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Posted on: Sunday, July 11, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Programmer Tip: Exercising Your Brain By Learning Something New - Part 1.

Your favorite platform which is also your bread, butter and your passion has just come out with a beta release. You are tied up with an important project. There is a part of you that wants to play with the beta bits during the weekend.

Having said that however, the  idea of catching up with friends and heading out to the new movie looks appealing.

In a casual conversation with yourself, you talk the voice that is softly whispering, asking you to take a look at the new beta pieces aside. "Monday. I'll look at it Monday morning." - you casually brush your inner voice aside.

Life moves on.

On a bright afternoon a post in your RSS reader tells you that the beta pieces have now gone to production and a released version is finally out. But then, you are currently tied up with some important work pertaining to your project so you promise yourself you will take a look at it tomorrow.

Weeks pass by and you have still not had a chance to try out the beta pieces, see the framework evolve or even try out the production pieces.

Now when you sit down to play around with an evolved version of the framework chances are that you are going to feel overwhelmed. You are going to feel like whining about to too many technologies getting released too quickly. You have taken your first step towards doing funny things like filing a petition for keeping the unmanaged version of visual basic six alive.

If there is anything years of software development and weeks of exercising has taught me, it is that both exercising and software development are fairly similar in more than one aspects.

If there is one thing anyone who is in fitness will tell you, it is that mobility is hugely important. The most difficult thing with exercising is to get a person started. To get him moving. Most fitness plan for example started with simple games squash, activities like dancing or activities like running and once the momentum sets in, rest of it becomes fairly easy. You actually start liking it.

Software development in general and picking up new technologies and languages in particular to a large extent is similar. The most difficult task is usually to get someone to download a new version of visual studio and try out that new release of WCF data services. The rest of it is fairly easy and once you have started you actually start liking the process.

Books like spark will also tell you that there are striking similarities between how your mussels and neurons work. You make your mussels stronger by using them, tearing them down through your exercise and then giving them time to heal. Every time you do this, your mussels emerge stronger. Your mind, as strange as it might seem, follows a similar path to develop strength, power and endurance.

Every now and then I see folks whining about Microsoft having more than one programming language. The whole VB.NET and C# wars are fairly common too. The thing with languages however, is that after you have worked in three or four of them, picking up a new language and coding in it doesn't remain all that difficult.

The more you work your brain with languages, the quicker it picks them up.

It is perfectly okay to not know every new technology in your platform. It is perfectly fine to stick to one language, but then, the more languages you play around with, the easier it becomes for you to pick up newer languages. After all, flow and the pleasure of learning is much more fun than whining about how rapidly technologies are changing.

Go ahead. Break the mobility barrier. Download a new language or a beta release of something you have been meaning to try out for months and actually spend some time with it today.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Sunday, July 11, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, July 10, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

The Perils Of Blatant Mediocrity When It Comes To Your Product - Part 1.

Every now and then I stumble upon medium sized software development companies which play around with their product and their pricing. Observe these companies closely and you will realize a common trend running through all of these.

Most tend to start a product with a product idea and not a personal pain point that they want to solve to begin with. When you get subject matter specialists in the room and when you start spending hours gathering requirements, about a problem that you couldn't care less about, you tend to build mediocre products that, 'meet all requirements'.

The same subject matter specialist that billed you by the hour, also happened to bill your competition and what you have in your hand right now is a 'me too' product. Your product has screens which are very similar to the screens of your competition. Your product has features which are very similar to your competition. Your product also has pricing which is very similar to your competition.

You are what James Surowiecki describes in his article for the The New Yorker as, Soft in the Middle. He explains:

For Apple, which has enjoyed enormous success in recent years, “build it and they will pay” is business as usual. But it’s not a universal business truth. On the contrary, companies like Ikea, H. & M., and the makers of the Flip video camera are flourishing not by selling products or services that are “far better” than anyone else’s but by selling things that aren’t bad and cost a lot less.

