free html hit counter
Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Work In Progress Version Of The Book On Builder At Work - Part 3 (Revised).

Based on criticism of the last chapter I ended up taking it offline. One of the things that I learnt about writing while doing this book is that you need to give each chapter some soak time where it just sits on your hard disk and you spend days looking at it, refining stuff, adding stuff and most importantly, removing stuff. This chapter is my attempt at doing that. The chapter has been made to soak for few days and has been edited with considerable effort.

The purpose of the chapter is to introduce you to the idea of builders without a lot of preaching.

As always, we would love to hear back from you. Feel free to drop us a comment, send a tweet @thousandtyone, email me, ping me or call me if you have anything to say regarding this chapter or the book in general.

Now go get a copy of the chapter here.

If you are interested in the other chapters that have been drafted so far you can also take a look at the table of contents.

posted on Friday, August 20, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [2]
Posted on: Saturday, August 14, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Picking A Company Is Not As Simple As Picking Your Clothes.

At a shopping mall my mom hands me a shirt which I brush aside as something I don't want to try out. When it comes to dressing most of us have preferences. What is the maximum loudness of the color that you can carry on your shirt with grace, do you wear regular fits or are you comfortable in tights. Do you have the physique or the body to carry the clothes you are wearing.

You probably even know the kind of fit that you are looking for in the first place.

You might even end up spending quite a bit of time trying stuff out.

Every time I interview someone and candidates tell me that they have not visited our website, my ears perk up. What do they know about the organization they are applying for? Have they interacted with someone in the organization? Do they know someone personally? Have they talked to someone? Read someone's blog? What made them apply in the first place? I am already suspicious of their reasons for applying.

The next question, is turning the tables, and letting the candidate interview us. Tell them that this is their only chance to know anything they want to know about the organization and let them ask questions openly and candidly.


Their questions say a great deal about the type of 'fit' that they are looking for.

  1. How does the appraisal process within your organization work?
  2. How can I grow within your organization?
  3. What are your salary brackets for someone with similar experience as me?

This line of question says quite a bit about the candidate asking them.

He is neither looking for the personality, nor the texture of your organization. He is not considering his own mindset and mental physique before applying for an organization.

If he was given a job offer would he just join?

If he can somehow get those legs into those jeans, will he buy them?

Or is picking an organization really much simpler than picking your clothes?

Now, all you need to do is go through the interview, but you might want to keep it short with this guy, because from this point on, you are probably just wasting your time which could have been otherwise utilized interviewing better candidates who care.

posted on Saturday, August 14, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, August 13, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Genuine Mavens Can See Through Your Product And Your Organization.

You are in corporate business meetings where the revenue model of the product is discussed extensively. Meetings where the business wants to visualize and conceptualize every single use case of your product before you even start writing a single line of code.

You are working in an organization where ideas do not “happen” or catch someone by their collars. You are working in a company where ideas are manufactured based on market trends, what is going to be big, what is going to be hot and what is going to have the highest ROI.

The problem with this organization is that when your revenue model, your profitability and your ROI is all you focus on, you build a product which has a hollow sole and a marketing pitch that is full of impotent words.

Put simply, you are trying too hard.

And when the trying ends, you might have a product with a lot of features but you don’t have a story. You have a product that does much more than any other product out there but a product that no one cares about.

Why? Because the really smart consumers, the ones of have the means and the measures to become your unpaid ambassadors also have the common sense to see through your shit and get to the rotten core of your product.

Your product was built by builders who went on hibernation half way through the product because the so called management rubbed them the wrong way and gave them no autonomy, it shows.

Your product was build by 501 programmers who you thought you would just hire and pay to get stuff built, it shows.

Your product was controlled by a team of micro managers, who started five mail threads and had five new ideas for every five lines of code the actual team that was doing some real work behind the product wrote.

Every single act of organizational stupidity that happened through the development of your product is going to show. The folks who can actually tip your product, are going to see right through it and give your product a simple cold shoulder as you sit in meeting rooms and wonder why you are not getting a lot of traffic on your website or why no one is using your product.

What is most ironic, is that these are the same smart mavens who would have joined your team and become your unpaid brand ambassadors, only if you started with a genuine idea of helping your consumers, making a dent in the universe or just adding a little bit of fun to their, and above all your life.

When you are having meetings and politics instead of having fun while building a product, you, your product and your organization tend to become boring. At least, to an outsider. The smartest of your consumers can see right through your product. Of course, the business loves profitable, but the day you stop having fun, you stop being profitable. It’s that simple. Really.

posted on Friday, August 13, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, August 8, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Getting Those Paycheck Programmers to Quit Your Organization - Part 1.

