links for 2008-12-05

05 Dec
  • To a 19-year-old assigned to clean toilets, which is almost by definition the worst possible job in the world, the sight of this high-ranking, 38-year-old, manicured, pampered disciplinary officer cleaning a toilet was a shock. And it completely reset my attitude. If he can clean a toilet, I can clean a toilet, I thought. There's nothing wrong with cleaning toilets. My loyalty and inspiration from that moment on were unflagging. Now that's leadership.

    I thought about the sergeant major recently when my company, Fog Creek Software, moved into a new building in New York City. Anybody visiting the new space soon after we moved in might have been surprised to see me and my partner, Michael Pryor, drills in hand, climbing ladders and hanging blinds in all of our programmers' offices. Michael is the co-founder, president, and CFO of the company. I'm the co-founder, CEO, and Lord High Everything Else.

  • We could certainly cut immediately any executive who still has a putter and mechanical hole/ball return machine in his or her office. Total cost savings: $56.7 billion.
    We could also without question do away with management consultants who direct the firing of lots of people, then charge corporations the precise amount of costs they are saving the company through those reductions in force. Total cost savings $93.6 billion…
    We could cut all communications to employees from corporate headquarters reassuring people that there will be no more cuts. This would have the added benefit of cutting stories about such reassurances, impending layoffs, cutbacks and other fearsome things by more than 86%. Total monetary savings: $472 million in time, paper and effect on productivity, along with possible reductions in reporting staff dedicated solely to that function.
  • The failings of India’s state machinery are as deep as Mumbai’s crowds and as intractable as its traffic. The central government is often at loggerheads with the state governments, which in turn neglect the cities in favour of the rural voters who elect them. Indeed, the more one can ignore the state and its works, the better one feels about the country. This was a privilege reserved for India’s more affluent classes and some of its companies, but even they now know the state’s shortcomings can hurt them. In a debate held after the attacks, Cyrus Guzder, boss of AFL, a logistics firm, pointed out that corporate India thinks of the government as “something apart”. After civic disturbances and communal riots, business prefers to “maintain a dignified silence”. But this time, he said, “India Inc got it in the stomach.”
  • Not only did thousands of people turned up for the peace March at the Gateway of India yesterday but they were loud and clear of what they wanted ….. "A Change & Action not bashan
  • "If the triangles made a god, they would give him three sides." — Montesquieu
  • Someone running a startup is always calculating in the back of their mind how much "runway" they have—how long they have till the money in the bank runs out and they either have to be profitable, raise more money, or go out of business. Once you cross the threshold of profitability, however low, your runway becomes infinite…And because Internet startups have become so cheap to run, the threshold of profitability can be trivially low. Which means many Internet startups don't need VC-scale investments anymore. For many startups, VC funding has, in the language of VCs, gone from a must-have to a nice-to-have.
    VCs and founders are like two components that used to be bolted together. Around 2000 the bolt was removed. Because the components have so far been subjected to the same forces, they still seem to be joined together, but really one is just resting on the other. A sharp impact would make them fly apart. And the present recession could be that impact.
  • This was far more serious than anything he could have imagined. It was the ultimate hack. He was looking at an error coded into the heart of the Internet's infrastructure. This was not a security hole in Windows or a software bug in a Cisco router. This would allow him to reassign any Web address, reroute anyone's email, take over banking sites, or simply scramble the entire global system. The question was: Should he try it?
    The vulnerability gave him the power to transfer millions out of bank accounts worldwide…
    Or, for the sheer geeky joy of it, he could reroute all of .com into his laptop…It was a moment hackers around the world dream of—a tool that could give them unimaginable power. But maybe it was best simply to close his laptop and forget it. He could pretend he hadn't just stumbled over a skeleton key to the Net. Life would certainly be less complicated.
  • 3. When you disagree with someone, say just that. "I disagree" is not the same as "You're wrong". The former is a difference of opinion; the latter can be construed as a personal attack, even when it's not. When possible, avoid any "you" statement. Make it an "I" statement instead. The subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) effect of having "you" in a sentence is that it puts the spotlight on the person receiving the message. A natural defensive barrier goes up.
  • at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”

    Why should Pakistanis do that? Because you can’t have a healthy society that tolerates in any way its own sons going into a modern city, anywhere, and just murdering everyone in sight — including some 40 other Muslims — in a suicide-murder operation, without even bothering to leave a note. Because the act was their note, and destroying just to destroy was their goal. If you do that with enemies abroad, you will do that with enemies at home and destroy your own society in the process.

  • With such a mixed picture, all foreign companies can do right now is boost security for their people—and wait. Meanwhile, many investors will be thinking about tilting the balance to China. That's understandable. Despite persistent worker protests, the Olympics this summer left little doubt of the country's ability to manage itself.

    But China isn't really India's biggest economic challenge right now. India is. How its leaders respond to the Mumbai attacks will tell the business world what it wants and needs to know. Not just whether to pull back from India but how risky pushing forward will be.

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Posted by on December 5, 2008 in Links


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