These products are much better than the cheap stuff you used to buy at Woolworth, and they tend to be appealingly styled, but, unlike Apple, the companies aren’t trying to build the best mousetrap out there. Instead, they’re engaged in what Wired recently christened the “good-enough revolution.” For them, the key to success isn’t excellence. It’s well-priced adequacy.

These two strategies may look completely different, but they have one crucial thing in common: they don’t target the amorphous blob of consumers who make up the middle of the market. Paradoxically, ignoring these people has turned out to be a great way of getting lots of customers, because, in many businesses, high- and low-end producers are taking more and more of the market.

In fashion, both H. & M. and Hermès have prospered during the recession. In the auto industry, luxury-car sales, though initially hurt by the downturn, are reemerging as one of the most profitable segments of the market, even as small cars like the Ford Focus are luring consumers into showrooms.

And, in the computer business, the Taiwanese company Acer has become a dominant player by making cheap, reasonably good laptops—the reverse of Apple’s premium-price approach.

While the high and low ends are thriving, the middle of the market is in trouble. Previously, successful companies tended to gravitate toward what historians of retail have called the Big Middle, because that’s where most of the customers were. These days, the Big Middle is looking more like “the mushy middle” (in the formulation of the consultants Al and Laura Ries).

The companies there—Sony, Dell, General Motors, and the like—find themselves squeezed from both sides (just as, in a way, middle-class workers do in a time of growing income inequality). The products made by midrange companies are neither exceptional enough to justify premium prices nor cheap enough to win over value-conscious consumers.

The same article also talks about why it is so tempting and yet so painstakingly non-rewarding to stay in the comfortable middle path:

This doesn’t mean that companies are going to abandon the idea of being all things to all people. If you’re already in the middle of the market, it’s hard to shift focus—as G.M. has discovered. And the allure of a big market share is often hard to resist, even if it doesn’t translate into profits. According to one estimate, Nokia has nearly twenty times Apple’s market share, but the iPhone alone makes almost as much money as all Nokia’s phones combined.

The argument becomes much more dominant if you are launching your own product or service. You are not exactly a Sony or a Nokia and chances are the soft middle in your industry or domain is already taken by someone. Your only chance of surviving is that you make the best freaking products out there. Build awe and surprise by innovating the best product out there.

If you can't build a seriously kickass product that people would pay a premium price for, build something acceptable that works and disrupt your competition with the lowest of prices.

After all, safe is risky, remarkable is fun.

Go on, get out of that circle mediocrity when it comes to products and prices.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Saturday, July 10, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, July 9, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Productivity Tip: Using Your Keystrokes Where They Add Value.

How often have you witnessed two or more individuals disagree over something and battle it out over email?

Come on. You have seen the thirty-five email long mail thread where two big Grizzly Bears of your organization were fighting with each other over a technical disagreement. Haven't you? Huh?

If you've been in the business of building software long enough I bet you have been a part of at-least one or more of these email trails. At more than one point of time in my life,  I have been involved with quite a few of these and have specially devised twitter hash tags which can be used to rescue and bail me out of some of these 'yes but' discussions and arguments.

The deal is fairly simple. If it's a productive, objective discussion where the best solution is bound to win and it helps you learn something new, battle it out. Argue. Discuss. Learn. Strain yourself defending your strong opinions weakly held.

At the first indication of things turning personal, the sign of a meaningless flame war, the sign of bozoism or the sign of a 'yes but' discussion, back out. The battle is just not worth fighting.

Scott Hanselman's post on keystroke worthiness, which is inspired out of the original classic counting your keystrokes, by Jon Udell, is not a post which addresses this topic directly but provides some useful advice if you are just about to hit that reply to all button and respond to an email which is soon going to turn into a never ending yes-but discussion. The basic idea is simple. You have a finite number of keystrokes that you can use in your entire life. Scott explains:

Let break it down. I'm 36 and change. I'll live to be 80, let's say, and I can type 100 words a minute (but 50 of that is errors and the backspace key) so let's say 50WPM. If I type for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for the next 44 years, that means there are 198M keystrokes left in my hands. Max. Period. And that's generous; it's likely 10% of that.