A book I read recently called, Drive, is fundamentally a collection of researches that other authors and companies have done regarding the hidden forces that motivate true builders. The book also talks about thing that do not motivate the true builders.

The book begins with the introducing smart chimps who solve puzzles without the lure of food or direct rewards and introduces you to the concept of intrinsic motivation, which also happens to be the central theme of the book.

This video does an really good job at describing the book and everything the book contains.

One genuinely innovative idea the book proposes is the concept of what I like to call “a quitting bonus”. The idea is fairly simple. Somewhere, smack in the middle of the year, you announce a quitting bonus. Anyone who quits within a month from the day you announce the bonus gets the bonus. It is similar to a joining bonus, only designed with an intention of driving people out of your organization.

The central idea is simple. After a certain level, the truest of the builders in your organization are not moved by paychecks. If you are a truly innovative company, chances are, that you do not want folks who will jump to the next door organization at the first fifteen percent hike that they are offered. So just offer them that much to quit in the first place and see if they stick around.

A quitting bonus gives the jumpers a chance to jump early. After the jumpers have jumped you are left with individuals who are not driven just by a slightly bigger paycheck. You are left with people who are not moved by carrots and sticks. You can now settle down and focus on making small or big dents in the universe through your work rather than constantly worrying about people leaving.

Getting your management to lure people to quit, is a little difficult to describe and sell in a management meeting, but if you think about it, you are way better off paying a small bonus to get rid of a paycheck programmer, rather than having him work half-heartedly for your organization and introducing mediocrity in everything he does.

Go ahead, use money as a carrot to drive people out of your organization and the ones who do not take the carrot might be the builders, story-tellers or people who believe your vision. These are the people you set out to look for in the first place. With the others leaving your organization, you can now settle down, focus and get down to some real work.

posted on Sunday, August 8, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, August 7, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Trying To Be "Practical" All The Time Equals A Mediocre Professional Life.

A young and budding engineer wants your advice on which of the three job offers he should accept.

Applying for three job interviews and picking from one of the three job offers is a simple “practical” decision for most programmers. Compare the salaries, the perks, the brand name of the three companies that have given you an offer and poof!

By the time they talk to you most programmers have already evaluated, calculated, measured and predicted the pros and cons of each offer. All they seek from you now, is your validation.But the mere premise of seeking validations from others has a problem associated with it. The act of seeking validation is a sign of fear. Validation is boring. Validation is safe.

The person seeking validation is usually scared of the voice that is whispering so very gently in the little corner of his brain.

“But Multiplitaxion Inc, seems like an amazing fun filled work environment”, the voice tells him.

The voice was already hushed by the “practical” thought process long ago.

Multiplitaxion Inc, was paying fifteen percent less than other job offers.

It would have been a stupid impractical decision to pick Multiplitaxion Inc, over a safe, big, high paying job.

But then the upside of listening to that voice, is that after you have heard it and followed it a couple of times, you are no longer scared.

You do not need validations.

You have no “could have" no "would have" and no "should have” scenarios in your life. What you have is a decision not needing external validations. Of course, you can fail, but then in those cases failure usually becomes a part of the learning process, not a reason to quit.

Impractical decisions are sometimes way more practical than practical ones where everything is planned and yet you are scared. Shit scared.

Stop being that practical 501 programmer or an obedient employee when it comes to your career.

We have too many of them already.

Now go do something child-like, impractical and spontaneous.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Saturday, August 7, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [2]
Posted on: Friday, August 6, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Learning The Art Of Genuinely Reading And Enjoying Books You Like.

If you are reading this, you are a reader. By today’s standards, when most programmers do not read books, you can even call yourself a vicarious reader. Chances are that you like to snuggle up in your bed and skim through the crisp pages of a book as leisurely moments glide by.

Books are fun, books are entertaining, books happen to be the source of food for your hungry, possibly hyperactive mind. You love your books so much so that somewhere deep in your mind you actually believe that your books love you back. You even visit the local bookstore during weekends and spend time reading stuff there.

And then you bump across a new book full of new ideas. You are holding it in your hands, snuggling up on a couch and skimming through it. Glancing through it. Hunting for ideas you can take home or ideas you can carry to work and put to use Monday morning. You are moving fast. You are sucking in information like a sponge.

That is not real reading.

