The Principle of Least Surprises and Stakeholder Management

One thing people often get wrong about software work is stakeholder management, and one thing people get wrong about stakeholder management is minimizing surprises. This is actually pretty simple. There’s a design principle known as the Principle of Least Surprises (or Astonishment), which generally states that the behavior of a product should not surprise users.Continue reading “The Principle of Least Surprises and Stakeholder Management”

Things To Do Before And After You Write Code

The most effective engineers I’ve worked with were effective not just because of how they wrote code, but because of things they did when they were not writing code. Here’s my (growing) short list of things you should do before or after you write code. Before Understand what you’re building. Do you have specs orContinue reading “Things To Do Before And After You Write Code”

Disrespectful Design, Part II

What can you do, as a builder, if your job seems to require to employ disrespectful design patterns? What is Disrespectful Design First, it’s worth rehashing what Disrespectful Design is. I think there are a few common dimensions: It’s adversarial. It puts the needs of the product (or the company building the product) clearly aheadContinue reading “Disrespectful Design, Part II”

Poetry, Essays, and Code That Lets you Get on with Your Day

A lot of people talk compare good code to poetry. Poetry is generally: Elegant and enjoyable to read. Clever. Of variable information density. Sometimes, a line of poetry can contain multiple meanings. Sometimes, it’s more verbose. Subjective and potentially ambiguous. Different people reading the same poem might interpret it differently. But often, good code shouldContinue reading “Poetry, Essays, and Code That Lets you Get on with Your Day”

How to Creatively Solve Problems as a Non-Creative Person

In general, there are two ways to be good at something. You can be born with it (be “a natural”), or you can learn how to get good at it. The mistake I see a lot of people make when they want to get good at something is to find “a natural” and ask themContinue reading “How to Creatively Solve Problems as a Non-Creative Person”

The Hidden Structural Costs of Incompetence

It is costly to have incompetence in your organization. This is obvious. Someone is not performing or delivering at a high level, your product or service suffers, your business suffers. It is also obvious that as a secondary effect, your team suffers. Other people have to work harder to correct mistakes and pick up theContinue reading “The Hidden Structural Costs of Incompetence”

Why Is Cloud Infrastructure So Complicated?

Most modern software teams have no choice but to spend a lot of effort on their infrastructure, often spinning up entire teams to do so (and sometimes placing their best engineers on those teams). How did cloud infrastructure get so complicated? Why is AWS such a hot mess of insane configurability and complexity? I ponderContinue reading “Why Is Cloud Infrastructure So Complicated?”

Why All Engineers Must Understand Management: The View from Both Ladders

Something interesting has been happening as I’ve been trying to write more about engineering management. When I wrote advice about micromanaging for managers, a few friends asked me about how to deal with their (micro)manager, so I wrote about how to handle your manager. The latter piece seemed to be a lot more useful. IContinue reading “Why All Engineers Must Understand Management: The View from Both Ladders”

“VC Brain”—Dissecting Investor Behavior

Why do so many Venture Capitalists act like assholes? They don’t respond to your email, even though they promised to. When they do, it’s incredibly terse and lacking in punctuation and capitalization (turns out, they only like one type of “capitalization”, the one that sits on tables). Sometimes they ghost you. If you pitch them,Continue reading ““VC Brain”—Dissecting Investor Behavior”

Disagree and Commit And Prove Yourself Wrong

One management principle I’ve found really powerful is “disagree and commit”, but I’ve often found that it can be easily misapplied. Let’s first define what the disagree and commit principle is. Here’s Jeff Bezos in Amazon’s 2016 Letter to Shareholders describing the idea: Use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lotContinue reading “Disagree and Commit And Prove Yourself Wrong”