Links and Notes - 30th June 2020

Create wonderful things, be good, have fun
writing klutz books stanford john cassidy juggling table top football

Discovered this wonderful post from Hacker News today. Really resonated with me due to the personal connection I have with the friendship bracelet Klutz Book. The founder of the Klutz brand was on HN and answering questions and sharing thoughts. So I thought I would send a message of appreciation to him. I have no idea if he will read it. I hope he does, even if he doesn't reply. Here's the comment:

Hi John. Wanted to share a story of appreciation!
I've actually got the Klutz friendship bracelet book sitting right next to me. My sister got it as a gift when we were kids (17 years ago) and I appropriated it when she didn't use it after a year.
That book not only gave me a lifetime hobby, but it also helped me create my first business at the age of 15. Helped me learn the lesson that if you deliver quality, you can sell a product at 20x the market rate. I would sell the totem pole bracelet designs at a premium to my friends who wanted it for their girlfriends. I'd sell chevrons and other diagonal based patterns to friends who wanted their school flag colours. Sold the latter at a premium too because the material I got with the Klutz book didn't fray after the first wash (helped me decide what materials to continue to purchase later on).
All this helped pay for several shows and sporting events I wanted to go to.
I continued to make bracelets for my girlfriend (now wife) and those ones are seated on the table in our bedroom.
That book created a ton of good memories. But it got left behind when I left home when I was getting married :( .
Recently I discovered it at home and the clip (rusty) still works. And now I'm teaching my 4 and a half year old son the art of friendship bracelets too.
All that from 1 book. Thank you for all the memories given and the memories to come.

I'll probably share my adventures in making friendship bracelets again on this blog too. Also, I've started learning hand sewing. So that should also be fun to share 😀

Does scrum ruin great engineers or are you doing it wrong?

Another interesting discussion that I found from HN. I won't lie. I've disliked Scrum from my past interactions with it. As much as there is the cult that promotes and commercialises it, there's also a cult that hates it intensely. I pretty much belong to the latter. After reading the thoughts in the blog post as well as the actual answers and comments on the linked Stack overflow question, I'm reconsidering my position. I realised I've never actually read about scrum myself. My only experience is via software like Pivotal tracker. Or complex over configured Jira instances.

I've met scrum masters who preached velocity, sprints, scoring and other terms which only ever seemed to add complexity to my work.

Scrum never seemed like something designed to help me. And I assumed that's all that scrum was.

From what I'm reading though, that's almost antithetical to what scrum is supposed to be. Self organizing dev teams seems to be a common theme of scrum done right. And regarding arcane terms, "velocity" isn't even mentioned in the scrum guidebook🤔.

So, with an open mind, I am removing myself from the visceral scrum hate group. I'm going to be spending a couple of weeks reading and annotating the scrum guide. According to most people, it seems to have the actual necessary ingredients for running a helpful scrum program. I'm hoping I can learn a lot from it.


Pandemic worries

The pandemic continues to terrify me. America has handled it abysmally. Australia is showing signs of struggles. Canada is flattening but it's nowhere near 0 yet. Italy, Germany, UK. All seeing new infections in the 100's everyday (In UK's case it's 1000's). Meanwhile, we are currently scheduled to open our borders to tourism in August. I don't understand why.

I truly fear for Sri Lanka from this August. I really hope we reconsider. We got to 0 cases in Sri Lanka through military enforced strict curfew. While effective, this was also deadly to so many people living in poverty. It was deadly to so many families that can't afford distance learning and so they watch the wealth divide grow. Even families generally described as wealthy struggled with pay cuts and not enough devices for children. Small businesses that had opened up in December are just a few less orders away from having to shut down. Businesses that have existed for years are coming close to the same position.

We can't afford another lockdown like before here. I know the tourism industry will suffer, but at the very least, I'm seeing our local people travelling to hotels. There is local business happening. I'm not sure how sacrificing that for the chance of getting foreign business is worth it.

Cancel culture

Currently writing an essay on cancel culture. Not sure if it will ever see the world outside of my private notes book. But I think the outline is worth sharing.

These days, the conversation about cancel culture seems to be really peaking.

It's a little disheartening to see people treat cancel culture as some monolithic binary topic. It's either the best thing ever, or the most cancerous behaviour we've chosen in history. This conversation doesn't help fix any issues in cancelling as a culture.

To me, cancel culture lies along a spectrum. It's a set of behaviours used to protect disenfranchised people from harm. And when used against people in positions of privilege who actively harming people, it works out great. I'm a huge proponent of it for a lot of cases. As Indi has said in the past, someone is always getting cancelled. Cancel culture reframes who that person is.

More recently however, I'm seeing it being used by privileged individuals as a tool to avoid productive discussion. Essentially, a privileged person sees a person of similar privilege say something that would be harmful to a person of an underrepresented group. Instead of discussing it with that person, they share that person's behaviour across social media with broad cries to cancel. This part of cancel culture is dangerous.

One major point of privileged folks becoming allies of a movement is that they are given a chance to be taken seriously in ways that underrepresented groups don't get. When an underrepresented group member tries to speak about injustice they are typically viewed as trying to get something for themselves. When a person of privilege does the same, they are viewed as trying to make change because they can't have any other imagined motives. It's sad. But it's true. And it works like this:

  • A man speaking to a man about sexism is listened to less defensively than a woman doing the same. The defensive barriers have less of a chance of going up. Privilege power.
  • A white person can be heard by another white person in a conversation about racism without defensive barriers being immediately thrown up. Privilege power.
  • A person in a leadership position can speak to another person in a leadership position about fair working conditions and be listened to better than a person in an entry level position doing the same. Privilege power.

But those conversations are tricky. They are difficult. But that position of natural trust is the single most powerful tool a person of privilege brings as an ally to a movement.

So when privileged people start using the tools of the disenfranchised to avoid that difficult conversation, it really starts to smell. It smells of virtue signaling. It smells of shirking of actual responsibility. It smells of abuse.

And the worst part is, it harms the actual effectiveness of cancelling as a tool. At some point people are going to rebel against it once they've felt that they can't trust anyone to have a reasonable discussion.

And I get the problems about "reasonable" discussions. But that's a big part of what allies are for. To go into communities not accessible to vulnerable groups and use their power to communicate first. Not cancel.

And that's not happening anymore. To people of privilege, cancelling is becoming the new "share" to support. Easy. And most of the time, useless.

Posted on July 01 2020 by Adnan Issadeen