5.1CPW * 50WPM * 60m/hr * 6hr/s a day * 5 days/wk * 50 wks/year * 44yrs = 1,009,800,000 keystrokes left in your hands.

Let's assume the average length of an English word is 5, plus a space, so six. That's a ceiling of 168M more words I can type in my lifetime. Nothing I can do, short of dictation, or some new brain invention is going to create more keystrokes. I am I/O bound by my hands. The keystrokes they contain are finite. And this assuming my hands don't give out.

Drink that in. OK. So now, next time someone emails you ask yourself "is emailing this person back the best use of my remaining keystrokes?" That includes both 1:1 and 1:many emails. You could even add a little hubris to it and say: "Does this person deserve the gift of my keystrokes?"

If you are working with human beings, by now you probably already understand the fact of life: shit happens. While it is tempting to respond to every flame mail, every nasty comment and every heating discussion, remembering that your keystrokes are finite is your first step towards using them in places where they can have the biggest impact.

Go ahead, back out. Turn the heating mail trail into a objective research driven blog post.

Go on and Present your facts and findings and give the whole wide world the gift of your keystrokes. Chances are, that this is where your keystrokes will make a much wider impact on people who want to learn. Folks who want to participate and contribute.

Chances are that this is also how you will avoid useless stress, learn something new, move on and get stronger to fight much more meaningful battles that matter. After all, you have a limited number of keystrokes. Don't waste them on situations or mail trails which are not worthy of the gift of your keystrokes. Use your keystrokes wisely. 

I wish you good luck.

posted on Friday, July 9, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [1]
Posted on: Sunday, July 4, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Differentiating Between A Good Teacher And A Mediocre Or A Lousy One - Part 1.

My early school life started with underpaid teachers who were so cold about the subjects they taught that their passion was hardly infectious. Most of them were faking it, frustrated, depressed with life or were not even decently deep in their subjects.

By high-school, thanks to their combined effort, I had been convinced that there was something majorly wrong with the way I saw the world. Of course, I had my experiences with a few good teachers. Most of the other things that school taught me however, was just through some strange isolated incidents that changed me, rather than a long cultivated respect or admiration for any of the teachers or the school in particular.

One of my high school English teachers for example, was the first to give me amazing grades and break the stereotype that English essay writing in high school was all about how many stellar high profile words you could cram in that essay. That incident to an extent told me that essay writing can be fun, that I could be really good at it and that I could even just write for the fun of writing.

This however, was an isolated incident and if I sit down to look back at the amazing teachers who worked for my school and who have had a lot of influence on my life, I hardly find any. By the time I started college, I had pretty much come to the conclusion that those who seriously, cannot do, teach.

It was then that while continuing college I also landed up with my first job as... a part time system administrator and a part time computer science teacher. It was payback time! Like a rebel I set out to break all rules of teaching.

If someone felt like dropping a class or if he didn't understand something I was teaching, it was all my fault. I knew that back from my own days at school. But even these were just games a teenager plays. I was nowhere close to seriously dissecting and understanding what makes a really good teacher.

It was not until later parts of my career that I met a very different kind of mentors. These were people who were so passionate about their subjects that their passion would transmit over TCP/IP, come off the other end of your monitor and infect you.

These were kick-ass teachers. Not a bunch of underpaid non-doers, but the best in the industry, who were so successful they could not even give you their free time and so thoughtful, that they actually made it an effort to share their experiences with you.

These guys knew how to learn like a teacher and teach like student.

To a large extent, I had completely stopped believing in training programs by now. Anyone who was good at what he did, was online. Sharing his experiences. Teaching you stuff through his writing, podcasts and videos. Others, were just not worth wasting your time or your money on.

It was not until recently that I started taking up a couple of language classes that I started dissecting the difference between an amazing teacher and a mediocre one, who might even be an underpaid non-doer.

