Risk

Fundamentally: Change control.

My professional raison d'etre is the process of creation and change to information systems. If you aren't currently expanding or creating information products or facilities, you have no reason to pay me.

Risk. And management thereof.

Most of what I do professionally is easing-in the presence of tomorrow, now. Everything is setup for delayed gratification. This is fundamentally staring risk in the face with a big smile and starting hostile negotiation. The opposing side has an entrenched position, all the weapons and wins the majority of the time. Risk.

Risk, what can you loose?

Perception of risk changes with experience, not that failures are observed more likely, but failures are deemed less acceptable. If you don't have a dependants or assets to be responsible for; you have more freedom for change and are more likely to gain from it.
It is a function of ageing that the initially aggressive and risk-taking younger male, starts being more conservative, and avoiding risk, or change. The older model feels whatever they have is the only thing they may get, so why complicate things? There are many more aggressive younger developers who become managers as they get older, avoiding the risk of needing to work so many hours. I personally am in the mid point between the two age groups, I have long term investments, but I favour freedom of tactical movement.
This text is relating to both personal philosophy and my presence in the corporate environment, regarding developmental activities. I am paid to manage risk and add to your intellectual property and wealth - not confusing wealth with financial assets. I personally do reach out for new technologies, approaches and platforms. There is little new under the sun, but the cost of creating each given thing is likely to fall each year as the level of available infrastructure increases.

Example 1 : Technically there were content editing and managing systems equivalent to a Wikipedia (just the content editing, without the normal user access and all the hyperlink/ “wikiwords” support) many years ago. Wiki raw text does strongly resemble GROFF macros, which are the language that man pages are written in. There is a second help and documentation system called info which has a better correlation of the data tree structure and linkages.
When this earlier system (man pages on mainframes) was first released, you would need to sign a multi-million dollar invoice for mainframe, wait six months for it to arrive, then sign a significant support contract (to protect against it ever breaking, being a very valuable asset). Few units where sold.
The site you reading this page in was assembled on the amount of money most people spend on a night out. The actual page rendering code will be released for public use on completion of all the features, no fee. The majority of the time invested was focusing on English, rather code.
Example 2 : Very early in the progress of dynamic web-pages, a developer made a HTML animation of a falling astronaut. This was to run against an early build of the newest web-browser, an early build of netscape4. This was before PHP was a mature development environment, and significantly pre-dating AJAX. It should be noted he wasn't doing this with a GIF animation, which was stable technology, it was mostly in HTML and Javascript. I do not have the developers project notes, but I estimate he worked on it over a month. I regret that I am unable to get a reference for animation, if you have it, please mail me and I will update this article.
Today I would loose a day to do the initial figure drawing (manual creative activity unchanged by the technology), but I am confident a second day would cover everything, project admin to satirical remarks the astronaut was making. If I was doing web animation more frequently I am sure that cost could be halved again.

Risk. Can you actually afford that?

I favour living in small properties of comparatively modest value. This allows a higher percentage of my income to activities rather than repayment on mortgages. Other people have successfully done huge changes in living conditions, watch the grand designs series as an example.

Example 3
At the point a bunch of disorganised religious revisionists, traitors, and petty criminals where attempting to redefine themselves as a centre of democracy and expunge all previous (generally peaceful and relaxed) native organisations; one of the displaced tribes took the risk of lower prolonged physical danger, loosing their native fertile swampy forests, by a long march into a arid near-desert. By any sane measure, the existing tribal organisations held authority and so land “ownership”, although they lacked the concept. In the long march, significant numbers of the tribe died due to illness, malnutrition and general hardship. The tribes risked loosing their own home and way-of-life, and difficult and dangerous journey in exchange for a low value unused territory.
Just as a point of discussion, the trek the tribe walked would be meaningless today; but could be done comfortably inside a week without so much as a chipped finger nail.

What is it one lives for?

However much I like making things, objets d'art, elegant and beautiful artefacts, the majority of my professional existence is unrelated to this. Many of the things I want to exist are not commercially viable, or even that I am in the correct industry to manufacture them.
I am a dedicated and intense person, but I do not wish my source of finance to be my raison d'etre. If I did; I wouldn't work for people, I would run my own company. I live to do things, to build things, to experience things. The word 'things' is grossly overused in the preceding sentence, but my aim as far as I have one is activity and creation, in contrast to some people where it is their God or their children or a singular activity.
Whatever my job is, freedom to create “non-work wealth” (i.e. hand made clothing), in terms of time, social contacts and money is important to me. Tactical flexibility and manoeuvrability is a strength.

What are your goals? Where are you going?

One may pursue a narrow niche market, or may may compete in a bigger environment. It is normally fairly easy to enter a large market, but hard to gain a reputation. More specialised markets may have near or absolute monopolies. That section of text is targeted at business analysis, but could be applied to anything. My preferred couture is dominant on Cyber/Goth/Metal aspects, and most of my important friends and events are in this genre. This is a more specialised market, for example.

