Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Multiple black eyes to software as a service this past week

1. The AWS outage: written about, discussed, and dissected to the nth degree.
2. The PSN outage and corresponding theft of data by an "unauthorized" individual. http://blog.us.playstation.com/2011/04/26/update-on-playstation-network-and-qriocity/

Which is the next service to suffer a similar catastrophe?

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is what I will miss...

We create things because we want to delight, entertain, and empower our users. While the specifics of how they did it may be interesting from an academic point of view, the important part is that they did. People really seem to like this app. I can be a jerk about it and point out the trap doors, but then I’m just that guy who awkwardly ruins the show for his increasingly disinterested date.

In design, opinion is currency. But being negative is a cheap trick, too. And if I can get past that, maybe humility isn’t the only lesson this app has to offer me.
Eloquently captures the reason why we build not just software, but why we build everything.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What EC2 and S3 do so well - manage abstractions

Today we’re the driving force behind NodeJS, which sits on a very different place on the abstraction curve than Smart did. We’ve pulled lots of ideas and lessons from Smart into our hosted NodeJS offering, no.de, but we did drop as much of the magic as possible. The end result is a service that’s tremendously simpler and in many ways less feature rich, but it doesn’t make promises we can’t fulfill and our customers can understand it.

In fact, when something goes wrong they can log right in with a shell and see exactly exactly what’s going on. We’ve paired the transparency with ground-breaking observability tools. NodeJS and no.de are huge successes, largely, I think, because we walked the fine line of abstraction level better this time. It’s only a black box when you want it to be. When you need to look inside, you can. You can evaluate the risk level of the technology and approach yourself.
Great read for anyone interested in technology and how to architect a mission-critical service.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

10 years, 8 teams, 2 companies

And I finally am where I want to be. I gave my 2-week notice to Amazon today, and the future is looking good. What's my next job going to be? Whatever it is, it's going to be something I really and truly cherish and want to do. No more settling for a job or a city or a ...

This time, I'm going to do it right. I've learned a lot about what I want to do and who I want to become in the 10 years since I graduated. I know I don't want to write code for a living. I have known that for a few years now, and I was told that I'd accomplish the goal of switching to another role before I started on my last team. That it didn't happen is now in the past. I have a great future to look forward to. First up though, I'm going to recharge my batteries.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Microsoft Windows Phone 7

Karan and I often end up talking about technology trends as they pertain to Microsoft. Here is a snippet of a conversation we had this morning on Windows Phone 7. They in the context of this conversation is the Windows Phone 7 team. Enjoy!

Manoj (7:45 AM): problem is, they need a wild card
Manoj (7:45 AM): maybe Nokia is that WC
donna (7:45 AM): i think you will also be able to write your own agents that run in the background
Manoj (7:45 AM): but at this point, there is a very high switching barrier (inertia, investment in apps, etc) and no real incentive to switch to WP7
donna (7:45 AM): true true
Manoj (7:46 AM): WWKD?
donna (7:46 AM): the untapped market world wide is still larger than the existing base
donna (7:46 AM): by far, no?
Manoj (7:47 AM): yes by far
Manoj (7:47 AM): But, the untapped world market cannot afford 100$ phones
donna (7:47 AM): how many people buy _a lot_ of apps you think?
donna (7:47 AM): so much so that it would be a barrier
Manoj (7:48 AM): ok ready? if people aren't going to buy apps, then the massive investment in an app store isn't justified. The idea isn't how many apps people buy. The idea is that they have a choice to buy.
Manoj (7:48 AM): remember, people like the idea of choice. whether they exercise said choices is their call.
Manoj (7:49 AM): they must feel like they are in control, even if they aren't.
donna (7:49 AM): agreed completely. but the question is if my i want to switch from apple and i have bought $20 worth of apps or $500?
Manoj (7:49 AM): Circling back to my opening argument. The apps need to be there, all of them, so that every segment's needs are served.
donna (7:50 AM): the apps need to be there. yes. no argument against that.
Manoj (7:50 AM): it's about knowing that if i want to spend my next $ on an app I covet, will I find it in the joe schmo store.
Manoj (7:51 AM): you know it's going to be in the iTunes store. The only set of apps that gets advertising,word of mouth or viral publicity is the App store.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stress and haste make waste

This post is dedicated to mtenpow.

