The Elements of Computing Style

I bought The Elements of Computing Style on an impulse, mainly because it is written by dds and I do not own any of his other books. So I did not even pay attention to the subtitle:

190+ Tips for Busy Knowledge Workers

So what I expected was a book with advise on writing code, or on choosing certain algorithms for solutions of certain (small compared to Big Data) sizes. But this is a productivity book of another kind. It offers advise from when to read email in order to make the most of your available worktime to whether your chair should have arms or not and why. It is written in a clear flowing style and if you’ve ever heard dds speak, you almost listen his voice while reading it. It is not heavy stuff and this makes it an excellent companion for the bus.

Given my aversion to certain word processors I particularly enjoyed advise on how to handle documents with them and picked up a few helpful tips along the way. Travelling advise was fun even though it does not affect me and I find chapter 2 (Work Habits) the most important one since it offers ways to deal with interruptions of the flow:

It can take us more than 15 minutes to enter into such a state of focused attention, and only a trivial interruption to exit from it.

Best advise from the book: LOG YOUR CHANGES

The book is available from Lean Publications which makes it an interesting experiment as it has both a minimum and a suggested price and as you decide how much you’re going to pay for it, you are immediately informed how much of your money goes directly to the author.


My browser’s “home” page

I try not to keep fifty tabs open and stress test my browser. But nowadays, opening my browser stress tests me. Whenever I fire it up, it opens:

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Yammer
  • Parley

and I used to open ServerFault too. And I’ve not even mentioned Thunderbird. That is a one way trip to feeling tired 5 minutes after the day begins.

Optimisations are coming.

TODO list bankruptcy

Today while going over my Filofax TODO lists, I declared “TODO list bankruptcy”. It was filled with a lot of stuff that was not important, or lost its importance as time went by.

I will try to keep this to three tasks per day and am even considering a weekly “bankruptcy” on what is left behind and not dealt with for at least 15 seconds.

The five most important questions

It was thanks to this post by John D. Cook on abandoning projects that I got interested in Peter Drucker. So I went to and looked up whether there exist any ebook versions of his works. I bumped into “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization” which is focused on non-profit and social organizations. Being a public sector worker, the book seemed a natural candidate.

The book expands on an earlier 1992 version written by Drucker and contains essays by him and other experts in the field of management. All essays are centered around five basic questions which as Drucker writes it is important to ask:

“The most important aspect of the Self-Assessment Tool is the questions it poses. Answers are important; you need answers because you need action. But the most important thing is to ask these questions.”

The five questions are:

  1. What is Our Mission?
  2. Who is Our Customer?
  3. What Does the Customer Value?
  4. What Are Our Results?
  5. What Is Our Plan?

Non-profit organizations are about changing lives and these questions are a tool to achieve this. Even without reading the explanatory essays their importance is evident (as is answering them in a sincere way). And while the book itself is not a self-assessment tool for an individual, the questions themselves are a good start.

It is beyond evident to people that know me that the concept of organized abandonment is what I liked most in the book. I’ve been (unsuccessfully) advocating a similar stance within my employer’s organization for years but I had never seen it so clearly articulated until now. Plus this time it is not only me saying this, Drucker said that too, see? IMVHO, organized abandonment is the basic evolution mechanism for organizations (public and private sector).

This is definitely a book I will revisit in six months time. To evaluate its impact on my way of thinking within my own organization and to see whether I managed to pass anything along.

PS: I bought the PDF version of the book by mistake. Normally I try to read ePub versions on my BeBook Mini, but luckily in this case the BeBook rendered the PDF adequately.

organized abandonment

shut it down

John D. Cook is reading “Inside Drucker’s Brain” and quoting stuff from it. I am reading the book of five questions, and it is my turn to quote Peter Drucker:

“Other people can do those activities and do them well. Maybe a few years ago it was a good idea for you to help get this farmers’ market started because those Vietnamese farmers in your area needed a place to sell their produce; but it’s going well now, and you don’t have to run it anymore. It’s time for organized abandonment”.

As system administrators we manage organized complexity. When systems outlive their scope, organized abandonment is the way to go. Unmaintained legacy systems is what we get for not planning so.