Weeknotes 05×04: When You Have Six Arms

Kamaji from Spirited Away

Kamaji from ‘Spirited Away’ is my role model sometimes. My sister gave me this t-shirt year ago, and I like to wear it sometimes when all the cogs are turning.

Six arms – two for typing leaves you with four more; four directions to point in, four strings to pull at the same time, like half a spider. It’s been a Kamaji week.

Kamaji looks at some paper

Looking back at my list of week focuses from Monday – oh yeah, I kept it simple, didn’t I? TWO FOCUSES IS ENOUGH FOR ANYONE I said to myself, full of new year confidence. One for each arm, for each hemisphere of the brain.



I figure both of these will do me good this year. I’m pretty sure they were the same aims as last year.

This assumes that there’s a plan in place, of course. BAD SIDE: I’m a man of many plans – too many – and not enough time. The plans are backing up like […]. GOOD SIDE: We killed it as a team at the end of last year, and have some bigger developments under our belt. Now is a good time to tackle plans, and I’ve put some big, purpley-brown blocks in my private calendar to eat into them. Each afternoon, a different focus, spurred on by my velvet (or “dark puce” if you’re honest with yourself) rectangles. Truly, calendar items are the new infinity of stars, guiding our lives and divining our fortunes.

Kamaji has Andrew Marr arms

Puce Plan One: Decide the course of people’s lives

It is the time for this – our team has been going long enough to ask the question of “who am I?”, in a deep Les Miserables baritone croon. “Where am I going?”, “How do I get there?” – the people want answers. Really technical answers, because I am Head Of Tech, which means also I am Head of the Tech Team, and have been doing this stuff long enough to help others to do it. Which is scary and fun, like everything should be once you’re 38 or older.

In my case, I have started to write lots of things down in order to answer the following questions:

  • What should our job titles/grades be? As a small company, we’ve pretty much made this up so far. I like the idea of a guide for my future self to be able to decide these without thinking. Self-assessment for team members would be even easier. Then I just have to blockchain it.
  • What technical skills do we depend on as a company?
  • What should a developer need to know at any level, for any skillset? Yes, this is now an RPG.

The process is personally interesting, but writing it up takes a lot of thought. I shared it with a couple of people, and then (as a result – thanks openness?!) realised it was more of a guide for me than for others. Still, I tried it out with a member of the team, and it seemed to tick the box of being a Conversation Starter and Handy Reference List for the Ultimate Purpose of Standardised Clarity. I will keep developing it and trying it out, but with a lot more Caveats and Disclaimers about it being a living, breathing document (because, basically, it is what I know at this point in my life, really.)

Kamaji finds GDPR a bit boring

Puce Plan Two: Get Down, Pretty Reliably

Or “GDPR” as others seem to call it. I figure that’s what it stands for, anyway – looking through legislation is so fun that I can’t think what else it might stand for.

Delving into detail, I think we’re generally in a good place. As Nice People What Do Sensitive Data from time-to-time, we’re generally aware of people’s privacy. Mostly it’s a case of making sure we’re covering all our bases, and writing everything down, as opposed to changing any fundamental business models. I think three of us are looking into this (vaguely independently) which helps, and we’re starting to merge our GDPR brains.

Also, the “Right to Erasure” means I’m legally allowed – nay, forced – to play A Little Respect in the office.

Kamaji makes the furnace work

Puce Plan Three: Get my head around our Impact On The World

I might blog separately on this, but have made a start on looking at our “Weight” in the world – or “social impact” maybe – by sending an internal survey out, then comparing responses, and starting to draw out some structure and threads. IT’S A LOT MORE INTERESTING THAN IT SOUNDS. And tough. I’m using the act of writing it down to sort through it, which means lots of staring blankly at the screen, then minimal, but important, typing. But alongside thought time, I need to pick through some existing literature and see how others do this.

So far, I’ve come back to my usual approach of “Map it then Measure it”, but there’s a risk I forget about what we’re trying to do, so I’ve written up a few aims, which I need to run past some people.

I’m probably the worst person to do this – I’m pretty bad at just grabbing a framework and running with it, and my Agile instinct to get something done quickly is actually pretty tricky when you’ve got a large issue. There’s probably another blog post just from that. Kamaji hides behind the all-knowing teapot

Puce Plan Four: Save the World, and Drink Coffee

OK, this wasn’t really a plan, but a response. Hey, I had a spare arm.

Cloudflare changed SOMETHING, which meant we had a few TECHNICAL ISSUES. Honestly, with Meltdown and Spectre and Heartbleed and WananCry, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that a) tech is a mug’s game, b) I should live in a forest with no internet connection (or a 56k modem, max), and c) nukes are nothing against the power of 30 years of insecure tech design practice. GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

Which is all to say that we’ve been working hard reacting to some big issues – some our fault, some not, but it’s certainly been quite the couple of weeks for it.

Still, makes a change from just before Christmas, at least.

Other Stuff That Happened:

  • Lots of team stuff – Kim joined the Senior Management, and we all had lunch together, and then all the dev team had lunch together (on a different day) and had a bit of a catchup.
  • Carried on clearing out old magazines
  • More 1:1s
  • Far too much caek

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