My French Lessons

The classes happened in a brightly lighted class room of a plush building, belonging to a very famous organization, which shall remain unnamed. On the very first day the person teaching us French had an issue with some of us not carrying a proper notebook and a pen to take notes. On the second day, we were told that just weekend classes were not enough and that we should study French at home as well.

On the third class, we had already pissed the teacher off by the lack of our involvement. But then, the feeling was mutual for some of us. The teacher, as it turns out, had pissed some of the students off by her slightly intimidating approach to teaching. Things were written on whiteboards. People copied them and then people tried to memorize French. She would read things out from grammar books and then people would take notes.

By the third lesson I had already found a lot of rather amazing French learning tutorials online which were way better than my French class and was having a ball with those. I was hooked to the idea of learning new languages and I was just using the classes as a means to check my progress and see where I was.

The ones who were actually expecting to learn something out of that classroom however, were utterly disappointed. By the fifth class, we had been reminded more than a dozen times that French was a very difficult language and that we must give in hard work to learn it. By the fifth class, a good thirty percent of the class had got intimidated and had either dropped out or just stopped coming.

With all due respect to the person who taught us French, she was a nice person and she was truly trying her level best to teach us French. She was amazing at French too. It's just the 'teaching' part where she was... well... just as mediocre as some of my school teachers.

My Sanskrit Lessons

For those of you who might not know what Sanskrit is, it is a ancient Indian language. Languages for me are a medium of expressing intent. I speak over four of them very fluently and somewhat understand a few more. For me every language has a use. If English is the language of communication, French is the language of romance, Sanskrit is the language for the intellect and the soul.

So when I was asked if I wanted to attend a one day session on Sanskrit I promptly answered 'yes' and attended it even though I had been able to grab just five hours or so of sleep that night.

I walked into the class without a notebook or a pen to write stuff on and then when the memories from my French class flashed back, I thought, since I was there I might as well show some respect to the teacher and go grab a notebook. So a colleague of mine and me went out and grabbed a notebook along with a pen.

There was something interesting about the teacher however. He started the class by asking us how many of us had never studied Sanskrit in our entire lives. I raised my hand promptly. Then he smiled and asked us which language he had asked us the question in.

Dumbstruck the folks who had lifted their hands looked at each other. The guy had asked us the question in Sanskrit. We had not just understood the question, but responded to it. This was a wearied mix of funny and creepy both rolled into one. We smiled in amusement.

Then there were some philosophical statements that were made, all in Sanskrit, with a little bit of English words inserted in every now and then, to give us the context and help us understand what he was talking about, but during most of the class, we felt like young kids learning how to walk, stumbling, falling, getting up, falling again. It was fun. Serious. Raw. Fun.

Notebooks. We were asked to not use them if possible, because chances were, you were going to lose your notebooks the moment you left the class. We were asked to just listen, sit back, enjoy and have fun.

In the one day boot camp, we were not just taught Sanskrit but that the secret behind any language is not to 'learn by translation'. It is to learn by LSRW which stood for Listen, Speak, Read and Write. You start by just listening to a language like a baby does. You do that for days. Then you slowly start understanding and speaking. The reading and writing are supposed to come in much later.

By the end of the day, two random students from the class got up and did a small situational play in Sanskrit. As we rolled over laughing at their mistakes, our minds were engaged in picking up on every single mistake each one of these guys made. Our minds, were learning. Unlike the French class, we were told over a dozen times in this class, that Sanskrit was easy and the general stereotype that it is really hard is just a myth.

Half way through the training a wearied realization dawned on me. I thought of my French classes we had stopped half way through and had never gone back to attend those. If our French teacher had used a teaching style that was similar to the one this guy was using, we would all be speaking fluent French by now.

The One Thing

If there is one thing I was told to pick as a difference between this Sanskrit teacher and the French teacher, it would be one little word that means the difference between your being a good teacher, your being a mediocre one or your being a lousy one.


