get enough attention they deserve. Here are some of the apps that I have been using. Facebook app for BlackBerry is very useful in particular. Facebook widget for Netvibes and Facebook for flock are also worth checking.

Hooked on Facebook®? BlackBerry® smartphones can help! Now you can take Facebook with you on your BlackBerry smartphone! The best part is: you stay connected to Facebook the whole time. Download this free application and take communicating with your friends to a whole new level.

The Netvibes Widget allows users to view their Facebook profile and friends from their personalized Netvibes homepage.

Google Pack Adds StarOffice

via Google Operating System

Google Pack, the collection of applications recommended by Google, includes a new software: StarOffice, an office suite developed by Sun. In 2000 Sun released StarOffice’s source code, which became the foundation of OpenOffice.org, an open source project sponsored by Sun.