Posts Tagged ‘pub’

One Saturday last November, Mr H. and I went to London to go for a walk. G. came down too, to visit Kew Gardens with a friend, so it was convenient for our walk to start off in Kew.

Kew Station

Before I really get started, I possibly ought to mention that, whilst I’m generally interested in the concept of genre, I’m still rather finding my feet when it comes to the genre conventions of blogging. This is my attempt at a touristy “trip report” style of post, with lots of photos. G. thinks that about ten photos would be a sensible limit, but it was quite a long walk, so I’m going to exceed that. I’ll try to have a fair bit of prose mixed in there too.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Kew.

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Some years ago, at an “all hands” meeting at a company where I worked, the head of the company enthused at length about Jack Welch’s famous ruthlessness. At the time I said to various people that if I wanted to work for General Electric then I knew where to find them. I wasn’t joking: GE have an office in easy walking distance of my house. However, I never set foot in there until last night, when I attended a talk by Richard Berry—part of their series of “agile talks”.

The talk was about management and leadership, and the differences in management style (command-and-control vs. facilitation) and the importance of different personality types in how teams work. Management theory, then. (And yes, there were flip-charts, and a 2×2 matrix, and book recommendations at the end.)

I’ve seen some disappointment expressed about the content of the talk. Surely this is all rather old hat: no-one now believes that command-and-control is a sensible way to organize a software development team. I’d have two responses to that, the first of which is that overt command-and-control may be rare but that the common alternative—insisting that people “take ownership” without giving them any meaningful control isn’t really the same thing as facilitation.

My other response would be that even if the broad outline of Richard’s talk didn’t hold any surprises, it’s possible to do this sort of thing badly or well, and Richard did it well. The last presentation I saw that covered this rough area was given by some ex-marketing guy who seemed to speak largely in clichés taken from trashy pop psychology books (“don’t sweat the small stuff”, “change is the only constant”, etc.). Regardless of the big picture being peddled, there were telling little details in Richard’s talk that, for me, showed that he knew what he was talking about. This wasn’t an occasion for buzzword bingo.

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Call me Ishmael.

Over the past few years I’ve rather lost sight of the joys of programming. In fact, the whole business was causing me to grow grim around the mouth. I therefore accounted it high time to learn a new programming language.

I’ve picked Go.

It’s a bit too early to say where that might lead: so far all I’ve done is to run through the introductory tutorial and attend a meetup in a pub. So far, though, it seems quite jolly.

The last exercise in the tutorial involved implementing a parallelized web crawler. I was a bit surprised that the sample solution involved explicit locking, but rather pleased to discover that the trick I used to avoid this in my solution (namely, having a counter for the number of worker threads) isn’t unique to me. (See, e.g. the crawler in Russ Cox’s introduction to the language.)

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This week had risked turning into a disappointment, what with Richard Sennett’s lecture on “The Open City” being cancelled. But last night more than made up for it. The Data Insights Cambridge meetup group, er, met up, for a brilliant talk by Charlie Hull, founder of Flax, about open source search engines.

Instead of talking about how search engines are implemented, as fascinating as that stuff is, he largely talked about industry politics, which turns out to be fascinating too.

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