Ah, a new year is upon us. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we have been able to increment that damned zero to a one.

Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the most challenging years in recent memory for people from all walks of life, regardless of their location or socioeconomic situation. We were all affected. Even if the virus missed us and our loved ones, it was impossible to evade the side-effects that it had on society and the economy.

Companies that previously seemed so integrated in our daily lives to ever fail made unprecedented job cuts, ejecting talented employees into an unstable jobs market. Those who kept their jobs faced hours cuts, and the subsequent reduction in pay, in order to be able to cover their childcare. Who’d have previously imagined schools and nurseries closing for months at a time, and exams being cancelled? …

Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it?

Yes, yes it has. The last post on this site was on 21st June 2019 and it announced that I had a book deal. Here we are, six months later.

This post is to tell you that the beta release of the book is now available for you to purchase. It’s called Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager, because that’s precisely what it’s about.

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The cover of the book.

What beta means is that you get early DRM-free access to the first 240 pages. That’s 13 chapters in total. More chapters, content and edits will follow as they are worked on and finished. I’ve currently drafted 17 chapters, with 2 left to write. I’m almost there. When it’s done, after more editing and finalizing, it’ll go off to print for those that enjoy owning hard copies made from trees. …

So I might be quiet for a while.

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash.

Hello, there.

It’s been a number of weeks since I published an article on this site. Don’t worry though; nothing untoward has happened. In fact, something — erm — toward has happened instead.

Last week I signed a contract to turn The Engineering Manager into a book! A while back, I asked those on my mailing list what they would like to see in the future direction of this website. Should I be focussing on management, current affairs, technology, or something else? The answer was predominantly that I should try and turn what I’ve written into a complete tome. …

Should that change go out on Friday afternoon or not?

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“But it was just two lines of code!” Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Just a fun tweet, right?

Well, maybe not.

Should there be times when production deploys are forbidden? Or in fact is #NoDeployFriday a relic of a time before comprehensive integration tests and continuous deployment?

You may face a similar dilemma in your team. Is not deploying on a Friday a sensible risk-averse strategy or is it a harmful culture that prevents us from building better and more resilient systems?

Ring, ring

Most engineers who have had the pleasure of being on call have had their weekend ruined by a Friday change that has blown up — I’ve been there too. A robot phone call strikes during a family outing, or in the middle of the night, stating that the application is down. After scrambling to the computer to check rapidly filling logs, it becomes apparent that a subtle edge-case and uncaught exception has killed things. …

Will our children all learn online?

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Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash.

Education is big business.

It is projected that over 20 million students will be enrolled in degree-granting institutions in the US in fall 2020. That’s 20 million people willing to invest multiple years of their lives and to incur an average of nearly $30,000 of debt in order to earn a degree, typically to maximize their chances of starting a career in the discipline of their choice. This brings high pressure for the hope of a stable future.

The barrier to entry for our top institutions isn’t just financial. Getting a place is hard work. It is a journey that begins in the early years of a child’s life, requiring persistent effort from them, their teachers and their families. Throughout the high school years they must sustain a high GPA, discover their interests, and apply for the best colleges. Securing a place at a prestigious university is a big deal. The recent US college admissions scandal revealed that the family of a Chinese student paid $6.5 …

A lack of diverse staff is creating racist, sexist and classist intelligence

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Pepper, a white robot developed by Softbank Robotics. Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash.

Our technology industry has a diversity problem. This in itself is not a new issue. But the subset of our industry working on artificial intelligence (AI) has a particularly acute diversity problem, and it is having a negative impact on the lives of millions of people, all around the world.

Since 2014, Information is Beautiful have maintained a visualization of the published diversity statistics for some of the world’s largest technology companies. Despite the 2017 US population being 51 percent female, at that time Nvidia only employed 17 percent female staff, Intel and Microsoft 26 percent, Dell 28 percent, and Google, Salesforce and YouTube 31 percent. …

Workers will no longer tolerate the punishing schedules of technology giants

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Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group. Credit: World Economic Forum via flickr/CC BY 2.0


That number means 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, and is shorthand for the punishing schedule Chinese workers are expected to maintain. A 72-hour workweek with little time for anything else: No family time. No time to meet friends. No hobbies. Not even time to cook proper meals. Once you account for sleeping and commuting, one might wonder how ambitious tech workers fit in the rest of their lives. …

The Online Harms White Paper could be a threat to free speech

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Sajid Javid, UK Home Secretary. Credit: Foreign Office via Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

A school playground in England, 1997. I am 12 years old. I am walking towards the entrance where my mother is waiting to drive me home. I am giddy with excitement during the journey back. Tonight is the night that I’m finally going to get it.

I barely look up as I eat my dinner, shoveling it into my mouth as quickly as I possibly can. As soon as the knife and fork hit the empty plate, I’m rushing upstairs to the computer. I sit in front of the glow of the Windows 95 boot screen until the familiar start-up sound plays. …

With Lyft and Uber going public, we need to face facts about their business model

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty

Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and Deliveroo. These words are now part of our everyday lexicon.

The gig economy has changed the world. I find it hard to remember when I didn’t see hundreds of delivery scooters zipping around the city near our office. Nor do I easily recall when it was unusual to see somebody happily getting into an unmarked car driven by someone they didn’t know. From Beijing to London to San Francisco, our cities are bisected 24 hours a day by the journeys of bicycle couriers, delivery mopeds, and taxi drivers.

I previously wrote that the explosion of the gig economy over the past decade has been primarily fueled by the money of venture capitalists (VCs) and the software written by skilled and highly compensated software engineers. There is a notable dichotomy between the job security and income of those who are creating this new economy and that of the gig workers who are generating the revenue, one delivery or ride-sharing trip at a time. …

Gig workers shouldn’t have to suffer in the quest for more market share

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Harouna Kaba, who drives for both Uber and Lyft, protests during a rally to call on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to force Uber and Lyft to hold union elections, September 27, 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

How about this: You and I are going to have a competition to see who is the best salesperson. The winner takes home their day’s revenue in cash. Sound good?

Okay, you’re in. First, we each need to pick an item to sell. It can be anything you want. Then we are going to go out on the streets and offload as many of them as we can.

I guarantee I am going to win. Why? Because I am selling $10 bills for just $5. I hit the street, and after some initial disbelief, I start selling. Word gets out, and people are flocking to me in droves. …


James Stanier

VP Engineering @brandwatch. Writing things that interest me. Hopefully they'll interest you as well.

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