No seriously. That is one quality a lot of my underpaid school teachers lacked as well. It's easy to put someone on the spot. Easy to ask him questions and feel frustrated when he is unable to answer questions. Teaching is not about any of that. Teaching is about connecting to other human beings, understanding their minds and giving them the best freaking environments where learning can be a fun and rewarding experience.

After all we are creatures who want to learn. The real question is, are you man enough to teach us? Do you feel strongly about your subject? Is your passion for your subject so strong that you can actually infect others with it? Can you simplify? Can you make it fun?

So, the next time you are planning on conducting a class or a small knowledge sharing session for your organization, here is a piece of advice: keep your frustrations at your home before you leave for the class and don't forget to load your bag with loads of patience. If your students feel bored, you are not entertaining enough. If you have to tell them to read up the subject at home, your passion for your subject is not infectious.

If they are not laughing and having fun, you are boring.Oh and yes, if you feel that your topic is very difficult and complicated, you might know your topic really well but you just might not be qualified enough to teach it yet.

Even if you forget everything else you read in this post, if you are ever going to teach people, whether it be professionally or for a small knowledge sharing session you are going to conduct in your organization, you cannot forget empathy. Now go, infect someone with your passion for a subject or a topic.

I dare you.

posted on Sunday, July 4, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, July 3, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Programmer Tip: Don't Be The Ego Centric Veteran Who Knows It All.

You could be a young and budding programmer fresh out of college or a veteran who has had a very long career. One fine morning as the birds flutter outside the office window and you stare at them, you realize a strange thing about the culture of your organization.

You realize that your organization is a safe, non-political environment where no-one is out there to screw you in particular.

You are safe. You are protected. You don't need to fight it.

And then you realize that all you need to get your job done are the few basic programming techniques you slogged hard to learn during your college days. You get a few pats on the back on a job well done, life moves on and you move on to the next assignment. Once again, the skills you picked in engineering school come handy. A project well done and on time. No one is complaining.

What you don't hear however, is that no one is clapping like they did last time either.

This is the start of the loop.

You are using the same skill-sets to product the same output for the same kinds of project month after month.

You are boring to the rest of us.

To you however, office seems like home. It's safe. It's warm. It's cozy. And look, you have made a few friends too!

For you, your friends are people you can take to conference rooms with you and chit chat about process and 'resources' and shit like that. You know, things that seem like work, but are not really work.

For you, friends are people who you are comfortable with. For you friends are people who you do not challenge you. For you, friends are people who you do not challenge either.

Put simply, your friends are in the same shitty loop of safety as you are.

Neither of you have ever brought yourself close to getting fired. Neither of you guys have tested your limits. You have looped your skill-sets, done just enough to get your work 'approved' and then have serious kick-ass chit-chat in meeting rooms.

Then one strange day it happens. You get an email from your customer telling you that your module has done no major feature releases for the last five months. You are not really working. You are just talking about work and whining your time away. Your customer is calling out on your bull-shit. Your customer just told you that the work you are doing lately is fu@#ked up.

Now you are just going to have to deal with it.

It feels like being punched on the stomach doesn't it? Your bit fat hundred pound ego shattered to the ground. The guilt of f@#cking around in meeting rooms for hours when you should have been doing some real work seems like a heavy burden on your back, doesn't it? What do you do? What do you do? They clapped at your work three years ago. They sent you special appreciation emails back then.


It CANNOT be your fault.

Your first gut-based-knee-jerk reaction? Fire up the mail client. Hit the reply to all button and poop all over with a truck load of shitty jargon that you were busy learning in the last three years.

Resource Planning needs to be done properly... Blah.... Blah... Requirements need to be elaborated and frozen... Blah... Blah... The Quality Approval process needs to provide suggestions on what needs to be improved which they are not doing... Blah... Blah... Yeah.

You review that, pat yourself on the back and whisper to yourself, "Yeah. That aught to set things in perspective."

Thinking of hitting the send button?

Here is my humble advice: Don't.