Risk. It should be noted that if you don't fail, and hold your current position, establish better connections, you have reached success though growth. I have rewritten that sentence several times, but to detail with different words, you aren't toiling towards a promised land, you are building connections and relationships. This isn't a heroic “once in a lifetime” activity, then go back to “white picket fences” and “Mamas apple pie” at the end of the film. Establishing a position through contacts and “presence” (as apposed to purchasing) is what artists do. Failing in this context is less relating to starvation or death and more towards giving up on Art and getting a mundane day-job.
It was one of my goals was to discover about music festivals and to get better social connections relating to them. As I am frequently busy, festivals are a condensed method to see many musical artists in a short period of time. The singular trip to and from the festival site saves time.

Risk, what is it you want?

Books on project management urge moving the high risk sections of a project early in the project, so if it fails there has been lower total investment. Gaia/ Biology kills large numbers of foetus and small children under the same principal. To link this with the previous paragraph, if you are starving artist in a stylistic garret, it is more sensible to get famous inside six months or abandon, rather than limping on (for example “not cheating jobs” like stage-hand) for most of your life. That was “more sensible”, but to generate contacts and activity inside six months isn't difficult.


Risk.

Software engineering has attributes which most of existence lacks. We built software engineering as a structure to build things with. It is probably a poor basis to make “life view” decisions from. There is no roll-back/revert function on life, and regression testing is very hard and painful, and not always possible.
One of the catechisms of communism is “survive, adapt, takeover”, which the IEEE renders as “make it run, make it run correctly, make it run fast”. All solutions that “complete” (algorithms term, i.e. generate results) are practically possible. Tools are regularly used outside of their design specification as “mindshare” and context states that repeating the process of using that tool generated success. Solutions that cost excessive execution or RAM aren't consuming anything. When the task is complete the RAM and CPU availability is returned to common use for the price of a few hundred watts of electricity. One of the quirks of software development is there are few actual “bad solutions”; however people tend to favour the cheaper/ more efficient solutions, so “fast running” ones will dominate the solution-space over time.

I wrote this because

I write this article from my home PC, 2011; looking without at a future without a detailed plan. I am writing during the working week, when I haven't been in here for several years. I left a long-term contract as my employer was going increasingly pressurised and adsorbing the wrong values from experience in my opinion. I was definitely jambed to close to form a unbiased opinion.
Was leaving the right move? I was definitely too committed to Now, to be able to look at Tomorrow. Which contradicts all of the above “intelligent thinking”.

What is it I want?

  • To feel that I am being productive. To feel that the time I have invested in task X was time worth spending. For example, documentation is worth creating, as you will not remember what you where thinking in six months, and if the system was written by other parties, you certainly can't remember.
  • To notice that there is a difference from “doing it properly”. For example, that if you put logging in the software, and set up a process to broadcast errors to responsible parties, that customers will gain a better quality experience, as the error condition will be resolved cleanly and efficiently. Heroic amounts of last minute effort indicate failure to understand project management. This is why I am worth a professional wage.
  • To know that the activity I am performing is directed and going somewhere. That people “running the show” have a large scale plan the way I create plans for software development. That is, I will spend six months to build you a management and categorisation system for your propriety style of widgets, but expect a severe motivation drop when widgets aren't part of your business strategy.
  • To know that the effort being applied is valuable. That is I have created wealth which third parties wish to translate into money by buying it. As I submit any reference of “what to build” to your corporate strategy, it is the strategy that I am judging. All of the most respected developers have spent large amount of time focussed on entirely invisible results such as clean kernel builds, but other developers can perceive the results.
  • To have freedom to use my training. That is, I am paid more than a middle manager in a supermarket as I invested a large amount of time in specialised training. If I am not in a position to use this specialised training, as I am following your non-specialised opinion, this is a waste of money.

Summary

If the internet treats censorship as poor connectivity and attempts to route round it, then critical design treats false claims/ lies as poor input, and waits for clean data.
There is little that any other person can do, which I can't in a technology enabled environment. For example due to a number of factors I have poor use of language and typing; however, I have minimised this disadvantage through use of a word processing tool. There is work which I am uneconomic for, as I take too long to achieve it. That I can achieve something is because I will iterate until success.
Show me your strategy. I will make it happen. I am a good strategy gamer.

I am a creative, for example I spend time every week correcting a series of imperfectly formed moves towards a stylistic white crane, as the founder of my martial art was meditating on Cranes when he designed the style. This is art, and cardio-exercise not a means to kill or injure people.
I have no quantitative measure for Conceptual cleanness, but it is the axis on which I judge value. Clean designs have purity of purpose and focus on a single goal. They are not obscured by ornamentation or clutter.

Update 2012

I stand by everything I wrote previously, however, I update this to say that change was a good idea. I think I am now a better employee, a better coder, a better manager. I now feel in a position to apply current technology more than I did in 2010.


Notes on risk

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Notes on risk

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