Real reading is when you are reading slow, real reading is when you sit with a pencil and circle paragraphs as you read them. Real reading is when you are in crazy war with the book.

Scott Berkun describes his fascination for seeing his book, used, abused and worn out. He explains:

There is something depressing about seeing one of my books high on an office shelf, in perfect condition, covered in a layer of dust. I’m thrilled they were purchased of course, but there’s sadness there too.

Some people keep their favorite books in great condition, and that’s awesome. It’s an act of great respect.

But I admit I love seeing one of books all dog eared, with tabs, post-it notes, or even coffee-stains all over the place. That’s a book that has lived and has spent long hours in use. It’s been lent to many people, traveled in buses and planes, and read by many sets of eyes.

Real reading is when you appreciate the well knit articulate stream of words effortlessly brought together to create equally coherent stream thoughts in your brain. Real reading is when you get so excited about a paragraph that you have to take notes on the margins, a notebook or a piece of paper, right then.

Real reading is when you are not reading a book to finish it, but for the pleasure that you get out of reading it. Real reading is when your are reading is not just supposed to make you a better reader, but a better writer. Real reading is hard. Real reading is slow. Real reading is fun.

So, what did you read this weekend?

posted on Friday, August 6, 2010 6:00:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

When Trying To Make A Point With Your Emails Or Blog Post Short Is Better Than Long.

A wise man who looked at an email trail between me and my manager once remarked that both of us were misusing the concept of email as a medium. "You are way too long winded", he said, "that is not what email is all about. When you guys have written an email, you should reread it, ask yourself how you can say the same thing with fewer words, delete everything you have written and rewrite the same email this time with a lesser number of words".

The idea was simple. When it comes to writing or reading content, that is supposed to make a point, short works better than long.

While with books the cartoon might seem funny, with emails most people scan your content anyway, and the longer it is the lesser the chances that they might actually read it. After all, people do not read email. They read me-mail.

Years later the same feedback came in for my blog posts. A colleague of mine mildly hinted that I should practice writing shorter. Particularly since all my post revolved around a point which I was trying to make. Making the same point with lesser number of words, was an art, he believed I should start learning as soon as I possibly could.

We're evolving as a race. Twitter imposes a hard limit of hundred and forty characters. Most other mediums are not as controlling and clear about how you aught to use them, but as a general rule, If you want to make a point, keep it short, keep it simple.

If you have a story to tell or a book to write, go ahead and add verbiage. Describe your experiences to your heart's content. If it's humor your are trying your hand at, and you prefer not to use brevity, play with words all you want. There will always be cases where you need to flip those keys for hours but when it comes to an email or a blog post that is supposed to make a point, short is sweet, short is fun, short is powerful.

Ok, done. I think I just made a point. That was short.

posted on Sunday, August 1, 2010 10:14:01 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [1]
Posted on: Saturday, July 31, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

The Noise And The Turmoil That Clutters Your Brain - Part 1.

Nasty emails that are condescending and / or simply supposed to trigger meaningless arguments are all over the place in the software development world. Some of the best builders I have worked with often think of these as fouls  and believe that you cannot win a game by scoring a foul in answer of another foul.

Given that you are dealing with other human beings and given that you are yourself going to act like an asshole every once in a while without even knowing that you are doing that, chances are that you are always going to face a turmoil regarding the thoughts that you want your brain to focus on and the thought that your brain actually focuses on.

You want to focus on the facebook integration for your product and think about it.

But then, are you truly focusing on it?

Fred is acting like a hardcore asshole. The suit, who you report to has suddenly started acting like a jerk. There are three emails in your mail box that you are just itching to respond. You can shatter the sender of all these three emails right now. All you need to do is hit the reply to all button and slam your keyboard with your fingertips for five minutes.

You are thinking about responding to those emails when you truly want to think about facebook integration.

Aren't you? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Paul Graham has a rather interesting take on the topic. He explains:

Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half.

I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head.  I'm always delighted to find I've forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn't been thinking about them.

My wife thinks I'm more forgiving than she is, but my motives are purely selfish.

Some attacks are best defended by funny twitter hash-tags, some are just not worth responding to and some are not even worth thinking about, because all they do is clutter your brain and occupy precious processing time which could have been otherwise used processing way more fun filled ideas that would help you move forward. Thinking of how you are going to respond to Fred? I suggest throwing the idea out and not giving Fred your precious processing time.

Go reserve your processing time for something more meaningful that is going to add some genuine value and ultimately matter in the long run.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Saturday, July 31, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]