There are multiple reasons why you need to stop. Now.

First of all, you have just been criticized. You need to give that some soak time.

Secondly, by hitting that send button you are taking your first step at becoming a fully qualified whiner. What ever amazing talents that were bestowed upon you by your engineering college, the ones you have been flaunting for years, even those might slowly start fading away if you walk down that path.

Thirdly, people are going to see your shit and laugh at you and here is the worst part, they are going to do that behind your back, because now they have seen how you defend negative feedback with aggression and lame excuses.

If you ask me, I'd start by telling you to just shut the F@#CK up and apologize. Then when you have done that, realize that words mean nothing. So when the next sprint begins get your ass out of that meeting room, logout of your yahoo messenger and focus on shipping. Then, go ahead and ship. Remember, goals win matches, fouls don't.

Are you still reading this?

Well, it probably means that you have made it through the entire blog post. The irony with a post like this one however, is that if you are reading this, it probably does not apply to you. The mere fact that you subscribe to a blog that talks about self improvement and reflection probably means that you are open to the idea of criticism. I agree, you are probably not the 'you' I talked about during the entire post.

But then, humor me on this one. What if (and I am just saying), for whatever reasons, what if you got distracted and could not produce anything in the last couple of weeks. What if your manager calls out on your shit and tells you that you have been producing horse shit in the last three weeks.

How would you react to that?

Will you try pampering your ego of being the alpha-geek who knows it all? Are you going to defend your guilt of that distraction by pooping all over in the email which you send out as a response?

Or are you going to be man enough to come out and say it, 'Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. Give me some time. I'll fix it'.

Once you have done that, are you man enough to actually go out there and fix it.

If you aren't, you are a whiner in the making.

If you are, we would love to work with you irrespective of the fact that you do go through a few random distractions in your life. We all do.

Our biggest problems are not your distractions. It is also not how you deal with them. It is what you do when we call out your shit.

Seriously. Stop feeding your ego and your guilt.


I dare you.

posted on Saturday, July 3, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, July 2, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Productivity Tip: Getting Done And Celebrating Your 'Doneness'.

You walk a couple of miles into office. Brain Rules and Spark tell you that brisk walking or any exercise before work produces a supply of BDNF and Dopamine to your brain. It's healthy. But this is not a post on fitness. That one is here.

This is a post on 'Doneness'.

Pretty much like fitness, doneness is a state of mind.

Jack is at your desk as soon as you get into office.

A client seems to have reported a critical bug in the application. A bug that triggers a firefighting Endeavour consuming about fifty minutes of your time.

You check your email... ten minutes slip by.

Fred  is a little lost about the his purpose of life and needs mentoring (spelt: psychological pep-talk). You cringe. Another thirty minutes slip by and Fred is completely pepped-up now.

There is an interview you need to take. The candidate has arrived.


Can't time move a little slower?

Someone on the transmission team needs your help. The dev working on it is stuck with some IIS configuration issues and is getting cryptic error messages. You show him how to change the Application Pool settings to allow Win-32 applications to run in IIS on a 64-bit machine. As you get up, you look outside the window. It's starting to get dark. It's evening.


By now you have already moved to a panic state. The three items on your TODO list are staring at you straight in the eye. Your manager is calling you for another meeting. Improvise. Make a decision. Pick between the three items on the TODO list or the meeting. You are scared of the monkey taking a stupid decision which might come back to bite your team.  That monkey. Or maybe your team just needs some cover-fire. You decide to attend the meeting.

By the time you get out of the meeting your task list is still snarling back at you and you have a headache from the meeting.


What happened to your true, fun loving self which used to get things done and ship? You take a pause by the office window to do some serious soul searching and reflect on today. The noise has dulled your brain out and there is a gentle silent voice whispering from deep down within.

"You did not get anything done today."

You feel like shit.