The last few weeks have been very stressful. Unforeseen issues have cropped up every day. I'll have accomplished something important when all is said and done, but it has extracted a very heavy price. Everything seems to have conspired against my best laid plans, and executing under pressure has made reaching the destination that much harder.

I'm not writing this because I want to complain about the stress. Instead, I want to talk about how dealing with stress is more important than succumbing to it. Stress has gotten the better of all of us at some point or the other; how does one deal with it effectively?

I'm no expert on the matter; I needed a reminder today to slow down, because being harried was messing me up. The stress was making me hurry, clouding my judgment, and not letting me find the cure of the symptoms I was observing. Spinning around in circles incessantly, I couldn't see some obvious problems with the environment I was working in.

How do I plan to counter future stressful situations? Take a deep breath, slow down, write out the causes of the issues, and separate and clarify concerns. Tackle one problem before going on to the next one, and then the next one. The end goal: Avoid getting frazzled, stay focused and find the thorns in my side. If all else fails, take a walk and clear my head.

Let me know what works for you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fighting to shut out the real India

More often than in years past, I get to read a piece about India in the NYTimes or the Economist. More often than not, these articles talk about the huge economic disparity in the world's most populous country, and how the minorities are exploited for more than just monetary gain. This piece by Manu Joseph for the NYTimes starts out with the premise that affluent Indians find every way possible to isolate themselves from their less privileged kin.
In fact, daily life in India is a fierce contest between the affluent and the educated on the one side, and the brooding impoverished on the other.

The pursuit of India’s elite is to protect themselves from India — from its crowds, dust, heat, poverty, politics, governance and everything else that is in plain sight. To achieve this, they embed themselves in their private islands that the forces and the odors of the republic cannot easily penetrate.
The article goes on to back this hypothesis up with examples of people seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes, their cars with windows raised, their exclusive clubs, etc. Having lived in the US for more than 10 years, I don't see how this is different from American society. Let me back my claim up with some data points:

1. The affluent live in the suburbs. The poor live in the inner city projects. This division brings itself to bear all over the country with a few exceptions. There is little to no inter-mingling between the 2 strata of society.
2. The affluent send their children to private schools if they can afford the exorbitant tuition. The public school system is broken in ways that doesn't really educate the poor. The public schools in the suburbs are among the best in the country, but accept pupils only from nearby localities, not from the inner-cities. The city public schools are under-funded and are in municipal regions that don't receive too much help from tax-payers (poor people don't pay high taxes, which means there is less tax money to go around, which means ...)
3. The rich live in gated communities or by the water-front and hire the poor as nannies or butlers or gardeners. I don't think the immigrant or blue-collar population in America can dream of being affluent. They dream of meeting their daily needs and not being caught into the debt trap that has ensnared so many Americans.
4. This leaves the upwardly-mobile middle-class: people like you reading this post and me, its author. There is an entire population of Indians just like you and me - not living on the fringes, yet not living in the lap of luxury; making a little more than we need, using some of it and putting the rest of it away for a rainy day.

Social structures exist everywhere, for reasons that can't be dissected or fully comprehended. It grinds my gears when authors present just one side of a story, especially when they are being critical.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

New age doctors have short attention spans too

In a separate interview, Dr. Kate Dewar said that treating chronic conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol — a huge part of her father’s daily life — was not that interesting. She likened primary care to the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the same boring problems recur endlessly. Needing constant stimulus — she e-mails while watching TV — she realized she could not practice the medicine of her forebears.

“I like it when people get better, but I’d rather it happen right in front of my eyes and not years later,” she said. “I like to fix stuff and then move on.”
Short attention span disorder is endemic in modern society; yes, I just made that disorder up. Unfortunately, no amount of Ritalin can cure this disorder. I wish there was a way to infuse our humdrum routines with a dose of adrenaline, but then, like what we consider mundane today, the infused humdrum will become the new routine.

In short, don't have boring diseases and expect to get good treatment!