Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Caffeine Informer

2022-12-03 — Michael Haupt

So I’m a bit (a bit?) of a coffee nerd, to the degree that I do my own roasting. Obviously, the Caffeine Informer struck a chord. This web page provides all kinds of information around my favourite drug.

One thing I learned is that I should drink no more than 2 cups of Starbucks Grande Caffe Americano to avoid suffering from caffeine overload. That’s OK, I don’t like Starbucks coffee that much anyway.

My maximum safe daily caffeine intake is somewhere north of 500 mg. Now that’s interesting, but where can I get those? The page thankfully has overview tables for both food and drink. For instance, one Kit Kat bar contains 6 mg of caffeine (who’d have thought?), and Fritz Kola (somewhat popular in Berlin) has more than twice the amount of caffeine than classic Coke.

While all of that is fun to play with, the page also has some very thorough information on caffeine effects, benefits, and risks.

Tags: the-nerdy-bit

Finisher Metric

2022-11-26 — Michael Haupt

Talking a lot about measuring output, outcome, impact, ... How about taking a step back, looking inward and seeing how a team is doing by looking at some input metrics for teams? As usual, John Cutler nails it. All of the metrics he proposes make sense.

In addition, I'd like to propose another one: in a given time frame, the ratio of things finished to things started is less than or equal to one. This indicates that the team is finishing more than (as as much as) it starts, which is generally a healthy attitude. This metric scales nicely from individuals over teams to entire companies. Where things like Jira are used, it should also be easy to implement and visualise.

(Also consider reading this one on the idea of finishing more and starting less.)

Tags: work

Aeon's End

2022-11-25 — Michael Haupt

Here's a short review of Aeon's End.

If you like Dominion, and would like to play something similar in a cooperative fashion, Aeon's end is just what you want. It's got deck building, with some cards representing currency; and others, artefacts, energy, and magic spells. Yes, magic: each player represents a wizard, and the wizards fight a boss monster and its minions together.

The magic system is well done: spells must be planned ahead one move, and there are limited resources for activating them. Each wizard also has a special skill that can be activated once the wizard has accumulated enough energy, which can be purchased.

There's a large choice of wizard characters to choose from, and it can be an interesting exercise to round up a good army of them and supply of cards that can make for an interesting game. (Like in Dominion, there's a limited number of kinds of cards that can be part of the game to begin with.)

Boss monsters come in many shapes, sizes, and difficulties as well, and they spawn minions, sometimes many of them. They also have "plans" which they announce some rounds ahead and which can be flattened by the wizards before they're played out (which can have really, really severe consequences).

I've found Aeon's End to be fairly well balanced, with an interesting gameplay, and surprising dynamics. As mentioned, if you're looking for a cooperative kind of Dominion, this is for you.

Tags: games

Integrity

2022-11-19 — Michael Haupt

Integrity is important, and not just for people in leadership positions. While that's a truism, it's also important to bear in mind that someone can be acting entirely with integrity and still found thoroughly disagreeable. In such cases, it's likely that the people involved have different value systems. That doesn't necessarily make one of them objectively wrong. Their different value systems give them different frames of reference, and it may well be possible for them to find some common ground yet. Making the conversation about intentions (what is to be achieved) rather than positions (how is it to be achieved) can be a worthwhile first step.

Tags: work

Keyboard

2022-11-16 — Michael Haupt

After having assembled my Reform laptop, I had found its keyboard to be pretty amazing despite its unusual layout. Its space key is separated, and the two alt keys are tucked in between the two halves. On the one hand, this has the effect of allowing the keyboard to be built with only two different key sizes. On the other, it requires a bit of adjustment when typing. The quality of the keys though makes it a pleasant experience, and some high-speed typing is definitely possible. I like the keyboard very much.

Thankfully, MNT Research have released the keyboard as a standalone component with USB-C connectivity. The keyboard has an anodised aluminium case. That means it's comparably heavy given its size, which is good, because it rests well on surfaces. It comes in different colours (mine is yellowish).

Of course, the keyboard is entirely maintainable using a screwdriver and programming skills. The former comes in handy to move the little tilting bar between the four different positions on the sides of the case, which allows for different typing angles. The latter is good for changing the keyboard firmware, which is, of course again, open source. Like the Reform laptop, the keyboard sports the "circle key" (top right) and accompanying OLED display to go to the firmware menu and, e.g., control the brightness of the backlights.