Michael Lopp describes this feeling rather articulately in one of his posts. He explains:

This sensation will appear at the end of the day when you ask, “What did I build today?” The answer will be a troubling, “Nothing”. The days of fixing ten bugs before noon are gone. You’re no longer going to spend the bus ride home working on code; you’re going to be thinking hard about how to say something important to someone who doesn’t want to hear it. There will be drama. And there be those precious seconds when there is no one in your office wanting… something.

It's an important realization. That and the fact that you actually did get a few things done. That interview you took, those three bugs you were able to close during the afternoon. That small class which you refactored while you were eating lunch. Those client emails you responded to while the meeting was going on. You just feel like shit because you are focusing on the three TODO items on your list staring back at you for the last three days.

You are planning, not coordinating.

Even more importantly, you are waiting for a big productive evening instead of celebrating small minutes or hours where you can squeeze time out and get stuff done. Next time you have fifteen minutes between meetings, see if you can look at the bug-list, pick up a small bug and close it. If you can, go ahead, pat yourself on your back. In fact, might I suggest that you celebrate the fact that you #gotdone on Twitter.

And then, when the TODO items on your task list snarl at you in anger, you have another list to throw back at it and not feel like shit.

Productivity is a state of mind, and much like exercising, even when it comes to work, you begin by understanding your basic limitations, working with contains and willing small battles instead of aiming for one large war.

Go ahead, be loud about what you got done today. Doneness is a good thing. It's healthy. It brings you happiness.

Celebrate your moments of doneness with the #gotdone hashtag.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Friday, July 2, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, June 27, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Using Twitter To Build On An Abnormal Way Of Looking At Perfectly Normal Things.

For those of you who might have read this blog post, you probably know my stand on the whole stupid you-follow-me-I-follow-you game that is played so frequently on Twitter.

If you remove that game out of the equation and then consider the amount of chatter and noise on twitter, the real question you start asking yourself is this - is twitter even worth spending any time on or is it just an elaborate version of Yahoo Chat or Yahoo Messenger, depending on if you want to meet interesting strangers or catch up with friends.

My recent activity on twitter however seems to have shot up drastically in the last few days. The rise in activity is a based on a simple realization about Twitter after 'not using it for months'.

If you have been using Twitter regularly, you probably do one or more of the following:

  1. Talk about your product or service.
  2. Catch up with friends.
  3. Paste useful (or useless) links.
  4. Collect followers and flex your mussel power.
  5. Talk about a global event like the #worldcup for instance.

And depending on which one or more out of the above makes you happy, doing either is perfectly fine. After all, twitter was actually supposed to thrive on activities like these.

What you might be missing out on, however, is an opportunity to observe things around you. If you have been following me on twitter you might have noticed that this is what I have been doing a whole lot lately.

Here are some of my recent tweets that aught to give you an idea of what I mean along with a context of where they were done from:

Isn't it sad that #socialmedia guys are making so much noise about #socialmedia on #socialmedia sites? blatant self promotion.
(While searching the social media tag on twitter).

Amazed at what anger can do to you. Was about to file a complaint about a rude call center guy. Waited and decided against it. #happy.
(While having a bad time with an Indian call center).

Wonders how to give an interesting talk and constantly worry about someone feeling bad or disagreeing at the same time.
(While reading the GNU speaker guidelines).

A girl learning how to drive. wonder why people become so serious and worked up when learning anything new. smile. learning is fun.
(Walking on the road, as I watched a girl learn how to drive).

School uniforms are a disrespect to diversity. every human being is different and so is what he wears. can we please stop raising sheep now?
(In a bus in India where I saw a few students in uniforms get on and act like a flock of sheep being herded into the bus).

Word of advice: when you don't know what you are doing find people you can trust and who know what they are doing. set them free.
(While watching a new budding manager managing people).

Honking on Indian roads is a reflection of general Indian personality. loud. interesting and at times downright obnoxious. #toughlove.
(On Road in India).

Have you ever tried actively keeping a track of the days as they slowly pass by? The velocity at which time moves is rather scary.
(On a slightly depressed moment).

