lameness at the top

this week, i participated in an one-day economic forum at the un conference center in bangkok. pm thaksin’s performance was less than stellar, barely able to read from the script..

while it provided few new clues about the economic outlook, i was very impressed with the performance of Kenneth Curtis from Goldman Sachs. having just arrived by learjet from frankfurt, he gave his two cents on the world economy in flawless, logically coherent statements (which he had not prepared, as the Q & A showed)

The crisis will accelerate the shift in technology, by placing a premium on cost-cutting, efficiency and earnings. Anyone who thinks these forces will slow is wrong.

unabomber feelings rise

it was only a matter of time before gun nuts would come out of their caves and claim that giving everyone a gun would have prevented this tragedy. typical of backwards-facing people..

especially eric s. raymond.

We have learned today that airport security is not the answer. At least four separate terror teams were able to sail right past all the elaborate obstacles — the demand for IDs, the metal detectors, the video cameras, the X-ray machines, the gunpowder sniffers, the gate agents and security people trained to spot terrorists by profile. There have been no reports that any other terror units were successfully prevented from achieving their objectives by these measures. In fact, the early evidence is that all these police-state-like impositions on freedom were exactly useless — and in the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center lies the proof of their failure.

my answer:

lets face it. this event will increase surveillance everywhere.

no point in returning to the caves and carrying guns.

actually, it is largely irrelevant whether you carry a gun or not.

what is truly relevant is whether you will be allowed access to all these surveillance systems, so that it becomes peer-to-peer surveillance, or if some hidden agency controls it all.

think decentralization.

nobody cares if you run around with a gun, you will be closely watched, anyways. trying to ignore this reality is a weakly disguised attempt to flee into an unabomber utopia.

gregor j. rothfuss,


the end of freedom

this event will mark the end of individual freedom as we know it. calls for increasing surveillance at the expense of personal freedom will be stronger than ever. everybody opposed to giving up his personal freedom will be framed as a suspect.

expect the following:

  • total ban on encryption
  • machine-readable identification cards mandatory
  • increased use of video surveillance, face recognition
  • closer law-enforcement cooperation on an international scale
  • heavy increases in military spending
  • censoring of dissident views on the internet

now would be as good a time as ever to read the transparent society by david brin.

Can we stand living our lives exposed to scrutiny … our secrets laid out in the open … if in return we get flashlights of our own, that we can shine on the arrogant and strong?

Or is privacy’s illusion so precious that it is worth any price, including surrendering our own right to pierce the schemes of the powerful?


wired reports that the fbi has installed carnivore internet surveillance equipment at major internet providers within hours of the attacks.

why The Methodology won’t save consulting

talent does not scale. IT consulting firms learn this the hard way.

my work at a big consulting firm has confirmed what i always suspected: a few talented people are lost in a sea of morons.

fine for you if you are one of the morons, because you will have a happy work experience (with talented people spoon-feeding you). if you are one of the talented, however, bad luck. your productivity will be dragged down by creating rules for the morons, you’ll have to endure their stupidity all the time, see them gloat with tales about accomplishments that are not theirs (rather yours) and so on.

this is the best reason yet why a job change is inevitable.

why starting from scratch is a bad idea

sometimes, its just not feasible to re-write software. even though most developers have an urge to do so with code they have not messed up themselves. joel spolsky argues: takes 10 years to write good software.. software is the greatest strategic mistake you can make..

i agree strongly, especially for web projects. i’m currently trying to salvage a project that has some real messy code. however, far from throwing out everything, we try to fix it up piecewise.

joel has some other good articles at his web site.

a business proposition

i came up with an idea what i may do when i come back to switzerland in october.. read on to see my mail i sent to etg (the team i lead at kpmg consulting)
working in thailand has opened my eyes to some things we might consider doing in switzerland.

i lead a team of 4 young thais (all 24) that have finished their it studies. their skill set varies greatly, the best of the bunch is like 3 times more productive than the others. furthermore, while they are all quite dedicated to their work, they need some helpin the architecture, structure and organization other words, they need guidance. providing guidance and technological insight is something where etg is quite strong already, and where etg has a lot of potential for the future. i think you would agree with me that all of us have a far better understanding of technical issues than most consultants. this enables us to leverage in projects like the cs project, with great success.

in an ideal world, every project would be well designed from the onset. there would be specifications, a good architecture,coding standards, reuse of code and patterns, to name but a few.unfortunately, these important goals always come second or third in priority. the first and second priorities are usually cost and time to market (or vice versa). this is why we often get bullied to develop using a quick & dirty approach. this always turns out to be dirty only, but never quicker than with a rational approach.

the crucial question therefore is: how can we achieve goals 1 & 2 without sacrificing the other goals?

first, cost. while we are generally a lot cheaper than consultants, we are not that cheap, either. compared to thailand, where one developer can be had for 40 swiss francs per day, that is. compared to that, typical etg costs would be more like 320+ swiss francs per day (salary & some side costs) and, there is a (for our purposes) basically infinite supply of young thais with the necessary technical background.

second, time to market. having a 13 hour work day, instead of a 8 hour work day, would increase output by 50% percent. of course, nobody wants to work that long. he would not have to, because we would make use of the time difference between thailand and switzerland (5 hours during summer time, 6 hours during winter time). the 50 % figure is way too optimistic, of course, but i made it more to make a point than to be accurate.

i could go on and on for many pages, but i think you’ll grasp the basic idea. outsourcing some work to thailand may do us a lot of good.

of course, to make something like this work, we would need a world-class virtual company. communication flow is crucial. it must be very easy to share work results with our partners in thailand, and there should be instant access to technical knowledge on the other side.

needless to say, we need such an infrastructure anyway to set us apart from old, inefficient, monolithic companies (like kpmg) read for some good laughs on that topic..

what would our role be in such a deal? we would do what we do best, or rather, what we strive to do best:

giving technical advice, coming up with new ideas, creating good architectures. being somewhat relieved from priorities 1 & 2 would make it much easier to create REAL goodsoftware. and it would be a lot more interesting, too, because we would automatically source out the boring, repetitive work to our friends in thailand, and focus on adding value for the client.

milosevic, estrada, pinochet on trial: justice at last?

it has become fashionable to hold everyone to the same legal standards, even former heads of state. but does it matter? recently, the newspapers have been full with articles about the trials that face milosevic, estrada, pinochet, among others. obviously, the legal system is more powerful than ever, tackling cases that may have seemed hopeless just a few short years ago. the international court of den hague is gaining status and has started to hear cases like germany versus the us where germany condemns the death penalty.

while it is worthwhile to have a global court system to protect human rights issues, there is another side to it which is not at all pleasant. the hague convention will, if ratified, allow jurisdictions of member states to enforce their laws in other member states.

this could mean that china could sue someone in switzerland over free speech because what is legal to say differs a great deal from china to switzerland.