I really like the product portfolio these folks are building. It's open hardware that sets standards.

Tags: the-nerdy-bit

Independent Executors

2022-11-12 — Michael Haupt

Jade Rubick here describes the Independent Executors pattern for team organisation. It strongly reflects how I like to think about team independence, autonomy, empowerment, and collaboration. A key quote describing the way independent executors operate is that they "ask, but never expect other teams to do work for [them]". Let that sink in.

When an organisation operates as a maze of dependencies between work-in-progress parallelised across many teams, the dependencies take control, and communication between teams devolves into priority haggling, instead of being about delivering the actual work. That slows everything down, sometimes grinding to a halt. If teams are set up as independent executors instead, they know full well where there are dependencies, and they know how to resolve them using their own means if the team they depend on cannot do it. This, too, can be seen as slowing things down, but the "grinding to a halt" bit won't happen. It also means that deadlines don't work, because they may all too often just assume that all dependencies will be resolved by others' delivery.

Of course, this means a more holistic approach to planning the work in teams, and requires greater expertise (seniority) in team members that need to have more than just an idea of what that other code base is doing. That can also be less than ideal, as any sufficiently complex software architecture will tell you. The independent executors model cannot just be imposed on unsuspecting teams struggling to operate in a complex environment.

Taking yet one step back, what is needed from the environment to enable teams to operate as independent executors? In one word: clarity. In some more words: clear priorities that just make the answer to the question of which project is currently the most important one completely obvious. Any team that directly contributes to that most important thing is guaranteed to get support. Any team that cannot directly or indirectly support that project can either resolve the dependencies on other teams for itself, or focus on its tech debt, take some training, or whatever. Not to forget, no team not currently contributing to the "most important thing" can be expected to deliver to any deadline (self-imposed or externally given) that involves relying on dependencies. Essentially, this is the approach using thematic goals, defining objectives, standard operating objectives, and measurements (straight from Lencioni).

Providing that clarity takes courage, from the top. It's a leadership responsibility. Period.

Tags: work

Tripods

2022-11-07 — Michael Haupt

Back in the 80s, we didn't have video streaming services, so TV series binge watching was not so much of a thing, but TV series we had. There's one I was particularly fond of, to the degree that I arranged my calendar around the time each new episode would air on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoons (my memory is a bit blurry here).

It's a BBC production based on a sci-fi trilogy (a prequel fourth book was added later) by John Christopher, called The Tripods.

The slightly eerie mix of a humanity thrown back to mediaeval lifestyle and high-tech alien invaders controlling them from their large walking machines totally fascinated me. Never mind the utterly slow pace of the TV series. Never mind the obviously bad make-up and costumes (BBC is a bit notorious for that). Never mind the strange-looking compositing of tripods into the scenery (those were really early CGI days). It was cool, and the story of some kids making their way from England to the Alps and beyond on a quest to free humankind from oppression was just captivating.

Sadly, the third season, supposed to bring the final book in the trilogy to the TV screens, was never produced. Sometimes the BBC makes stupid decisions.

Thanks to DVDs, I could recently binge-watch the entire series with my son. And he loved it. If a 21st century kid can appreciate a TV series that was produced roughly 40 years ago, that's quality.

Tags: the-nerdy-bit

Distractions

2022-11-06 — Michael Haupt

With distractions, it's not their magnitude that's a problem, but their multitude.

A distraction of a major magnitude is usually both urgent and important enough to warrant immediate attention. Those should be rare.

Facing a constant flurry of many small distractions, however, is problematic. It leads to regular interruptions involving urgency and importance analyses, and thereby hampers any healthy flow state. Moreover, even if handling the distraction is not ultimately "my job", it needs to be managed and probably followed up on, increasing the amount of work in progress.

Distinguishing between work (delivering on the tasks we're supposed to deliver on) and meta-work (delivering on organising one's work), it should make immediate sense that work should take precedence over meta-work, always bearing in mind that the latter cannot reasonably be zero. The effect of facing a multitude of distractions then is that the amount of meta-work exceeds the "healthy" threshold.

How should the balance look? What's "healthy"? I suspect that meta-work should take a small (single-digit) percentage of overall time.

(This is also related to the idea of finishing more, and starting less.)

Tags: work