If there is one word you can block from your company's vocabulary what would that be? For mine it would be calling people "resources".
(As I heard the word 'resource' getting mentioned over a dozen times in a meeting at work).

The food joint where I am eating with brother and nephew has been around since 1939. the point: small businesses with a niche can work.
(While enjoying a snack at a small joint near home with brother and nephew).

The point, is that these are all events that pass us by about a dozen times a day. How frequently do you see a serious girl, looking all worked up behind the drivers wheel with an instructor equally worked up and worried? How often do you get turned off by the responses from an Indian call center? How often do you hear the term social media as if its the next best thing since slice bread? How often do you eat out at a small joint you love?

These are all perfectly 'normal' event. What twitter does is that it gives you an opportunity to turn these into 'abnormal' events by adding your perspectives and by adding a little bit of yourself to these events.  It then allows you to share your perspectives with the rest of the world and more importantly, archive them for your own future use.

What better way to end this post, than with a tweet that I first posted when I realized and started doing this:

Tweeting is about having a abnormal way of looking at perfectly normal things. Now give us meaningful content. I dare you.

See if you can make your different, weird or opinionated perspectives fit in that hundred and forty characters.

I wish you good luck.

Side Note: If you are still not there on Twitter, here is quick starter guide.

posted on Sunday, June 27, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, June 26, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Leadership Tip: The Art Of Easing Out And Building Self Sustaining Teams.

Hell has broken lose at Multiplitaxion Inc. The sky is falling. The shopping-cart of a production system seems to have developed a glitch in a live website and apparently, it seems like people cannot buy things from the website.

I know what to expect next.

Throng of emails start flowing in on the support system.

Then comes a few emails from the client, with a little bit of tough love, directed at all of us.

It looks like there is a minor configuration glitch in Jack's code which is causing this awkward moment for all of us.

I hear the soft whisper in my head. My first instinct, the hidden, sedated asshole within me, whispering in a gentle, seductive and powerful voice.

"Call up Jack! Ask the incompetent idiot to fix it ASAP. Tell him it's CRITICAL. Absolutely fu@#king critical."

And then the veteran who has been there, done that and knows that it not work in the long run takes over.

I smile inwardly and decide to wait, answering the emails to the best of my abilities and sitting down to fix my own share of bugs, reminding myself that I am just as incompetent and just as big an idiot as anyone else.

Jack has already received the email. Jack is a mature human being with brains to understand that when shopping carts go down, companies lose money. He is probably looking at the problem right now and trying his best to fix it as quickly as possible. If he does not respond in the next hour or so, I will causally check with him. I respond to the seductive voice in an equally commanding tone and shrug it aside.

A few minutes later, another email lands on my inbox. It's Jack. The issue is resolved. The cart is up and running again. Life is back to normal.

The next morning, Jack is at my cubical. He wants to apologize about the issue and all those emails everyone had to reply.

"Nah. Don't worry about it. Shit Happens." --- I respond with a smile.

That is it. End of discussion. We go grab a cup of hot chocolate, talk about latest phone that I have been drooling over and discuss my intent of buying it.

I am happy. My life as a 'manager', 'development lead' or whatever it is that you want to call me, is a happy one.

It was a zero-touch operation or me. I now have a self sustaining team that functions perfectly well without me and I would have never found that out if I would have intervened on that and many countless nights before that.

Yes, there have been a few accidents. A few bumps while the teams I worked with in the past were in the drivers seat and I was in the back-seat, looking out and admiring the view, but nothing bad enough to get us killed.

Here is the interesting part however.

Every time the sky starts falling you will have a temptation of taking the drivers seat. Ease out of it. Let your team drive.

Because if you let them drive, they might get into a couple of small accidents and maybe even a couple of big once, but then they will learn how to drive, really fast and really well.

And once that happens, you can just take the back seat and admire the view or just find bigger challenge for yourself.

You know, the "professional growth" crap they talk about in seminars. This is how it happens.

Try it.

It actually works.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Saturday, June 26, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]